250. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1

119590. Exdis, USNATO for PM Director Bartholomew. Subject: CTB: Approach to UK on NSS Numbers.

1. Secret—Entire text

2. As prelude to visit of Lord Carrington, PM Director Bartholomew called in British DCM Fretwell May 2 to inform the UK officially of the President’s decision on UK NSS issue.

—Fretwell was accompanied by UK Embassy POL/MIL Counselor Weston. Bartholomew delivered points in paragraph 3.

3. Begin text:

A. The President believes that as we move together to meet the challenge posed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan,2 we should continue to pursue Western security interests through balanced and verifiable arms control agreements, including CTB.

—It is clear that the trilateral CTB negotiations have been bogged down for well over a year.

—We have received some indications that the Soviets might make the case to other States, in connection with the upcoming NPT review conference, that the US and UK are responsible for the continuing stalemate in the talks.

—While we do not accept the Soviet contention, we must naturally try to ensure that the two Western partners are seen in the most advantageous possible light at the review conference in order to protect our mutual non-proliferation objectives.

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B. You will recall that both in Washington in December3 and earlier in Tokyo,4 the President asked the Prime Minister—as a means of doing our part on the Western side to facilitate progress in CTB—to consider accepting four NSS in the UK and its dependent territories.

—We have looked at various ways together as to how this might be done. One possibility, for example, was reflected in the idea which Secretary Vance and Lord Carrington discussed on a contingency basis in December5 that if you would look into the possibility of locating three stations in Southern Hemisphere territories, we would examine whether it might be possible to fund the equipment for those three stations.

—The President has concluded after examining this idea that it would not be appropriate for US to finance those stations. We remain prepared, however, to explore other possibilities of mutual cooperation with you.

C. We continue to believe that our key objective should be to nail down Soviet acceptance of 10 NSS on their territory. And we should avoid giving the Soviets any basis for charging that we are obstructing the CTB.

—The President therefore hopes you will be able to accept three stations in the Southern Hemisphere. In our view, such stations would serve our mutual interests in both CTB and non-proliferation monitoring, and give us a much firmer basis for continuing to oppose the unjustified Soviet demand that the UK accept ten NSS.

—On this basis, and after consulting with you on tactics and timing, we would make it clear to the Soviets that the Western side had now done all it can to resolve this question, and we therefore fully expect them to accept the new position. While it’s highly unlikely that the Soviets would promptly accept the offer, it would put US in a good position to demand that the Soviets drop their linkages and negotiate seriously on the many difficult and time-consuming verification and other issues which would still remain unresolved.

—If the UK agrees in principle to accept four NSS, we would consult closely with you on how and when to play this in Geneva in order to put the strongest possible pressure on the Soviets. Needless to say, we would stand solidly with you in advancing such a position to the Soviets.

D. Let me stress, finally, that we value the close and cooperative US/UK relationship on CTB policy. We naturally want to continue this, and look forward to working closely with you in coming months on all CTB-related issues, including the question of how to handle CTB both in the CD and at the NPT review conference in August. End text.

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4. Fretwell responded by noting that UK experts felt there would be little monitoring value in locating seismic stations in the Southern Hemisphere. Bartholomew replied that our own experts did see at least some such value in Southern Hemisphere sites, especially if other types of sensors were also located there, and noted that this would be of benefit to our mutual non-proliferation interests as well as to CTB.

5. Fretwell then asked how we view near-term prospects in CTB. Bartholomew replied that we’re realistic in this regard, but we nonetheless face international pressures on CTB and at least need to be politically positioned to deal with such pressures. We believe NSS question is of particular importance due to the long lead time required to negotiate verification issues in way that meets western interests. Thus, we believe it’s worth looking now at the question of UK NSS numbers. Fretwell commented that UK did have this in mind, but were hoping that US would pay for additional stations.

6. Weston asked US view of other pending CTB issues and said “it would help in London” on NSS issue if US were to show movement on its December NSS prototype proposal6 and on preamble language. Bartholomew replied that our emphasis now is on verification because this will be by far the most time-consuming area to negotiate, and added that we do not consider other questions to be of the political or substantive magnitude of the NSS issue.

7. Pursuing this, Fretwell asked how US would react “if UK thought it would make sense” to link question of a move on NSS with US movement on other issues. Bartholomew replied that it might not be tactically wise for the Western parties to move on several issues at once, and that we should therefore place emphasis on verification areas, as these have the greatest impact on Western interests. He pointed out that the technology transfer issue is already under active review in the USG, and that the preamble question is also likely to be reviewed.

8. Weston asked at the end of the meeting whether US would be prepared to have a bilateral before beginning of next round. Bartholomew replied that we would be happy to do so if UK wished.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800224–1231. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Immediate to Moscow, the Mission in Geneva, and USNATO. Drafted by Steven Steiner (PM/DCA); cleared by Robert Einhorn (ACDA), John Marcum (NSC), Neil Michaud (EUR/NE), and Jane Becker (S/S–O); and approved by Mark Palmer (PM/DCA).
  2. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 25, 1979.
  3. See Document 242.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 240.
  5. No record of this meeting has been found.
  6. See footnote 8, Document 245.