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160. Letter From the Acting Director of the Energy Research and Development Administration (Fri) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1

Dear Dr. Brzezinski:

Subject: Preparations for Trilateral Comprehensive Test Ban Negotiations

I understand that we have just completed exploratory bilateral discussions with the Soviet Union on comprehensive test ban treaty issues and that we are preparing for bilateral talks with the British before entering into the trilateral negotiations. I wish to reinforce Paul Warnke’s statement in his 20 June report2 to the President on this subject that it is very important that we finalize our U.S. negotiating position before the bilateral talks with the British. I realize that you also are much aware of the urgency and are planning to have an SCC meeting of agency principals on this subject during the last week of June. It is for that reason that I would like to register the ERDA position on the key CTB issues which are still being debated in varying degrees between agencies.


You will recall our letter to you of February 17, 19773 on the PNE accommodation issue. This continues to be a matter of primary concern to ERDA because of our strong convictions that there is no way to preclude military benefits to any state allowed to conduct nuclear explosions under a CTB regime. Our concern in this matter has been reinforced by the efforts of the PNE oriented Soviet Delegation during the recent exploratory talks. The Soviet exploratory proposals concerning constraints on PNE device development and standardization would not preclude large military benefits and would not in fact prevent device design testing of key components and features of nuclear explosives. The key test objective of determining yield would remain uncontrolled and in any case the Soviet proposal would not prevent the so-called standardized PNE devices from being used as nuclear weapons against military targets. It appears we should agree that there is no known way to accommodate PNE under a comprehensive test ban.

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[1 paragraph (12 lines) not declassified]

There must be agreed and emplaced, the best possible verification system. It must be capable of the highest degree of certainty that explosions can be properly identified and categorized. This will require maximum upgrading of our current National Technical Means in all possible test environments. National means must be supplemented with the required number of tamperproof seismic observatories to form an effective network internal to the Soviet Union and rights must be provided to perform mandatory on-site inspections which would act as an effective deterrent to clandestine explosions. Even a few surreptitious, very low yield, explosions could permit weapon design improvements and permit the maintenance of high quality weapon design and design surveillance teams.

Negotiating Tactics and Cessation of Testing

I remain concerned over the continuing trend in other agencies to establish negotiating objectives designed to reach tactical agreement on only the key elements of a CTBT and take them into the CCD for development of treaty text through multilateral negotiation, while, at the same time, it is indicated that a cessation of testing or a moratorium could be declared during such a multilateral negotiation.

It is our conviction that such an arrangement could lead to a cessation of testing, under conditions and at a time, when it would not be possible to verify that clandestine nuclear explosions are taking place.

Certain member states of the CCD have consistently maintained that national technical means alone will provide adequate verification. This position was reestablished by the Soviet Union during the exploratory talks. The Soviets and the Swedes have already tabled draft treaty texts in the CCD to which the U.S. could not agree.4 There is danger in involving the CCD too early. It is essential that the U.S., UK, and USSR reach full agreement on the details of verification prior to involving the CCD in multilateral negotiation of a treaty text. In fact, if it is intended to declare a cessation of testing concurrent with multilateral negotiations in the CCD then it would be preferable to refer a tripartite treaty [Page 374]text and protocol containing agreed-upon verification details to the CCD for negotiation. This text would be used as an interim treaty during any cessation of testing. I understand that the UK Delegation urged that we consider reaching a binding agreement before any cessation of testing and that as indicated in the report to the President, Dr. Morokhov, the head of the Soviet Delegation, expressed his personal view that a moratorium during multilateral negotiations could have the adverse effect of removing the urgency of completing the treaty and cause other countries to hold back because they already have a U.S.–USSR cessation. I consider it essential that the detailed verification system be installed and operating at the time any bilateral or trilateral cessation of testing starts.


Finally, on duration of the treaty, it should be established that in addition to the Supreme Interest withdrawal clause there should be a provision establishing a Review Conference every five years with the option to withdraw at that time.

I will be prepared to discuss these ERDA positions on the CTB issues in greater detail during the forthcoming SCC meeting.


Robert W. Fri 5 Acting Administrator
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–80–0017, Box 63, A–400.112 TEST BAN (Jan–July) 1977. Secret. Harold Brown initialed the top right-hand corner of the memorandum and wrote “6/28.”
  2. Not found.
  3. See Document 147.
  4. Telegram 1281 from Geneva, February 22, contains the Soviet draft text of a CTB. The Soviets proposed that compliance would be verified by each signatory’s “own national technical means of control, in accordance with the generally recognized rules of international law.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770061–0674) Telegram 1148 from Geneva, February 16, contains the Swedish draft text of a CTB. The Swedes proposed that compliance would be verified by “inspection on its territory or territory under its jurisdiction, such inspection to be carried out in the manner prescribed by the inviting party.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770055–0918)
  5. Printed from a copy that indicates Fri signed the original.