52. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • ASAT Negotiations

We are at a critical point. We have the “Hostile Acts” part of our agreement virtually completed. It is a declaration that we will not attack, destroy or displace each other’s satellites so long as they are operated in accordance with international law.2 On the test suspension, the Soviets apparently are insisting that we halt some test programs to be equivalent to their halting their interceptor test program. In effect, they want us to either halt the shuttle test program or some aspect of the shuttle test program.

I believe you should now take a very strong line with Dobrynin. You should say that this agreement is being nibbled to death by the hamsters in the Soviet bureaucracy. The purpose of the agreement is to give a boost to SALT II. They are completely off base if they think we will somehow stop the shuttle in any of its aspects—particularly since the shuttle will not be used as an ASAT system in any respect. You can tell Dobrynin that the President will be prepared to make such assurances to President Brezhnev.

However, we do have an interceptor program and, if it is not possible to get a test suspension, they can be certain that we will pursue this program vigorously with a view toward carrying out necessary tests.

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The Soviets have also proposed that we divide the Hostile Acts agreement from the test suspension and only go ahead with the Hostile Acts agreement. This would be completely one-sided. In the Hostile Acts agreement, both sides agree to refrain from damaging or destroying each other’s satellites—something that would only be done in event of war, in any case. In addition, we agree not to displace each other’s satellites. That is a potential capability that only the United States has. You should argue with Dobrynin that our open-ended commitment not to displace satellites needs to be matched by their agreement to a test suspension, and there is no need for further program limits on the shuttle.

In sum,

—You should argue that there is a balance of obligations in the Hostile Acts and test suspension agreements taken together. We will not accept splitting them up.

—We could, if we chose, carry out an interceptor test within the 18-month period and might be compelled to do so in the absence of an agreement.

—We will never agree to limit the shuttle in an ASAT agreement, but the President is prepared to give personal assurances that it will not be used in that mode.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 4, Anti-Satellite System (ASAT): 7/77–10/80. Secret. Aaron did not initial the memorandum. The memorandum is stamped “ZB HAS SEEN.”
  2. The joint draft text containing this declaration is available in telegram 5107 from Vienna, May 24; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790235–1016.