215. Message From the White House Situation Room to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1

FM The White House Situation Room. Sitto 124. To Dr. Brzezinski for the President. WH81232. Message to President Carter from Prime Minister Callaghan.

Dear Jimmy,

I believe you will be making important decisions about the Comprehensive Test Ban before the tripartite negotiations resume in Geneva on 28 September.

I know that your people have been giving a great deal of thought over the past weeks to some of the outstanding issues in the negotiations. I recognise that these raise difficult military and technical problems. But I am sure that, like me, you continue to believe that we must do all we can to bring the negotiations to a positive and satisfactory conclusion. The political benefits of a successful treaty could be enormous. The Wests’ relations with the Soviet Union are not in good shape at present and a CTB treaty in the near future would do much to improve them. It would also be seen by the world at large as a major step forward in arms control. I am particularly anxious that it should be a treaty that will win the support of leaders of non-nuclear states like [Page 538]Prime Minister Desai and so help to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

If we are to achieve these political benefits, then the longer the treaty lasts the better. The longer it is, the more serious our commitment to a test ban will be seen to be and the more time we shall have to persuade other countries to sign it. Earlier this year we agreed on a treaty lasting five years. I know that for very good reasons you are now considering whether that period should be shorter. If you decide that you can no longer go for five years, then I very much hope that you will conclude that you need not go below four.

When we met in Bonn in July I said I was afraid that non-nuclear powers would be deterred from supporting a treaty if you found it necessary to make a statement that the United States would be likely to resume testing after the expiry of the treaty. I remain of that view. But I accept entirely the need to safeguard the future: none of us can foresee what the world will be like in four or five years time. Nonetheless, if you decide that it is essential to make a statement, I wonder whether it might be made in such a way as to limit its effect on the non-nuclear world. We have some ideas on how this might be done, and my people will be ready to discuss them with yours in the talks due to start tomorrow.

I believe that you will also be considering the question of permitted experiments. I think that the yield limit of 100 pounds which was mentioned to Gromyko 2 is low enough for us to be able to claim that the test ban really is comprehensive. But a higher limit would make the treaty appear to be a threshold treaty, which you and I have decided against, and this, I know, would be badly received by countries like India.

We might also be able to make the treaty more attractive to the non-nuclear powers if they saw the prospect of participating in a review conference which would give them a say on what, if any, further arrangements should follow the treaty when it ends. For this reason I believe that we should seek to give the conference the role of considering all possible options and that we should not appear to rule out at this stage any option, including an extension of the treaty. An approach of this kind would also be likely to help overcome our present differences with the Russians on the role of the review conference.

I look forward to hearing your views on these issues to which, I know, we both attach great importance.

With warm regards,

Jim Callaghan
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Presidential Correspondence with Foreign Leaders, Box 20, United Kingdom: Prime Minister James Callaghan, 6–9/78. Secret.
  2. See Document 212.