175. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Soviet Move on CTB

As you know, Dobrynin called Cy Vance today2 to tell him that Brezhnev will tomorrow announce that the Soviets are prepared to accept a testing moratorium that would include PNEs in the context of a CTB treaty. The question is what public stance we should take on the Soviet move. Depending on when Brezhnev makes his statement, Cy might address the question at his 11:00 A.M. press conference tomorrow.

It is clear that Brezhnev will be talking about a moratorium on PNEs, which is in itself significant. It is less clear from the little Dobrynin had to say to Cy how this fits with the Soviet position now on the table. The Soviets could still insist that the treaty permit PNEs and say that the inclusion of PNEs in the 18–24 month moratorium (during which all nuclear powers must accede to the treaty for it to go into effect) would be simply to allow further consideration of agreed modalities for PNEs. Or they could say that the question of PNEs would be left open in the treaty with the 18–24 month moratorium used to decide their ultimate disposition. The second of these possibilities obviously goes further toward our own position than the first.

Your last CTB instruction to Paul3 already includes the possibility of a treaty which would ban all explosions including PNEs, but provide for continuing review of PNEs with the notion that if (someday, somehow) all the problems could be settled, they might then be permitted. You instructed Paul to see if he could elicit a Soviet proposal along those lines. The Soviets were aware of the idea. Brezhnev’s statement tomorrow looks like their response.

In any event, as I said earlier, Soviet acceptance of extending a test moratorium to include PNEs, however it might relate to their proposed treaty, would be a significant move on their part. In our public response, we would not want to hail it as a “breakthrough” or greet it with a shout of joy: we have to have time to see how they will play it [Page 415] and what strings might be attached; and steadiness in any event is the best stance both in dealing with the Soviets and in terms of domestic reactions. But—this said—we should certainly greet it as a significant step and avoid any suggestion that we are downplaying it. Thus, I think the best line might be to say:

—We regard it as a positive step toward a fully comprehensive test ban;

—It is a helpful evolution in the Soviet position on a key issue in the CTB negotiations;

—We will want to give the Soviet statement full consideration in the context of the proposals and positions that both sides have advanced in the Geneva negotiations.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 6, Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB), 3–12/77. Secret; Sensitive. Carter initialed the memorandum.
  2. No record of this telephone conversation was found.
  3. See Document 170.