169. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • CTB Negotiations

It was reported in paragraph 31 of reporting cable SECTO 10014, dated September 30,2 that Cy Vance discussed the CTB with Secretary General Waldheim. My understanding is that Cy indicated US willingness to entertain an exception for Soviet PNEs to the CTB. The criteria had to do with a limited number/purpose of projects, and a limited number of explosions.

I want to express my grave concerns about such an approach. Such explosions, even in limited numbers, and particularly if protracted over [Page 402]a period of years, would allow stockpile confidence testing of a sort which I consider important and which the US would lack. Moreover, I believe they could allow a small number of development tests of substantial yield. Such an exception would therefore make it very difficult to justify a CTB, which I consider otherwise supportable from a Defense point of view. Also, I believe that the arms control community will see this as a gaping loophole, not only for the Soviets but for countries which are lukewarm or hostile toward inhibitions on their own nuclear weapons programs.

The formulation of a PNE arrangement that allows the subject to be reopened after five years, but only through the amendment route, which gives the US full control over whether PNEs are ever allowed, has seemed to me to be an acceptable fallback from a complete PNE ban. It appeals to me as a face saving arrangement for the Soviet PNE project head who chairs the Soviet CTB Delegation. However, the existence of this suggestion to Waldheim (which, since he was accompanied by a number of UN officials, will surely be known to the Soviets) appears to me to make the PNE part of the CTB negotiations very difficult from the US point of view. I would expect support for the fallback position of amendment at the end of five years to be harder to obtain now from the JCS, who are likely to see the Vance suggestion to Waldheim as the likely end-point of such a fallback process.3

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 6, Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB), 3–12/77. Secret; Personal Close Hold.
  2. Telegram Secto 10014 from the Secretary’s Delegation in New York, September 30, reported that Vance told UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim that the United States was “not totally inflexible” about the Soviet Union’s “demand” that PNEs be excluded from a CTB. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770357–0177)
  3. Brzezinski later wrote to Harold Brown that “Cy Vance is aware of the problem and has undertaken remedial action, including a phone call to Waldheim correcting his original statement and reaffirming our position that PNEs should be banned under a CTB. The Soviets may still learn of Vance’s original comment, but would have to weigh it against the President’s strong representation that PNEs must be banned, in his meeting with Gromyko and in his UN address.” (Memorandum From Brzezinski to Harold Brown, October 6; Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–80–0017, Box 63, A–400.112 TEST BAN (Aug–Dec) 1977)