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

8586. Limdis USCTB. Subject: CTB Negotiations—Assessment of First Week (Oct 3–7). CTB No: 13.

NSC For Dr. Brzezinski.

Summary: Principal development of opening week—during which there were no apparent changes in substantive positions of the three participants—was distinct shift in Soviet perception of US position on PNEs. In the wake of recent high-level meetings with Gromyko,2 President’s UNGA statement,3 and hard line taken by US CTB [Page 405] Del this week, Soviet Delegation now clearly seems to appreciate that our position on PNEs is firm. Although not necessarily related to this development, Morokhov’s remarks on PNEs and other issues have been subdued and defensive. US Delegation plans next week to keep up the pressure on the Soviet PNE position, while outlining our views on verification. End summary.

1. In terms of the positions taken by the three Delegations in the plenary meetings and restricted sessions, first week of talks was relatively uneventful. There were no apparent departures in substantive positions, and little evidence of Soviet flexibility on any of three major issues. US and UK Delegations devoted week to elaboration of views on peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs), while Soviets delivered low-key statements on “political” aspects of PNE questions and verification.

2. Despite routine character of week’s meetings, there seems, at least for the moment, to have been a shift in the character and tone of discussions on PNE question. During July round, Morokhov took an aggressive posture from the start, predicting confidently that “new” Soviet proposals for eliminating military benefits would solve PNE issue. There were several indications that Soviets did not believe that negative position taken by US Del in July reflected a firm consensus in Washington. Now, however, Soviets seem clearly to recognize that US position is firm.

3. Chief contributing factor has, of course, been strong line on PNEs taken by the President both in his meeting with Gromyko and his UNGA speech. (Both were cited to us by Soviet Deloff as evidence of firm US position). When US Deloff showed text of President’s statement [to] Soviet Deputy Chairman Timberbaev, latter remarked, “I see that President Carter has changed his position.” When asked what he meant, Timberbaev said that President’s early press conference remarks indicated that PNEs could be accommodated. Half-jokingly, he said ACDA must have gotten to him. Deloff replied that there is no disagreement within USG on PNE questions, and that clear position stated by the President at UNGA reflects strong and unanimous recommendation of all US agencies interested in problem.

4. Aside from President’s position, Soviets seem to have been impressed by hard line taken by Amb Warnke in plenary statements and private conversations.4 Warnke has emphasized in plenary that, in view of inevitability of acquisition of military benefits and serious setback to non-proliferation efforts that would result from PNE exception, PNE ban is indispensable component of effective CTB. Warnke has also expressed the view that it is hard to see how us could possibly be party [Page 406] to a CTB that allowed PNE. Strong UK statements have effectively reinforced US views. By end of week, Soviet Deloff Malev (Septel)5 said Soviets were struck by firmness of US position on PNEs.

5. In what may or may not be significant, Marokhov’s tone in discussing PNEs during first week was markedly less assertive than during previous round. During July talks, Soviet Chairman often used strong formulations in describing Soviet position on PNEs (e.g., Soviet government does not conceive of a solution that does not allow PNEs). At least during this week, he has been noticeably subdued (e.g., Soviet government sees no reason that PNEs should be banned under a CTB).

6. It is impossible at this stage to tell whether Morokhov’s behavior can be attributed in any way to PNE positions taken by US in recent weeks, or whether it reflects any shift in Soviet attitudes. It is conceivable, given high level US-Soviet meetings on eve of present round and possibility that Soviet leadership has taken time to consider results of those meetings, that Soviet DTB Delegation has simply not yet received instructions. Moreover, Marokhov has indicated that he plans to make further statements on PNE question on Oct 11 and 12 plenaries, and he may well return to his earlier, assertive posture. Nonetheless, contrast seems noteworthy, and has particularly intrigued British Delegation.

7. While Delegation will begin next week to outline our thinking on verification (starting on Tuesday6 plenary with on-site inspections), we plan, on the PNE question, to continue, in coordination with the British, to bear down on the Soviet position and to impress on them the firmness and soundness of our view that a PNE ban is an essential requirement of an effective CTB. We will continue to watch for any evidence (such as possible indication contained in conversation reported Septel) that Soviets may be interested in exploring solutions that would involve banning PNEs from outset while keeping open possibility of permitting them sometime in future. Unless otherwise instructed, we would not, however, advance any such ideas ourselves.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770367–0343. Secret; Limdis; Immediate. Sent for information to London and Moscow.
  2. See Document 168.
  3. On October 4, Carter told the UN General Assembly that negotiations for a CTB “are now being conducted by the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. As in other areas where vital national security interests are engaged, agreements must be verifiable and fair. They must be seen by all parties as serving a longer-term interest that justifies the restraint of the moment. The longer-term interest in this interest is to close one more avenue of nuclear competition and thereby demonstrate to all the world that the major nuclear weapon Powers take seriously our obligations to reduce the threat of nuclear catastrophe. My country believes that the time has come to end all explosions of nuclear devices, no matter what their claimed justification—–peaceful or military—–and we appreciate the efforts of other nations to reach this same goal.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1977, pp. 1715–1723)
  4. Warnke’s statement at the opening plenary is in telegram 8405 from Geneva, October 3; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770360–0447.
  5. Malev’s comments are in telegram 8587 from Geneva, October 7. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770367–0320)
  6. October 11.