116. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • Indian Ocean Arms Control


  • State

    • Warren Christopher
    • Jerome Kahan
  • Defense

    • David McGiffert
    • Lynn Davis
  • JCS

    • Lt. Gen. William Smith
  • ACDA

    • Paul Warnke
    • John Newhouse
  • CIA

    • Robert Bowie
    • John Hibbits
  • White House

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski (Chairman)
  • NSC

    • Reginald Bartholomew
    • James Thomson
    • Gary Sick (Notetaker)

In preparation for the third round of discussions with the USSR on Indian Ocean arms limitations scheduled for December 1–10, 1977, in Bern, Switzerland, the SCC reviewed the following issues:

1. US Objective in the Next Round. Mr. Warnke felt that the best we could expect from this round would be a bracketed text of a draft agreement, with a further round required to achieve agreement. He could foresee the following round might be in February. Dr. Brzezinski noted that it may not be in our interest to push too fast. All agreed.

2. Working Group Recommendations. The working group recommended positions on Allies and Adjacent Areas, Aircraft Carriers, Communications Facilities, Facilities on the Seabed, Soviet Air Capable Ships, and Soviet Reaction to the Presence of US carriers were accepted by the SCC. The position on SSBNs was changed to read as follows: “We have determined that we will not specifically ban SSBNs from the area.” It was agreed in any event that SSBN transits would be permitted as a minimum.

3. Form of the Agreement. State, JCS and Defense supported Option A, the exchange of unilateral statements of past activities in the Indian [Page 391] Ocean as supplement to the General Declaration. Mr. Warnke argued that there was no substantial difference between Options A and B. Whether we decide on past tense or future tense, unilateral statements or a protocol, signed or unsigned, in fact the effect is to create future obligations which are binding. Mr. Warnke was concerned that some latitude be left to conclude joint protocols on at least certain issues, such as definition of the area. Several members noted that a joint protocol would require both sides to accept statements about bases that might be unacceptable. Others noted that a Soviet statement that they have never operated any bases in the Indian Ocean would be unacceptable, even in a unilateral statement, since we would still have to agree to it and answer to Congress. Dr. Brzezinski stated that any appended statement should say what is precluded by the agreement, rather than what has happened in the past. All agreed that we should remain flexible on this issue for the next round.

4. Level of Port Activity. All agreed, after considerable discussion, that the US should continue to insist on distinguishing between “usage” and “port visits” in order to prevent the USSR from expanding the type of operations they now conduct at Berbera to a number of other ports on the littoral. However, it was also agreed that the Soviets should be able to shift their Berbera operations to a different port in the event they lose access to Somali facilities. They should not, however, be permitted to construct new facilities for the primary use of their own forces. The delegation has latitude in the next round to develop work-able definitional distinctions between “usage” and “port visits.”

5. Supreme Interest Clause. All agreed that the US should continue to insist that either side may invoke supreme national interest to withdraw from the agreement without any advance notification period. Mr.Warnke noted that this agreement is qualitatively different from SALT and other agreements where we have accepted a period of advance notification. However, the lack of notification will be difficult to negotiate and will make the Soviets place additional emphasis on the importance of US activities in adjacent areas.

6. Submarine Support Facilities. All agreed that the US should press for a ban on all submarine support activities and construction in the Indian Ocean area, including subtenders. Mr. Warnke felt that we might have to fall back on this at some point. Mr. Christopher agreed, and noted that this provision would force the Soviets to change their present pattern of deploying subtenders to the area. He was particularly concerned that this might lead the Soviets to request a comparable cutback on our part, e.g. our carrier deployments, which would be a bad trade. Dr. Brzezinski noted that we would have time to review the issue again in the event we had to fall back to a lesser option.

7. Definition of the Area. All agreed to hold to the previous US position. Dr. Brzezinski suggested exploring the possibility of a com[Page 392]promise position on the waters south of Australia at approximately 130 degrees longitude, which would include additional ocean area but no significant Australian ports.

8. Construction at Diego Garcia. All agreed to hold to the previous US position that stabilization would include the completion of planned construction. It was recalled that the Presidential Directive issued prior to the last round called for the SCC to be notified by DoD well in advance of developments on Diego Garcia which could have a significant impact on the negotiating process.2 Defense noted that the runway is being constructed in successive longitudinal strips and that one of these was already in place for the entire 12,000 foot length. Defense will continue to keep the SCC informed.

9. Linkage Between Stabilization and Negotiations on Reductions. All agreed that we should be prepared to begin negotiations on reductions within three months after a stabilization agreement comes into effect.

10. Carrier Deployments. Mr. Warnke noted that the present wording of our assurance on carrier deployments would permit a carrier to accompany all three task force deployments. In fact, we have in the past deployed two, but not three, carriers in a single year. He proposed that our statement be revised to indicate that our past pattern of task group deployments has included at least one carrier and as many as two in any one year. All agreed.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 89, SCC 040, 11/09/77, Indian Ocean. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Brzezinski initialed at the bottom of the last page. Carter initialed and wrote “ok” on a November 15 memorandum from Brzezinski describing the results of the meeting. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 114.