478. Memorandum From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Warnke) to Secretary of State Vance1


  • Specific US Initiatives for the SSOD

This memorandum describes five possible specific initiatives that the United States might propose at the SSOD. These initiatives are intended to take advantage of the opportunities for significant progress in arms control that the SSOD offers, and to respond positively to the concerns of SSOD participants.

Unhappily, possibilities for US initiatives that could be acceptable within the United States government do not correspond precisely to the priorities of the developing countries and the nonaligned, or to favorite themes of the NGOs. Still it seems best to pursue initiatives that have real rather than apparent content, even if they are less responsive to the expressed demands of other participants in the Special Session.

We think the problem is not one of overloading the system, but rather identifying at most two or three specific initiatives that the United States can present.

The memorandum also outlines the course we propose to pursue in developing positions on other issues that are not likely to be the subject of specific US initiatives.

If, in the course of our work over the next few weeks, we are able to identify additional promising initiatives, we will send you further reports on any major possibilities.

Possible Specific Initiatives

1. Nuclear Non-Use Assurances. We might want to take an initiative in the area of nuclear non-use assurances to support our non-proliferation objectives, while maintaining alliance deterrence capabilities. Specifically, we could revive a formulation that we proposed to the Soviets in 1968 in the NPT negotiations and that became the basis for our adherence in 1971 to Protocol II2 of the Treaty of Tlatelolco—non-use against non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT (or other binding international non-proliferation commitments) except those en [Page 1182] gaged in aggression in association with a nuclear weapon state. The pledge thus would not apply to Eastern Europe in the event of a Warsaw Pact attack. Nor would it apply to a North Korean attack on South Korea inspired or supported by China or the Soviet Union. It would apply to those states most deserving from the non-proliferation perspective, i.e., those formally renouncing nuclear weapons that do not have nuclear power protectors. The initiative would therefore help create a more balanced non-proliferation regime. The pledge would take the form of a unilateral US policy statement, and we might also call on other nuclear powers to undertake corresponding restraints. Our initiative would, of course, have to be preceded by consultations with NATO and Asian allies. We propose to develop a specific proposal for inter-agency coordination.

2. Cutoff-Transfer. Since 1956, Administrations of both parties have proposed a cutoff by nuclear weapon states in the production of fissionable materials for weapons use. Associated with a cutoff, the US still has on the table a proposal to transfer agreed amounts of such materials to peaceful purposes (e.g. 60,000 kgs. of U–235 by the US, provided the Soviet Union transfers 40,000).

A US failure to follow up on this proposal would be hard to explain. This Administration may be able to seize the opportunity to propose something even more meaningful at the SSOD. We could, for example, serve non-proliferation and disarmament objectives, and the interests of the developing countries, by proposing that a quantity of weapons grade U–235 be diluted to reactor fuel and transferred to an international nuclear fuel authority, bank, or other appropriate depository. Such an initiative could be proposed as part of a cutoff agreement, or undertaken separately by the US to show our desire for progress. In the latter instance we might call on the Soviets for a similar undertaking.

I recommend that we take up the matter directly with the President after State and ACDA have worked out a specific proposal. If the President thought the proposal had merit, the next step on the transfer could be a direct request from him to Harold Brown, George Brown and Jim Schlesinger for a quick appraisal from their perspectives. They could confirm that an adequate supply is available for this purpose. Because the cutoff is still technically US policy, it might not require a formal interagency review. We probably should inform the Soviets before formal presentation at the SSOD.

3. Prohibition of ASAT Systems. In March, you proposed to the Soviet leaders that we begin a bilateral negotiation to ban ASAT systems.3 [Page 1183] The President has approved (September 23, 1977) the concept of a general ban on ASAT systems as the goal of the proposed negotiation with the Soviet Union on this subject.4 SCC agreement on the details of our position has not yet been reached, however, so that the negotiation has not yet been scheduled. We should press for development of a US position so that we can get this negotiation started. We could then cite this on-going negotiation in the SSOD as one of the many initiatives on arms control undertaken by this Administration and could use the SSOD to build up support.

If, however, we have not been able to initiate this negotiation, the SSOD provides an appropriate forum to achieve this established objective as a national initiative rather than as a formal agreement. The President could announce at the SSOD that it was the intention of the US not to test or deploy anti-satellite systems designed for physical attack on satellites, as long as other countries followed the same policy.

