51. Telegram From the Embassy in Austria to the Department of State1

4954. US ASAT Three 039. From Buchheim. Mil addressees handle as Specat. NASA for Krueger. Subject: (U) General Summary of Status.

1. (Secret—Entire text.)

2. This round has now run for four weeks, and four main questions are outstanding:

(A) Formulation of “prohibited acts” Article (II) and related definitional Article (I).

(B) Test-suspension provisions.

(C) Soviet “hostile acts” exemption.

(D) Prospects for an eventual comprehensive agreement.

3. Question (A) is moving toward resolution, and will be addressed further in meeting May 22, 1979.

4. Delegation received from Washington instructions (State 124103)2 concerning new elements in the May 8, 1979, test-suspension text of the Soviet side,3 except the element on scope. Pending receipt of instructions on the scope element, we will not express any views to the Soviet side concerning their test suspension text in order to not show the Soviets where to look for our point of uncertainty.

5. Recommendation: We recommend that Delegation be authorized to accept scope of test suspension proposed by Soviet side, incorporating in protocol text language in accordance with para 3 of State 1241034 adding language to the protocol text calling for review prior to January 1, 1981, and putting the Soviets on notice with a formal state[Page 121]ment that experience in implementing the protocol including experience relevant to verification will be taken into account in that review.

6. Further delay in reply to Soviet test-suspension suggestion is bound to arouse suspicions on Soviet side, and lead them into troublesome speculations. Further delay could well shatter this entire enterprise.

7. Looking a little farther ahead, we may shortly find ourselves up against a substantial roadblock in the form of the Soviet side’s insistence on a “hostile acts” exclusion to the prohibited-acts element. The Soviet side now says this is a matter of “position” with them, and they have been unwilling to engage in further meaningful discussion beyond that assertion. The policy underlying that position may be that the Soviet side will not accept unqualified constraints on countering actions unless there are agreed constraints on uses of satellites, although they have not suggested that they seek such constraints. Alternatively, their position may rest simply on a policy view that they must retain complete freedom of action in or over the motherland. Although it is also possible that the Soviets will abandon this position when the other questions are resolved, we must keep working on the problem.

8. Main practical significance of Khlestov’s statement of May 18, 1979,5 on a comprehensive agreement lies in two points: (a) The Soviet side is well on its way toward concluding that the U.S. advocacy of a comprehensive agreement is either false or represents a sincere general view that has not been thought through as to practical implementation, and (b) it will be necessary for the U.S. to set forth specific proposals on dismantling if provisions for dismantling are to be worked on in the future. The Soviet side has not flatly refused to make reference to future negotiations; but Khlestov’s statement also suggests that any commitment to continue negotiations will be couched in rather general terms. The credibility of U.S. advocacy of progress toward a comprehensive agreement would probably be further eroded if we do not join in the scope of a test-suspension suggested by the Soviet side. Concerning Khlestov’s comments about third countries retaining freedom of action, there is no evident reason for the U.S. to refrain from raising, e.g., at the CD, the idea of a multilateral agreement starting from the position of a completed bilateral agreement.

9. Khlestov, in a side conversation incidental to a social encounter, told Buchheim that he very much wanted to plan on departing Vienna not later than June 1, 1979, because (a) Soviet Embassy is rapidly filling [Page 122] with people preparing for the summit meeting and (b) hotel in which Soviet Delegation is lodged is hounding him for a commitment on a departure date.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790230–1031. Secret; Exdis; Niact Immediate. Sent for information Niact Immediate to the National Security Council, the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Moscow.
  2. In telegram 124103 to Vienna, May 16, the Department of State instructed Buchheim to “advise the Soviets that the present US view is that the test suspension should be recorded in a protocol to the treaty.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790220–0124)
  3. Not found.
  4. The Department instructed Buchheim to say that “changing the trajectory of one’s own satellites by both internal and external means is a normal part of the space programs of both sides, and that testing systems in such a manner should not be prohibited.” The Department also said that “the use of the space shuttle to launch, to maintain, and to retrieve US and other satellites in which US has an interest must not be circumscribed in any way by the agreement.” (Telegram 124103 to Vienna, May 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790220–0124)
  5. In telegram 4927 from Vienna, May 18, the Embassy reported that Khlestov said “the very idea of a ‘comprehensive’ agreement has caused us to have serious doubts from the very beginning, and we have indicated this to the US Delegation many times.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790226–0408)