Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs Release of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1977-1980, Volume XXVI, Arms Control and Nonproliferation

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 19, 2015

This volume documents the Carter administration’s multilateral, non-strategic arms control policy from 1977 until 1980. Topics include anti-satellite (ASAT) talks; chemical and biological warfare negotiations; conventional arms talks (CAT); nuclear non-proliferation, safeguards, and the International Fuel Cycle Evaluation program; comprehensive nuclear test-ban proposals and peaceful nuclear explosions; the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament; and nuclear non-proliferation in Latin America.

The Carter administration’s priorities in arms control contrasted sharply with those of the Nixon and Ford administrations. Where his predecessors had concentrated on bilateral arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union, Carter aggressively pursued a range of multilateral agreements, with a strong emphasis on nonproliferation in nuclear and conventional arms. While Moscow remained the administration’s primary interlocutor, Carter worked closely with the United Kingdom to try to achieve a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. He also worked with Mexico to convince other Latin American nations to sign and/or ratify the Treaty of Tlatelolco—which had established Latin America as a nuclear-free zone in 1968. In conjunction with France, Japan, and other allies, Carter proposed the establishment of an International Fuel Cycle Evaluation program that would explore alternative nuclear fuel cycles containing materials not useable in nuclear weapons. The Carter administration also participated in multilateral arms control initiatives such as the 1978 UN Special Session on Disarmament. Meanwhile, Carter tried to reduce the sale of conventional arms to allies with questionable human rights records.

By the winter of 1979–80, however, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and other Soviet activities jeopardized Carter’s arms control initiatives. Reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Soviets in Afghanistan and Vietnam in Cambodia and Laos, the discovery of a 1979 outbreak of anthrax in a biological weapons factory in Sverdlovsk in the Soviet Union, and renewed Soviet nuclear tests led to administration protests that the Soviets had violated the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and 1976 Threshold Test Ban Treaties respectively. The ASAT and CAT negotiations principally ended in early 1980, and the volume of U.S. conventional arms sales remained essentially unchanged during the administration.

This volume was compiled and edited by Chris Tudda. The volume and this press release are available on the Office of the Historian website at: Copies of the volume will be available for purchase from the U.S. Government Printing Office online at (GPO S/N 044-000-02673-2; ISBN 978-0-16-093099-7), or by calling toll-free 1–866–512–1800 (D.C. area 202–512–1800). For further information, contact