224. Letter From Ambassador-at-Large and U.S. Special Representative for Non-Proliferation Matters Smith to President Carter 1

Dear Mr. President:

You have charged me with coordinating your Administration’s efforts in the nonproliferation field. One of the heaviest burdens that nonproliferation policy carries is the continued absence of progress on a comprehensive test ban. I think we must face up to the prospect of defections from the Nonproliferation Treaty if a CTB is not reached before the Treaty comes under review at a conference in the spring of 1980. I can think of no greater threat to the security of our country than such an unravelling of the ties that keep a number of nations from going for nuclear weapons.

Among the direct benefits of such a treaty could be binding legal commitments by nations such as India, Pakistan, South Africa, Israel, and Egypt not to conduct nuclear test explosions. In the case of India, this would codify the policy position taken by the present Prime Minister against any repetition of the 1974 explosion; in the case of South Africa, it would reinforce the assurances given by the Prime Minister in [Page 551] 1977 that his government would not carry out nuclear weapon tests; and in the case of Israel, Egypt, and Pakistan it would not only constrain weapons development, but inhibit demonstration of a nuclear weapons capability.

To the extent that other states, such as Argentina and Brazil, assert that their present treaty obligations do not preclude “peaceful” nuclear explosions, a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would provide a nondiscriminatory vehicle for removing any ambiguity on this point.

While these benefits would, of course, depend on gaining the adherence of these states to a CTB, all but two of them (Argentina and Pakistan) joined the Limited Test Ban Treaty, and Prime Minister Desai has indicated willingness to join a nondiscriminatory CTB.

More generally, achievement of a CTB would be of material help in meeting demands for balancing the restraint we are asking of non-nuclear weapon states by placing long promised constraints on vertical proliferation. This step appears indispensable to an Indian decision to accept full-scope safeguards, and it clearly is crucial to the success of the conference to be held in mid-1980 to review the operation of the NPT, as well as to our ability to avoid the deterioration of that pillar of our nonproliferation policy.

I urge you to include among the nation’s New Year’s resolutions a determination to get a significant comprehensive nuclear test ban in 1979. The prospects for success of your nonproliferation policy would then be substantially improved.


Gerard Smith 2
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–81–0202, Box 53, A–400.112 TEST BAN (6 June–Dec) 1978. Confidential. Copies were sent to Vance, Christopher, and Brown.
  2. Smith signed the letter “Gerry.”