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

11024. Subject: USUSSR Negotiations on Chemical Weapons (CW): Summary of Developments.

CW message no. 17

1. (C—Entire text).

[Page 295]

2. Summary. Round twelve of the USUSSR negotiations on Chemical Weapons (CW) began on May 22 and ended July 7. In a sense, they also extended beyond the formal closing date almost until the end of the 1980 session of the Committee on Disarmament (CD) on August 9, since the two Delegations had a number of private exchanges in connection with the work of the CD’s working group on CW. The pace of round twelve was fairly intensive, especially prior to the opening of the CD session June 12. The substantive results, however, were quite meager. In the crucial area of verification, the Soviets—while professing willingness to continue the search for mutually acceptable solutions—made it even clearer that they were not prepared to move from their present basic position. Some progress was achieved on a few secondary issues, but it was not sufficient for a full resolution of those issues. Considerable time and effort were expended on the preparation of the joint report to the CD. In general, it was evident that the Soviets did not expect any major advance in the negotiations during this round. End summary.

3. During round twelve of the USUSSR negotiations on CW, eight plenaries and nine drafting group meetings were held, most of them prior to the opening of the CD session. Coordination of the joint report to the CD required a number of additional meetings, outside the regular plenary or drafting group framework.2 The two Delegations also had several private discussions after the formal closing of round twelve, in connection with the work of the CD’s working group on CW.

4. Despite the tensions in U.S.-Soviet relations, the atmosphere in the bilaterals was business-like. Soviet responses to USDel comments regarding reported use of CW were also couched in non-polemical terms. Throughout the round, and especially during the work of the CD’s working group on CW, the Soviets displayed visible concern about preventing discussions in that group from exposing the weakness of their position, in particular on verification. Although they were clearly unhappy that we remained unresponsive to their attempts to engage US in joint efforts to circumscribe those discussions, this did not affect their working relationship with U.S.

5. The substantive results of round twelve were mixed, with the negative balancing out the positive.

A. The Soviets showed some flexibility on several secondary issues, but fell short of providing adequate basis for complete agreement on any of them. Specifically, they:

(1) Agreed to specify the maximum aggregate annual capacity (one metric ton) of a single facility for the production of super-toxic le[Page 296]thal chemicals for non-hostile military purposes, but expressed a negative attitude towards other U.S. proposals related to this issue;

(2) Agreed that, subject to contrary decision by the first Revcon, the use of super-toxic lethal chemicals in training should cease at the time of such a conference—however, they did not accept the U.S. view that the limitation should also cover other toxic chemicals;

(3) Moved from their stand of total opposition to the inclusion of toxins in the coverage of a CW ban, but remained unwilling to include all toxic chemicals regardless of origin (see para B(1) below);

(4) Implied that destruction of stocks could be subject to OSI procedures similar to those offered by them in round nine for destruction of facilities, i.e., notification 90 days in advance of specific destruction operations and possibility of requests for OSI;

(5) Agreed to exclude from the coverage of a CW ban munitions and devices for dissemination of irritants—see, however, para B(2) below;

(6) Agreed to include in the general information on stocks to be exchanged bilaterally the quantitative category of “over 150,000 tons” and to having such exchange take place 15 days before submission of the convention to the U.S. Senate for ratification—they made the exchange contingent, however, on signature of the convention by all five permanent members of the UN Security Council;

(7) Accepted in principle the concept of joint inspection teams, but with reservation regarding the type of OSI it would apply to and the composition and authority of such teams;

(8) Agreed to the establishment of a consultative committee within 30 days after the entry into force of the convention, rather than six months as they had originally proposed, although they did not agree to having the committee convene within the same time limit.

B. The significance of this limited movement in the Soviet position was diminished by their negative stand on some issues, especially those in the crucial area of verification. In particular, the Soviets:

(1) Excluded from a prohibition toxic chemicals capable of antigen activity or of engendering immunity, thus restricting the significance of their move on the toxin issue (para 5.A. (3) above);

(2) Remained unwilling to accommodate the U.S. position on irritants in a satisfactory manner, asserting that they could not agree to legalizing unilateral reservations to the Geneva Protocol;

(3) Refused even to discuss provisions regarding the disposition of facilities on the grounds that obligation to cease production was already covered by the basic prohibition and, in that connection, objected to the U.S. proposal to prohibit construction of new CW production fa[Page 297]cilities because such a provision could entail requests for OSI also of facilities constructed for permitted purposes;

(4) Continued to reject any provision involving declaration of facilities early in the implementation of a convention;

(5) Rejected the distinction between “implementation” and “compliance” as based on the U.S. concept of verification, which they did not accept;

(6) Strongly reaffirmed their approach to verification, making it clear again that no pre-agreed (i.e., mandatory) OSI’s were acceptable and that the concept of “voluntary” OSI’s should apply to all obligations regarding destruction, production, and non-retention;

(7) While expressing willingness to continue the search for methods of using NTM for monitoring a CW prohibition, questioned the U.S.–suggested measures for facilitating verification by NTM, in particular since they would involve declaration of locations of facilities.

6. In view of the fact that none of the issues on which language could be developed was sufficiently resolved, and also because of the Soviet refusal to discuss provisions regarding the disposition of facilities, the drafting group did not actively consider any specific formulations. A major portion of the group’s time and effort was devoted to the development of the joint report to the CD.

7. In sum, round twelve was not very productive, although at this juncture probably no different results could have been expected. At the same time, Soviet behavior in the bilaterals, in the process of the development of the joint report, and in connection with the CD’s working group on CW suggests that the Soviets continue to attach importance to the bilaterals. It was clear that they feel much more comfortable dealing with the U.S. alone than having to protect their position against a multitude of differing views, as they had to do in the CW working group with regard to issues to be dealt with in negotiations on a convention.

8. It is difficult to tell at this point what the eventual objective of the Soviets may be concerning a CW agreement, or whether they have even decided themselves. Early in round twelve Amb Israelyan told Amb Flowerree not to expect much progress and said that the Soviets would be re-evaluating their positions on arms control issues in the light of the outcome of the U.S. elections. At least the first part of this statement was borne out by the results of the round. The Soviets have talked about the possibility of a new round in January 1981. In the interim, consideration might be given to approaching them through diplomatic channels to probe their inventions and to reemphasize to them the crucial importance of reaching agreement on satisfactory verification provisions if any real progress is to be made toward a joint initiative.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800387–0723. Confidential; Priority. Sent for information to Bonn, London, Moscow, Paris, and USNATO.
  2. The joint USUSSR report is in telegram 8409 from the Mission in Geneva, June 16, 1980. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800294–0225)