501. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

2774. Dept. Please pass to all diplomatic posts. Subject: Special Session on Disarmament—Wrap-up.

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1. Summary: The plenary of the Special Session on Disarmament concluded in early hours July 1 with the adoption by consensus of the draft final document as transmitted in USUN 2726,2 2727,3 and 27514 (NOTAL). Forty-five countries expressed views and/or reservations at the closing meeting. This message provides our assessment of the significance of the Session. End summary.

2. As the first global conference on disarmament since 1932, the Special Session inevitably raised high expectations. Many hoped for major breakthroughs or fresh departures in the field of arms control and disarmament. Given the sharply differing views on the approach to and objectives of the Special Session among the major groups and key players, and the importance of these issues to security interests of all nations, the prospects for consensus seemed remote. The consensus outcome can be attributed to the determination of a number of key Delegations and individuals, and readiness finally to compromise on a number of difficult issues. Recognition of the importance of ongoing efforts in disarmament negotiations was also an important factor.

3. The result is a final document which constitutes an agreement by the international community, including the nuclear weapons states and our Western allies, to a broad agenda of goals and priorities for disarmament negotiations in the years ahead. The text, while not fully meeting the desires of any single country or group of nations, has generally been well received by Delegations. Our allies have told us that they are satisfied with the result and believe it will get a good reception in their countries.

4. Our acceptance of the final document except for a few reservations is seen by the Non-Aligned and others as evidence that we are attaching more importance to multilateral disarmament efforts. At the same time, we believe that our political and security interests have been fully preserved. Our reservations on some nuclear questions have clarified to others our specific concerns without undercutting the basic consensus which has been attained.

5. The outcome of the Special Session is seen here as the beginning of a new phase in which the UN and its associated bodies will hence[Page 1237]forth play a larger role in disarmament issues. Among the significant achievements we would highlight the participation of France in the restructured Disarmament Committee and the higher profile China has shown in the arms control arena. The decisions to enlarge the Disarmament Committee (DC) and to revive the UN Disarmament Commission reflect the greater interest by more states in participation in international disarmament deliberations. An immediate follow-up problem will be the selection of the 5 to 8 new members of the DC. An intensive lobbying campaign by interested states has already begun.

6. Another significant result is the recognition by the international community of the importance of conventional arms issues, particularly international transfers. The Japanese deserve considerable credit for perservering on this issue. We were also able to avoid reference to the controversial issue of production.

7. In the final text, the urgency of undertaking negotiations in the area of nuclear disarmament is acknowledged but in such a manner as to make clear that these negotiations must proceed in a measured and ordered fashion. Our commitment to the earliest possible completion of SALT II and CTB as well as our new policy statement on security assurances helped our position at the SSOD. In the end the Indians did not press for a vote on their draft resolution for a nuclear test moratorium.

8. The Indians also sought to include a call for a binding international commitment on the non-use of nuclear weapons. The final text on non-use was a delicate compromise on this highly sensitive problem. Indian PermRep Jaipal expressed his appreciation of our readiness to be forthcoming on this issue in his statement to the ad-hoc committee on June 30.

9. The non-proliferation section, while clearly not all we wanted, give clear expression to the importance of international action to prevent further proliferation of nuclear weapons. The underlying differences of view between US and key non-nuclear states (Brazil, Pakistan, India) inevitably remain.

10. By working out the final consensus we headed off a number of unacceptable proposals including: the Indian characterization of nuclear weapons use as a crime against humanity, the Non-Aligned demand for withdrawal of foreign bases, and the Soviet texts on the neutron bomb and the non-stationing of nuclear weapons on territories of states where they are not now present. The two Indian resolutions and the Iraqi-inspired resolution against Israel were withdrawn, enabling US to avoid confrontations on several highly contentious issues. There was also a plethora of other issues and proposals on which consensus was not possible and which were handled by a decision to refer them to the appropriate deliberative body (Disarmament Commission or the 33rd UNGA).

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11. Assessment of performance. Ironically France emerges as perhaps the least satisfied Delegation. While on the one hand they did work out the terms of an agreement enabling them to join the reconstituted Disarmament Committee, all of their initiatives were blocked by Soviet objections. Thus, their proposals for an international satellite verification agency, an international disarmament fund for development and an International Research Institute have simply been included in a follow-up section for possible consideration by the 33rd UNGA, where they are likely to receive approval in a voting situation.

