471. Telegram From the Department of State to All North Atlantic Treaty Organization Capitals1

26795. Subject: UN Special Session on Disarmament.

1. Begin summary: The 31st United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution calling for a Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament (SSOD) to be held in 1978;2 SSOD Preparatory Conferences (PrepCons) are scheduled for March, May and September, 1977. We have concluded that US interests would best be served tactically by adopting a positive posture towards the SSOD and plan to participate constructively in the SSOD PrepCons.

2. This message (A) provides background information on the SSOD and (B) solicits reporting from addressees in order to identify those issues which we might want to examine more closely prior to and during the upcoming SSOD Preparatory Conferences.

3. We believe that action addressees (except India, Sri Lanka, and Yugoslavia, see para 11 B and C), which include the NATO allies, are likely to share many of our interests. We would anticipate a greater divergence of views on disarmament issues between US and most info addressees. At the discretion of each Embassy, action addressees may take soundings of host governments on their views regarding the SSOD PrepCons and the SSOD itself. While no approach to host governments should be made at this time by info addressees, the Depart[Page 1159]ment would appreciate post’s analysis of host country outlook on SSOD and possible means of dealing with it. End summary.

4. Background: Dissatisfaction with the slow progress on multilateral disarmament issues among many of the states not aligned with the US or the Soviets has resulted in pressures for giving greater momentum to disarmament through a meeting in which all states could participate. In August, 1976, the Conference of Heads of States of Governments of Non-Aligned Countries, held in Colombo, discussed the issue in its political declaration and adopted a resolution calling on the UN to convene a Special Session of the GA to review the problem of disarmament and to promote a program of priorities and measures in the disarmament field.3

5. On December 14, 1976,4 the 31st UNGA adopted by consensus a resolution calling for a Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament to be held in New York in May–June, 1978. The resolution established a Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) with the mandate of examining all relevant questions relating to the Special Session. The PrepCom is scheduled to meet at UN Headquarters, New York, March 7–11, May 9–20, and September 6–9, 1977. March conference will be organizational in nature and deal with procedural issues; May conference will develop the SSOD agenda; the September preparatory conference will prepare the draft of SSOD resolution for presentation to the 32nd General Assembly.

6. Member states have been asked to submit country views on the SSOD to SYG Waldheim by April 15, 1977.

7. Members of the PrepCom are:

—Western European and others: US, UK, France, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, FRG, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey;

—Asian: Bangladesh, Cyprus, India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka;

—African: Algeria, Benin, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, Libya, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Sudan, Tunisia, Zaire, Zambia;

—East European: (proposed) Bulgaria, GDR, Hungary, Poland, Romania, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia;

—Latin: Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Guyana, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Venezuela.

8. US attitude: In the past we have opposed proposals for an SSOD. We were skeptical that an SSOD could have any meaningful results, arguing that it would invite rhetorical posturing and unrealistic disarmament proposals, intrude on the activities of the CCD, and inject extra[Page 1160]neous complications into negotiations such as MBFR and SALT. While these potential disadvantages have not disappeared, the situation changed tactically with the decision of the Non-Aligned Heads of State at Colombo to bring about an SSOD. The large bloc of votes which the Non-Aligned commands at the UN made an SSOD unstoppable. Faced with this situation, we concluded that US interests would best be served tactically by adopting a positive posture towards the SSOD. At a minimum this would allow us, in cooperation with allies and others who may share our views on specific issues, more effectively to employ tactics—in the Preparatory Committee and subsequently in the SSOD, designed to avoid confrontation and allow us to influence the course of procedural and substantive preparations to our advantage. Moreover, a positive approach would allow us, together with our allies, to pursue and shape specific initiatives which might develop that appeared likely to further our arms control or other objectives.

9. Our Delegation to the 31st UNGA was therefore instructed to join in the consensus approval of a resolution calling for the convening of an SSOD and to explain that the US plans to participate constructively in the careful preparation which will be needed to bring about a successful SSOD.5

10. General instructions: A. Action addressees should plan on making informal soundings based on the guidance provided in para 12 sufficiently before Feb. 14 to allow reporting to the Department by that date. We are interested in your assessment of how the host government views on those issues likely to arise during the PrepCons. Our most immediate concern involves the March 7–11 PrepCon which will deal with organizational matters. Reporting should include the names of heads of Delegations likely to be attending PrepCon. Except where deemed necessary by posts, or when instructed otherwise, precedence of reporting need not exceed priority level. Where report is of considerable length, post may want to pouch document to Department with summary of report sent by cable.

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B. Info addressees should at this time make no approach to host governments on the SSOD. We would appreciate, however, posts’ analysis of host country attitude toward SSOD (see A above) and possible means of dealing with it.

11. Special instructions:

A. For US Mission NATO: We seek full and close consultations on SSOD activities with our NATO allies and selected countries which have been extensively engaged in our arms control efforts in the past. Such consultations should help in avoiding unnecessary confrontation and should permit the US, our allies, and their friends to influence the course of procedural and substantive preparations to our mutual advantage. While such consultations could take place on a bilateral ad hoc basis, we believe that a multilateral meeting of NATO representatives would also be useful in coming to a basic understanding of national positions and the development of a common strategy and tactics. Toward this end, US mission NATO should address question of SSOD at the next PolAds meeting, drawing as appropriate on information in paras 4 through 9 and on guidance in para 12, noting that we will also be discussing SSOD bilaterally with PrepCon members, but that we believe subject is of importance to allies, and urging that discussions be developed in future PolAds meetings to consider the upcoming SSOD PrepCons and the April 15 country views submission. Mission should note that the most immediate question concerns the March 7–11 SSOD PrepCon, which will deal with organizational matters such as chairmanship, voting, rules of procedure, financial questions, formation of subcommittees, and the role of observers. Mission should seek agreement on early date for PolAds discussions on SSOD. We would also appreciate US NATO views on holding a special meeting of disarmament experts very early in April to exchange views on the national submissions to the UN SYG on the SSOD which are due on April 15. We would not envision such a meeting as replacing the regular meeting of disarmament experts scheduled for April 21–22.

