104. Memorandum From Gary Sick and James Thomson of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • SCC Meeting on Indian Ocean—Tuesday, June 14, 1977 at 9:30 a.m.

At its earlier meeting, the SCC recommended our initial approach to the USSR on Indian Ocean arms control would be exploratory in nature.2 Based on that guidance, the State-chaired Working Group has prepared a strategy paper for the initial June 22 meeting with the Soviets. The paper (without backup position papers) is at Tab B.3

Your two main objectives in this meeting are:

1. To review the strategy paper, highlighting the key decisions taken by the Working Group, and to get SCC approval or modification on the paper as an agreed approach which the delegation will adopt in Moscow.

2. To consider possible Soviet strategies, including the possibility that they might try to seize the initiative on this issue, and what we can do to forestall it.

In addition:

3. You will want to invite State at some point to brief the SCC on the results of the consultations with allies which have taken place thus far.

4. You will want to ask Mr. Warnke to give a brief rundown on the composition of the delegation and any problems he foresees as Chairman.


We anticipate very little controversy. Each of the agencies has been over this ground thoroughly at the working level, and there are very few points of dispute. We see discussion focusing chiefly on the two main objectives above, with some time at the end devoted to the two secondary objectives.

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We suggest that you open the meeting with a brief review of the strategy paper, stressing the key decision points, and then ask for comments, starting with State.

—The SCC meeting of May 4 examined the response to PRM–25 on the Indian Ocean.4 It was decided that we should defer a decision on our ultimate objective (demilitarization or some form of limitations short of demilitarization) and that our initial approach to the Soviets should be exploratory in nature. We would then address the issue of ultimate objectives after the initial meeting with the Soviets.

—Since then, the Working Group, chaired by PM (Reggie Bartholomew, Gelb’s deputy), has prepared a strategy paper with backup position papers for use in Moscow next week (June 22).

—The paper is a little thin on substance, but that was inevitable since we decided to keep the first meeting exploratory.

—Nevertheless, in order to have something to say in Moscow, the Working Group made a few key decisions, which need to be identified and considered:

(1) The talks would be bilateral only. We will resist any Soviet attempt to include discussion of the British or French presence in the Indian Ocean or any attempt to divert the discussions into multilateral channels involving the littoral states or the UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean.

(2) We plan to raise only three substantive elements, which would ultimately be addressed in any agreement: definition of the area; naval ship deployments; and naval facilities. The paper recommends that we not raise the issues of land-based strike aircraft and ground combat forces, although we would be willing to take them up later if raised by the Soviets. This is probably the most far-reaching decision in the paper, since everyone agrees that Soviet introduction of strike aircraft is the single event most likely to upset the military balance in the Indian Ocean. [If there is no contention on this issue, you may want to raise it yourself during the discussion. Our evaluation of the problem is at Tab A.]5

(3) We plan to table no draft agreements at this meeting, and if the Soviets should present a draft or raise the possibility of a mutual declaration of restraint, we would take it under advisement with the understanding that any agreement should be preceded by substantive discussion of the various elements of a possible arms limitation agreement.

[Page 363]

Although the paper concludes that we should propose only preliminary views on substantive elements, it was nevertheless necessary to make some specific choices:

(4) On definition of the area, the paper recommends that we propose the exclusion of the confrontation countries in the Middle East (Egypt, Israel and Jordan) from the Indian Ocean question. However, it intentionally avoids spelling out just how this could be accomplished. At this point we are primarily interested in getting Soviet approval of the basic principle, not for specific language or concrete solutions. [See map next page.]6

(5) On limitations of naval ship deployments, the paper recommends that we propose ship-days as the measure of naval presence to be limited, since that is the measure most favorable to us. However, we are willing to consider a mix of ship-days and tonnage (less favorable to us) as a measure if the Soviets reject ship-days as anticipated.

(6) [1 paragraph (9 lines) not declassified]

—Having reviewed these points you could invite comments on the points you have raised or other comments on the strategy paper.

The second general topic for discussion is the possible Soviet strategy and how we can prepare for it.

—The Soviets have nominated a very senior diplomat, Mendelevich, as the leader of their delegation, assisted by the Deputy Commander of the Soviet Navy, Admiral Amel’ko. [Bios at Tab C]7 Moreover, Dobrynin suggested reserving two weeks for the talks, whereas we are thinking of two or three days.

—Is this merely standard operating procedure by the Soviets, who have nominated high level delegations for other working groups and who tend to proceed rather leisurely with such meetings, or should we see this as a signal that they may intend to seize the initiative by tabling a formal proposal of their own as they did at the opening of the formal MBFR talks?

—We could take some of the steam out of a possible Soviet attempt to preempt us by telling them in advance that we see these initial talks as a necessary exchange of views on the fundamental elements of a possible arms control agreement and that we believe such an exchange is necessary before getting into formal negotiations or actual drafting of agreements. We could either relay this to the Soviet Embassy here or through our Embassy in Moscow. At the same time, we could propose an agenda for the discussions on the basis of our strategy [Page 364] paper. [We expect no controversy on this point, and if approved, the Working Group can have an agreed paper by COB after the meeting.]

—The Soviets may also attempt to embarrass us during the meeting by drawing attention to the relative disparity of US and Soviet forces in the Indian Ocean at the present time. The Soviets may have deliberately drawn down their forces in anticipation of the talks. At the present time they have one diesel submarine and two surface combatants (light frigates with no missile armament) in the area. They would normally have one heavy combatant with missile armament in addition to this. They have a minesweeper and an LST, and one missile patrol boat is under tow on an apparent transfer to the Pacific Fleet. With support ships, their total presence is 14 ships, as opposed to the normal 20. They have two IL–38s deployed to Somalia.

—The US presence includes the two destroyers and the flagship of Middle East Force plus a task force from the Pacific composed of a guided missile cruiser, a destroyer, a frigate and an oiler. P–3 flights are being conducted from Diego Garcia in support of the task group. The presence of the task group was planned more than a year ago and is a routine part of our periodic deployment pattern. However, it means that our combatant ship presence will be far higher than the Soviets when we meet in Moscow.

—In addition, on June 22 the Air Force will have just completed a bilateral air exercise with the Iranians which involved 18 F–14s deploying from Europe, air-to-air refueling by US and Iranian tankers, and 170 sorties in Iran, including dropping of live ordnance. [This exercise was considered “non-significant” by the JCS and we learned about it only a few days before it began, when cancellation would have caused extreme embarassment with the Iranians. The NSC Staff is currently reexamining the exercise notification NSAM as a direct result of this.]

We should watch the Soviet presence carefully, and if they maintain a low level, we should consider reducing the level of our own deployments as a tacit demonstration of restraint. However, we should expect to take some propaganda lumps in Moscow on this issue.

With the two main topics complete, you could then conclude the meeting by asking State to review the results of consultations with allies and asking Paul Warnke to discuss the composition of the delegation [i.e. do we have an Admiral to match their Admiral?] and any problems he foresees in the talks.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 25, Indian Ocean: SCC 6/14/77 on Arms Limitation (PRM–25): 6/77. Secret. Sent for action. All brackets except those that indicate text not declassified are in the original.
  2. See Document 102.
  3. Attached but not printed is the undated paper entitled “First Meeting of USUSSR Indian Ocean Working Group: Strategy and Objectives.”
  4. See Document 100.
  5. Attached but not printed is the undated paper entitled “Ground and Air Forces.”
  6. Not found.
  7. Attached but not printed.