170. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to NATO1

Tosec 280182/379810. Roz Ridgway and Allen Holmes From James P. Timbie. Subject: Support Group Meeting on Nuclear Testing.

1. Secret—Entire text.

2. The NSC is worried about what our response should be to the recent Gorbachev letter on nuclear testing.2 They are afraid that our [Page 754] track record of opposing an uninspected moratorium has left us vulnerable now that the Soviets have proposed an inspected one.

3. They called a Support Group meeting today to talk about this. In my view (which I laid out at the meeting) there are two basic ways to go:

—Stick to our current posture, but elaborate it in a clever way, emphasizing that we support a CTB as an eventual goal when certain conditions are met, pointing out that we are actively working to bring about some of these conditions (e.g., deep reductions), but we need to get work underway in one area—verification—and propose a meeting of experts to address both their verification idea (on-site inspection of anomolous situations) and our idea (measurement of yields at test sites).

—Extend the 50 percent reduction concept to testing, reducing the number of tests to 10 per year (about half the recent average) and implement both sides’ verification proposals (on-site inspections of suspect events, measurement of yields at test site). The sides could agree to conduct no more than 10 tests in 1986 while an agreement was worked out.

4. A limit on the number of tests has some advantages (would permit us to be for something, rather than simply against the Soviet proposals, would require both sides’ verification ideas, and would permit high priority testing to continue for SDI, D–5, etc.). It also has technical problems (how to handle multiple simultaneous shots) and political problems (if we change our position, are we on a slippery slope to a CTB). Also, what we would give up in 1986 would be clear, but what the Soviets would give up would be hard to judge.

5. At the meeting, just about everyone liked the elaboration of our current policy, and hardly anyone liked the quota concept. It is probably unlikely that we will make any major shift in our position over the next few weeks (everyone assumes that the Soviets will go public with their inspection proposal by the end of the year when their moratorium expires, and we fear a leak even sooner). An EUR/PM draft letter back to Gorbachev elaborating the current policy is being sent to the Secretary today,3 and it would be a good idea to turn it around quickly so the NSC can have it, even though it probably won’t be sent until late next week at the earliest.

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6. A SACG meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday or Wednesday, primarily on this issue.4 Over the weekend the Support Group will write a little paper for the SACG, and it will have the two options outlined above, and perhaps others. If you have any ideas, let me know.5 Judging from the emotional reaction of OSD and JCS, I doubt the test quota will be picked in the near term, although we might get a serious look underway that could help us in the future. The White House is slightly receptive to a clever idea on this subject, and if you have one, send it along.

7. You might brief the Secretary along these lines.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, [no N number]. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Sent for information to Shultz’s delegation in Brussels where he was attending the NATO Ministerial December 11–13. Drafted by Timbie; cleared by Bova and in S/S–O; approved by Timbie.
  2. See Document 166.
  3. Not found.
  4. December 17 or 18.
  5. In a December 17 memorandum to Senior Arms Control Group Participants, Linhard wrote that the next SACG meeting would be on Wednesday, December 18, from 3:00–4:00 pm in the White House Situation Room. We currently anticipate that the agenda will include; —a discussion of developments in the area of nuclear testing (including both the potential end of the Soviet testing moratorium on December 31 and recent Soviet nuclear testing proposals made by Gorbachev); —the U.S. strategy for handling the expiration, also on December 31, of the unratified SALT II accord on December 31; —and, the status of preparations for the next round of the Nuclear and Space Talks (including the ‘strategy and themes’ papers for this round which have been developed and the status of the delegation instructions due on January 3).” (Department of State, Ambassador Nitze’s Personal Files 1953, 1972–1989, Lot 90D397, December 1985) Listed in this memorandum were three attached papers (not found): “Nuclear Testing Paper;” “Consultation Gameplan;” and “Strategy & Themes Papers.”