41. Telegram From the Embassy in Switzerland to the Department of State1

720. US ASAT Two 019. From Buchheim. Mil addressees handle as Specat. NASA for Krueger. Subject: (U) ASAT Two Plenary Meeting, February 6, 1979 (Secret—Entire Text).

1. Begin summary: During three hour meeting at Soviet Embassy, Khlestov asked, and Buchheim responded to, a number of questions on U.S. ideas for an initial agreement. Most of the questions concerned the details of the test-suspension idea. In addition to questions on the internals of text, Soviets wanted to know when one-year period would start, and whether agreement would be written so as automatically to continue or to lapse at end of one year. Buchheim emphasized that we were discussing concept of an initial agreement, that a prohibition on damage or destruction covered any means for doing so, and noted need for discussion in the future of limiting ground-based lasers and other kinds of anti-satellite systems not covered in initial agreement. End summary.

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2. Khlestov said preliminary discussions of U.S. texts at last meeting (see ASAT Two 016, Bern 678)2 had helped SovDel to understand better U.S. ideas, however, they had more questions.

3. Khlestov said that in the Soviet text given to the U.S. (see ASAT Two 005, Bern 528)3 there were the qualifying words “acts incompatible with peaceful relations between states.” He recalled that Buchheim had said some such qualifying words could be included in a preamble, but U.S. text did not contain such language. He wanted to know if U.S. side considered it possible and necessary to have a preamble, if so, what its contents should be, and whether they could include some qualifying words—either “acts incompatible with peaceful relations between states” or some other. Buchheim said the U.S. side had no objection, in principle, to a preamble and some such words could be in one.

4. Khlestov said that a second question concerned possible concluding sections of an agreement, such as listing the official languages of the agreement and the place of signing. They would also contain the date that the agreement would come into force. The obligation not to text could extend: (I) 12 months from date of signing; (II) 12 months from the exchange of instruments of ratification. The difference between the two commencement dates could be three, four, five months. He said he would like to know the U.S. point of view. Buchheim said this was a question on which he would need instructions and that, if Khlestov felt that the discussion was at a point where he should ask for such instructions, he would do so. Khlestov said he wanted to better understand the essence of the U.S. idea. Buchheim said he would ask for instructions on that basis.

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5. Khlestov’s next question referred to Buchheim’s statement (ASAT Two 015 Bern 665)4 that the U.S. envisioned the two sides would, prior to expiration of the 12-month text suspension, meet to discuss these matters further and take appropriate decisions. He requested clarification of the U.S. views on this matter with respect to the two possible interpretations: Does the U.S. believe that an agreement which would be in effect for a specific period of time would lapse when that period was over; or does the U.S. have the view that the agreement would only lapse if the two sides met and agreed not to extend it? Buchheim responded that the U.S. had no fixed views on the matter. He said the U.S. side was talking about an initial undertaking on testing lasting for 12 months during which time the two sides should decide whether to continue, to extend, or to change the agreement, and that we favored maximum flexibility in consultations during this 12-month period. He said further that he believed that an initial agreement should be case in terms that envision further discussions or agreements by the parties on these matters, and that it should provide as much flexibility in consultations as seems reasonable. He noted that Khlestov’s question envisions the possibility that an article might specify that a text suspension would continue or lapse depending on what the parties in consultation agree concerning the text suspension or any other matters or undertakings. He then asked Khlestov’s views on whether the suspension should automatically lapse if the parties don’t agree to continue it or would the suspension continue until the parties do agree to terminate it. The U.S. has no fixed views on this, he said. Khlestov said that he had drawn two conclusions from Buchheim’s presentation: First, that a mechanism for further consideration of this matter had been more carefully worked out by the U.S. side than by the Soviets, and second, that the future fate of a test suspension following the 12-month period must be more precisely formulated. Buchheim said that a perfectly acceptable mechanism to consider the matter further is these two Delegations. Khlestov asked for Buchheim’s thoughts on paper. Buchheim agreed to do so but said the thoughts would not be complicated; they would be that the parties consider the matter during the one-year period under whatever mechanism the two sides prefer.

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6. Khlestov describing difficulties SovDel had had in understanding U.S. side’s text on test suspension, then asked whether the words of that preliminary text, “. . . interceptor missile for destroying or damaging . . .” were intended to describe the type of interceptor missiles the sides would agree not to launch, or to describe the purposes of those launches that were not to be made. Buchheim said the purpose of the phrase was to be descriptive of the type of interceptor, not of the purpose of the launch, and the U.S. would consider the question of whether the English text should be changed.

7. Khlestov then asked what objects were included in the scope of the words “interceptor missiles.” Buchheim said an interceptor missile is a missile, device, rocket, or vehicle—or any other appropriate word—which has as its purpose to strike or to come close enough to a target object to damage or destroy that object, by whatever mechanism of damage is built into it. In discussion it was clarified that the term referred to devices that approach their targets from orbit, by direct ascent, or in any other way.

8. Khlestov asked about the meaning of the words “for any other purposes” in the text suspension text which reads “not to launch, for text or any other purposes, an interceptor missile . . . .” Buchheim explained that the objective is to suspend anti-satellite system tests; the implementation of that objective is to suspend launches for any purposes, such as training, which could provide test information and that “not to launch” with no reference to testing would be sufficient, but that the longer phrase used seemed more appropriate. Khlestov concluded that the U.S. text’s meaning was that interceptor missiles should not be launched at all.

