115. Memorandum From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Warnke) to President Carter 1


  • The Second Round of Talks on Indian Ocean Arms Control, September 26–30, 1977

The second round of talks on Indian Ocean arms control was held in Washington September 26–30.2 Pursuant to your instructions,3 the US Delegation tabled a draft agreement on declarations of mutual restraint. A copy of the US draft is attached.4

After a week of intensive discussions, it is clear that the Soviets are receptive to the approach we presented, which would involve immediate stabilization followed promptly by consideration of possible mutual reductions. Most of the discussion after the first day concerned clarification of the US draft, and an exchange of views on the status quo that would be frozen under the initial stabilization agreement. While our draft agreement is very general in nature, in accordance with your guidance we supplemented it with undetailed statements about our current level and pattern of ship activities and our programmed construction at Diego Garcia; we also indicated our willingness to forego deployment of strategic bombers in the area under conditions of stabilization; and we proposed a ban on the establishment or use of facilities for the support of submarines.

The Soviets replied by indicating, inter alia, that they would not introduce strike aircraft into the area under a stabilization agreement. They provided a general description of their deployments and presence, tailoring it carefully to fit the framework we had used in describing our activities. Their description of naval and air deployments was accurate, and they told us a little more than they had before about their use of Berbera. There is thus a basis for reaching understanding on the meaning of “stabilization” for each side.

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I believe that we have made good progress in our discussions with the Soviets on the Indian Ocean. However, a number of problems remain:

—The Soviets persist in seeking to ban all strategic systems, including SSBNs, from the Indian Ocean area, although they clearly take our indirect assurances on SSBNs seriously. In this regard we have told them that we do not intend to alter our current pattern of submarine operations in the Indian Ocean, or establish forward support for submarines.

—The Soviets have attempted to draw a distinction between aircraft carriers with “strike” capabilities, which they would like to ban, and other carriers, which would be permitted. We have told them that all our carriers are multi-purpose ships, and that it is not possible to distinguish them according to particular warfare capabilities.

—The Soviets have not agreed to ban the establishment and use of support facilities for all submarines, agreeing only to ban facilities for SSBNs. We are pressing for a ban on facilities for all submarines.

—The Soviets continued to argue that any agreement must take into account the forces and bases of US Allies in the area and US forces and bases in the adjacent areas, although there is some reason to think they will not let an otherwise acceptable agreement founder on these points. In a private conversation, Mendelevich asked me if we couldn’t check informally with the French and tell the Soviets, without commitment, that the French plan no big buildup in the area. I did not respond. We have continued to take the position that these issues are outside the scope of the negotiations and that any agreement would apply only to US and Soviet forces in the Indian Ocean itself.

—The Soviets, so far, appear unwilling to agree that the US should be permitted to complete its construction program on Diego Garcia, arguing that to do so would be inconsistent with stabilization. We argue that completion of programmed construction would have no qualitative effect and should be permitted.

—The Soviets want to ban construction of communication facilities in the Indian Ocean area which “control” submarines deployed there. Our position is that communication facilities should be kept outside the scope of the agreement, since they cannot be distinguished either as to function or as to geographic application.

—The Soviets seem to prefer an exchange of detailed numerical information as a basis for limitations on naval presence. We have taken the position that detailed data are unnecessary in the context of a general stabilization agreement.

—The Soviets have proposed that the overall annual number of port visits by each side should remain the same; but they wish to [Page 389] have the right to reallocate this number among the ports. This idea is designed to permit them to make large-scale use of another port if they are forced to leave Berbera. We have agreed to study this proposal.

—The differences on definition of the area that surfaced in Moscow primarily regarding the waters north and south of Australia still remain to be resolved. The Soviets have tabled a map showing their definition of the Indian Ocean and we have agreed to study it.

—For our part, we must decide what reductions we would be prepared to accept in the follow-on negotiations to which we would be committed by the stabilization agreement.

I believe that in our third round of talks, which will be held in the beginning of December, probably in Vienna, we may be able to resolve many of these issues.5 The next round may very well become a drafting session, which would result in a narrowing and clarification of the differences between the two sides.

I am concerned, however, about the eventual form and effect of the statements both sides are making to describe the recent level and pattern of military activity in the region and which each indicated it would not exceed or significantly alter under a stabilization agreement. In my view, these statements should constitute legally binding written commitments. This approach would avoid future misunderstandings with the Soviet Union and would help to assure Congress that both signatories have the same understanding of the agreement and that the entire agreement is subject to Congressional approval. We have had recent experience with Congressional sensitivities on this score. I will be making recommendations to the SCC on this matter.

Paul C. Warnke
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files, FRC 330–80–0017, Indian Ocean 092 (Aug–Dec) 1977. Secret. Copies were sent to Vance, Brown, Brzezinski, Turner, and Jones. Brown wrote “10/15 HB” in the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum.
  2. The first round of talks took place in Moscow June 22–27. See Document 108.
  3. See Document 114.
  4. Attached but not printed is the September 26 draft.
  5. For information on the December talks, see Document 117.