80. Telegram From the Mission in Geneva to the Department of State1

1092. CW message no. 13. Subject: USUSSR Negotiations on Chemical Weapons, Round Seven: Fifth Plenary Meeting, January 20, 1978. Ref.: Geneva 1081.2

1. Summary: At fifth plenary, January 20, US Del made strong statement questioning regressions in Soviet position in the areas of scope and verification. US Del also challenged Soviet side for using language which US side had repeatedly said was unclear (e.g., “including governments of states permanent members of the security council”) without providing sufficient explanation. Del also stated that US willingness to study and discuss new Soviet draft convention3 was no indication of a change in US position that joint initiative should be in form of agreed key elements rather than complete draft convention. Soviet Del deferred comment on substance of US statement, but questioned US “reproach” of Soviet Del for not adequately reflecting, in Soviet [Page 179] presentations of January 16 and 17,4 changes in US position presented January 12.5 Brief reports on progress in drafting group were presented by alternate reps of both Dels. End summary.

2. The fifth plenary meeting of the USUSSR negotiations on Chemical Weapons (CW) was held afternoon January 20 at Soviet mission.

3. Ambassador V.I. Likhatchev (head of Soviet Del) asked for report from drafting group. A.R. Turrentine (alt. head of US Del) reported that the drafting group had met three times and that discussions had centered on scope, particularly the issues of irritants and important precursors. Actual drafting on ad referendum agreed language, he said, had not yet begun this round, but he thought drafting group might be ready to begin working on ad referendum language in area of scope once both sides had completed discussions of remaining questions. B.P. Krassulin (alt. head of Soviet Del) characterized atmosphere of drafting group meetings as businesslike and said that extensive exchange of views on the question of scope proved that differences in approach still remained. He added that Soviet Del believed that drafting group should conclude question/answer stage of its work as soon as possible and get down to the business of “formulating the provisions of the future convention,” beginning with the section on scope.

4. Ambassador A.S. Fisher (head of US Del) said that in studying the January 17 Soviet draft convention, US Del had noted language which had been initial Soviet proposal in round six. Pointing out that different language had been agreed to ad referendum in drafting group, Fisher questioned whether ad referendum agreed language still stood or had been superseded by language contained in Soviet draft convention. He said, in US view, USUSSR understanding on ad referendum agreed language remained in force. He added that US willingness to study and discuss Soviet draft convention should not be understood to imply any change in US position that joint initiative should be presented to the CCD in the form of agreed key elements. Likhatchev stated that “without prejudice to our position as to the form of the joint initiative,” the previously arranged agreement for conduct of the drafting group (i.e., drafting ad referendum agreed language) remained in force.

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5. Fisher presented extensive statement questioning Soviet Del on round seven positions which appeared, to US Del, to be regressions from Soviet end of round six positions. Salient points of US presentation contained paras 6 thru 8 below. Fisher noted particularly the areas of scope and verification. Before concluding age had been included again without clarification. If the Soviet Del was proposing that the convention require adherence of all permanent members of the security council, he stated, “we can expect postponement of the fruits of our work for a considerable period of time—perhaps indefinitely.” Soviet Del did not offer clarification of this point during meeting. Fisher also reiterated US view that there should be exchanges of general information on stockpiles, at signature. These would not need to be provided for in the treaty, but could be arranged on a bilateral basis. He stressed the fact that such an exchange between the US and USSR would be a prerequisite, in his view, for US to obtain ratification of the convention.

6. Scope—Fisher stated that the US side had believed that both Dels had agreed in round six that quantities of otherwise prohibited chemicals to be produced or diverted for nonhostile purposes should be limited under the convention and that equipment for troop training in chemical defense would be such as to preclude any possibility of offensive chemical warfare training. Now, however, it appeared that the Soviet Del was advocating complete freedom for parties to determine unilaterally means of chemical warfare to be retained. He stated that, in the US view, a convention based on such an approach would not be viable.

7. Verification—Fisher stated that he believed the US was in basic agreement with the principles of verification put forward by the Soviet Del during the fourth plenary (see para 7, Ref A), but added that the Soviet draft convention seemed to emphasize the second principle (non-interference) at the cost of the first (verification must assure compliance). He pointed out that the US was prepared to agree that a request for challenge inspection should come only from a state party and that a challenged party would have the right to refuse a request for on-site verification, although it would be obligated to make a reasonable effort to resolve the doubts that led to the challenge. He stressed that this should be a legal obligation provided for in the convention, not merely a matter of political expediency. Fisher also stated that the US placed great importance on required verification, under international auspices, of stockpile destruction and disposition of facilities. He asked how the US-proposed verification scheme (international inspection, agreed to in advance in the convention, of stockpile destruction and disposition of facilities, with each state party declaring where and when they are to be destroyed) could possibly contravene the second verification principle (para 7, Ref A). Fisher pointed out that the US ap[Page 181]proach on this issue was similar to the on-site inspection provisions of the PNE Treaty.

8. Fisher said that the revised Soviet position on declaration/disposition of facilities compounded the difficulties of verification in providing that only facilities designed or used exclusively for prohibited production would be subject to elimination or dismantling; the US side viewed this position as creating a loophole and as contrary to the mutually agreed purpose of the convention. Furthermore, he pointed out, the Soviet-proposed arrangements where only the chemical warfare capability of a facility would be disposed of, would require extensive on-site verification while total elimination of prohibited facilities, which the US proposed, would not. He continued his criticism of the Soviet verification proposals by stating that omission of the super-toxic toxicity threshold from the Soviet draft convention seemed to be inconsistent with the Soviet “expressed wish” to avoid “maximizing verification”. He pointed out that this threshold simplified many verification procedures by coupling the degree of verification with the relative importance of the activity; and said that the US, in providing for such a threshold, had sought to isolate that area requiring particular attention with respect to verification and, thereby, avoid unnecessary, extensive verification procedures for areas of lesser importance.

9. Likhatchev said that he would defer commenting on substance of US statement until Soviet Del had studied its content. However, he noted that it seemed to him that most of the questions raised by the US Del had already been answered by the Soviet Del in the course of its earlier presentations. He took exception to what he characterized as a US “reproach” for not reflecting revised US positions in Soviet presentations on January 16 and 17, confirming US Del view that Soviet statements had been prepared in Moscow prior to beginning of round seven. Fisher responded that he had not intended his remarks be taken as a “reproach”, “question? Yes. Criticism? Perhaps. But, reproach? Never”. Likhatchev concluded his remarks by calling for prompt conclusion of question/answer sessions and initiation of actual drafting, specifically in the area of scope.

10. The next plenary meeting will be afternoon of January 25. Next meeting of the drafting group will be held afternoon of January 24.

Vanden Heuvel
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780037–0338. Confidential; Priority. Sent for information to Moscow. Fisher had already informed the NATO allies that “the two sides were no closer to agreement than they had been at the end of round six and that the Soviet Del had, in fact, ‘regressed’ on some points.” (Telegram 824 from the Mission in Geneva, January 19; D780029–0099)
  2. Telegram 1081 from the Mission in Geneva, January 25, described the fourth plenary meeting between the United States and Soviet Union that occurred on January 17. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780037–0196)
  3. The new Soviet draft language is contained in Geneva Telegram 1031, January 24; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780035–0723.
  4. The Soviets were referring to the third and fourth plenary meetings. The third meeting held on January 16 is described in Telegram 681 from the Mission in Geneva, January 17; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780025–0186. The fourth meeting is referenced in footnote 2.
  5. The Soviets were referring to the second plenary meeting, which was held on January 12 and described in Telegram 581 from the Mission in Geneva, January 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780035–0723.