182. Memorandum From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Warnke) to President Carter1


  • December Round of Trilateral Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Negotiations

During the recent round of trilateral talks, held in Geneva from December 5 to 20, the principal development was our formal tabling of a U.S. Working Paper2 outlining our views on the key substantive elements of a multilateral treaty banning nuclear weapons tests and of an integrally related protocol dealing with peaceful nuclear explosions. Much of the session was devoted to answering detailed Soviet questions regarding our Working Paper and, in the process, we got a fairly good picture of Soviet thinking on the main issues. Highlights are summarized below.

On-Site Inspections (OSI). As instructed,3 our Delegation did not put forth a specific proposal on OSI. Instead, we continued to express our interest in narrowing the differences between the traditional positions of the participants and extensively explored Soviet receptivity to the idea, discussed during the 1958–1962 CTB negotiations, of an annual quota of mandatory inspections.

The Soviets stated categorically and repeatedly that they were not prepared to consider any form of mandatory OSI, including a quota. They said that a U.S. proposal for mandatory OSI would be rejected and would be regarded as an attempt to complicate the negotiations at a time when the USSR had made several important concessions in [Page 429] order to make agreement possible. They maintained that the Soviet side had already demonstrated its willingness to find compromises that bridged traditional positions on OSI, citing their acceptance of the Swedish-developed concept of “challenge” inspections and their recent willingness to work out in advance the detailed rights and functions of inspection teams, rather than leave them to ad hoc decisions by the host party.

However, while rejecting the concept of mandatory OSI, the Soviets agreed with the principle that requests for OSIs should not be dealt with in an arbitrary manner and they unquestionably understood our emphatic assertion that the treaty would be placed in jeopardy if this principle were not observed. The Soviets have indicated that, if we do not find their prior proposals adequate, it is up to us to give them a specific alternative when the negotiations resume in January.

Duration. We stressed our opposition to the Soviet proposal for a treaty that would terminate automatically if China and France have not joined within three years, and proposed instead the right of any party to withdraw on one year’s notice if, after three years, continued testing by a non-party affected its security.

The Soviets admitted to us informally that they recognize that their idea of a “guillotine clause” will have to be abandoned, and they indicated they would be considering alternatives enabling the treaty to be extended even without participation by all nuclear powers. However, they expressed serious concern with our “right of withdrawal” formula. They argued that, of the three nuclear powers that would join from the start, the USSR would feel the greatest pressure to withdraw because of Chinese and French testing, but that, if they actually decided to invoke their right to do so, they would be subject to heavy criticism for contributing to the breakdown of the treaty regime. Because of this concern, they favored the concept that all the nuclear powers should be released from their obligations simultaneously. I believe it will eventually be possible to work out an acceptable compromise that promotes our basic objectives (e.g., a formulation providing that, after a specified period, treaty parties would determine, perhaps at a Review Conference, whether the treaty would continue for another specified period).

Peaceful Nuclear Explosions. While accepting the Soviet idea of a protocol on PNEs and agreeing that the possibility of carrying out PNEs in the future should be kept “under consideration”, we took a strong position that the ban on PNEs must remain in force as long as the weapons test ban remains in force, unless of course the PNE ban is replaced earlier by arrangements for conducting PNEs that the U.S. can support.

The Soviets asserted that they continue to have a strong interest in carrying out PNEs in the future and that means can be found for elimi[Page 430]nating any military benefits. They maintained that our proposal on duration of the PNE ban is unsatisfactory, since it would provide no incentive to reach agreement on arrangements for conducting PNEs. Instead, they called for a definite time limit (three years) for negotiating such arrangements, after which the moratorium on PNEs would expire—presumably whether or not those arrangements had been concluded and whether or not the treaty on weapon tests continued.

We, of course, emphasized that it would be unthinkable for us to leave PNEs unconstrained while the weapons test ban continued. Soviet Delegation members appreciate why their proposal would not be acceptable to us, but have not hinted at any means of solving this problem and have instead pointed out that the PNE issue continues to involve substantial bureaucratic stakes in Moscow, thus making it difficult for them to alter their position very soon.

Internal Seismic Stations. Although our detailed proposals will not be ready until January, we outlined our general thinking on the design of the stations and indicated that, as long as agreement can be reached on the technical requirements for ensuring the receipt of timely and authenticated seismic data, we would not object to Soviet manning of stations in the USSR.

The Soviet response was somewhat ambiguous. The technical members of their Delegation seemed receptive to our concept and particularly interested in receiving sophisticated U.S. equipment for the stations. At the higher, political level, however, a more cautious position was taken. They seemed particularly sensitive to any appearance of the internal stations making inroads on Soviet sovereignty, and expressed concern about whether the U.S. concept permits sufficient Soviet national responsibility and control over the stations on their territory.

We cannot expect a definitive Soviet reaction until we have presented our ideas in detail next round. However, in light of the important political and ideological implications of “authenticated” internal stations for the Soviet leadership, I would be very surprised if achieving Soviet acceptance of an effective arrangement did not require a prolonged and difficult negotiation.

General Comments. Although the Soviet negotiators repeatedly expressed appreciation of our Working Paper and the detailed explanations given them, there was no new movement on their part on the issues of PNEs, treaty duration, and internal seismic stations. Indeed, some slight hardening of position could be discerned. It should be remembered that, in putting forth on November 2 the revised Soviet positions on a PNE moratorium and entry into force, Morokhov stressed that the Soviet leadership expected some reciprocal movement on our [Page 431] part to accommodate their position on verification. This expectation was emphasized often during the recently completed round.

I believe, therefore, that the Soviet Delegation was disappointed and a bit put off by our failure to propose a specific provision bridging the gap between our past insistence on mandatory on-site inspections and their concept of voluntary on-site inspections. I think we can expect little further progress on the other issues until we deal constructively with this issue.

Consequently, if we are to maintain the current momentum toward agreement, the most urgent requirement in our preparations for the round scheduled to begin on January 18 is to adopt a position on how on-site inspections will be initiated. I will shortly be sending you a memorandum recommending an approach to the OSI issue. In addition, I believe it is important that we be prepared when the talks resume to present detailed proposals on the contents of the separate verification agreement we would conclude with the Soviets to supplement the multilateral CTB treaty.

Paul C. Warnke
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Agency File, Box 1, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency: 8/77–2/78. Secret. In the upper-right hand corner of the memorandum, Carter wrote “good report. J.”
  2. See footnote 2, Document 180.
  3. See Document 181.