66. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • A PRM on Chemical Warfare


The United States is publicly committed to the objective of a complete prohibition of chemical weapons. The Biological Weapons Convention which we signed in 1971 contained a specific commitment to continue negotiations toward that end.

[Page 153]

This year, the two main issues on the agenda of the CCD (The UN Comprehensive Committee on Disarmament) are CW and CTB. The US more or less promised last year that it would have new proposals in 1977, and expectations are very high. Both the Japanese and the British have already presented draft treaties which propose a total prohibition of CW.2 The Soviets approached us at the beginning of the last CCD session in February, again seeking to set a date for bilateral talks on this issue. We agreed only to talks on technical issues, but had to put off their request for talks on terms of a treaty, since we did not have an agreed interagency position. A CW group was one of the eight working groups agreed on during Vance’s Moscow trip,3 lending added urgency to the need to develop a US position.

Current Situation

We had originally thought that a coordinated US negotiating position could be worked out at the staff level without a formal PRM but that effort has failed. Defense, and especially the Joint Chiefs, are determined to do a broader review covering questions of force posture and modernization, and military risks, before they will agree to discussions on an arms limitation approach. The attached PRM draft is more narrowly focused than Defense originally wanted, but it satisfies DOD as well as State and ACDA.

Timing is now urgent. The next CCD session begins in early July, but the US agreed in Moscow to bilateral CW talks preceding that Conference. Those talks would have to begin in late June, and we would need about three weeks for consultations with NATO Allies before then. So we will need to have an option paper ready for your decision by the end of the first week in June.


That you approve the issuance of the attached PRM.4

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harold Brown Papers, Box 61, Chemical/Biological Weapons. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. The Japanese proposal is in telegram 2294 from Geneva, March 25; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File; and the British proposal is in telegram 2622 from London, February 14; D770103–0322 and D770052–0596 respectively.
  3. See Document 64 and footnote 1 thereto.
  4. Carter checked the “Approve” line.