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

5963. US ASAT Three 077. From Buchheim. Mil addressees handle as Specat. NASA for Krueger. Subject: (U) Remaining Unresolved ASAT Issues.

1. (Secret—Entire text).

2. During plenary meetings on June 8 and June 12 the US and Soviet Delegations reviewed the remaining issues that would have to be resolved before an agreement can be achieved. A summary of these outstanding ASAT issues follows.

A. Test suspension

The sides have agreed that the duration of a test suspension would be until January 1, 1981. The US side suggested suspending testing only of “interceptors of space objects.” The Soviet side has also proposed suspending testing of “interceptors of space objects,” but only if the US side will also agree (a) to suspend testing of any other means of destroying or damaging space objects, and (b) to suspend testing of any means for changing the trajectory of a space object including testing a [Page 126] reusable spacecraft for such a purpose. The Soviet side has explained that their proposal for suspending testing of means to change the trajectory of or to displace from orbit a space object would not require a party to suspend testing of means internal to a space object for changing that space object’s orbit, but that it would require suspension of testing of anyternal [external] means, particularly of reusable spacecraft, for changing the trajectories of space objects. The US side has said a complete suspension of tests of all external means for changing trajectory, including reusable spacecraft (i.e., shuttle), is unacceptable. The US side has also said the test suspension should only cover interceptors of space objects since these are the only means for damaging and destroying a space object which the sides currently understand fully and for which practical measures can be taken which would not adversely affect other programs. The question of format for a test suspension also remains unresolved: the Soviet side has proposed a joint statement; the US side has suggested a protocol to the treaty.

B. Article III “hostile acts” exclusion

The Soviet side has characterized this as the most important unresolved issue. Although they have deleted the phrase “hostile acts” from their proposed language, the Soviet side continues to insist that space objects which are deliberately used to commit acts against the national sovereignty of a party, including damage to its territory and national environment, be explicitly excluded from the coverage of the Article II provision banning certain acts against space objects. They have stated that no such hostile acts have been committed to date but that it is essential to them as a matter of principle to include such a provision in the text of an agreement. The US side has explored without success various ways of addressing the concerns which may lie behind this Soviet position by suggesting language affirming a party’s right to self-defense as set forth in the UN Charter and language affirming the existing commitment in the Outer Space Treaty to carry out space activities in accordance with international law. The US side has made clear that Article III exclusion proposed by the Soviet side would seem to grant them the right, which we believe they do not now have, to use anti-satellite systems at their discretion, and is therefore unacceptable to the US side.

C. Article I definition of “interest”

Concerning the definition of “space objects in which a party has an interest,” that is, regarding the class of space objects which would be covered by the agreement. The sides are in agreement on the criteria of entry on the national registry and use by a party (subject, on the US side, to satisfactory resolution of other outstanding ASAT issues). However, the Soviet side also insists, as a third criterion, that a space object must be launched by a party to be covered. The US side has said [Page 127] this is unacceptable since it would exclude space objects launched by a third country which the US uses.

The Soviet side also insists on including the stipulation that a space object registered, launched, and used by the US but also used on a cooperative basis by a third country must be used solely “for peaceful purposes” if it is to be included in coverage. As reflected in the negotiating record of the Outer Space Treaty, use of this same phrase in the Outer Space Treaty involved extensive debate between the Soviet Union, which has interpreted this phrase to mean “for non-military purposes,” and the US, which has interpreted the phrase to mean “for non-aggressive purposes.” The Soviet side has declined to explain what this phrase would mean or why they consider its inclusion necessary in this agreement, and indicated that they prefer that a satellite used jointly with a third country for military communications of any sort would not be covered. It appears, for example, that all NATO satellites could be excluded from coverage by the Soviet interpretation of this phrase. The US side has said that inclusion of this phrase in the language of Article I is not acceptable.

D. Article I definition of “space object”

The sides have agreed that the definition of a space object in paragraph one of Article I is logically connected with whatever definition of a “space object in which a party has an interest” the sides may ultimately adopt in paragraph two. The sides have therefore agreed to set this issue aside until the “interest” definition is resolved. Nothing significant is involved in the bracketed language of this definition.

E. Articles II, IV, V and VI

The Soviet side has stated that there are no significant differences between the sides on the contents of the Article II prohibited acts provision, the Article IV accidental or unforeseen acts provision, the Article V consultations provision and the Article VI nonsupersession provision. However, the Soviet side has said they are unwilling to discuss these articles further until the major issues concerning Article III, Article I, and a test suspension have been resolved.

The US side has agreed that the differences between the sides on these three articles appear to be minor and may at this point be only drafting problems. The US side has repeatedly suggested that the sides continue to work on resolving these issues.

F. Title

On a title for the treaty, the Soviet side has proposed “Treaty on the Prohibition of Destruction, Damage, and Changing the Trajectories of Space Objects.”

The US side has suggested “Treaty on the Limitations Against Space Objects and on Other Measures to Strengthen such Limitations and to Contribute to the Preservation of Peace in Outer Space.”

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G. Preamble

The language for the preamble has been agreed between the sides, except that the Soviet side has reserved the option of reintroducing bracketed language concerning “acts incompatible with peaceful relations between states.”

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790268–0007. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information 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.