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

12262. Exdis USCTB. Pass to DOE. Subject: CTB Negotiations: Assessment of June 4–July 20 Round CTB message no. 478.

1. (Secret—Entire text). Summary: This message contains my assessment of the June 4–July 20 round of CTB negotiations. It incorporates numerous suggestions from members of the Delegation but has not been cleared by all of them. In sum, there has been very little serious negotiation, and therefore very little progress toward a CTB, during this round. At the beginning of the round the UK Delegation announced that the new UK government was studying the question of National Seismic Stations (NSS) on UK territory and would state its position later. The fact that it failed to do so during this round was the ostensible reason for the Soviets to continue to refuse to move on NSS. However, their refusal to move may also reflect a more fundamental problem, namely a growing doubt about the ultimate success of these negotiations—a doubt related both to their uncertainty over the SALT [Page 581] debate and to the possible impact on the CTB negotiations of the approaching US presidential campaign. The fact that the US Delegation has been unable even to state a position on several political issues, such as the preamble to the multilateral treaty and permitted experiments, probably reinforces Soviet fears that the US is no longer fully committed to completing the project. If there is to be progress during the next round it will obviously be necessary to settle the UK NSS issue. In addition, we should be properly instructed so that we can get on with negotiating the remaining political issues of the treaty, as well as deal with Soviet requests for US NSS components and two complete NSS. End summary.

2. General situation and atmosphere. The negotiations remain stalled, a situation that was already apparent during the last round. Only two plenary meetings were held. At the first, on June 5,2 the UK Delegation stated that the new UK government had not yet completed its study of the NSS question and was therefore not ready to respond to the Soviets (as it still is not). The Second Plenary was held July 113 at our request so that I could restate and clarify the US position on NSS equipment, including the requirement that NSS equipment installed in the Soviet Union must be US-manufactured. Although the Soviets had let it be known that they planned to make a statement on July 11, they did not do so and did not explain why they had changed their mind. Nor did they show much interest in holding private substantive discussions. Symptomatic of their lack of interest in substantive exchanges, the Soviets took the initiative in arranging a trilateral lunch, instead of the usual plenary, to end the round.

3. Although the Soviets continued to press the UK to respond on UK NSS, they conveyed less sense of urgency that we should get on with the negotiations and they were less active in seeking US intervention with the UK on the NSS question. The apparent relaxation displayed by the Soviets gave US the impression that they were somewhat less concerned than before with moving the negotiations forward.

4. Relationships among the Delegations continued to be cordial, providing a good basis for further constructive work when and if the negotiations are unblocked. We are impressed in particular by the apparent desire of the Soviets to keep up a show of cooperative activity, and they excelled themselves in arranging social activities, presumably to show goodwill. The visit to Moscow by me, Dr. Johnson, and John [Page 582] Marcum,4 as well as the completion of plans for the visit of Soviet and UK experts to US NSS facilities, contributed to good relationships among the Delegations.

5. Accomplishments during this round. A few modest accomplishments can be recorded. The political working group agreed on language for a paragraph in Article III of the separate verification agreement dealing with the privileges and immunities of On-Site Inspection (OSI) designated personnel. In addition, at the end of the round, the US tabled draft language for another paragraph of the same article, dealing with expenses incurred during an OSI. The OSI working group reviewed the texts of Article III that had already been negotiated, and agreed on a joint composite text (with some brackets denoting issues not yet agreed) of the entire article. Apart from this accomplishment, the OSI working group devoted many hours to debating the acceptability of portable seismometers as OSI basic equipment. The Soviets introduced this issue at the beginning of the round by challenging the US and UK Delegations to provide data showing that portable seismometers would be useful in determining the nature of ambiguous events and would not result in false alarms. Throughout the debate the Soviets refused to deal in specifics but rejected all US/UK arguments as unconvincing. It is still not clear whether the Soviets have serious objections to the use of portable seismometers or were merely looking for a convenient issue that would keep the OSI group busy.

