63. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization1

61090. Subject: Consultations With Allies on Chemical Weapons. Ref: (A) State 053094;2 (B) USNATO 1264;3 (C) USNATO 1358.4

1. This message transmits text of paper promised Ref A, in response to recommendations contained Ref B, para 3 (C) and Ref C.

2. Please communicate following US paper to PolAds: Begin text. In response to the discussion paper on chemical weapons (CW) limita[Page 148]tions circulated by the Delegation of the Federal Republic of Germany5 the United States Delegation wishes to convey its views and to inform other Delegations of several recent developments in the CW field.

At this time the new US administration is taking a fresh look at CW policy with a view to resolving longstanding issues. As part of this review we are examining CW policy alternatives, including arms control and military posture options, as well as the future direction of CW arms control discussions in both the bilateral (US-Soviet) and multilateral (CCD) arenas.

The United States, like the Federal Republic and other allies, believes that the military and political implications of a CW prohibition make consultations among NATO member states important prior to negotiation of a chemical weapons agreement. Because our policy review is as yet incomplete, we are not at present prepared to take a definite position on some of the principles presented in the FRG discussion paper, though they are generally consistent with our own views. We will, of course, welcome full discussion in NATO once our policy review is completed.

For its part the United States is firmly committed to the objective of complete and effective prohibition of chemical weapons. To this end the United States has entered into discussions of the prohibition of chemical weapons both at the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (CCD) and with the Soviet Union.

In the US view, for any approach to chemical weapons prohibition to be effective, it must be a balanced one. Satisfactory assurance must be provided to a state that it is not increasing the risk to its national security in becoming a party and that opportunities are not created for any state to gain a unilateral advantages over others. For this reason any CW agreement should provide for independent, international verification.

We also wish to inform our allies that a second round of US-Soviet bilateral consultations on CW limitations, pursuant to the July 1974 Summit communiqué,6 will be held in Geneva during the period March 28–April 8. At that time specialists from both sides will be present for informal meetings of the CCD with chemical weapons experts. The US representatives taking part in the consultations will be instructed to focus on technical issues related to CW limitations and will not be in a position to begin negotiating a joint initiative.

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In our view it might be possible to undertake consideration of a joint US-Soviet initiative during further consultations, to be held before the summer session of the CCD; however, a final decision on this matter cannot be taken until our review is completed. We will keep our NATO allies informed of developments along this line.

For this reason and because CCD expectations appear to be relatively high regarding prospects for the start of negotiations on the text of a CW convention during the CCD’s 1977 summer session, we believe that every effort should be made to complete initial Alliance consultations on CW before the beginning of the summer session.

The United States notes that chemical weapons is one of the principal topics on the agenda of the disarmament experts’ meetings scheduled for late April. During these meetings the U.S. representative will provide a report on the status of our policy review and on the bilateral US-Soviet consultations. End text.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770095–0968. Confidential; Priority. Sent for information to the Mission at Geneva, USUN, Moscow, London, and Paris. Drafted by Robert Mikulak (ACDA/NTB/WT); cleared by Tuchman, Homer Phelps (PM/DCA), John Hawes (EUR/RPM), Leo Reddy (S/S), David Ahlberg (DOD), George Humphrey, and Floweree; and approved by Thomas Davies (ACDA/NTB).
  2. In telegram 53094 to Bonn and other posts, March 18, the Department of State instructed the Embassy in Bonn to inform the West German government that the United States believed that “it would be premature to discuss CW issues in broad NATO forum at this time when US policy study has not yet been completed.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770081–1161)
  3. In this March 8 telegram, the Mission to NATO advised that the United States consult all the NATO allies about its chemical weapons policy while it simultaneously negotiated with the Soviets. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy, [no film number])
  4. In this March 10 telegram, the Mission to NATO advised the Department of State that many of the NATO allies had expressed interest in consultations with the United States on chemical weapons policy. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy, [no film number])
  5. An official from the West German Embassy handed his Government’s proposal for chemical weapons consultations to Sloss on March 3. The text of the proposal is in telegram 49286 to Bonn and other posts, March 5; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770076–0819.
  6. See Public Papers: Nixon, 1974, pp. 567–582.