176. Memorandum From the Acting Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Keeny) and the Director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs (Gelb) to Secretary of State Vance1

CTB Developments


Following up on Brezhnev’s 60th Anniversary speech,2 the Soviet CTB Delegation has presented to our Delegation important proposals which could provide a way out of the CTB impasse. The essence is that the Soviets are now willing to accept a three-year halt in conducting PNEs and are willing to have a three-year treaty banning weapon tests which would enter into force without Chinese and French accession. There are still a number of critical points for us which are unclear or not [Page 416] satisfactory but our initial impression is that we might be able to use Brezhnev’s proposed framework—a treaty and a protocol on PNEs—as the basis for future negotiations.

The Soviet Proposal

The Soviet CTB Delegation said in Geneva that the Soviets could accept a three-year treaty banning nuclear weapon tests which would enter into force without France and China. A PNE moratorium in the form of a treaty protocol would take effect simultaneously and for the same length of time. The treaty (but presumably not the moratorium) would become of unlimited duration if France and China acceded within three years. There could be provision for review before expiration or every five years if the treaty became of unlimited duration. The Soviet proposal stipulated that, after entry into force of the treaty, negotiations would continue for the purpose of reaching a mutually acceptable solution on PNEs and procedures for their conduct.

On verification, the Soviets rejected US proposals for automated seismic installations but agreed to consider increasing the number of national stations to be included in a global seismic network and expressed willingness to consider measures to guarantee the authenticity of the data from such a network. They repeated their proposal for on-site inspections on a voluntary basis, but added that rights and functions of inspecting personnel could be agreed in advance.

Significance of the Soviet Move

The Soviet move is a major step towards our position. Seen in the context of other recent steps, such as the substantial progress on SALT during Gromyko’s visit3 and certain other gestures outside the arms control field, it suggests that the Soviets may want to achieve trilateral agreement on a CTB in time for a Summit.

—In agreeing to give up PNEs for three years, the Soviets are in effect conceding that PNEs are not all that vital to them for that period. (Perhaps this means that they have no major PNE projects slated for the next three or four years.) This provides an opening for seeking a satisfactory long-term solution of the problem.

—Dropping the requirement for French and Chinese adherence was an essential step in order to bring any treaty into sight.

—While Soviet verification ideas are not surprising, the willingness to work out agreed inspection procedures in advance is a step in the right direction. We will give urgent study to the Soviet suggestion [Page 417] that authenticated data from national seismic stations be used in lieu of automated seismic installations.

Initial Reactions

It seems to us that we should be able to accept the basic framework of the Soviet proposal, that is, a treaty and a protocol. But we would want to press for certain important elements which either now look unclear or unsatisfactory in the initial Soviet presentation.

—Treaty duration and withdrawal now seem the central problems separating us. The treaty should not automatically collapse if France and China do not accede in three years since no one can realistically expect them to do so. Nor should the moratorium on PNEs automatically terminate if the problem of preventing military benefits from PNEs is not solved since it probably won’t be. We will therefore want to try to find some way, consistent with our present position, to have both the treaty and the protocol continue past the initial period unless a party takes some special step of withdrawal. Unfortunately, on this point, the Soviet Delegation seemed to envision just a straight termination of the treaty and the protocol if the various conditions haven’t been met. The Delegation did not have the impression that the Soviets had fully thought through all the ramifications.

—Tying the treaty and the protocol together. Obviously it would not be acceptable for countries to be able to sign the treaty banning weapon tests but not accept the protocol banning explosions for alleged peaceful purposes. The protocol would therefore have to be regarded as an essential and integral part of the treaty. This would also mean that the protocol banning PNEs should be amendable only in the same way the treaty could be amended—with the consent of all the participating nuclear powers. The Delegation immediately raised these questions informally with the Soviets and the initial response indicated possible flexibility.

Future Work

There will be a break in the talks beginning this Friday,4 and a resumption on December 5. This should give us ample time to figure out the best strategy and to prepare ourselves for detailed negotiations in December. The Delegation will shortly be sending its analysis and recommendations.

One thing seems fairly certain. It will be very much in our interest to have concrete proposals and texts to provide the Soviets for the next round. If we can accept Brezhnev’s proposed framework of a treaty and protocol on PNEs, we should be in a strong position to press the Soviets [Page 418] to modify some aspects of their approach—especially on duration of the treaty and the PNE moratorium—to bring them more closely into line with our objectives.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770197–1650. Secret. Drafted by Alan Niedle (ACDA/MA); and cleared by Edward Ifft (PM/DCA), Cowey, Avis Bohlen (EUR/SOV), Wreathem Gathright (S/P), Shulman, and Louis Kahan (PM). A stamped notation on the bottom of the first page of the memorandum reads “CV.”
  2. On November 2, Brezhnev announced that he wanted a treaty that banned “nuclear weapons tests, so that no such tests will be conducted underground, as well as in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water,” including a “moratorium on nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes, along with a ban on all tests of nuclear weapons for a definite period.” (“Address by President Brezhnev Before the Central Committee of the CPSU: Halting the Production and Testing of Nuclear Weapons [Extract],” November 2, 1977, Documents on Disarmament, 1977, pp. 679–680. Emphasis in the original.)
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXIII, SALT II, 1972–1980, Documents 182, 183, and 184.
  4. November 4.