267. Telegram From the Delegation to the Nuclear and Space Talks in Geneva to the Department of State1

1189. Subject: START: Looking toward the Moscow meeting.

1. Secret—Entire text.

2. The major question on our minds here is how the Shultz-Shevardnadze meeting can move START forward. Things have been discouraging here so far this round. On major substantive questions, there has been no progress. We have had trouble even dropping the 1650 out of our position. Read essentially told the Soviets we could do so and that we “assume” that they would also drop their 1100 sublimit. Perhaps this was too subtle for them, but they have not provided an official response and so the 1650 remains.

3. On JDT language issues we have had no success resolving elementary issues, even in cases where a clear INF precedent exists. There have been a number of hints from the Soviet side that they are expecting major new instructions (perhaps including one or more protocols) which will presumably incorporate material from both the Washington [Page 1186] summit and the INF Treaty. I would not exclude the possibility that they may even table major changes in the Treaty itself. Thus, the dismal Soviet performance here so far should be turned around soon, and we could be faced with a deluge of new Soviet language. The situation is similar to that which existed last July before the Soviets tabled their draft treaty. Things looked bleak, and people were convinced the Soviets were not trying; and then on July 31 they tabled their new treaty which incorporated many of our ideas and things immediately picked up. I expect a similar situation here soon, but valuable time has gone by with little to show for it.

4. There follows some brief comments on major issues, roughly in the order in which they might usefully be dealt with in Moscow.


5. It is most unfortunate that, just as after Reykjavik, the sides have wasted considerable time because they left a summit meeting with different understandings of which sublimits were or were not still in play. This urgently needs to be straightened out. The 1650 should be considered gone, and this should be made clear in Moscow if we have not done so in Geneva beforehand. Although the Soviets have been touting the importance of their new 1100 sublimit, it was clearly a tactical maneuver and need not be taken seriously. However, it is probably intended as a counter, not only to the remaining sublimits, but also what the Soviets consider U.S. backtracking on the ALCM issue. Thus it may not be easy to get rid of it until both the sublimit and ALCM issues are fully resolved. A major decision which you may have already made is how hard to fight for the ICBM warhead sublimit. This issue is important but, unlike some other issues, it does not have ramifications (e.g. verification issues) throughout the treaty. I see no risk in failing to resolve this issue at this time although it would certainly be desirable to do so.

6. The 154/1540 sublimits have unexpectedly erupted into a major problem here, with the Soviets insisting that these limits apply only to Soviet systems. At first, the U.S. delegation was inclined to agree, but people here have now become spooked by looking at some of the SALT II ratification testimony which strongly criticized any asymmetry in heavy ICBM rights. This is purely a political issue, and should be easily resolved at the Shultz-Shevardnadze meeting. My only comment would be that our position for years has not given us equal rights to heavy ICBMs. The appearance of equal rights in Article III will not fool anyone if those rights are taken away in Article V. The straightforward solution would seem to be to recognize that the 154/1540 limits apply only to Soviet systems and that the U.S. does not need or seek heavy ICBMs or SLBMs. Since the Soviets have made such a big production [Page 1187] of this, we might even get something for it. They have also stressed heavily that they cannot accept the special production and testing restraints on heavies in Article V. I assume that we have some flexibility here and will implement it soon. A compromise could well adopt the principle that the Soviet can maintain their 154 heavies (i.e., carry on some minimal level of flight testing and perhaps production), but cannot develop new generations of heavies.


7. The new aspects of our ALCM position have run into strong opposition as expected. The only promising note has been General Lebedev’s informal suggestion that a compromise on ALCM range could be reached at 1000 km. I do not know whether or not this is enough to protect future U.S. programs. I do personally think that we would be better advised to fight hard for a generous ALCM range rather than attempting to distinguish between nuclear-armed and conventionally-armed ALCMs, which would be a verification nightmare. Although the Soviets agreed to the term “nuclear-armed” at the summit, the question is far from settled because they are saying here that all ALCMs over 600 km must be considered nuclear-armed. This, of course, parallels their performance on nuclear-armed SLCMs after Reykjavik. There may, however, be one way out of this dilemma. This would involve counting all ALCMs on heavy bombers over an agreed range limit as nuclear-armed, but allowing conventionally-armed ALCMs over the range limit to run free on non-heavy bombers, provided that they had appropriate FRODs and could not be confused with ALCMs on heavy bombers.

