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

140484. Subject: CTBUK Response to US Approach on NSS Numbers. Reference: State 119590.2

1. Secret—Entire text.

2. In response to May 2 approach by PM Director Bartholomew on UK NSS numbers, UK Embassy provided following “speaking notes” to Department on May 23.

3. Begin text.

Ministers have noted the President’s decision that it would not be appropriate for the US to fund equipment for additional UK NSS and have given careful consideration to his hope that we would nonetheless be able to agree to three stations in the Southern Hemisphere.

We agree that we should continue to pursue a CTB: That the joint UK/US negotiating position should be as defensible as possible: and that a key objective should be to clinch Soviet acceptance of 10 NSS on their territory. However we are mindful of the President’s earlier decision that the CTB negotiations should continue ‘at a slow pace’,3 reflecting the view, with which we agree, that there is now no prospect of bringing the CTB to fruition this year. This leads us to a different conclusion about the desirability of our agreeing to accept three additional NSS at this juncture:

(A) Our overall conclusion in the technical study we handed to the US team in London on 10 January4 was that the gains in verification capability of NSS in dependent territory sites in the Southern Hemisphere would be marginal, whether for monitoring NWS or NNWS.

(B) In addition to the technical objections there are political, security and logistical difficulties in finding suitable sites. The Falkland Islands, which appears to be technically the best site, would present US with a serious political problem with Argentina. There would be no site in the Indian Ocean if Diego Garcia is ruled out on security grounds. This would leave only Pitcairn in the Pacific and islands in the South Eastern Atlantic.

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(C) It is increasingly widely recognized, especially by our allies, that the stalemate in the negotiations derives principally from wider difficulties in East/West relations, including particularly the postponement of SALT ratification.5 Pending a change in the current political atmosphere, real progress on key issues seems unlikely. We have accepted that some of the most difficult, requiring US decisions, may have to wait until after the presidential election. An isolated concession on UK NSS will not lead to progress on a broad front.

(D) We are not convinced that an increased UK offer would improve our chances of inducing the Russians to drop their linkages and negotiate seriously on other unresolved issues. Their refusal to do so is already one of the most indefensible aspects of their position. Recognizing, as we do, that the negotiations cannot be concluded this year, they may well pocket any concession over NSS and press for a further increase in 1981. However strongly the Americans supported us, there would be no guarantee that a further concession would not be required in order to achieve agreement.

In short we consider that any such difficult decision, involving our departure from the only strongly defensible technical position, should be contemplated only when it is likely to achieve a positive result in the form of a complete treaty. Meanwhile our tactic should be to continue to press the Russians to leave numbers of UK NSS aside.

We are however concerned to find suitable subjects to occupy the negotiations. Without additional negotiating substance the coming round will be even more strained than the last. At the same time, with the approach of the NPT review conference, outside critical attention will concentrate increasingly on the unresolved issues. The combination of these two factors might lead the Russians to assume that we have totally lost interest in a CTB and tempt them into breaking ranks.

We believe therefore that we should concentrate on areas of work which do not involve major controversial decisions on the part of the US and the UK but which will maintain some forward momentum. In our view, negotiation of the preamble would fill this role admirably. This issue, as Mr. Bartholomew acknowledged, is not of the same political or substantive magnitude as the question of NSS. Precisely for that reason, we think it offers an attractive basis for keeping the negotiations going. The Soviet Union table a draft on 26 July 19786 which they [Page 620] reintroduced on 12 June 1979.7 We gave you a UK draft on 9 October 19788 which conformed to the well established pattern for arms control and disarmament agreements. In view of the many precedents, we do not regard discussion of the preamble as in any way prejudicial to Western interests.

The approaching NPT review conference makes it highly desirable that we should be closely in step. Quite apart from the points more particularly bearing upon strategy for the next negotiating round of CTB, we think it would be useful if we could compare notes on the wider context of how to approach the NPT review conference, in particular Article VI of the treaty9 and how the CD should be involved. If you thought it worthwhile, Patrick Moberly’s presence in Washington on other business during the week beginning 9 June might provide an appropriate opportunity, for example Thursday 12 June.

British Embassy, Washington, 23 May 1980.

End text.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800263–0732. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Sent for information to the Mission in Geneva and Moscow. Drafted by Steven Steiner (PM/DCA); cleared by Robert Einhorn (ACDA), John Marcum (NSC), Neil Michaud (EUR/NE), and William Butcher (S/S–O); and approved by Palmer.
  2. See Document 250.
  3. Not found.
  4. Not found.
  5. On January 3, Carter requested that the Senate delay consideration of the SALT II treaty after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. (Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, p. 12)
  6. The Soviet draft preamble is in telegram 11528 from Geneva, July 26, 1978. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780306–1137)
  7. The Soviets re-submitted the draft preamble on June 12, 1979. Discussion of the draft is in telegram 10021 from Geneva, June 13, 1979. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790268–0209)
  8. Not found.
  9. See footnote 5, Document 211.