393. Memorandum From Secretary of State Muskie to President Carter1


  • After the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

I know you are aware of the inconclusive results of the recent NPT Review Conference in Geneva, despite our best efforts to achieve a last minute compromise. I would like to give you my views on its broader significance and the prospects for non-proliferation.

The Meaning of the Review Conference

Because the Review Conference ended on a discordant note, we will face tougher sledding on arms control issues and in pressing our non-proliferation objectives. In addition to continual criticism by the non-aligned, it will be harder to hold the support of many of our Allies, to whom progress in arms control is important both in terms of NPT obligations and for perceptions of their own security. Furthermore, the Soviets will be highly critical of our own arms control efforts (Gromyko’s recent UNGA speech is a good example of this).2

However, I do not believe there is a real danger of withdrawal or abrogation by Treaty parties in the near term. There was strong support for the Treaty itself at the Conference. Many non-aligned leaders (such as Yugoslavia and Mexico) have been instrumental in endorsing the NPT through the years and have substantial self interest in seeing the Treaty preserved.

While generally based on a real concern over the lack of forward movement on arms control, non-aligned demands for accelerated progress and a significantly greater multilateral role in negotiations also reflect a desire by some Third World leaders to prove their credentials by engaging in public confrontation with key Western countries.

The Preservation of Non-Proliferation

The NPT is essential for the preservation of non-proliferation and it is vital to prevent its unravelling. However, the Treaty itself is not [Page 999] sufficient to deal with the truly dangerous problem posed by the nuclear threshold states.

Some present or potential threshold countries (e.g., Iraq) are NPT parties and would think twice before withdrawing from the Treaty. Moreover, progress on a CTB or other arms control measures might strengthen the international consensus on non-proliferation that could help restrain non-party states as well.

Nonetheless, certain threshold countries are already well on the way toward fuel cycle autonomy or are obtaining technical options to develop nuclear explosives. These states will make their decision on whether to produce a nuclear device on the basis of their perception of immediate security interests and vulnerabilities, with internal politics also coming into play. If one or more of these countries decides to obtain a nuclear explosive capability, there would be an increased chance for regional conflict and serious consequences for the continued Treaty adherence of neighboring NPT parties.

In any case, it appears likely that we may be faced with cruel dilemmas involving our national security, if such threshold states as Pakistan or South Africa continue their progress in developing nuclear devices.

Implications for Arms Control and Peaceful Cooperation

After the NPT Review Conference, we plan to adopt the following stance on major arms control issues in the near-term:

—The concession on a CTB Working Group which you approved was worth making under the circumstances, but was only valid in terms of achieving a consensus final document at the NPTRC. We believe the non-aligned will seek to “pocket” our contingent concession, and that Australia, Canada, and other allies may join them in increasing the pressure for a Committee on Disarmament Working Group. We will resist accepting their position since multilateral involvement in CTB talks would seriously complicate tripartite negotiations, especially the important verification issue.

—We should not agree to a CD Working Group on nuclear disarmament, since nuclear arms control can be approached effectively only through step-by-step negotiations by the partners directly concerned.

—We will continue to reject proposals for cut-off of production of Special Nuclear Materials (SNM),3 which some of our Allies may sup[Page 1000]port, as premature. We could receive increased criticism because of our decision to upgrade our SNM production capacity. We still regard cut-off as a desirable long-term arms control objective.

To demonstrate our support for the IAEA and legitimate nuclear power programs in developing countries, we will be generally supportive of implementing Review Conference understandings on peaceful uses. (Gerry Smith will be sending you a more comprehensive memorandum covering this area.)4

—As a follow-on to INFCE and the NPTRC, we will continue to pursue through the IAEA forum the concepts of international spent fuel storage, and an effective international plutonium storage regime.

—We will also pursue, through a newly established IAEA Committee, mechanisms such as a fuel bank for improved assurances of non-sensitive nuclear supply.

Finally, we must focus on the need for restraint in nuclear exports to potential threshold countries. This would include:

—Pressing for acceptance of full-scope safeguards as a condition of new supply commitments to non-nuclear weapons states not party to the Treaty.

—Continuing to press nuclear exporters to restrict the transfer of reprocessing and enrichment technology and sensitive nuclear materials.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Global Issues, Oplinger/Bloomfield File, Box 50, Proliferation: Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, 9–11/80. Secret. In the upper right-hand corner of the first page of the memorandum, Carter wrote “Ed. A reasonable approach. C.”
  2. In a September 22 address to the UN General Assembly, Gromkyo “blamed the United States and its allies” for “escalating international tensions and charged that Washington is working out plans for a nuclear war in an atmosphere of ‘militarist frenzy’.” (Don Oberdorfer, “Gromyko Blames U.S. Policies for Rising Global Tensions,” Washington Post, September 24, 1980, p. A20)
  3. Telegram 268280 to London, October 7, noted that “We share HMG’s view that efforts should be made to discourage arms control proposals that are presently unrealistic and unworkable—such as cut off.” The Carter administration believed that “consideration of cut-off would be premature and inadvisable in light of the current international situation and the importance of not detracting from priority issues on the arms control agenda, such as SALT, and CTB. As appropriate, we would also stress the various difficulties associated with a possible cut-off (definitions, modalities, and verification) and the need to ensure that our security interests would be properly protected.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800479–0470)
  4. See Document 395.