133. Memorandum From Marshall Brement of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Sverdlovsk: Next Step (U)

Regarding your question (Tab A),2 the next step is to await the Soviet response, which will presumably be negative. The story in today’s New York Times (Tab B)3 will confirm their judgment that this is a propaganda ploy and they will almost certainly continue to stonewall. (U)

Meanwhile, ACDA is working on a White Paper which we would issue if the Soviet response is unsatisfactory. The problem with this is that the White Paper will not be an entirely convincing document, at least in a court of law, particularly after sensitive information has been scrubbed from it by the intelligence community. In any case, other governments will probably not be convinced enough by it to take action condemning the USSR. We then will have to decide whether we want to go to the Security Council with our case or take it to some other multilateral forum. (C)

At that point we will also have to decide whether we can continue to adhere to a treaty which is being violated flagrantly by the USSR. (Although there remains at least a modicum of doubt about whether the Soviets are stockpiling BW materials, they clearly have failed to comply with Article 5 of the BW Convention, which calls for consultations.) To renounce the Convention would be a difficult step for us to take, but to adhere to it in the face of a flagrant violation would not do the cause of arms control any good either and would be difficult politically as well. Before we make up our minds as to our ultimate strategy, we should probably first examine the White Paper, which ACDA promises will be ready by the end of next week. (S)

Oplinger concurs, but believes we can produce a White Paper which, without needlessly spilling intelligence sources, can make a compelling case that the Soviets are in violation of Article 5, perhaps sufficient to get other governments to condemn them on those [Page 290] grounds. If we cannot do that much, clearly we cannot sustain a charge of a substantive violation in the Security Council or elsewhere. (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 110, SCM 137, Mini-SCC Sverdlovsk, 7/29/80. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. Tab A was not attached.
  3. Tab B is not attached. Reference is to “Toll is Put at 1,000 in Soviet Accident,” New York Times, July 16, 1980, which described the Sverdlovsk incident.