47. Telegram From the Embassy in Austria to the Department of State1

4291. US ASAT Three 010. From Buchheim. Mil addressees handle as Specat. NASA for Krueger. Subject: (U) Comments of SovDel at April 30, 1979 Reception.

1. (Secret—Entire text).

2. During April 30, 1979 reception at American Ambassador’s residence, Soviet Delegation members made following comments to members of US Delegation.

3. On test suspension and comprehensive agreement:

A. Pisarev told Buchheim that Soviet side would, during this round, state its views on a test suspension and on a comprehensive agreement.

B. Naumov asked Buchheim how Soviet side should interpret US text on test suspension,2 in particular what would be the regime between the date of signature and the date of exchange of instruments of ratification. Buchheim said that it would be understood that, in accordance with customary international law, during this period neither side would do anything inconsistent with the purposes or provisions of the treaty. Naumov said he understood.

C. Terekhov asked Williams also about the interpretation of the April 26 US text on test suspension. Terekhov said that there was a split of interpretation in the Soviet Delegation, but the majority view, which [Page 107]he shared, was that the test suspension went into effect on the same date as the treaty as a whole, that is, upon exchange of instruments of ratification, and expired on a date certain, July 1, 1980. Under this interpretation, the test suspension might last only one or two months, he said. Williams confirmed this interpretation of the text standing alone and asked Terekhov what the minority interpretation of the test suspension period was. Terekhov was unable to explain satisfactorily.

4. On “hostile acts” exclusion: Mayorskiy told Bradburn that the Soviet side feels strongly that a “hostile acts” exclusion is needed because the Soviet side is concerned with the activities carried out by states against each other by use of space objects, and not just with the objects as such. He said it is the actions, not the objects, which need to be considered in an agreement.

5. Mayorskiy told Bond that if Article 51 of UN Charter were considered to be exclusive rationale for action against satellites, then the proposed ASAT agreement was not needed. He said that various circumstances not involving the right of self defense could be foreseen where it might be necessary to act against a satellite, such as “when a satellite was consuming all your oxygen” or when a satellite was flying “40 KMs above your territory”. Under those circumstances, resort to peaceful settlement of disputes might well be too late. If phrase “hostile acts” not acceptable, some other formulation could do, such as an exception for “gross violation of state sovereignty”, but that it was absolutely necessary to obtain exception for those circumstances not involving an armed attack when action against satellites might be called for. Mayorskiy said that Soviet position on action against DBS satellites had been misconstrued, the Soviets had not said that they would destroy unauthorized DBS satellites. He could not imagine this happening, although it might occur in some unforeseen scenario. But the Soviet Union did maintain its freedom to take other actions against DBS satellites, such as blocking its transmissions or moving it to another position without destroying it. Mayorskiy rejected analogies between Law of the Sea and Law of Outer Space, saying that the two were different.

6. On scope of coverage: Khlestov told Bradburn that the Soviets do not agree with the idea of protecting all space objects regardless of ownership, because the Soviets do not want the protection to be applicable to Chinese space objects.

7. On shuttle: Pisarev spoke with Darbyshire at length about the shuttle, repeating most of what he had said on subject at SovDel reception in Bern.3 He additionally stated that he knew of many planned cooperative space activities involving shuttle but that shuttle never[Page 108]theless was a very powerful and a dangerous system. It could be used to do many things, he said, besides placing a satellite in orbit or moving a satellite from one orbit to another. The Soviet side had to take this into account, and the US side in his view, should understand the reasons for the Soviet side’s concern. He sidestepped a question about what connection there might be between the Soviet side’s desired “hostile acts” exceptions and its concerns about shuttle. He stated only that the Soviet side, in formulating its positions, had given much thought to shuttle from the beginning and would continue to do so.

8. On Soviet expectations for current session: in numerous conversations (e.g., Mayorskiy/Melanson, Khamanev/Jones, Terekhov/Darbyshire) Soviets made same set of points on this subject. They said Soviet side had expected third session would not be held until summer. They had come to Vienna at this early date at US side’s suggestion and expected to see some movement in US positions. Instead, the US repeated the positions it had offered in Bern, and so far only the Soviet side had presented any new ideas in Vienna. Unless the US side alters its views both on third-country benefits and on an exclusion from coverage for satellites committing “hostile acts,” they said, the sides will not be able to reach an agreement.

9. Miscellaneous comments:

A. Globenko indicated disbelief when told by Jones that NASA does not build weapons systems.

B. Pisarev told Bradburn that Soviet Delegation always brings only one secretary because Khlestov wants it that way. The one secretary is always from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is picked by Khlestov. Pisarev, who is from Ministry of Defense, seemed to be dissatisfied with this arrangement.

10. FYI: At Soviet request, because of May 1–2 Soviet holiday, fourth plenary meeting has been rescheduled for May 3 at US Embassy, rather than May 2 as previously reported. (ASAT Three 009, Vienna 04253).4

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790200–0634. 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, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Moscow.
  2. On April 26, the U.S. Delegation proposed that both sides agree to refrain from testing an anti-satellite “interceptor missile for destroying or damaging objects which have been placed in orbit around the earth or on any other trajectories into outer space” from July 1, 1979, until July 1, 1980. The text is available in telegram 4131 from Vienna, April 26; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790191–0614.
  3. Not found.
  4. Telegram 4253 from Vienna, May 1, reported on the third plenary session of the ASAT talks. Buchheim presented a prepared statement explaining the “US side’s views on coverage of the prohibited acts element and suggestion that the right of self-defense could be recognized by reference to the language of Article 51 of the UN charter.” Khlestov presented a revised version of the Soviet view of the definition of space objects and prohibited acts, which covered “space objects used jointly by a party and other countries for peaceful purposes. It also would prohibit interference with operation of equipment, although intended meaning of interference not yet clear.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790198–0722)