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

15493. Exdis USCTB. Pass to DOE. Subject: CTB Negotiations: Status of Verification Issues.

CTB message no. 332

1. Summary. During the initial weeks of the current negotiating round, the US Delegation has devoted most of its efforts to pressing the Soviets to make early and favorable responses to US proposals on the remaining verification issues. In our three plenary statements and in many informal exchanges at various levels, we have emphasized the top priority we assign to verification, urged the Soviets to join us in concrete negotiations particularly on arrangements for national seismic stations (NSS), and stressed our view that verification measures must be effective regardless of the length of the treaty. While we have not yet gotten into detailed negotiations, there have been some promising signs that the Soviets may be preparing to get down to serious business in the near future. End summary.

2. Beginning with our opening statement on September 28,2 we have tried to use every available opportunity, either in formal plenary sessions or in informal conversations, to emphasize the importance of getting down to detailed work on outstanding verification issues, especially NSS and OSI, and to call on the Soviets to respond favorably to [Page 548] the proposals we have already put on the table. One obstacle to pursuing verification matters in the opening days of the round was the Soviet Delegation’s initial reluctance to agree to proceed with the negotiations on the assumption of a three-year duration. This problem was compounded by the timing of Gromyko’s discussions in New York3 and Washington,4 which the Soviet Delegation said made it difficult for them to give us a considered response to our proposed approach on duration. The Soviet Delegation has now confirmed that it is prepared to proceed on a three-year basis.

3. On-site inspection. All Delegations have recognized that, of the principal verification issues left, the question of OSI rights and functions is the one where we are closest to reaching agreement. However, the Soviets at first resisted specific discussions in the OSI working group, claiming that it was up to the US to adjust its OSI proposals to the shorter duration of three years. Heckrotte (US) vigorously rejected this idea on the grounds that the technical requirements for effective inspections were independent of treaty duration. In subsequent informal conversations, Neidle, Giller and other US Delegation members reinforced the position that it was illogical, and unacceptable, to cut back on OSI procedures because of a three-year duration. At the second meeting of the OSI working group, held after a delay of several days, the Soviets did not return to the theme that OSI procedures should be streamlined. Instead, they made a concrete and serious proposal on one of the significant technical OSI issues remaining, the question of position-fixing. Another encouraging development was Soviet Chairman Petrosyants’ remarks to US Reps Johnson and Neidle on October 12 that the question of OSI rights and functions should move rapidly to agreement. Sov Dep Rep Timerbaev also confirmed to Neidle on October 12 that OSI rights and functions would not be affected by whether there was a three, as opposed to a five, year duration.

4. National Seismic Stations (NSS). We have told the Soviets that we consider NSS to be the most important issue left in the negotiations. We have made clear that they owe us responses to our proposals on the technical characteristics of the stations and on procedures for site selection, installation, and maintenance. On October 11,5 we tabled the locations for our revised 10-station network, emphasizing that the question of NSS numbers was the only verification issue that required revision [Page 549] in light of the move to a three-year duration. Subsequent informal conversations, including US rep Johnson’s conversation with Timerbaev October 12,6 have stressed that we view agreement on high-quality NSS arrangements as a prerequisite to the successful conclusion of a CTB treaty. In separate conversations, Neidle strongly encouraged Chairman Petrosyants and Timerbaev to reply soon to our proposal for 10 stations, and urged that the Soviet Delegation make as positive a response as it is authorized to make, rather than simply come back to us with a counterproposal reduced for negotiating purposes. Neidle stressed that agreement on a good NSS network was of the greatest importance and that the highest levels of the US government were watching to see the Soviet response. Finch, Givan and other US Deloffs have conveyed similar messages to Soviet counterparts.

5. On October 12 Sov Deloff Slipchenko, after being pressed by Einhorn on when Sov Del would get down to business on NSS, indicated that his Delegation was giving active consideration to a response on numbers, and thought they might be in a position to make a counterproposal as early as next week. Tarasov separately confirmed to Finch that Sov Del planned to present its NSS position next week, although not as early as at the NSS working group meeting on Oct. 16.

6. In a number of recent conversations, the Soviets have begun stressing the notion that it is hard to justify the burdens of NSS for a three-year treaty that might not extend. We have tried to discourage them from thinking that there is mileage in that argument. Finch argued with Tarasov that an effective NSS program could be even more important with a three-year duration, since we would be facing decisions in the third year regarding future CTB limitations. If the NSS program had gone well, it would not only make a direct contribution to verification of the initial treaty but—as evidence of our countries’ ability to succeed in a cooperative verification effort—it could contribute to a positive climate and increase the prospects of decisions to have CTB beyond three years. For these reasons, Finch thought the US position was sound, that there should be no compromise in qualitative aspects of NSS, and he urged a positive Soviet response soon.

7. When Timerbaev told Neidle that there was resistance on the Soviet side to accepting a large NSS network for a treaty which might end after three years, Neidle responded that he saw no prospect of getting off the ground with any treaty without a good NSS network; nor did he see prospect for continuing with a CTB after the initial duration if such a network had not been established.

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8. Chemical explosions. On October 9, we presented our proposal regarding prenotification of large chemical explosions.7 The Soviets have indicated to us informally that they will not be able to respond right away since they do not have people with the necessary expertise on their Delegation. They say that Soviet officials will have to do research regarding such factors as the frequency and purpose of chemical explosions in the USSR that would be covered by the prenotification provision.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780419–0887. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Priority to London and Moscow.
  2. The U.S. statement is available in telegram 14623 from Geneva, September 28. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780397–0007)
  3. Gromkyo and Vance met in New York on September 27 and 28 during the UN General Assembly meeting. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Document 148.
  4. See Document 221.
  5. The proposed locations for National Seismic Stations are in telegram 15307 from Geneva, October 11. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780416–0174)
  6. The October 12 Johnson-Timerbaev discussion is recorded in telegram 15493 from Geneva, October 13. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780419–0887)
  7. The October 9 proposal on chemical explosions is in telegram 15236 from Geneva, October 13. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780414–0530)