46. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron) to Vice President Mondale, Secretary of State Vance, Secretary of Defense Brown, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (McIntyre), the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Seignious), the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Brown), the Director of Central Intelligence (Turner), the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Froesch), and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (Press)1


  • Instructions to the US Delegation to the 3rd Round of ASAT Talks with the Soviets Commencing April 23, 1979, in Vienna (U)

The current objective of the ASAT talks with the Soviets is to negotiate a two-part initial ASAT agreement consisting of an initial treaty banning damage, destruction, and unauthorized displacement (change of trajectory) of each other’s space objects plus a one-year suspension of ASAT interceptor missile testing.2 Except as modified below, the instructions for the first two rounds of ASAT talks remain in force. (S)

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1. The US would prefer that all space objects be covered by the initial ASAT Treaty. However, the US can accept a formulation which covers space objects in which either Party has an interest. Specifically, the US can accept a limited approach which covers a) all space objects launched by a Party, except for those in which the Party has no interest and so designates to the other side, and b) space objects launched by a third country but in which a Party has an interest and so designates to the other side. (TS)

2. If the US comes to accept limited coverage in the initial ASAT Treaty, the Delegation should attempt to get the Soviets to state for the record that limited coverage is not a pretext for retaining ASAT capabilities and is without prejudice to future negotiations aimed at limiting or eliminating ASAT capabilities. Delegation should also ensure that any notification procedures required as a result of limited coverage require a minimum of information to be provided when interest in a space object launched by a third country is claimed, and place the burden of proof on the side challenging the legitimacy of any such claims. (TS)

3. The Delegation should oppose inclusion in the initial ASAT Treaty of an exception for space objects that are “illegal” or perform “hostile acts.” In addition, the Delegation should minimize the degree to which the negotiating record suggests that the US recognizes the possible existence of such space objects. The Delegation is authorized, however, to state that in the US view nothing in the agreement is intended to question a Party’s right of self-defense as set forth in Article 51 of the UN Charter, and that the US is prepared to consider language to this effect in the preamble of the ASAT Treaty. (TS)

4. The Delegation should avoid formulations that would complicate a future option to open the provisions of any final treaty reached by the two sides to accession by third countries. (C)

5. With respect to accidental damage, destruction or displacement of space objects, the Delegation should insure that the initial agreement does not require and the negotiating record does not imply a require[Page 106]ment for reporting near misses in space, either before or after the fact. (S)

David Aaron
Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 21, PD/NSC–45. Top Secret. The Americans and Soviets actually began the third round of talks on April 24. (Telegram 4064 From Vienna to the Department of State, April 25; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790189–0626)
  2. On April 17, the Department of State instructed the Mission to NATO to inform NATO members that so far, despite the Soviet Union’s “limited anti-satellite capability,” the United States had decided to maintain only a “vigorous research and development program in this field” rather than deploy an anti-satellite system. However, “if we do not realize a satisfactory comprehensive agreement that removes the current asymmetry in ASAT capabilities,” the Department warned that the United States would “remove this asymmetry by means of its own ASAT programs.” (Telegram 96873 to USNATO, April 17; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790177–0720) The Mission replied that the “only immediate comment” came from the British Permanent Representative, who “called the resumption of negotiations ‘good news’. He said he had been impressed by the destabilizing impact” of the Soviet ASAT system and worried that the Soviets “might be able to destroy US capability to detect Soviet launches in the period just prior to general hostilities.” (Telegram 2971 from USNATO, April 18; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790178–0848)