This simple formulation would not affect our plans to develop electronic warfare capabilities in this field. Although obviously directed at the Soviet Union, the formulation basing our intention to ban ASAT on the actions of all countries in this field would somewhat obscure the bilateral nature of the issue and put additional pressure on the Soviets to curtail their activities in this area. Since the issue is essentially one of tactics and politics, we would propose to prepare a joint State-ACDA memorandum for the President on this initiative.

If we are unable to agree on a position that would permit the start of bilateral negotiations, and are not prepared to launch this national initiative at the SSOD, we could propose that the SSOD consider a possible international convention on non-interference with satellites. It could not yield as prompt or as effective control over the threat to our satellite capability, but it would be, at least, a useful minimum step. This proposal could be examined on an interagency basis.

4. Preference Assistance for Non-Proliferators. The SSOD will provide an appropriate forum to present and explain our non-proliferation program. Some third-world countries have criticized recent US non-proliferation policies and the London Suppliers’ Group as efforts to deny nuclear technology to developing countries, and as a “violation” of our obligation under Article IV5 of the NPT to assist in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Although there is some non-aligned support for our non-proliferation objectives, this polarization along North-South lines on nuclear issues is damaging to US non-proliferation interests. In order to gain more support from developing countries, and to give de [Page 1184] veloping countries further incentives to become or remain parties to the NPT, we would propose an announcement, at the SSOD, of substantially enhanced cooperation for developing countries party to the NPT or to other binding international non-proliferation commitments. Among the forms of preference we are examining are:

—Some preference in the terms and conditions of Ex-Im Bank financing. We pledged to undertake such measures during the NPT Review Conference, but have not yet carried out that pledge;

—The transfer of a substantial quantity of material enriched to a maximum of only 20% for use in research applications. The material, which could be used instead of weapons grade HEU, could be obtained from HEU currently contained in and excess to the needs of our weapons stockpile. This transfer, which would amount to no more than 1,000 kgs., could be done in conjunction with the transfer initiative described above, or independently. In either event it should be coordinated with the international fuel bank concept being developed in INFCE.

—Establishment of a special fund for the fabrication, supply, and ultimate return of research reactor fuel.

These latter two measures, in addition to the other advantages, would also serve to give countries an incentive to move away from weapons-usable highly-enriched uranium to low-enriched fuel in their research reactors.

We would plan to prepare a specific proposal for inter-agency coordination.

5. Confidence Building Measures. Regional stability is central to peace and security throughout the world. Confidence building and stabilizing arms control measures can dampen the sense of insecurity that preoccupies countries in many regions, by reducing the chances of setting off or escalating conflict between nations.

Following the example of the CSCE confidence building measures (CBMs),6 to which the United States has subscribed, we could propose in the SSOD that ways to apply CBMs and other stabilizing measures be explored for areas of regional tension. For example, regional agreements on pre-notification of military maneuvers, and preannouncement of movements of major military forces could go a long way to foster mutual confidence and security about military behavior that [Page 1185] otherwise might be perceived to be potentially hostile. Moreover, they could provide a foundation for regional arms control cooperation that could eventually lead to more significant agreements to limit and reduce forces and to ease the burden of defense expenditures on national budgets.

Neither the UN nor existing regional organizations now have the technical expertise for a serious effort to promote stabilizing measures between interested nations. The United States could propose to strengthen the international machinery for this purpose, making our own experience available in the process. We would propose to prepare a coordinated proposal, working initially with PM.

In addition to these possible specific initiatives, we are continuing to work in four other areas in preparation for the SSOD.

1. Disarmament-Development Link. It will be hard to escape addressing Third World interests in assuring that any savings from “disarmament” will be ascribed to economic and social development in the Third World. This Administration’s self-restraint initiatives (B–1)7 and arms control achievements (SALT8 and CTB prospects) will go some distance to show seriousness about arms control. Nevertheless, this will not be adequate for many developing countries, which draw distinctions between disarmament (which presumably generates significant savings) and arms control (which, aside from the ABM Treaty, has not). Aside from continuing support for the Norweigian initiative (longer term study for the disarmament/development link),9 and the need to avoid any automatic linkages, we have two approaches in mind:

1) an attempt to achieve acceptance of the principles of common obligations (for both developing and developed countries) to preserve scarce resources otherwise devoted to armaments, and

2) to point out that any transfer of savings which might be possible would be facilitated by some internationally acceptable accounting in [Page 1186] strument. For the latter purpose, UNSYG’s current military expenditure reporting initiative seems the most hopeful.

