42. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1


  • Anti-Satellite (ASAT) Negotiations

We may be able to get an initial ASAT agreement, or at least agreement in principle, at the Summit with the Soviets.2 This would be well worth doing, since the agreement we seek is strong on its merits and would usefully complement the SALT Treaty by enhancing the security of our verification means.

Getting agreement will require an early positive response by the Soviets to our proposal for a one-year test ban, as well as a concerted effort by both sides to settle several secondary issues. We learned from the recent ASAT round that the Soviets are especially concerned about two issues which seem to matter far more to them than us: (1) whose satellites would be protected by the agreement; and (2) whether “hostile” or “illegal” satellites (e.g. direct broadcast satellites) would be protected. We have not given the Soviets clear, firm U.S. positions on either [Page 98] issue. I think we can adopt positions which will protect our interests and yet meet minimal Soviet concerns:

On whose satellites are protected: We should propose that those that are launched by either side are covered, provided the side continues at least to share in their subsequent use. This would alleviate Soviet concerns that we might claim protection for a nominally U.S. satellite which is really being used by, say, the Chinese. But it would afford protection for satellites in which we share use with others.

On “illegal” satellites: We should propose a general reference in the agreement to the inherent right of self-defense contained in the UN Charter. This would be neither an admission that we have illegal satellites nor acceptance of a Soviet right to use force against any satellites except those which present a military threat. In fact, we may have our own reasons for such a provision, since we would not want the agreement to be seen as depriving us of the right to defend ourselves against the existing Soviet ASAT system.

I doubt that there would be any serious substantive objections among concerned agencies about either of these positions. I propose that we go back to the Soviets promptly with these ideas, a reaffirmation of our insistence on a test suspension, and a proposal that the talks resume immediately for the purpose of reaching an agreement in time for the Summit.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harold Brown Papers, Box 50, International Security Affairs, Negotiations, ASAT. Secret. A note in the upper-right hand corner by an unknown hand reads “dated APPX. 12 Mar 79.”
  2. Carter and Brezhnev were scheduled to meet in Vienna in June.