49. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

125966. Subject: (S) Démarche to Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin on Anti-Satellite Negotiations (ASAT).

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1. (S—Entire text)

2. During meeting with Ambassador Dobrynin afternoon of May 17, Secretary made following points regarding ASAT negotiations.

3. Begin text of talking points:

—The current round of talks on anti-satellite matters in Vienna is making progress. If we can achieve agreement by the time of the summit, we will have advanced the important cause of arms control in this dangerous area. It would also be a concrete, positive accomplishment in US-Soviet relations.

—We are pleased that the two Delegations in Vienna have begun work on a joint draft text.2 This should help produce progress in the weeks ahead.

—There has been a good exchange between the two sides:

We welcome your response to our proposal for a test suspension. We think you will be encouraged by our Delegations’s reply.

There also has been progress on the question about which space objects would be covered by an agreement. The two sides seem to be getting closer to an understanding on this.

—The most difficult issue remaining may well be what you call “hostile acts.”

As the US understands it, the Soviet side is suggesting a provision which would permit either party to damage, destroy, or change the trajectory of space objects without violating the agreement simply by asserting that it was the target of what you call a “hostile act.”

This would make the agreement hollow. It would imply that either side can decide whether or not to respect the basic understanding.

The US side cannot accept any provision which casts doubt on the security of space objects in which it has an interest, or which provides a pretext for taking actions otherwise prohibited.

At the same time, the US is prepared to:

—Reaffirm the inherent right of self-defense as set forth in the UN Charter.

—Work out arrangements for prompt consultations, for amendments to deal with unforeseen circumstances, and for withdrawal if supreme national interests require it.

These measures should give the Soviet side confidence that the agreement can accommodate unforeseen developments.

End text.

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4. Dobrynin responded by asking what kind of consultations the US had in mind. The Secretary replied that the Delegations at the present ASAT session in Vienna should set up procedures. Dobrynin then asked what the problem was with the Soviet formulation on hostile acts. The Secretary noted plainly that the formulation would totally undermine the agreement. Dobrynin, asking personally and noting that he was expressing no preference, asked whether the agreement would be a treaty or an executive agreement. The Secretary replied that this decision could be deferred for the the time being.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840142–2594. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Gary Matthews (EUR/SOV); cleared by Joseph Hulings (S/S–O); and approved by Shulman. Sent for information Immediate to the White House.
  2. On May 16, the United States and Soviet Union exchanged draft texts in their eighth plenary meeting of the third round of the ASAT talks. (Telegram 4845 from Vienna, May 17; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790223–0787)