9. Khlestov then asked whether the notion of an “interceptor missile” included both the device and its launch vehicle, that is whether, under the text suspension, only launches of the launch vehicle with the device on it would be banned, or whether launches of the launch vehicle without the device would also be banned. Buchheim explained that in the U.S. view only launches with the device would be banned.

10. Khlestov asked why the U.S. text concerning prohibited acts, like the Soviet text, called for obligations “not to destroy, damage or change the trajectory”, while the U.S. text on test suspension applied only to interceptor missiles designed to destroy or damage and did not cover means of changing a trajectory. Why was the scope of the second text narrower than that of the first? Buchheim said he would answer the question more fully than it has been asked: there were two aspects to the differences in scope between the two texts. First element of U.S. text contains idea of undertaking not to destroy or damage the kinds of objects described, by any means. The U.S. side did not use the words “by any means” since it seemed inherent that a pledge not to do any[Page 96]thing meant by any means. The second element of U.S. text (test suspension) does not include all possible means for damage or destruction of an object. Buchheim said he did not believe it revealed any mysteries to either side to note that bringing an interceptor missile into the vicinity of an object for damage or destruction is only one means for carrying out such an act. He said that from publications available to anybody one could suggest in the future that other devices may be used, including devices on ground designed for generating intense radiation, lasers or otherwise. Buchheim said the possible undertaking not to destroy or damage would include all means—by interceptor missiles, sources of powerful radiation on the ground or any other means; it is a complete undertaking in that sense. In U.S. judgment of technology for systems for damaging or destroying objects in space, interceptor missiles are the practical means in the near term and can properly be dealt with now. The problem of placing limitations on systems based on other physical principles, for example powerful lasers based on the ground, seems to be a problem to be raised in the future whenever the two sides believe they understand it well enough. Buchheim said the other aspect of Khlestov’s question concerns why the second element of the U.S. text did not limit the means for changing the trajectory of an object in space. The U.S. would specifically not suggest any such limit, he said, because “changing trajectories” is another way of saying “provide some means of maneuver.” Both sides in normal, everyday, peaceful space activity make changes to the trajectories of their own space objects. It should also be permitted to do this in cooperative programs, by agreement. The U.S. side sees no merit in placing impediments in the way of such peaceful activities and sees no point in prohibiting testing of means for changing trajectories.

11. Khlestov said that the Soviet side had about one and a half hours more material to discuss and, when asked its nature, said it dealt with the prohibited acts text. Buchheim indicated willingness to continue immediately or later in afternoon. Khlestov suggested continuing February 7, at 3:00 pm, at U.S. Embassy, Buchheim agreed. Khlestov repeated his request that the U.S. side bring to the next meeting whatever text it could clarifying its view of the consultations that would take place before expiration of the test suspension.

12. Delegation requests answers/guidance on following points.

A. Is it U.S. view that initial agreement is a package of unlimited duration which includes, as one element, a provision suspending testing for one year?

B. Is it U.S. view that continuation in force of agreement should be conditioned in some way on continuation of, or progress in, negotiations on more comprehensive agreement?

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C. What is U.S. view concerning when 12-month test suspension should begin? Is it date of signature, date of formal entry into force if that is different from date of signature, or some other date?

D. What is U.S. view concerning handling of test-suspension expiration? Should it be described as automatically expiring or automatically continuing absent any further mutual decision by the parties?

13. Assessment by Delegation mentioned in State 0176655 follows septel.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790058–0061. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Immediate to the National Security Council, the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
  2. Telegram 678 from Bern, February 3, reported that the ASAT Delegation presented the Soviet Delegation with the text of a Non-Paper consisting of two “elements” for discussion. The first proposed that the two sides pledge “not to destroy, damage, or change the trajectory of an object which has been placed in orbit around the earth.” The second proposed that the two sides issue a moratorium on the launching of “for test or any other purpose, an interceptor missile for the destroying or damaging objects which have been placed in orbit around the earth or any other trajectories into outer space” from the date of the signing of an ASAT agreement. Khlestov questioned both elements, including how such objects would be identified and what the U.S. meant by the phrase “not to destroy, damage . . . any object.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790053–0273)
  3. Telegram 528 from Bern, January 27, reported that Khlestov had submitted “tentative Soviet views on defining space objects, and listing of actions which would be prohibited or inconsistent with peaceful relations between states.” Buchheim replied that the United States “was not thinking of formal proposals but was presenting a possible alternative approach which does not use the term ‘space object’ and ‘hostile acts’ and which therefore does not rely on definitions.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790055–0375)
  4. Telegram 665 from Bern, February 2, reported on a two-hour plenary session held a day earlier at the Soviet embassy. The two sides discussed “possible prohibited actions; expressed view that potential agreement should cover those launch vehicle states and component parts which go into orbit; and agreed that a potential agreement should cover objects on surface of moon and other celestial bodies.” The Soviets also “requested list of specific actions U.S. would favor prohibiting” and expressed the need for “provisions” that would “cover inadvertent actions and to take into account of changes, advances in technology.” Buchheim in return suggested a “one-year all-altitude test suspension.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790050–1268)
  5. Not found.