474. Telegram From the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to the Department of State and the Mission to the United Nations1

2348. Subject: NATO Disarmament Experts Discussion of UNSSOD.

1. Summary: At the April 20–21 meeting of the NATO disarmament experts, discussion of the UN Special Session on Disarmament focused on the need for intensified allied consultations in preparation for the 1978 meeting; replies to the UNSYG; the probable role of the Soviets at the meeting; the need for dialogue with the Non-Aligned; and the upcoming meeting of the Preparatory Committee. Consensus of the experts favored a special PolAd meeting to be held in late May to discuss further the Non-Aligned position paper2 and a Canadian suggestion that a PrepCon subcommittee be established to begin drafting the final conference document. End summary.

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2. Of the eleven nations represented, seven (Norway, UK, US,3 Canada, France, the Netherlands and Italy) stated that they have drafted but not yet submitted their replies to the UNSYG. Both Denmark and Turkey have already done so. In light of their plans to circulate their draft replies to the other Delegations, experts did not give detailed summaries of their positions.

3. The FRG (Ruth) emphasized the necessity for Western consultations with the Non-Aligned states leading up to the SSOD. He cited recent discussion in Bonn with the Yugoslav Representatives to the NACC and the seriousness with which the Non-Aligned are approaching disarmament issues. According to the FRG, these states view the 1978 meeting as the first in a series to be held under UN auspices. The German position was widely supported: Belgium and the UK stressed the need for such consultations with Non-Aligned leaders, notably Yugoslavia. Denmark (Schoen) viewed the SSOD as an opportunity for the West to improve its image in the developing world and urged that it adopt an active stance at the conference.

4. Belgium (Onkelinx) and Denmark expressed similar expectations regarding the Soviet role at the SSOD noting that the USSR appeared to have lost interest in the conference. Several Delegations noted that lack of support for a World Conference on Disarmament (WDC) accounted for Soviet aloofness. Canada suggested that willingness to consider follow-on SSOD’s could further deflate Soviet WDC efforts. However, the UK (Edmonds) questioned Soviet motives, citing Soviet demarchés to Italy and the FRG as well as the UK for bilateral consultations with the USSR on SSOD issues. France (Mistral) warned against complaency regarding Soviet inactivity, and foresaw a renewed campaign to link SSOD with WDC.

5. Turkey (Ulucevik) noted that the most recent version of the Non-Aligned paper was identical to the earlier draft4 with the addition of references to a WDC. France (Mistral) categorized the text as an ex[Page 1169]haustive catalogue of disarmament procedures and warned that if the SSOD were to base its work on this document, the conference would be unable to reach conclusions. The US (Sloss) shared this opinion, but saw some encouraging signs of pragmatism, resulting probably from Yugoslav influence. The Netherlands (Bruyns) cited a covering memo5 which indicated that the draft was intended to assist the Non-Aligned in preparing their replies to the UNSYG and not to limit their scope. The FRG (Ruth), referring to its recent consultations with the Yugoslavs, viewed the Non-Aligned as open to consultation with the West, but Belgium (Onkelinx) warned that the Non-Aligned might be more receptive to Soviet initiatives than Western ones and that an alliance between the East and the Non-Aligned might easily arise at the SSOD.

6. The UK (Edmonds) said first PrepCon had gone as well as could be expected and noted that handling of disarmament issues at Fall UNGA would have considerable impact on the SSOD, perhaps distracting interest from PrepComs.

7. Canada (Hammond) said his government believed SSOD’s success or failure would depend heavily on content of final document of the session, and degree of consensus it had gained. For this reason Canada was proposing in its reply to SYG the establishment of a drafting subcommittee at the May meeting to begin work immediately on the final document. France (Mistral) questioned whether the PrepCon’s mandate included such activities and other Delegations (US, UK) pointed out disadvantages of drafting too early, as this might lead to debate over language rather than content and interfere with national re-examinations of arms control issues in preparation for the SSOD. A UK proposal that allies begin work on a Western preliminary draft for use at an appropriate future time, perhaps the 3rd PrepCon, found wide support. Delegations also agreed that the scope of the final document, which all recognized as inevitable, be neither too general nor too specific and that Western collaborative effort would be necessary to ensure the production of a suitable text.

8. The FRG (Ruth) stressed the need for the intensification of allied consultations in preparation for the SSOD. A UK suggestion for further discussion of the Non-Aligned paper (para 5) and of Canadian proposal for a drafting subcommittee (para 6) was widely supported. The Netherlands indicated that such discussion might appropriately be held first in the PolAds. The chair (Pabsch) stated that he would pass on in his report to the NAC the consensus of the meeting calling for a special meeting of the PolAds in the second half of May devoted to these issues.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number]. Confidential. Sent for information to all NATO capitals, Belgrade, the Mission in Geneva, and Moscow.
  2. Not found.
  3. Earlier in the day, the Carter administration said that the “Special Session offers an opportunity to come to grips, in a concentrated manner, with some of the fundamental problems in the disarmament field.” Nonetheless, the session “will need to do more than seek agreement on abstract priorities determined without reference to their achievability, on general principles for disarmament that may or may not contribute to the solution of specific problems, or on a rigid programme and schedule of action seeking to determine a long-range process inevitably dependent on a multitude of factors subject to unforeseeable change. Such efforts, if not kept in perspective, could result in obscuring the Session’s paramount purposes and divert its attention from more urgent problems.” The United States also cautioned that the Session “must be regarded as one step in a very long and arduous process. That process is nothing less than improving the security of all nations and their peoples and building a world order in which human energies and talents are devoted more fully to meeting the basic needs of all humanity.” (Telegram 90685 to USNATO, April 22; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770139–0860)
  4. Not found.
  5. Not found.