128. Telegram From the Mission in Geneva to the Department of State1

8006. Subject: USUSSR Chemical Weapons (CW) Negotiations, Round Twelve: Conversation With Soviet Amb. Israelyan. Ref: A) Geneva 7667,2 B) Geneva 7925.3

CW message no. 8

1. (C—Entire text).

2. Summary. Soviet CD Rep Israelyan, who is heading the Soviet Delegation in the CW bilateral negotiations, sees no prospect of a breakthrough in the talks this year. He attributes the rigid Soviet stance to the general political atmosphere, exacerbated by the issue of the Sverdlovsk BW incident. He says the Soviets will want to study the implications of the results of the U.S. elections in establishing their future arms control policies. In the meantime, Israelyan hopes we can keep the CW talks alive by achieving agreement on several secondary issues where the positions of the two seem to be drawing together. End summary.

3. U.S. CW Delegation head Flowerree spoke privately with Soviet Del head Israelyan on June 4, continuing discussion of matters of mutual interest reported Reftel (A). On this occasion Israelyan’s more interesting comments focused on CW issues and to some extent on BW (see Reftel B).

4. Flowerree began by asking Israelyan how he saw the current round of CW bilaterals developing and whether he saw any value in scheduling an additional round before the traditional January/February resumption date. Israelyan responded without hesitation saying there was “no possibility” of a breakthrough in CW this year. He said that during his recent discussions in Moscow he had talked about CW negotiations both in the Foreign Ministry (including a discussion with Gromyko) and in the Ministry of Defense. The attitudes he encountered were much harder than they had been in January (before the eleventh [Page 275] round), particularly in the MOD. As reported Reftel B, he had been struck by the anger of the military over the U.S. action in making public its version of the BW incident at Sverdlovsk. This reaction, Israelyan thought, was a factor in the hardening of the Soviet position on CW verification. Flowerree said this hardening had not escaped the notice of the U.S. Delegation. Israelyan went on to say that he had not been asked to give his views on whether the talks should be continued, but said that if he had, he certainly would have strongly urged that the USSR not move to break them off. He had the strong impression that Moscow was still firmly committed to the CW negotiations. He noted wryly that in comparison with MBFR we were making great progress; nothing had been put on paper in Vienna while there was ad referendum agreement on a number of draft elements for the CW initiative.

5. Israelyan continued by saying that the attitude in Moscow was such that no one believed there could be a CW agreement with the U.S. in the present climate, even if the Soviets were able to accept the U.S. position on verification 100 per cent. In his view there could be no change whatsoever in the Soviet position before the U.S. elections, the implications of which the Soviets will want to assess in establishing their future arms control policies. In these circumstances he thought the two Delegations should do what they could to continue movement in the negotiations on secondary issues where there was a possibility of agreement. Several such issues had already been raised in the bilaterals and he had been encouraged by the apparent drawing together of the positions of the two sides on these points. Israelyan concluded by saying that he hoped Flowerree would not recommend an interruption of the talks to his authorities in Washington.

6. Flowerree replied that he was going on the assumption that the bilaterals would continue but the failure to achieve any significant progress toward solving the major verification issues would inevitably make it more difficult for the U.S. to maintain unilateral restraint in its overall CW posture.

7. Israelyan also alluded to Soviet concern over how the U.S. would handle CW in the CD context. Flowerree said that the USDEL would not directly refer to the differences between U.S. and Soviet positions in the bilaterals, but as the Soviets knew from last year’s experience with the Dutch questionnaire, the U.S. was prepared to make straightforward statements about its position on the issues. Israelyan did not comment on the question of CW use in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia which had been raised most recently by the U.S. in the CW plenary of May 27.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800277–0164. Confidential; Priority; Exdis. Sent for information to Moscow.
  2. Telegram 7667 from the Mission in Geneva, May 29, reported that the Soviets wanted to establish a CTB working group in the Conference on Disarmament. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800263–1044)
  3. In telegram 7925 from Geneva, June 5, the Mission in Geneva reported that Israelyan referred Flowerree to the May 1980 issue of the Soviet journal Microbiology, Immunology and Epidemiology that contained a “straight-forward discussion of the medical aspects of the outbreak of anthrax in Sverdlovsk.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800275–0129)