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


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CTB and Stockpile Reliability

As I alerted you last week,2 there is growing opposition within Defense and Energy to a CTB and for the first time Harold Brown, whose active support would be essential in ratification efforts, is seriously waivering in his support for this objective.

As you will recall, the Chiefs pointed out in previous discussions with you3 their concern that we may be unable to maintain confidence in our nuclear weapons stockpile under a CTB and that the Soviets could maintain confidence in their weapons through clandestine [Page 466] testing. Harold also sent me a signed memorandum4 which concludes that without testing, stockpile reliability can be maintained adequately for awhile, but there would eventually be accelerating erosion possibly down to a very low level. Harold’s study presented several options to mitigate this problem ranging from threshold treaties to gradual phaseouts of testing; all would involve continued testing at least at one KT or higher for several years.

In addition to a special study by Frank Press5 of this issue which included the directors of our weapons labs, and a special meeting of the SCC,6 Cy and I met with Harold privately.7 We urged him to tentatively accept the idea of guarding against long-term stockpile problems by having a review conference after five years to determine whether the treaty should continue. This would probably be negotiable since Soviet concerns about PNEs and testing by France and China could be met in the same manner. The British raised this same thought with me during the Callaghan visit, and we have now received a formal paper from their government proposing this approach.8

However, Harold is concerned that at the time of the review conference there would be a high political threshold against resuming testing, and he would not agree to have the Working Group examine the modalities of this approach unless it also considered his options for continued testing. As a result, we agreed that Harold would think further about the issue and that we would continue the discussion after his trip. Cy and I will follow-up on this as soon as we all are in town, but Harold may not yield.

Thus, at some point it may be necessary for you to meet privately with Harold to remind him that he supported a CTB as being in our national interest in discussions with you prior to your inauguration, and last Spring, during the PRM–16 review. Harold’s position is clearly central—with his support we can use the SCC process to get Jim Schlesinger and the Chiefs to reluctantly go along.

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I have prepared a background paper on the technical aspects of this issue which I will provide separately if you want it.9

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 6, Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB), 1–2/78. Secret. Carter initialed the memorandum. Above Carter’s initial, an unknown hand wrote “Cy sent to Marcum 4/19.”
  2. Not found.
  3. Not found.
  4. See Document 188.
  5. Not found.
  6. See Document 190.
  7. No minutes for this discussion were found.
  8. The UK Government delivered a paper to the Department of State on April 11 that formally proposed “a treaty of limited duration, preferably of 5 years, without accepting any commitment about the future of the test ban thereafter.” The text of the paper is in telegram 93541 to London, April 12. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840163–0161) At the bottom of the page, Carter wrote “Callaghan & I discussed this. Will resist moves to test during agreement period.” See Document 191.
  9. Under this paragraph, Carter wrote “hold for later.”