492. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • UN Special Session on Disarmament

The second SCC meeting on SSOD took place Friday, May 12. A summary of conclusions is attached at Tab A.2 The meeting surfaced three issues which require your decision.

1. Negative Security Assurances

Many non-aligned countries and several of our allies, including the UK and Japan, support assurances by nuclear weapons states [Page 1212] (NWSs) that they will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states (NNWSs) except in very specialized circumstances. Such negative security assurances might marginally assist our non-proliferation policy. In addition, in his speech on April 25th Brezhnev 3 seemed to take the position that the USSR would use nuclear weapons only in response to aggression by a NWS. We have developed our own version of a more limited negative security assurance which reads as follows:

The United States undertakes not to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT or any comparable internationally binding commitment not to acquire nuclear explosive devices, except in the case of an attack on the United States, its territories or armed forces, or its Allies by a state allied with a nuclear weapon state, or associated with a nuclear weapon state in sustaining or carrying out the attack.

In your October speech to the UN 4 you said that the US would not use nuclear weapons except in response to an “attack on the United States, our territories, or armed forces, or such an attack on our allies.” The new formulation is more restrictive in that it would not permit us to use nuclear weapons in response to an attack on the US, its territories, armed forces, or allies, if the attacking state (1) had signed the NPT or comparable agreement, and (2) was not allied to a NWS, and (3) was not associated with a NWS in sustaining or carrying out the attack. For example, under your October statement we could use nuclear weapons in response to an attack by Cambodia on Thailand, but under the new language we could not, unless Cambodia were assisted in the attack by the PRC.

We have consulted the Japanese, Koreans, and Germans on this language and they have no problems with it. All the relevant USG agencies also support the language except for the JCS, which prefers that we stick with your October language at the UN. The issue thus is:

Should the US undertake the negative security assurance stated above?

_______ Yes
_______ No5

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2. Cut-Off of Fissionable Material Production

ACDA has proposed that the US continue its traditional position of favoring a cut-off by proposing to “seek to achieve the worldwide cessation of the production of fissionable materials for weapons purposes.” Among other things, they argue that:

(a) [2 lines not declassified]

(b) [2 lines not declassified]

(c) [3 lines not declassified]

(d) [5 lines not declassified]

(e) we have no plans to resume production of fissionable material; no agency is asking for such authority.

Attached at Tab B is a memorandum from ACDA setting forth their case at greater length.6 USUN supports the ACDA proposal. All the other relevant agencies—State, DOD, DOE, JCS, OSTP, NSC—firmly oppose the ACDA initiative (DOD and JCS with particular vehemence), although some think we should be “positively noncommittal” if a similar proposal is advanced by other states (as, indeed, several non-aligned states will do). The opposition to the cut-off argues that:

a. [4 lines not declassified]

b. [4 lines not declassified]

c. It is very dubious whether the Soviets would ever agree to IAEA inspection and other safeguards necessary to police a cut-off.

d. In the longer term, new HEU production facilities utilizing advanced technologies (i.e., gas centrifuge and laser isotope separation) [1½ lines not declassified]

e. Even with a cut-off, production of HEU for marine propulsion reactors and of tritium would have to continue, and it will be very difficult to develop verification techniques which would not compromise sensitive data.

f. The UK and probably France oppose a cut-off.

As you know, this issue is very sensitive politically; a decision to go ahead with the cut-off proposal could have significant repercussions on our efforts to get SALT and CTB agreements. A repudiation of our traditional support for the cut-off could have adverse impact on our overall non proliferation efforts.7

The issue thus is:

Should the US propose negotiations designed to lead to the worldwide cessation of the production of fissionable materials for weapons purposes?

______ Yes
______ No8

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If you decide in the negative, should we be “positive but non-committal” on such proposals from other states?

______ Yes
______ No; oppose9

3. Your Appearance at the SSOD

The opening ceremonies for the SSOD occur on May 23. The US inscribed to speak second on May 24th, immediately following Yugoslavia (whose representative chairs the General Assembly). The spectrum of opinion among your principal advisors as to whether you should deliver the US address runs from mildly skeptical to enthusiastically positive. State, ACDA, and USUN all strongly believe you should speak. Defense does not object provided you emphasize the need for strong defenses in the absence of arms control agreements and the importance of NATO, and provided your remarks do not detract from our commitment to the NATO Long-Term Defense Program which will be endorsed at the NATO Summit a week later. If you do not speak, either the Vice President or Secretary Vance will make the major US presentation. A preliminary draft text for a speech, developed by an interagency committee and discussed at the SCC, is at Tab C.10

In general, the arguments in favor of your speaking are:

a. You have made a strong point of your commitment to disarmament, and your record in the field is quite positive. Failure to address the SSOD would be seen as a serious weakening of that commitment and would mean foregoing an opportunity to underline your favorable record.

b. Ten NATO heads-of-government (including Schmidt, Giscard, Callaghan, Trudeau) plus several others including Desai and Perez will speak, and this would make your absence all the more noticeable.

c. By speaking you would indicate your appreciation of the efforts by Yugoslavia, India, Venezuela and other non-aligned countries who took the initiative in organizing the SSOD, and who are of key importance to our non-proliferation efforts.

d. By setting forth at the beginning of the SSOD a set of important, long-term and yet realistic disarmament goals, you can contribute to a successful conclusion of the Special Session.

The principal arguments against your speaking are:

a. The new proposals which the US has to offer, because they are realistic, are also rather limited; later speakers, including the USSR, will undoubtedly “outbid” us with much more sweeping initiatives.

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b. There is not a logical problem, but there is a political problem in reconciling what you say at the UN on May 24th with what you will be endorsing at the NATO Summit on May 30–31. Critics may again have the opportunity to talk about the “inconsistency” of your policies. (Many think this problem might be handled by carefully chosen words on the role of self-defense and collective security in your UN speech.)

c. The mood at the UN when you speak on the second day will probably be benign and hopeful. By the end of the session, however, there will probably be many sharp clashes and few concrete accomplishments. This could lead people to see the SSOD as another project of your Administration which has gone sour.

Apart from these considerations, there is also the domestic political impact. Domestically, you have been seeking to emphasize your defense orientation so as to be on the strongest ground to fight for a SALT agreement. This appearance could go in the opposite direction or be neutral—and the latter case would obviously do little to advance international disarmament prospects.

The issue thus is:

Do you wish to deliver the US presentation to the SSOD on May 24th?

______ Yes
______ No11

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 118, Special Session on Disarmament: 2–5/78. Secret. In the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum, Brzezinski hand-wrote “May 16 ’78.”
  2. See Document 489.
  3. Reference is to Brezhnev’s declaration that Moscow would become a party to the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which banned nuclear weapons in Latin America, and his comment that “we, like other states possessing nuclear weapons, will take upon ourselves the obligation not to help the acquisition of nuclear arms by Latin American states, and also not to use such weapons against the states that are parties to the treaty.” (“Address by President Brezhnev [Extract], April 25, 1978, Documents on Disarmament, 1978, pp. 256–258)
  4. See footnote 2, Document 486.
  5. Carter checked the “No” option and wrote “Stand on my previous statement” in the right-hand margin.
  6. See Document 491.
  7. Underneath this paragraph, Brzezinski wrote “(I also attach a strong negative from Harold),” a reference to Document 490.
  8. Carter checked the “No” option.
  9. Carter did not check either option and wrote “Check with me later—Do not disavow our past statements” in the right-hand margin.
  10. Not attached.
  11. Carter checked the “No” option.