6. Our major effort during the round was to restate, clarify, and expand upon the US position regarding the use of US equipment for NSS in the USSR. In that context I also outlined the main elements of a cooperative NSS program. In informal meetings, we concluded arrangements for the visit by Soviet and British experts to our NSS development facilities. In addition, the trip to Moscow mentioned above (June 25–30) provided an opportunity to establish contact with Sadovsky, Director of the Soviet Institute of Geophysics, who was identified to US as the man responsible for the Soviet NSS Program.

7. The UK role in the negotiations. In private discussions with US, members of the UK Delegation have betrayed some embarrassment and concern over the prolonged delay in London in deciding on a position concerning NSS on UK territory. It is our impression that the UK Delegation recommended that the UK answer the Soviets during this round by proposing a few (perhaps as many as four) NSS on overseas territories (paid for by Britain, not the US). I have little doubt that the [Page 583] Delegation strongly opposed “Zero NSS”, which would imply UK withdrawal from the SVA, arguing that this would be unacceptable to the Soviet Union and damaging to British prestige. From contacts with the British here and in London, I have the impression that the new UK Government has some basic reservations regarding the value of a CTB treaty. For example, Minister of State Douglas Hurd referred in a conversation with me to a low-threshold treaty as a hypothetical possible substitute for a CTB. He also asked why Britain should play the Soviet “Numbers Game” and whether it would not be in the UK interest, though not necessarily in US interest, for the UK to withdraw from the negotiations altogether. These reservations about the value of the CTB may help explain why the UK Government has been so slow in reaching a decision on NSS.

8. The Soviet role and attitude. Throughout the round the Soviets continued to wait for a UK response to their proposal for ten NSS on UK territory. They repeatedly made it clear that they had no interest in NSS within the British Isles, and that the withdrawal of the UK from the NSS arrangements would be unacceptable. Finally, they continued to refuse to discuss any other NSS issues before the question of the number and location of UK NSS was settled. At the opening of the round, the Soviets hinted at some flexibility regarding the number of UK NSS they could accept, conveying the impression that they might settle for fewer NSS in UK territory than the ten proposed for the USSR. By the end of the round, however, the Soviets were again saying that, whatever number of NSS there were in UK dependent territories, the USSR would accept the same number in the Soviet Union. The Soviets may have hoped that their apparent show of flexibility would elicit an early UK answer, to which they could reply by reaffirming their requirement of equal numbers. The Soviets may in fact have in mind using whatever number the UK comes up with as a basis for driving the US toward a lower number of NSS in the USSR, at least during the first three years. On several occasions Petrosyants and Timerbaev informally raised the possibility of adjusting the phasing of the installation of the NSS, in effect of agreeing to install a small number of NSS (or none) during the first duration of the treaty with a commitment to install more if the treaty is renewed.

9. During this round, in contrast with the last, the Soviets in informal discussions avoided any suggestion that they will be ready to begin serious negotiations on other NSS issues as soon as the UK issue is settled. This may be because, as I have just indicated, the Soviets have in mind using the number proposed by the UK as a basis for proposing a reduction in the number of NSS in the USSR, possibly linking this to an adjustment in the phasing of installation. They may expect a prolonged debate over these issues and for this reason no longer expect to [Page 584] move promptly to NSS technical issues. Or they may envision a prolonged and difficult debate over whose equipment will be used in the Soviet Union. Either way we should not assume that settling the UK issue will necessarily open the door for a speedy settlement of NSS technical issues.

10. The question of US equipment in Soviet NSS. We have now left no room for doubt that we will require the use of US-manufactured equipment in the NSS installed in the Soviet Union. I and other members of the Delegation discussed this matter informally with the Soviets several times. We also went over the US position with Korniyenko during the Moscow visit, and I of course stated our position in detail in my plenary statement of July 11, placing the requirement for using US equipment in the context of reciprocity and of a cooperative NSS program.

