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

2411. CW message no. 31. Subject: USUSSR Chemical Weapons Negotiations, Seventh Round: Summary of Developments to Date.

1. Summary: As of February 13, the activity level of the seventh round of the USUSSR Chemical Weapons negotiations was reduced so experts would return to capitals for consultations. So far the round has been devoted to detailed exploration of the positions of the two sides. No further drafting has been undertaken so far. While the Soviets have moved closer to the U.S. position on some points, they have moved away in several areas which we previously believed were close to being resolved. All in all, only modest progress has been made in this round in resolving major issues. The tone of the meetings, however, continues to be workmanlike. End summary.

2. The seventh round of USUSSR Chemical Weapons negotiations began 10 January 1978. Eleven plenary and seven drafting group meetings have been held to date. As of 13 February 1978 the activity level was reduced so experts could return to capitals for consultations. Meetings of both the plenary and drafting groups will continue in the interim. (The period of reduced activity was requested by the Soviets, who indicated that they had “run out of material.” Judging from the comments of the Soviet experts, the Soviet Delegation had not expected the round to run past the end of January.) The seventh round is expected to resume on 29 March.

3. So far the round has been devoted to exploration of the positions of the two sides. No drafting has yet been undertaken.

A. At the beginning of the round the Soviets presented a “supplemented” draft convention containing twenty-four articles and two annexes. In effect, this represents an expansion of their previous articles on key issues into a fully elaborated draft convention.

B. At the outset the U.S. Del put forth detailed proposals for dealing with “important” precursors, “important” lethal and other highly toxic chemicals, and riot control chemicals. In addition, it presented the revised U.S. position on challenge inspection (i.e., to be requested by a state party rather than by the consultative committee).

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C. The drafting group sessions have been devoted to extensive question-and-answer exchanges, as each side attempted to clarify the details of the others position. (In several cases, the Soviets have not yet been able to respond to questions about their own proposals or the acceptability of U.S. suggestions.)

4. Generally speaking, during this round there has been relatively little movement toward resolving key issues.

A. On the positive side, the Soviets:

(1) Have dropped some terms the U.S. had objected to (e.g., single-purpose, dual-purpose, teratogen, carcinogen), but have retained others (e.g., chemical agent);

(2) Have agreed to put precursors under the general purpose criterion and have accepted, in principle, the U.S. proposal for a list of “important” precursors to serve as a focus for verification efforts;

(3) May be close to agreeing to accommodate the U.S. interest in protecting the uses of riot control chemicals specified in Executive Order 11850;2

(4) Are apparently willing to specify in the convention the rights and functions of verification personnel carrying out a challenge on-site inspection;

(5) Have agreed to several other points proposed by the U.S. (e.g., declarations in connection with destruction activities; inclusion of toxic chemicals of biological origin; prohibition of new production facilities; declaration of types and quantities of highly toxic commercial chemicals produced but they also take the position that each party will determine the form and content of its own declarations.)

B. On the negative side, the Soviets:

(1) Have dropped the toxicity threshold separating super-toxic lethal chemicals from other chemicals. This greatly complicates our effort to apply more stringent verification arrangements to super-toxic chemicals (e.g., nerve gas) than to less toxic commercial chemicals (e.g., hydrogen cyanide, phosgene);

(2) Have put forward positions which are not acceptable to the U.S. in several areas where we previously believed the two sides were fairly close:

—Quantities of otherwise prohibited chemicals to be produced or diverted for nonhostile military purposes. We had believed that both sides agreed that a limit should be specified. Now the Soviets would allow each state party to produce whatever it determines it needs.

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—Retention of chemical munitions. We had believed that both sides agreed that equipment to be used for protective training should not be suitable for offensive purposes. The Soviets now would allow the retention, in quantities to be determined by each state itself, of chemical munitions for protective training.

—Declaration of facilities for production of the means of chemical warfare. We had believed that both sides shared the view that present and former facilities would be declared. The Soviets now would declare only existing “capabilities,” (i.e., ability to produce), and reject declaration of individual facilities.

5. The tone of both the plenary and drafting group meetings has continued to be friendly and workmanlike.

Vanden Heuvel
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780071–0895. Confidential; Priority. Sent for information to Moscow, USNATO, London, Paris, and Bonn.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 81.