473. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization1

67750. Hold for opening of business. Subject: PolAds’ Discussion of UN Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD). Ref: A) USNATO 1359;2 B) London 4760.3

1. Final draft of US report on its views to UNSYG on SSOD has not yet been completed. Mission should therefore draw on this message in its discussions at March 28 PolAds’ meeting.

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2. USG has adopted positive approach to SSOD. Most recently, President Carter’s UN speech4 indicated that we would make a strong and positive contribution to the SSOD. In such a forum it may be possible to reach agreement on certain broad principles of arms control and disarmament negotiations agreements, and to identify priorities by drawing attention to areas ripe for early attention; Session should also have responsibility to assess capacity of current institutions to handle tasks on the international arms control and disarmament agenda. This is not to say, however, that it should have mandate to prescribe new, or abolish old, institutions without agreement of principal participants in arms control process.

3. US Rep should also indicate USG willingness to consider substantive discussions on specific arms control issues by SSOD or its committees. This does not repeat not mean USG foresees negotiating role for Special Session or its committees in concluding specific arms control measures. It does mean USG is open to possibility that Session might encourage broad agreement on specific measures in light of atmosphere which develops during preparatory phases and during Session itself. US Rep should state that we are not in a position to identify what those issues may be at this point in the process.

4. US Reps should indicate that we recognize the whole gamut of traditional arms control topics will probably be raised at the Session. We shall want to emphasize that the first requirement for meaningful arms control agreements involving the major powers is the active support of those powers. We wish to avoid the danger that sensitive negotiations could be adversely affected by contentious political debate in the SSOD, or that alliance interests could be damaged in larger forum.

5. US Rep should also indicate we would like to see final acts or documents receive widest possible agreement. USG therefore sees some value in working with responsible members of Non-Aligned Movement, e.g. Yugoslavia, during preparatory phases and at Session to bring about such agreement. Yugoslav approach may, however, be somewhat too specific and we believe greater level of generality may prompt wider adherence.

6. Final documents may include:

A) Overview of where we stand in disarmament process (what Yugoslavs have called “taking note of results achieved so far, drawing up balance sheet,) including review of progress and problems over past decade. Yugoslavia’s original position was that, “this appraisal should be devoid of extreme demands and superfluous verbal criticism of [Page 1166]leading military powers for past failures.” One criterion of the value of such final document, we believe, should be its adherence to this caveat.

B) Priorities, drawing attention to areas ripe for early attention. We do not repeat not envisage here a comprehensive negotiating program, complete with timetable, of the sort more radical members of the NonAligned might favor. Rather, we believe it may be possible to reach agreement on identifying the most outstanding issues.

C) General principles to govern arms control negotiations and agreements. Depending on climate of meeting, statement of principles could be so highly general as to be meaningless, or so specific and directed at certain countries as to be damaging. We would prefer a middle ground which concentrated on principles of existing and possible future agreements and on gaining wide adherence. We would judge specific formulations on their individual merits.

D) The capacity of current institutions to promote progress on arms control and disarmament as a means of bringing about greater national and international security and peace. We believe question of possible revision of CCD and UN structure on disarmament questions will certainly come up at Special Session, and we wish to contribute responsibly to the debate. We believe the CCD to be a good multilateral forum for pursuing our interests. Any proposed changes to the CCD would be viewed from this perspective, and thorough justifications for change would be needed to gain our agreement.

7. In general we believe Special Session should avoid problems of UN First Committee5 by adopting broad framework for consideration of specific proposals and avoiding consideration of national shopping lists of pet projects. It will also be important to avoid being bound by traditional patterns of First Committee work, such as adoption of mass of discrete and often unrealistic resolutions. In our view success of Session will depend in large measure on determination of all partici-pants to forgo the kinds of polemical exchanges and confrontations which have so often characterized disarmament debates in the UN First Committee.

8. If it does so, Special Session can provide significant opportunity for fundamental reexamination of disarmament problem in its full scope. Session can focus on basic questions such as extent to which arms control and disarmament measures can help make the international system safer for all nations, large and small; role of UN in promoting greater understanding of all aspects of disarmament problem; and, finally, what positive action each nation, as well as UN as an orga[Page 1167]nization of nations, can take to begin difficult movement toward national and international security at lower levels of armaments.

9. We will have further thoughts on the SSOD agenda which we will convey to NATO as they are developed. For working purposes, agenda items could parallel one or more of the possible final documents described para 6 above. We plan to distribute US response to SYG to NATO prior to submission.

10. Finally, you should emphasize to PolAds importance we attach to continued detailed consultations on SSOD as national planning evolves. Issues at stake in SSOD are so closely related to fundamental concerns of NATO that they must be dealt with on the basis of the highest standards of NATO consultation.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770105–0133. Confidential; Immediate. Sent for information Immediate to the Mission in Geneva. Sent for information to London, Paris, Bonn, and USUN. Drafted by Michael Congdon (ACDA/IR); cleared by William Stearman (ACDA/IR), Thomas Hirschfeld (S/P), Gerald Helman (IO/UNP), and Bartholomew; and approved by John Hawes (EUR/RPM).
  2. Telegram 1359 from USNATO, March 10, reported that neither the UK disarmament expert nor the French disarmament expert would be able to attend the March 28 Political Advisors meeting on SSOD. The Mission therefore recommended that the “most effective way to elicit and exchange of allied views on response to UN SYG on SSOD would be to circulate to PolAds a paper setting forth US views on this issue.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number])
  3. Telegram 4760 from London, March 22, reported that a member of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office told the United States that it was “likely that May [SSOD] PrepCom will be less substantive than heretofore anticipated in view of the fact that many nations will not have prepared their reports.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770098–0966)
  4. The text of Carter’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly, March 17, is in Public Papers: Carter, 1977, pp. 133–135.
  5. The UN First Committee, or the Disarmament and International Security Committee, deals with disarmament and other security-related questions.