103. Telegram From the Department of State to the Delegation to the Nuclear and Space Talks in Geneva1

72684. Subject: (S) Instructions for START Negotiating Group.

1. (S) Entire text.

2. Following is guidance as approved in NSDD–1652 for the START negotiating group to the Negotiations on Nuclear and Space Arms beginning March 12, 1985. This guidance is based on NSDD–1533 and, except as modified below, guidance for previous rounds of START remains in effect.

3. Overall approach. The President has given high priority to seeking equitable and verifiable arms control agreements. Negotiating group should, therefore, press for early progress in START consistent with the basic principles we have repeatedly enunciated:

(A) Any agreement reached must provide for equality between the US and USSR.

(B) Any agreement should provide for substantial reduction in strategic nuclear arms of each side to lower equal levels below current levels as a first step toward our ultimate objective of the elimination of nuclear weapons.

(C) Any agreement should promote stability and enhance security by placing special limitations on those nuclear forces which are the most destabilizing.

(D) Any agreement should provide for effective verification.

(E) Any agreement, once reached, must be clearly complied with.

—Delegation should present and expand on the substantive objectives above, as appropriate.

[Page 370]

—In particular, delegation should note that recent Soviet violations and probable violations of arms control agreements undermine the arms control process and make achievement of new agreements very difficult. Confidence that agreements will be complied with is central to arms control. Delegation should stress that we will continue to raise compliance concerns with the Soviet Union, seeking their resolution as fundamental to the prospect of genuine arms control.

4. The Negotiating Group should present and expand on the substantive principles above in paragraph 3, as appropriate. In particular, the Negotiating Group should, as appropriate, discuss the relationship of reductions in strategic offensive arms to the US strategic concept as set forth in NSDD–153.

5. SDI: The offense/defense relationship and START. Prospects for early progress in START may well depend to a significant degree on whether, and for how long, the Soviets adopt the tactic of impeding progress as a means of putting pressure on SDI. A central task in these negotiations, therefore, will be to encourage the Soviets to deal with their concerns about the future offense/defense relationship in separate discussions devoted to that subject, (i.e., in the Defense and Space Group), but at the same time to get down to serious work on START issues in the START Negotiating Group. The Negotiating Group should point out, in this connection, that leaders of both sides have recently reaffirmed the importance of reducing existing arsenals. The first-strike potential of existing strategic offensive forces poses the most immediate threat to stability and, therefore, deserves the highest priority. The Negotiating Group should also explain to the Soviets that reductions in strategic offensive arms are important to enhancing stability, and over the longer term they would complement a transition to a strategic balance characterized by greater reliance on strategic defenses.

6. Trade-offs. During the last START round preceding the Soviet walkout, the US indicated its willingness to explore various means of trading off US and Soviet strategic advantages. In particular, we stated that we were prepared to explore means of limiting the size of ALCM forces (below the 8,000 ceiling implicit in the US draft treaty), in exchange for Soviet flexibility regarding areas of Soviet advantage of concern to us (e.g., ICBM capabilities). Probably because of Soviet preoccupation with INF issues in Fall 1983, the Soviet delegation expressed little interest in such trade-offs. START Negotiating Group should probe Soviet receptivity to trade-offs, indicating to the Soviets that we have flexibility with respect to both the structure and content of such trade-offs.

7. In the area of strategic forces, the primary focus must remain on achieving significant reductions in the most destabilizing forces, ballistic missiles, and especially MIRVed, land-based ICBMs. In doing [Page 371] so, the US will continue to place its emphasis on reducing the numbers of warheads and the level of destructive capacity and potential associated with these systems.

(A) The US certainly recognizes the Soviet interest in dealing with strategic nuclear delivery vehicles (SNDVs). The US is prepared to entertain Soviet alternatives to our own position in this area. However, we remain convinced that appropriate reductions in the number of ballistic missile warheads and destructive capacity and potential are the central issues that we must mutually address.

(B) The outcome that the US continues to seek remains a reduction for the period of this agreement to an equal limit of 5,000 ballistic missile warheads which applies to the forces of both sides. During the past year, we have studied a number of ways to reach this point. Some involve relatively fast reductions. Others would move more slowly to accommodate normal force planning and an improved confidence in the reduction activity over time. The mechanism finally chosen to accomplish the reduction must provide for the national security of the US and its allies. It must also enhance stability. But, given these conditions, it is the outcome that is of primary importance.

(C) With respect to ballistic missile destructive capability, the US remains flexible on how reductions in ballistic missile destructive capability are achieved (i.e., through direct or indirect limitations) as long as an appropriate outcome results. However, of equal importance to reductions in the number of ballistic missile warheads and ballistic missile destructive capability, is the quality of stability that results from the specific reductions. In that context, the US continues to believe that moving away from high concentrations of land-based MIRVed ballistic missiles is in everyone’s interest.

(D) The US is prepared to explore trade-offs between areas of relative US advantage and areas of relative Soviet advantage. The US feels that the relative US advantage in bomber forces and the relative Soviet advantage in land-based ballistic missile forces offers the grounds for such a potential trade-off.

(E) The above builds upon US proposals previously made and constitutes the foundation of the US position. The START Negotiating Group should draw upon the above as appropriate in presenting the US position to the Soviet side.

8. The START Negotiating Group should probe in the areas of potential trade-offs, the pace of reductions, and methods of addressing ballistic missile destructive potential. It should listen to Soviet views on alternative SNDV limits. Findings should be reported to Washington, including recommendations for future US actions.

9. The START negotiator is also authorized the following contingent authority. As a function of the degree of Soviet interest in making early [Page 372] progress as reflected by specific Soviet proposals, or as a result of significant exploratory conversation, you are authorized to state that:

—The US is willing to consider Soviet proposals which involve associated limitations on ballistic missile warheads and air launched cruise missiles (ALCMs), so long as the resulting outcome would result in significant reductions in ballistic missile warheads, improved overall stability, and equality in the aggregate.

—In the context of an agreement in which US concerns about the destructive capacity and potential of ballistic missiles were met, the US is willing to consider Soviet proposals which could involve associated limits on ballistic missiles and bombers with the total of both in the range previously proposed by the Soviet Union (i.e., around 1800).

10. Any specific aggregate numbers proposed by the Soviet Union should be referred to Washington. However, in accordance with the criteria stated, any levels proposed that would not result in a reduction in the number of Soviet ballistic missile warheads should be rejected at the time proposed.

11. Draft treaty. START Negotiating Group should indicate in an appropriate manner that our draft treaty and annexes put forth in the previous negotiations remain on the table, and we see no need for formally retabling them in the context of the “new” negotiations. As we present new or modified elements of our position, we may want to incorporate them into our treaty text. As in the past, draft language for such provisions should be sent to Washington for approval.

12. Confidence-building measures. START Negotiating Group is authorized to seek to reconvene the CBMs Working Group and to press for progress on the basis of existing US proposals, in accordance with previous guidance. If Soviets should seek to have START and INF CBM proposals considered in Single Group, Negotiating Group should say we prefer to keep START and INF discussions separate.


Note: Telegram downgraded to EXDIS per state 079619.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D850194–0129. Secret; Niact Immediate; Exdis. Drafted in the White House; cleared by Adelman, Nozenzo, McFarlane, Gordon, and in S/S–O and S/S; approved by Adelman.
  2. The full text of National Security Decision Directive 165, “Instructions for First Round of US/Soviet Negotiations in Geneva,” March 8, is in National Security Council, National Security Council Institutional Files, Box SR 088, NSDD 16.
  3. Scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. IV, Soviet Union, January 1983–March 1985, Document 148.