112. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Indian Ocean Arms Control


  • State

    • Warren Christopher
    • Reginald Bartholomew
    • Leslie Gelb
  • Defense

    • Harold Brown
    • Charles Dayan
    • Walter Slocomb
  • JCS

    • Gen. William Smith
  • ACDA

    • Paul Warnke
    • John Newhouse
  • NSC

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski (Chairman)
    • David Aaron
    • Gary Sick (notetaker)
  • CIA

    • Robert Bowie

The purpose of this meeting was to develop a proposal to be presented to the Soviet side in the next round of discussions in Washington, beginning September 26.

Working Group Recommendations. The SCC approved the recommendations of the working group on definition of combatants and auxiliaries, transit, force majeure and the crisis escape clause, and further agreed that current data would not be exchanged in the next round of discussions with the Soviets.


The Joint Chiefs of Staff preferred Option I as stabilizing the situation in the Indian Ocean while avoiding U.S. assurances about deployment of strategic systems and preserving maximum flexibility for U.S. operations in the future. We should preserve our ability to get to the Middle East via the Indian Ocean. Other agencies believed that Option I was too ambiguous to assure stabilization, was inconsistent with the [Page 380] presentation we made to the Soviets in Moscow in June and would not be negotiable.

The Director, ACDA, supported Option IV as the only option which was truly negotiable and which best fulfilled the requirement of stabilization which we had proposed to the USSR as our initial objective. The Secretary of Defense and the JCS believed that the submarine ban in Option IV went beyond stabilization and would constitute a strategic concession to the USSR which would not be in the U.S. interest.

The Secretary of Defense and the Department of State supported Option II as providing assurances to the Soviets that we did not intend to turn the Indian Ocean into a major deployment area for strategic systems while avoiding the difficulties of trying to negotiate specific numerical limits. Also, by being less explicit, this option would provide greater latitude in structuring U.S. deployments and could avoid the necessity of invoking a supreme interests clause in the event our interests in the area were threatened. Option II, in their view, would permit us to gain some experience in managing an agreement of this nature before attempting to establish more explicit limitations. The JCS believe that Option II goes too far in providing assurances on strategic systems and would constrain U.S. operations too severely. ACDA believes that Option II does not meet the basic Soviet concerns and would not be negotiable; moreover, its ambiguity would make acceptance in Congress very difficult.

The Secretary of Defense, the Department of State and ACDA all indicated that they could accept some form of Option III, although it was not their preferred option. The JCS strongly opposed Option III as too restrictive and too explicit in its assurances on strategic systems.

The Deputy Director of Central Intelligence indicated that Options I and II were the most easily verifiable, while Options III and IV were [4 lines not declassified].

The Secretary of Defense and the Department of State indicated that they would be willing to open with Option II, with the understanding that we could later go on to Option III. ACDA, while continuing to prefer Option IV, believed that it would be preferable to open with Option III, retaining Option II as a fallback position if agreement could not be reached on specific limitations. The JCS representative thought it might be acceptable to open with Option I, reserving Option II and perhaps Option III for future negotiation.

It was pointed out that the nature of the U.S. proposal depended on the interpretation of “stabilization.” On one hand, if we intend simply to prevent the Indian Ocean from becoming a major arena of U.S.-Soviet confrontation, then a generalized option (e.g. as I or II) would suffice. If, however, our objective is to prevent any upward change in either the quantitative or qualitative level of military deploy[Page 381]ments to the Indian Ocean, then explicit limits (e.g. Options III or IV) would be required.

Examination of Key Issues

A. Land-Based Strike Aircraft

The JCS preferred no limitations of any kind. State and ACDA supported the first alternative (no deployments to littoral states where there have been no previous deployments). Defense preferred the second alternative permitting deployments to the littoral states but restricting operations over the Indian Ocean. Dr. Brzezinski suggested that we could open with alternative 1 since it is more restrictive on the Soviets.

B. Submarines. To be referred to the President for decision as agreed at the last meeting.

C. Facilities. [2 lines not declassified] (alternative 4). State and Defense supported a combination of alternatives 2, 3, and 4. ACDA supported 1, 2, and 4 and would also accept 3 if there were no submarine ban as they propose. The DCI representative pointed out that there would be verification problems with alternatives 2 and 3. The consensus of the SCC (except the JCS) was to support alternatives 2, 3, and 4, perhaps with the implicit acceptance of the first alternatives as a later step.

D. Surface Ships. The SCC agreed that our initial proposal should be 14 million annual ton-days for combatants. All except the JCS agreed that we could go down to at least 13 million tons in the course of negotiations, recognizing that this could place some constraints on possible future deployments. There was no discussion or disagreement about the proposed levels of ship-days for combatants (2800) and limits on auxiliaries (3500 ship-days and 33 million ton-days per year).

Other Unresolved Issues

A. Definition of the Area. It was agreed that we would maintain the same position that we proposed in Moscow.

B. Exchange of Information. It was agreed not to press this issue in the forthcoming round. We would listen to what the Soviets have to say.

Additional Steps

It was agreed that each agency would promptly prepare a brief summary of its views on the preferred option and possible combination of options for submission to the President.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 89, SCC 030, 9/14/77, Indian Ocean. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The minutes are not attached and were not found. Sick sent the Summary of Conclusions to Brzezinski under a September 15 memorandum, requesting that Brzezinski approve it. Aaron initialed the approval line for Brzezinski. (Ibid.) Copies were sent to Mondale, Vance, Brown, Young, Warnke, General Brown, and Turner. Papers prepared for the meeting are ibid.
  2. Brzezinski summarized the options for the President in a Septermber 19 memorandum; see Documet 113.