8. The heavy discounting represented by the six ALCM per heavy-bomber rule is a nonstarter and is threatening the heavy-bomber counting rule agreed to at Reykjavik. I understand that the JCS continues to believe that an “equipped for” counting rule for each type of heavy-bomber is perfectly reasonable, at least as far as externally carried ALCMs are concerned. I suppose that merely increasing the number six (e.g., to eight) has some appeal as a next step, but I do not think it will solve the problem. The problem basically is that for the numbers to approximate real U.S. ALCM loadings, they must overcount realistic Soviet ALCM loadings. Thus it is hard to see a single number which could work. The obvious answer is that the accountable number should bear some relation to the real number for each specific heavy-bomber type. This is what we told the Soviets here that the goal should be before the number six appeared.

Mobiles and SLCMs

9. The Soviets have proposed separate experts’ groups to deal with SLCM and mobile verification problems. While we have been cautious [Page 1188] in not rushing to charter open-ended and independent new groups, we have told the Soviets we are ready to meet with whomever they designate to discuss these issues. The ball is clearly in their court.

10. We have given the impression here that we will only “listen” in these discussions, which has caused some righteous indignation on their side. In fact, while we do not have proposals to make in these areas, we do have ideas and intelligent questions and are not trying to run away from solutions. The Secretary probably should make this clear to the Soviets. On SLCMs, my impression is that the Soviets are in some disarray because their exotic techniques involving gamma rays and neutrons do not have the capabilities they suggested. They may not in fact have any good ideas on SLCM verification and may be trying to entice us into helping them out of their box. On mobiles they have laid out a reasonable scheme which can serve as a solid starting point from which to deal with this issue. The major problem now is for us to decide what we think needs to be added to it. The recent Carlucci statements2 must have removed what few clothes the emperor was still wearing on this issue, and we need to resolve this issue, which has many ramifications throughout the Treaty.

Non-Deployed Missiles

11. My views on non-deployed missiles are well known. A new aspect of this problem which I think people should be considering is the problems now being encountered regarding non-deployed missiles in the INF Treaty. The charges of Soviet cheating and the public airing of conflicts between CIA and DIA estimates over the number of Soviet non-deployed SS–20s should vividly illustrate the political and technical problems which will be raised if we persist in seeking a numerical global limit on non-deployed ICBMs and SLBMs. These domestic problems are in addition to the negotiating difficulties which lie ahead as the Soviets wait to hit us with non-deployed ALCMs and SLCMs once this issue is really joined.

Soviet Agenda

12. On February 5,3 Obukhov told Ambassador Kampelman that he thought priority topics for the Shultz-Shevardnadze meeting should be sublimits, ALCM range, modernization constraints on heavy ICBMs, and mobiles. His list has quite a lot in common with what I have [Page 1189] outlined above. I believe he is also signaling that the Soviets will have some flexibility in these areas at the Moscow meeting.

13. P.S. The Soviets have just called for a joint plenary at 4:00 P.M. today (February 8), presumably to table the new guidance they have been waiting for. This may make some of the above obsolete, but we will send this cable anyway to assure its timely arrival. We may send a supplement if the Soviet presentation should warrant it.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D880108-0607. Secret; Priority; Stadis.
  2. During a February 1 appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Carlucci maintained that the MX nuclear missile should be pulled out of missile silos and instead deployed on railroad cars to protect it from a Soviet attack. (R. Jeffrey Smith, “Carlucci, in Shift, Favors Basing MX on Rail Cars, Washington Post, February 2, 1988, p. A4)
  3. See Document 266.