234. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of State1

10489. Geneva for CTB Delegation. Subject: CTB: UK Ministerial Decision on NSS.

1. (S—Entire text). Ambassador Edmonds, head of UK CTB Delegation, called on DCM to convey UK ministerial decision on National Seismic Station issue. Text of Amb Edmonds talking points follows:

Begin text:

As you know, both the Prime Minister and Lord Carrington discussed the comprehensive test ban with Mr. Vance during his visit to London.2 Both voiced their misgivings about the requirement that the United Kingdom should accept 10 National Seismic Stations (NSS).

Ministers have now reflected further on the question of NSS. In doing so, they had very much in mind the need to hold the Russians to their acceptance of 10 NSS on Soviet territory. They are also aware of the importance of bringing the CTB negotiations to a successful conclusion.

On the other hand, they were also much concerned about the difficulty of defending a decision to spend large sums of money on a project for which their is simply no technical justification. The Russians know that the United Kingdom has no independent nuclear testing facility and could not possibly establish one, either in the United Kingdom or the dependent territories, without detection. Our technical people are satisfied that NSS would not provide any effective addition to means already available to the Soviet Union for monitoring United Kingdom compliance with the treaty.

Ministers have considered the NSS issue against the background of their commitment to severe retrenchment in public expenditure. This will make it even more difficult to justify capital costs of 20–30 mission pounds on a project which is bound to appear nonsensical to parliament and the public.

The government attaches high priority to increasing the resources made available to defence, thereby improving our contribution to NATO. The money needed for 10 NSS could be much better spent on re-equipping our forces in Europe.

[Page 576]

Ministers are therefore unwilling that the United Kingdom should pay for more than the one NSS which we have already agreed to accept, at Eskdalemuir. If your government concludes that we must accept more than one in order to secure Soviet agreement, we hope that you will be able to find some way of providing the necessary funds. In that case, Ministers would be prepared to accept up to four NSS on British territory. We should be glad to discuss the implication of this with you. End text.

2. Comment: Embassy’s earlier démarche3 and Secretary’s discussion here last week4 prompted, we understand, ministerial discussion chaired by P.M. last week at which foregoing decision was reached. We consider it, however, a bargaining position from which UK can be further moved. In view of fact that Secretary Vance has already emphasized the importance USG places on progress in CTB, embassy believes that a presidential message to P.M. Thatcher may be needed now to move British to reconsider their position. Such a message could emphasize importance US attaches to early progress in CTB, argue benefits resulting from agreement, highlight need for adequate verification, and urge reconsideration of UK position.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790243–0755. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information to Geneva.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 232.
  3. See Document 229.
  4. See Document 233 and footnote 2, Document 232.