Possible US approaches range from SSOD endorsement of mutual obligations, as principles, through increased openness and standardization of military expenditure reporting, to proposals establishing special development and security funds. These will be reviewed on an interagency basis (at NSC staff suggestion), under ACDA chairmanship, to identify those that have enough merit for SSOD consideration.

Whatever proposals we can come up with in linking disarmament and development are likely to be too watery a gruel even for the undernourished world. I believe, therefore, that we should plan on making our presentation as a response to LDC initiatives, rather than as a US initiative, although our initial general presentation in the SSOD should stress our sympathetic concern about the problem.

2. Comprehensive Test Ban and CW Treaty. You are familiar with the issues involved in presentation of a CTB to the Special Session. This possibility should be borne in mind, but cannot presumably be resolved until late winter or early spring, depending on the progress of the negotiations and the reactions of the CCD after it convenes at the end of the month.

If a CW Treaty emerges from the CCD in time, the question of how it should be brought before the Special Session will need to be addressed—but not yet.

3. Conventional Arms Transfers. Restraint is a major Administration initiative, which we will have to pursue in the SSOD, both to maintain our credibility and to sustain our multilateral restraint efforts outside the UN. Many LDC’s object to restraint as a discriminatory echo of the NPT and a way of limiting Third World arms acquisitions while developed countries remain free to produce arms for their own needs. Our options for meeting this LDC objection without inhibiting our own defense are very limited. We will acknowledge the Third World concern that their legitimate defense needs must be met, and we will argue that restraint serves LDC interests, such as lowering tensions and promoting development. A realistic SSOD objective would be to seek some recognition in the conference documents (i.e., Declaration of Principles and Program of Action) that restraint is desirable.

We are working with PM on an intensive series of bilateral consultations to take place before and during the SSOD to develop greater interest in and support for the Administration’s policies. The success of this effort will presumably be reflected in the SSOD’s final documents, as well as in continuing negotiations.

4. Further Encouragement for Nuclear Weapons Free Zones. The United States has already approached the French and the Soviets to encourage [Page 1187] adherence to Protocols I and II of the Treaty of Tlatelolco.10 We would plan to raise this question with them again before the Special Session begins, urging them to make an announcement at the Session.

We would anticipate that the topic of additional nuclear weapons free zones will receive considerable attention during the SSOD. We would plan to review the tactical situation during the PrepComs to determine whether to press for a more open attitude towards NWFZs, particularly in Africa.

5. Future Arms Control Forums. We are preparing an options paper on possible changes in the present co-chairmanship arrangements that will still be consistent with the special position of the US and the USSR in the forum. We will also be working with State and within the two upcoming PrepCom sessions on other proposals for new forums or changes in existing forums.

I look forward to your reactions to these specific initiatives outlined above, as well as any comments you may have on other activities described, so we can proceed expeditiously with our program of work.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 383, Records of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, FRC #383–98–0143, Bureau of Multilateral Affairs, Chemical Weapons, Disarmament, and CTB Files, 1970–85, Box 3, UN Special Session on Disarmament, Working Paper on International Mechanisms for Disarmament, August 1976–July 1978. Confidential.
  2. See footnote 5, Document 402.
  3. See Document 3.
  4. See Document 11.
  5. See footnote 4, Document 342.
  6. Included in Basket One of the Helsinki Final Act is a document on Confidence-Building Measures and Certain Aspects of Security and Disarmament. The confidence-building measures were designed to reduce the “dangers of armed conflict and of misunderstanding or miscalculation of military activities which could give rise to apprehension.” The Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, signed on August 1, 1975, at Helsinki, is in the Department of State Bulletin, September 1, 1975, pp. 323–350.
  7. Carter canceled funding for the B–1 bomber, a supersonic, low-level penetration aircraft, on June 30, 1977. For more on this decision, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. IV, National Security Policy.
  8. The Carter administration continued the Nixon and Ford administration’s commitment to the SALT II negotiations with the Soviet Union, which aimed to replace the SALT I Interim Agreement with a long-term agreement to limit strategic offensive weapons systems. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXIII, SALT II, 1972–1980.
  9. The Norwegian initiative was actually written by the Nordic countries including Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Telegram 4486 from USUN, November 10, contains the text of the proposed resolution, which called for the “curtailment of expenditures on armaments” which would “facilitate the availability of greater resources for economic and social development, particularly to the developing countries.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770426–0762)
  10. See Documents 438 and 446.