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

7606. Exdis USCTB. Pass to DOE. Subject: CTB Negotiations: Warnke-Petrosyants Meeting, May 16.

CTB Message No. 211

1. Summary. On May 16 Warnke met for first time with Petrosyants, new head of Soviet CTB Delegation. Warnke relayed to Petrosyants President Carter’s personal view of importance of CTB and his desire to expedite negotiations. Tone of discussion was encouraging. Without seeking to diminish the difficulty of resolving remaining issues, Petrosyants conveyed very positive outlook on prospects for the negotiations. He laid the groundwork for one important step forward by indicating willingness to begin detailed discussion of agreed understanding on OSIs. End summary.

2. Warnke, accompanied by Johnson, Neidle and Finch, met at Soviet mission on May 16 with Petrosyants, accompanied by Timerbaev and Tarasov. Petrosyants opened substantive discussion with brief review of session to date, observing that US has submitted “quite a few interesting proposals.” The Soviets are studying these and asking questions about them. They have received replies to some questions but not others, but this is “only natural” in view of the amount of material involved and its seriousness. Petrosyants observed that, in the process of negotiation, each side thinks it is the other which must change its positions.

3. Warnke began by reporting that President Carter had asked him to state to Petrosyants personally that the President wants to expedite the negotiations in whatever way he can, that he sees this as a most important matter, and is concerned that we can implement our nonproliferation policy only if we can show the world that the US and USSR can stop nuclear weapons testing.

4. Warnke then reviewed the highlights of the negotiations from their beginning, characterizing the Soviet move last year on PNEs as very constructive. He thought the Soviets would agree that US had made some very constructive steps also, in accepting the Soviet position that seismic stations on the territory of a country should be controlled by that country, and in connection with initiation of on-site inspections. On latter point, Warnke recalled that longstanding US [Page 481] position had been to require mandatory on-site inspections. However, as result of negotiations during 1977, US had decided that it could accept Soviet approach of voluntariness subject to certain conditions, including agreement that OSI requests would not be refused on arbitrary basis.

5. Petrosyants suggested that our problem was to find mutually acceptable formulations. In this regard, the Soviet side felt that the formulation “arbitrary refusals” of on-site inspections—which the US had proposed for the agreed understanding—was not appropriate for documents such as this. The Soviet side might prefer a formulation such as “insufficiently substantiated refusals.” Warnke indicated that we were prepared to consider alternative formulations and suggested that the political working group examine the draft language for the agreed understanding. Petrosyants agreed that this could be done—the first time the Soviets have been willing to consider the text of the agreed understanding.

6. Warnke commented that much progress had been made in the negotiations, although difficult issues remained. In particular, the task now with regard to national seismic stations is to work out specifics regarding equipment and procedures for their operation. Petrosyants inquired regarding the state of development of US equipment for national seismic stations. The Soviets did not want to buy a “pig-in-a-poke”; they needed to see detailed designs. Johnson indicated that equipment is in an advanced stage of development. We would make available design drawings but these would not be precise designs of the production model since further changes could be expected. Perhaps through their involvement before the designs were finalized, Soviet experts could offer useful suggestions. Petrosyants said that US proposal to use seismic equipment which it was currently developing, but which was not yet in production stage, was a cause of concern to the Soviets. He thought therefore we could develop some specific stages in establishing national seismic stations. The first stage would be based on the use of existing, operating seismic stations. The second stage would consist of improving these stations. The third would involve creation of seismic stations with outstanding characteristics as the US has proposed. This last stage would require establishing a new communications system and other details. It would involve a complex set of problems and would need considerable work which the joint consultative commission2 would carry out.

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7. Warnke responded by noting that, between our Delegations, we have assembled in Geneva an impressive collection of technical experts. We should use this expertise to solve as many problems now as we can rather than simply putting the hard problems off to the joint consultative commission. Petrosyants said, “this proposal is absolutely right. Let them solve the problems here as soon as they can, so they can go home and get back to their regular work.”

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780208–0615. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Priority to London and Moscow.
  2. Reference to the SALT Standing Consultative Commission created by the United States and the Soviet Union to consider issues of verification of arms limitation agreements. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXII, SALT I, 1969–1972.