58. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

91540. Subject: Meeting of Assistant Secretary Vest With Soviet Minister Counselor Vasev, April 4: ASAT, SALT.

1. C—Entire text.

2. Summary: Soviet Minister Counselor Vasev called briefly on Assistant Secretary Vest April 4 to provide notification of the simultaneous launch of two Soviet ICBM’s on April 5. Vest took the occasion to urge the Soviets not to conduct a test of an anti-satellite interceptor. End summary.

3. Soviet Minister Counselor Vasev asked to see Assistant Secretary Vest on April 4. He read and handed over following message:

“Guided by good will and in order to avoid any misunderstanding we deemed it necessary to inform the US side that a planned simultaneous launch of two strategic ballistic missiles within the national territory of the USSR will be conducted on April the 5th in the Soviet Union. The impact area of reentry vehicles is Kamtchatka Peninsula.”

Vest expressed appreciation for the notification and noted that the US has provided notifications of ICBM test launches to the USSR.

4. Vest used Vasev’s call to draw in general terms on talking points in para 5 regarding apparently imminent test of Soviet anti-satellite interceptor. Vasev replied that in the course of exploratory ASAT negotiations “all indications from the US side” were that the United States is not seriously interested in them. Vasev noted a “spate of reports” since the start of the negotiations, including official records of the Congress, showing that the function of the planned US space shuttle is “60 percent military”. Vest reiterated our continuing interest in the negotiations and said that we are seriously studying the remaining unresolved issues. Vasev said he would report Vest’s comments to Moscow.

5. ASAT talking points:

—Both sides stated at the Vienna summit that we would “continue actively searching for a mutually acceptable agreement” in the ASAT [Page 134] negotiations.2 The Secretary reiterated this commitment to the negotiations in his recent testimony before the SFRC.3

—Since the talks began neither side has engaged in ASAT interceptor testing. This is an important indication of the seriousness with which both sides have viewed the pursuit of these negotiations and of our shared interest in preventing an arms race in space.

—However there is evidence that preparations are underway for an ASAT test. Specifically I am informed that you now have in orbit a target satellite.

—Should either side proceed to conduct anti-satellite tests, it would call into question the seriousness of that side’s interest in achieving an agreement in this important new area of arms control.

—As you know we have tried to insulate our arms control negotiations from other aspects of our relationship with you. This action would add to the burdens on the already strained relationship between our two countries.

(—If asked: While we are not prepared now to suggest a time for scheduling a resumption of ASAT talks, we are seriously studying the remaining unresolved issues, including the proposals tabled by both sides at the last round of talks on a suspension of ASAT tests. We trust you are doing likewise.)

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800174–0742. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information to USNATO. Drafted by McClean; cleared by Mark Palmer (PM/DCA), William Shinn (EUR/SOV), and Suzanne Butcher (S/S–O); and approved by Vest.
  2. See Documents 55 and 56.
  3. In a March 27 statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Vance said “we will continue to pursue balanced and verifiable arms control agreements at other levels—in the mutual and balanced force reduction talks, on anti-satellite warfare, on banning nuclear weapons tests, on chemical warfare, and in other areas.” (Department of State Bulletin, May 1980, pp. 16–24)