11. The Soviets have not categorically rejected the use of US equipment in the Soviet Union. In his comments at the plenary Petrosyants even avoided restating the Soviet position (which has been generally negative but not a categorical rejection), on the grounds that the position was well known and did not need to be repeated. In private discussions, he and other members of the Soviet Delegation described the US position as very hard. Their emphasis, however, was less on the substance of the US position (which they refuse to discuss before the UK NSS question is settled) but on their contention that the US statement represented an essentially new position and came as an unpleasant surprise. We pointed out that US spokesmen had said as early as May 1978 that it would be necessary to use the US downhole unit.5 Nevertheless, I tend to believe that the Soviet reaction of surprise contains truthful elements if not the whole truth, in the sense that our previous statements about using US equipment were never given much emphasis and therefore may not have been taken seriously. In rereading the record, I think it is at least possible that the Soviets were convinced that we could be persuaded to compromise on this issue. They may dig in on this point, holding to the argument that their acceptance of NSS is on condition that Soviet equipment will be installed in Soviet territory. Or they may try to drive us toward some sort of compromise involving few or no NSS in the first three years with a commitment to settle the question of whose equipment will be used in a full scale system when or if the treaty is renewed.

12. CTB negotiations, SALT, and the US political scene. It is evident that the SALT debate in the US has slowed these negotiations. The Soviets have asked US if the SALT debate will interfere with US decisions on CTB. They have also referred to the fact that President Carter told [Page 585] Gromyko that we would not finish the CTB negotiations before SALT was concluded.6 We must assume that the Soviets will not wish to commit themselves further to the CTB, and especially not to make any significant concessions, before they are confident that the SALT treaty will be ratified and that the US seriously intends to go ahead with the CTB. The Soviets have also frequently referred to the 1980 presidential campaign as something that might make it impossible for the US to proceed with the CTB, and therefore a matter of concern to their negotiators. From the Soviet perspective, the obvious question is whether any concessions can be expected from the US in the present situation, and whether any Soviet concessions would be worthwhile. It is relevant, in this connection, that the Soviets no longer talk of the need to complete the CTB by any particular time. Early in this round we occasionally referred to the NPT conference in May 1980 as a target date, but got no response from the Soviets. Clearly they no longer regard May 1980 as a realistic target date. Members of the Soviet Delegation have even speculated that the negotiations would require two more years.

13. Conclusions. The fact that the US Delegation entered this round with no new instructions, and that it remains uninstructed on several political aspects of the treaty—notably the preamble and the question of permitted experiments—has contributed to the present impasse. The fact that we are still unable to state a US position on these issues tends to undermine Soviet confidence in our commitment to the CTB objective. If we are to make any progress during the next round, and if we are to avoid the possibility that these negotiations might unravel altogether, I believe we must return next round in a position to negotiate most open issues, including not only the outstanding political issues but also the Soviet request to buy US seismic components and two complete NSS. Our ability to make constructive proposals on these issues would contribute substantially to improving the negotiating atmosphere.

14. Further, the delay of the UK in responding on the NSS question probably strikes the Soviets as further evidence that both the UK and the US are losing interest in the CTB objective. During the recess, I hope that the UK will reach a decision regarding the number of NSS in UK dependent territories and that the US will come to a firm conclusion concerning our reaction to this new decision. Without new instructions for both the US and the UK Delegations, we are unlikely to make any progress next round. If we continue to appear in Geneva lacking instructions, the Soviets (and the UK too) may interpret this as proof that we are no longer seriously committed to achieving a CTB treaty.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790329–0620. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Priority to London and Moscow.
  2. A report on the June 5 Plenary is in telegram 9583 from Geneva, June 6. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790257–0304)
  3. A report on the July 11 Plenary is in telegram 11747 from Geneva, July 12. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790351–0209)
  4. York, Johnson, and Marcum visited Moscow from June 25–30. The trip included a tour of the seismic observatory at Obninsk which the Soviets planned to use as a National Seismic Station under a CTB treaty. York’s report of the visit is in telegram 11274 from Geneva, July 5; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790306–0938)
  5. A method of seismic testing.
  6. See Document 221.