71. Editorial Note

The United States and the Soviet Union resumed negotiations over chemical weapons consultations on July 7, 1977, in Geneva. In the first session, the U.S. representative, Ambassador Adrian Fisher, proposed that rather than trying to write a draft treaty, the two sides should instead issue a set of “agreed key elements” on a chemical weapons convention. This would allow “other states an opportunity to play a concrete role in development of specific treaty conventions” in order to “ensure broad acceptance of the convention.” The Soviet representative, Viktor Likhatchev, said the U.S. proposal “deserved careful study.” (Telegram 5558 from the Mission at Geneva, July 8; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770243–0752) In the second session, the U.S. Delegation proposed a ban on the “develop[Page 162]ment, production, stockpiling, acquisition or retention of CW agents and munitions.” The Soviets “asked several questions for clarification, but made no substantive comments.” (Telegram 5643 from the Mission at Geneva, July 11; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770246–0173)

Fisher turned to the issue of verification in the third session. “Because of the deficiencies of non-intrusive methods” of verification, the United States wanted a system that provided for “on-site” confirmation that stockpiles had been destroyed and that facilities were not being used for prohibited activities; for “fact-finding investigation” of suspected treaty violations; and for the monitoring of the “production and use of super-toxic chemicals for peaceful purposes.” Again, Likhatchev made no substantive comments, but said he would pose questions at the next session. (Telegram 5644 from the Mission at Geneva, July 11; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770246–0155)

In a brief opening statement at the fourth session, Likhatchev said that the Soviet Union wanted “the prohibition of incapacitating chemical warfare agents,” and asked whether the United States “now wanted to expand” the scope of an agreement “to include incapacitants.” Fisher replied that the United States “desires a comprehensive treaty, which would not be limited to ‘the most dangerous, lethal means of chemical warfare’.” (Telegram 5722 from the Mission at Geneva, July 13; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770249–0022)

In their penultimate session, after another discussion about which chemical incapacitants would be covered under a convention, Likhatchev turned to the issue of verification. The Soviet Union, he said, favored a system “based on national control (i.e. ‘self-policing’). This could be supplemented by: “(A) information exchange among parties on questions related to compliance, (B) cooperation and consultation among states in situation where doubt about compliance exists, and examination by the UN Security Council of complaints of treaty violation.” He argued that the Soviet Union “believed that the very fact of a state’s participation in a convention is sufficient guarantee that the state will ensure compliance,” and “that the system of control should not violate the sovereign rights of states or lead to disclosure of military or commercial secrets.” In a “preliminary response,” Fisher said that international control would “check national control as both must have the ability to satisfy ourselves that the agreement is being followed.” (Telegram 5834 from the Mission at Geneva, July 15; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770252–0767)

In their final meeting on July 18, the two sides repeated their positions on which chemical agents would be covered under an agreement and on verification. The U.S. Delegation proposed that the talks resume [Page 163]on August 16. The Soviets, however, said they needed instructions from Moscow before they could commit to a date. (Telegram 5978 from Geneva, July 19; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770256–1078) A July 19 joint communiqué described the talks as a “first step toward the complete and effective prohibition of chemical weapons.” The two sides also agreed to meet “in the near future to continue the consultations.” (Telegram 5967 from the Mission at Geneva, July 19; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770268–0382)