245. Paper Prepared by an Interagency Review Group1


A basic issue relating to National Seismic Stations (NSS) which has been under consideration on an interagency basis over the past several weeks is:

—whether our willingness to provide US NSS equipment to the USSR should be reconsidered, and in particular whether our offer to lend an NSS unit to the USSR for joint testing should be changed, in light of post- [Page 601] Afghanistan guidelines on scientific exchanges and technology transfer to the Soviet Union.2

If it is determined that we want to maintain our general approach to NSS in the negotiations, and that we are still prepared to lend the Soviets an NSS unit, then two NSS issues in relation to the UK are:

—whether we should offer to fund the equipment for three additional UK NSS in the Southern Hemisphere, in the context of the UK shifting from a one-site to a four-site NSS position, and

—whether the US should offer to lend the UK an NSS unit for joint USUKUSSR testing at a UK site in the Southern Hemisphere.

This paper provides a brief review of the background on these issues for decision, together with the principal factors bearing on each of them. Negotiating tactics and timing are also discussed.

As background for considering the NSS issues outlined above, following is the projected timetable for production of prototype NSS units. The first unit will be installed in Alaska in February 1980. An older unit which has been tested in Tennessee will be upgraded to current standards; this unit could then be available for loan to the USSR or the UK (although it will differ in some respects from the other NSS units). Another unit should be ready in March 1981, with additional units expected in May and July 1981; these units are being produced for use in a 5-station research network in the US, but they could be made available for other uses if deemed appropriate.

I. Technology Transfer Issue

The immediate case at issue is whether our offer to lend an NSS unit to the USSR for joint testing should be withdrawn in light of post-

Afghanistan guidelines on scientific exchanges and technology transfer to the Soviet Union.

A. Background

This issue must be considered in light of earlier analyses of the technology transfer question, the US proposal to lend the Soviets an NSS unit, and new circumstances in the post-Afghanistan period.

Technology Transfer Analyses. The question of technology transfer associated with providing US NSS equipment for use at stations in the USSR was examined on an interagency basis in 1977,3 in 1978,4 and again in 19795 (in preparation for the visit of Soviet experts to the US). In each instance, the responsible agencies determined that the NSS equipment could be transferred to the Soviet Union for use in monitoring a CTB treaty. In its review of this matter in 1978,6 the DOD cited the following grounds for concurring in the transfer:

—It is not practical to “reverse engineer” the critical components and produce them in quantity.

—The number of NSS is small enough so that diversion to other applications would be no threat.

—Since the equipment would be provided in connection with an international treaty, it would not set a precedent for approval of export of system components alone.

Two conditions were imposed by the DOD:

—The Soviets should not be given manuals or data on how to build critical elements of the NSS (or any embargoed items).

DOD should be consulted in connection with any Soviet request to be present when the NSS equipment is being manufactured.

On June 30, 1978, the Department of Commerce authorized the transfer of NSS technical data and hardware to the USSR.7 Consistent with the DOD recommendations cited above, Commerce specifically excluded from its authorization any technical data relating to production of NSS components. The 1979 review, completed just before Soviet experts visited the US, approved transfer of the equipment on the same basis as the 1978 authorization (outlined above).

US Prototype Proposal. It was decided that the US would offer to transfer one NSS to the USSR. The US CTB Delegation was instructed in [Page 602] early December 1979—at the end of the last round—to offer the USSR, on a loan basis, a prototype NSS unit for joint testing by US, UK and USSR experts at a site in the USSR.8 The Soviets were also invited to participate in NSS test activities at a site in Alaska. The US proposal for joint testing of NSS equipment was portrayed to the Soviets as our response to earlier Soviet requests for two complete sets of US NSS equipment and five specific components. The Soviets have not yet responded to the December proposal.

Post-Afghanistan Restrictions. It was decided on January 2, in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, that the US would tighten controls on US exports to the USSR on a case-by-case basis. Specific technology transfer cases are currently being reviewed. Factors being considered in these reviews include whether the equipment is “space qualified” (as some parts of the NSS equipment are).

B. Discussion

There is agreement that this is primarily a political issue. It requires weighing one set of US objectives against another: On the one hand, there are the US objectives in relation to the CTB negotiations and the NSC Action Plan that led us to make the proposal in the first place. On the other hand, there is the need to take into account the present policy of restrictiveness towards exports to the USSR.

A question has been raised as to whether the earlier determinations that the NSS equipment could be transferred to the USSR for use in monitoring a CTB treaty are also valid for the proposed joint prototype test and evaluation effort in light of post-Afghanistan guidance.

—One factor to be considered is whether the interaction between US and Soviet technicians in such a joint effort could result in the sharing of information on manufacturing processes that we would not want transferred.

