232. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US

    • The Secretary
    • Assistant Secretary Vest
    • Ambassador Brewster
    • Minister Streator
    • Peter Sommer (Embassy Notetaker)
  • UK

    • Francis Pym, Secretary of State for Defense
    • Sir Frank Cooper, Permanent Under Secretary, MOD
    • Michael Quinlan, Deputy Under Secretary, Policy and Programs, MOD
    • Roger Facer, Private Secretary to the Secretary


  • Conservative Commitment to Defense, NATO Issues, TNF, US Strategic Systems, SALT, ABM, MBFR, UK’s Nuclear Deterrent, SALT III, CTB, Anti-Satellite Negotiations, Arms Sales to China

Conservative Commitment to Defense

Pym said he was privileged the Secretary could visit the MOD and he personally wanted to emphasize the Conservative Party’s anxieties over the growing Soviet threat and Britain’s weakened defense posture. The Conservatives are determined to do something positive. As a first step, the Conservatives had increased military pay, which in some ways was only a minor achievement, but it did underline the Conservatives’ commitment to defense. He added that the Conservatives, however, would be hard-pressed to improve substantially current defense programs because the UK economy is at zero growth. The Secretary replied that he was pleased to be able to come to the MOD and the US is pleased with the Conservatives’ strong commitment to defense.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to a comprehensive test ban.]

Comprehensive Test Ban

The Secretary said he and Lord Carrington had gotten hung up the question of how many national seismic stations should be located in the [Page 573] British Isles.2 Carrington had explained the British problem—the monetary implications—and the Secretary agreed that clearly ten stations on a country the size of the British Isles was unreasonable. The Secretary felt, however, the Soviets would not settle for anything less than five UK stations. He added perhaps a worthy idea was to have some of the Commonwealth states, like Australia and New Zealand, accept a station. The Secretary noted that yesterday Michael Palliser had suggested a formula allocating seismic stations in relation to each country’s land mass. The Secretary joked that under such a formula, Britain would probably end up with only half a station. Pym said a change in the rules at this stage would make it difficult to achieve agreement. The Secretary underlined that we will be under pressure to make progress in the next CTB round, which begins on June 4, because if we do not it is unlikely negotiations will be completed on time for the NPT Review Conference. The Secretary said the US will press the Soviets at the Summit3 to stop linking the number of seismic stations and the other remaining technical problems related to verification, but he was not sanguine that the Soviets would budge. Pym promised to discuss these issues with Lord Carrington. Cooper asked if there would eventually be a threshold under the CTB treaty. The Secretary said the US would insist on limiting it to laboratory tests for a treaty of three years duration. That is as far as we can honestly go in keeping the Joint Chiefs aboard and considering the reliability of our nuclear stockpile.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to a comprehensive test ban.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 9, Vance Nodis Memcons 1979. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Peter Sommer (EUR). The meeting took place at the Ministry of Defence. The conversation is scheduled to be printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXVII, Western Europe.
  2. Vance’s May 21 discussions with Carrington are reported in telegram Secto 4006 from the Secretary’s Delegation, May 22. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840171–0170)
  3. Reference is to the upcoming U.S.–USSR summit in Vienna scheduled for June 15–18.