217. Memorandum From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Warnke) to President Carter 1


  • Future of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Negotiations

Our trilateral talks with the USSR and UK will resume a week from Thursday, September 28. Progress in these talks requires the release of your decision setting a three year fixed term as our objective.2

Harold Brown and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and probably Jim Schlesinger, believe that release of this decision will cause a domestic debate which could prejudice SALT’s chances. But the controversy is about your intent that the treaty be a genuine comprehensive test ban and not merely a lower threshold test ban. It won’t be heightened by a cut-back from five to three years.

We have repeatedly affirmed to the Soviets and to the British that our objective is a comprehensive test ban. The resumed talks would be directed toward this end. But we cannot settle the verification issues, particularly the number and types of seismic stations, without a firm decision on duration.

Accordingly Cy Vance and I believe your decision on the three year term should be released and trilateral negotiations continued, following the strategy for securing multilateral support set forth in our attached memorandum.3

In our view, the only alternative would be now to approach the Soviets and the British and to tell them we have decided to suspend the CTB talks until after SALT ratification. We believe that to do so would cause far more controversy and difficulty than going ahead as we recommend.

The Soviets are already charging us privately with welching on a CTB. If we suspend the talks, there is no question of the fact that they will saddle us with the blame. The non-aligned countries, probably led by India, will complain that they have been misled and our non-proliferation efforts will suffer a severe setback. Domestically, there is both a Congressional and private constituency that puts a comprehensive test ban high on its priority list. These constituencies will be disap[Page 541]pointed and vocal. The picture that will be painted is that the Administration has steadily retreated from a genuine test ban of indefinite duration to a ban of a fixed and limited period and now to the indefinite suspension of the talks.

From the standpoint of SALT, we feel that, if there is to be a confrontation about your reaffirmation that we are seeking a comprehensive test ban, it would be better to have that confrontation now, rather than having it smoldering during the critical stages of SALT.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 6, Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB), 1–12/78. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Not found.
  3. See Document 214.