12. Of the other allies, the British were by far the most active, particularly on nuclear and machinery questions. Although at times they were in our view a bit over-zealous, they provided help on crucial issues, especially in the nuclear field, with deft drafting that broke several stalemates. The British also acted as spokesmen for the EC–9, most of the rest of whose members were comparatively passive except on issues of particular concern to their narrow national interests (e.g. membership in the new negotiating body). The Netherlands, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, who have been firm supporters of non-proliferation efforts, vigorously participated in the extremely difficult negotiations on this issue. Canada initially lobbied hard for the proposals put forward by Prime Minister Trudeau in his plenary speech on nuclear disarmament, including the cessation of flight testing, but retreated when they got a cold shoulder from most allies and no support from the Non-Aligned who wanted to maintain their own proposals intact. The Danes and Norwegians who talk a good game on general disarmament issues, contributed little except to warn us off from a corridor effort to find satisfactorily weak language in which to take note of the Soviet proposal on non-stationing of nuclear weapons in areas where they are not now present. Australia and New Zealand, in a somewhat quixotic and poorly coordinated move, associated themselves the the Indian draft resolution calling for a moratorium on nuclear testing at a time when we and the Indians were working behind the scenes to reach the compromise on language in the program of action which eventually killed the resolution.

13. The Western European neutrals played no significant role. The Swedes were surprisingly ineffective. Their leader, Mrs. Thorsson, a lion in past disarmament debates, remained in the background expressing her general displeasure in private but taking no active part in the drafting of the final document. This posture probably reflects her loss of standing with the Non-Aligned as a result of her tough tactics at the NPT review conference. Swedish CCD Ambassador Hamilton was coordinator of the drafting group that produced the non-nuclear portions of the program of action but did not provide strong leadership. The Finns were completely out of the action except for a weak effort in pri[Page 1239]vate to try to draft a bland compromise final document. This document never surfaced in committee. The Austrians were moderately active in an attempt to give credibility to their bid for membership in the new CD.

14. The Soviets seem to have come prepared to obtain as great an advantage as they could but finally agreed to join a reasonable consensus. In our judgement they obtained very little i.e. some reflection of the Brezhnev proposal on a halt in the production of nuclear weapons and a very lukewarm endorsement of an eventual world disarmament conference but no mention of the neutron bomb to which they had attached considerable importance. On machinery they negotiated hard to keep changes to a minimum but showed sufficient flexibility to enable a deal to be struck on the negotiating body.

15. The Non-Aligned by no means achieved all they wanted but did not go away angry. They now have a greater stake and a larger role in international disarmament efforts. Despite the early establishment of a coordinating group, they had no cohesive leadership and in the end they fragmented. On some issues such as non-proliferation they were divided among themselves. Our impression is that there was a behind-the-scenes struggle between the radicals and the more moderate states. An example of the radical pressures was the Cuban effort to retain language on the dismantling of foreign military bases which was supported by the more moderate Non-Aligned until it become clear that the West would not yield. We also found ourselves in protracted bilateral discussions with the Ghanaian and Egyptian delegations on issues which preoccupied them, (“racist regimes” and Middle East NWFZ), a further reflection of lack of focus and coordination in the Non-Aligned group. Pakistan stood alone on many issues and created enormous difficulties up until the closing moments.

16. The real leadership in the session came from Committee Chairman Ortiz De Rozas of Argentina with the strong Assistance of Ambassador Garcia Robles of Mexico who was named “super-coordinator” in the closing days, and Nigeria’s CCD Ambassador Adeniji who was the coordinator for the nuclear section of the program of action. Their combination of firmness and sensitivity to the real concerns of the key countries in the various groups made consensus possible.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780274–0227. Confidential; Immediate. Sent to all diplomatic posts as telegram 168947, July 4, (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780275–0390.
  2. Telegram 2726 from USUN, June 29, contains the ad referendum text of the SSOD’s final declaration on disarmament. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780268–0853)
  3. Telegram 2727 from USUN, June 29, reported that the Eastern European bloc countries objected to the reference in the ad referendum text of the SSOD’s final declaration on disarmament “to ‘principle’ of ‘creating new forums’ relating to disarmament and one section which is an Italian proposal supported by no other Delegations. It is expected that Italian language and EE block brackets will dropped during debate in ad hoc committee on June 29.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780268–0950)
  4. Telegram 2751 from USUN, June 30, contains the text of the final document of the SSOD. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780270–0419)