74. Memorandum From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Warnke) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Report on Bilateral Consultations on a Chemical Weapons (CW) Ban (August 16–26)

We have recently concluded a further round of discussions with the Soviets in Geneva on the question of a treaty prohibiting chemical [Page 169] weapons.2 The major feature of the round was the presentation by the Soviet side of an essentially complete response to a US proposal that had been tabled during the July session setting forth key elements of a multilateral treaty.

The atmosphere during the three CW rounds this year has been consistently cordial and businesslike. The Soviets have adopted our approach of drawing up “key elements” of a joint USUSSR CW initiative as the basis for discussion, rather than attempting to work on treaty language. Regarding substance, the Soviets have moved closer to us on scope (types of weapons and activities to be banned). They also have accepted the basic idea of a Consultative Committee composed of all states party to the agreement, although with a much more restricted mandate than we would like.

A major area of disagreement is verification. The “working paper” the Soviets passed to our delegation contains no provision for international verification of the destruction of CW stockpiles or the cessation of production of agents. We regard some form of international inspection as vital, especially regarding the destruction of stocks.

Another troublesome aspect of the Soviet position is that they have included a condition that permanent Security Council members ratify the treaty as a prerequisite for its entry into force. This is the first time in seven years that such a provision, obviously aimed at the PRC, has been included in a Soviet proposal related to CW. It parallels their current position on entry into force of a Comprehensive Test Ban.

The Soviets have also proposed that declaration of stocks take place at some agreed time after the treaty enters into force. This proposal is in contrast to our position that stocks should be declared when states become parties and that destruction be internationally observed. The Soviet formula would, if they so chose, permit them to state—at the time when declaration of CW stocks was required—that the USSR had no CW stockpile and therefore was in compliance with that aspect of the treaty, the implication being that they had disposed of whatever stocks they may have had between the time of entry into force and the time of their declaration. There would be no effective means of verifying such a declaration by the Soviets.

Somewhat less troublesome elements in the Soviet proposal include the authorized use of lethal agents in military field exercises (further complicating verification difficulties), conversion to peaceful uses (rather than dismantling as we have proposed) of military CW production facilities, and extension of the scope to cover riot control agents.

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Obviously, verification will be the critical issue to be dealt with when negotiations resume. Current Soviet formulations make reference to the possibility, on a voluntary basis, of some form of on-site investigation (again, analogous to their CTB posture), but I anticipate that hard and possibly protracted bargaining will be required to reach a satisfactory outcome on verification. We expect that the next round of talks, which is scheduled to begin September 26 in Geneva, will last for several weeks and will give us a better reading of the extent of Soviet flexibility.

Paul C. Warnke
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 44, PRM–27 [1]. Confidential.
  2. See Document 73.