—If so, then we should work out modalities for the proposed joint effort to try to ensure that the type and level of interaction would not permit the exchange of more information than we considered appropriate.

At present, before the Soviets have responded to our proposed joint prototype testing effort, the Delegation does not require further guidance on the specific features of the US-proposed joint program; if necessary, the Delegation can take questions and report them to Washington. The nature of the Soviet response will provide the terms of reference for additional decisions that may have to be taken at a later date.

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Some possible Soviet reactions to our proposal are as follows:

—They may not respond at all for some time, or they may respond negatively.

—They may renew their proposal for two sets of NSS equipment and the five components.

—They may react positively in principle but have specific ideas regarding the features of the joint effort.

In any event, if the Soviets are receptive to the idea of a joint program, it will take considerable time to work out its main features, and we will have time to develop our specific approach in response to Soviet reactions to our loan offer. If further study of the technology transfer issue is deemed appropriate, this should provide time for such a study to be undertaken and to be factored in as we plan our specific approach. It would be desirable for internal US planning purposes, however, to proceed to work out the details of our proposal for a joint NSS test effort as we see it.

C. Issue for Decision

For now, the issue for decision is whether to withdraw our prototype NSS loan offer or to let it stand; and if we let it stand, how the Delegation should deal with it in the February round. There are three basic options:

Option 1. Withdraw the NSS prototype loan offer.

—Would reinforce general post-Afghanistan technology transfer policy.

—Would send a clear signal to the Soviets regarding the negative consequences for a CTB (and arms control generally) of their invasion of Afghanistan.

—Would constitute a setback to CTB negotiations, probably precluding further progress on verification issues for some time. Could lead to collapse of the negotiations.

—Could precipitate public charges by the Soviets that the US had undermined the CTB negotiations.

—Could jeopardize long-term US objective of having our equipment used at NSS in the USSR, since Soviets could claim that US refusal to transfer US equipment left them no alternative but to use their own equipment.

—Could deny us information from prototype testing that might be useful in relation to estimating yields of Soviet high yield tests.

Option 2. Let prototype loan offer stand but do not press for Soviet response.

—Would neither promote progress in the negotiations nor constitute a setback.

—Would facilitate Soviets resisting progress on joint program pending resolution of other issues such as UK NSS question.

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Option 3. Let prototype loan offer stand and press Soviets for response.

—Would signal US interest in making progress on NSS issues.

—Would keep pressure on Soviets to move forward with NSS technical issues.

—Would forego opportunity to use withdrawal of NSS loan offer to reinforce post-Afghanistan technology transfer policy.

II. UK Funding Issue

Should the US offer to fund equipment for three UK NSS in the Southern Hemisphere, in the context of the UK shifting its negotiating position from one NSS to four?

A. Background

For well over a year, negotiation of NSS issues in Geneva has been deadlocked over the question of the number of UK NSS sites.9 The Soviets have taken the position that the UK should have ten NSS (one in the UK proper and nine in dependent territories around the world) if the US and USSR are to have ten. The UK has offered one NSS in Scotland and has strenuously resisted moving to a larger number, citing technical and budgetary considerations. We have supported the UK on this in Geneva, particularly in the last round, although advising them privately that we thought they would eventually have to move to a larger number in order to resolve the impasse.

During Prime Minister Thatcher’s December 1979 visit to Washington,10 the President suggested that the UK consider offering three additional NSS sites, for a total of four, and it was agreed between Foreign Secretary Carrington and Secretary Vance11 that the UK would consider the possibility of three additional locations for installing NSS while the US would look into the possibility of funding the equipment for those stations. During discussions on January 10 with a US team visiting London,12 UK spokesmen presented a staff-level technical review of NSS siting issues, but said the UK did not intend to initiate a policy-level review of this matter until they have received a specific US funding proposal.

What is needed, therefore, is a decision on the next step with regard to making a specific funding proposal to the UK; if the UK then decided to shift from one NSS to four, we could consider with them questions of timing and tactics for presenting the new UK position to the Soviets in Geneva. A new UK NSS position need not be presented to the Soviets early in the February round, and perhaps not until we have heard from the Soviets again on this issue.

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B. Discussion

Although we are insisting on the use of US equipment at NSS in the USSR, we do not yet know whether the Soviets will ask that their equipment be used at sites in the US and UK. Thus, to relieve the UK of the financial burden of acquiring equipment for three additional NSS sites, a US funding offer must apply regardless of whether the UK ultimately uses US or Soviet equipment. The cost of US equipment and related assistance to the UK for three NSS is estimated at $6–8 million; there is no reason why the cost should be higher for Soviet equipment. What would be involved at present is a commitment in principle to seek this funding at an appropriate time in the future; no specific budgetary actions need be undertaken at present.