B. For Belgrade: Begin FYI: We believe GOY has played and will continue to play an important role in development of SSOD. We have an interest in working closely with the Yugoslavs in view of both this fact and in view of its leading role among Non-Aligned. Since GOY may not share US interests to same degree as other action addressees, however, we wish to avoid committing USG to special consultative relationship with GOY on SSOD. End FYI. With this in mind, Embassy should approach Krivokapic, referring, to his own request for early US-Yugoslav bilateral talks preparatory to SSOD (see Belgrade 405),6 ex[Page 1162]pressing our interest in working constructively and positively in the SSOD process. You may draw on guidance in para 12, adding that we wish to work step-by-step so that each phase can be successful. You may note in this regard that we welcomed Yugoslav efforts at the last UNGA to produce a balanced SSOD resolution which we were able to support.

C. For New Delhi, Colombo: In addition to Yugoslavia, we consider that the helpful efforts of other key Non-Aligned countries are necessary to allow the SSOD process to develop in a manner which will best serve US interests. Embassy should therefore approach host government to state US recognizes and appreciates efforts made by Non-Aligned at 31st UNGA to introduce moderate SSOD resolution which could receive support of the US. Drawing on guidance para 12, you should express US interest in continuing to work constructively and positively in SSOD process, adding that we wish to work step-by-step so that each phase can be successful. FYI. However, since host government may not share US interests to same degree as other action addressees, Embassy should avoid committing US to special consultative relationship with host government. End FYI.

12. General guidance for action addressees: During informal consultations with host governments on SSOD, posts may draw on the following points as appropriate, modifying them to suit the specific circumstances:

—We supported a consensus resolution last fall calling for a Special Session of the General Assembly to discuss disarmament in the hope that, with adequate preparation, it could make a realistic and constructive contribution to the broader objectives of arms control and disarmament.

—First conference of the recently constituted Preparatory Committee takes place March 7–11. That meeting will consider organizational and procedural questions germane to that committee and the Special Session.

—Preparatory conferences will meet on at least two other occasions this year, May 9–20 and September 6–9, during which time the Committee will develop the SSOD agenda and draft a resolution for presentation to the 32nd General Assembly.

—It is also expected that the Committee will determine the types of action to be taken by the SSOD i.e., general declarations, specific agreements, planned studies, expert commissions, etc.

—(Particularly because your government is a member of the Preparatory Committee.) The US, at this time, would welcome your views on questions of an organizational, or procedural nature, and any other issues regarding an SSOD that are of concern to your government.

—We look forward to working with the government of ( ) (during the various meetings of the Preparatory Committee and) prior to and during the Special Session to achieve the most positive result possible.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770042–0647. Confidential. Sent also to USUN, USNATO, Canberra, Vienna, Madrid, Stockholm, Tehran, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Cairo, Monrovia, Rabat, Kinshasa, Buenos Aires, Nassau, Brasilia, Bogota, Caracas, New Delhi, Colombo, and Belgrade. Sent for information to Dacca, the Interests Section in Baghdad, Kathmandu, Algiers, Cotonou, Bujumbura, Tripoli, Port Louis, Lagos, Khartoum, Tunis, Lusaka, Sofia, Berlin, Budapest, Warsaw, Bucharest, Moscow, Prague, Georgetown, Mexico, Panama, Lima, the Mission to the IAEA, Islamabad, and Addis Ababa, and the Mission in Geneva. Drafted by David Macuk (IO/UNP); cleared by Gerald Helman (IO/UNP), William Stearman (ACDA), Bartholomew, Thomas Hirschfeld (S/P), Martin Goldstein (DOD/ISA), Allen Holmes (EUR/RPM), Wesley Kriebel (IO/ML), Jon Glassman (EUR/SOV), Stephanie Perry (NEA/RA), Louise McNutt (EA/RA), John Whiting (AF/RA), John King (ARA/RRP), Jack, Seymour (EUR/EE), and Robert Homme (EUR/RPE); and approved by Donald Toussaint (IO).
  2. “General Assembly 31/189: General and Complete Disarmament,” December 21, 1976, in Documents on Disarmament, 1976, pp. 945–952.
  3. “Resolution of the Fifth Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries: Disarmament, August 19, 1976,” is ibid., pp. 566–567.
  4. The date in the telegram is in error; the Resolution is actually dated December 21.
  5. Telegram 292475 to USUN, December 1, 1976, included the authorization to join the consensus adoption on a vote for a SSOD resolution. The Department of State also instructed the UN Delegation to make a statement that noted that “unrealistic public expectations can be stimulated by the promises often associated with large conferences and are just as frequently disappointed. Public understanding and public support of arms control measures are too important to risk this.” The U.S. therefore “approaches the proposal for a Special Session on Disarmament with both caution and hope. We are cautious because of the size of the conference and the fact that its objectives remain vague and unspecified. We are hopeful, however, because of the strong interest on the part of many UN members for such a conference and the seriousness of purpose which accompany the sentiments expressed regarding the necessity of its success.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760444–0885)
  6. Telegram 405 from Belgrade, January 21 is in National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770024–0230.