Following are factors bearing on this issue:

US offer to fund equipment for three additional UK NSS could lead to UK to shift to four-site NSS position.

UK will be concerned that any movement beyond one station could result in pressures in the future for them accept a number larger than four.

—We should assure the UK that if they shift to four stations we will stand firmly with them in trying to resolve the UK NSS issue on this basis.

—Nevertheless, the UK probably will seek assurances that our offer to fund equipment would apply for additional NSS if they eventually moved beyond four stations.

—We would make clear to the UK that the Executive Branch can only make a commitment to request funds for UK NSS from the Congress at an appropriate time. The UK would have to take into account the possibility that the Congress might not approve these funds.

—There are differing views regarding the relationship of US assistance to the UK and overall USUSSR funding arrangements:

—Some are concerned that an offer of US funding of equipment for UK stations would complicate working out funding arrangements with the USSR in the future, and they argue that the basic ground rules for financing NSS in all three countries should be negotiated before the US makes any commitments to the UK.

—Others feel that these overall arrangements cannot be negotiated until the Soviets agree to use US equipment, and that we will never reach that stage of the negotiating process until the impasse over UK NSS is broken.

—Contribution of three additional UK NSS to monitoring UK compliance with CTBT would be marginal.

—Three additional UK NSS in Southern Hemisphere could make some limited contribution to NPT monitoring (as discussed in attached CIA paper):13

—These NSS probably would not improve detection capabilities, due to high noise environment of island locations.

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—They could be helpful, however, in identifying as earthquakes or explosions nearby seismic events detected by other seismic stations.

—In terms of NPT and LTBT monitoring, the US and UK could both benefit by installing (on a bilateral basis) other sensors at nearby sites to help monitor atmospheric and underground explosions in the Southern Hemisphere.

—Co-locating these sensors with NSS sites would permit use of UK diplomatic leverage in areas where direct US access may be limited. Could also take advantage of presence of UK personnel and secure communications facilities.

—Additional costs would be involved, and detailed analysis of the costs and benefits of such additional sensors could be investigated—taking into account planned AEDS improvements and other alternatives—after specific locations are identified by the UK.

III. UK Prototype Issue

Finally, there is the issue of whether we should offer to lend the UK an NSS unit for joint testing at a UK site in the Southern Hemisphere.

This would involve the loan of an NSS unit to the UK on the same basis as the offer already made to the USSR. Offering an NSS to the UK for joint testing would not be appropriate unless we are continuing with our overall NSS approach in relation to the USSR. If this is the case, some factors bearing on the decision are as follows. Setting up a prototype test facility in the Southern Hemisphere:

—would broaden UK participation and reinforce the US prototype test proposal made to the USSR;

—could make some limited contribution to NPT monitoring, depending on location;

—could enable us, in NPT Review Conference, to point to cooperative efforts at UK site as evidence of ongoing activities;

—would offer opportunity to further demonstrate utility of satellite communication for NSS data transmission from remote sites;

—could involve trade-offs between providing USSR or UK an NSS unit, due to limited number of NSS units available prior to March 1981.

Considerations will also vary somewhat depending on our decision regarding funding equipment for three additional UK NSS.

—If we decide not to fund equipment for three additional UK NSS sites, offering the prototype could still keep a little pressure on UK to move off its one-station position in the future.

—If we decide to defer the UK equipment funding decision, but offer to lend the UK a prototype unit, this would give them an opportunity to signal some flexibility if they wanted to do so.

—If we decide to fund the equipment, and this leads the UK to shift to a four-station position, they might be interested in the prototype loan as a way to gain wider participation in the NSS program at an earlier date.

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The UK, however, may see in the offer of a prototype NSS unit an opportunity to defer changing its NSS position, since by accepting the prototype and thus signalling the possibility of a future change of position, they could hope to ease the pressures somewhat.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 11, SCC 297, CTB, 4/3/80. Secret.
  2. On January 4, Carter announced that he had “directed that no high technology or other strategic items will be licensed for sale to the Soviet Union until further notice.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, pp. 21–24)
  3. Not found.
  4. The 1978 Interagency Study of NSS technology transfer to the Soviet Union is available in Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harold Brown Papers, Box 82, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, 1978.
  5. Not found.
  6. Not found.
  7. Not found.
  8. The US NSS joint cooperative development proposal is in telegram 19581 from Geneva, December 5, 1979. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790561–0762)
  9. See Documents 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, and 245.
  10. See Document 242.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Not found.
  13. Not attached.