Statement by Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Robert C. McFarlane on Arms Control Talks With the Soviet Union

August 1, 1984

The United States has made clear to the Soviet Government in a series of high-level messages that it accepts the Soviet Union's June 29 proposal and is prepared for serious talks in Vienna on outer space, including antisatellite weapons. We have expressed our view that the problem of weapons in space cannot be considered in isolation from the overall strategic relationship, but that we have no preconditions for the Vienna agenda.

Despite this clearly stated, positive stand on our part, the Soviet Union has alleged that the United States has rejected the Soviet proposal. The latest Moscow press briefing repeated these charges, despite the clear statement of the United States position in a series of high-level messages conveyed to the Soviet Government in diplomatic channels.

In our communications with the Soviets, we have stated our view that their proposal for a conference on the militarization of outer space is an excellent idea and that we are prepared to have a U.S. delegation in Vienna on September 18 to engage in such negotiations.

We recently presented a proposal for a possible joint Soviet-American announcement on the content and objective of the Vienna talks. This proposal states explicitly that the aim of the talks should be to work out and conclude agreements concerning the militarization of outer space, including antisatellite systems and other aspects of this issue.

In response to the Soviet proposal of a mutual moratorium on antisatellite tests from the outset of the talks, the United States expressed a readiness to have our negotiators consider what mutual restraints would be appropriate during the course of negotiations. The latest Soviet statements have converted this proposal into a precondition, a transformation which suggests a disingenuous Soviet approach. We continue to believe that possible mutual restraints are an appropriate subject for the negotiations; the joint statement, however, should not prejudge the outcome of these negotiations.

The Soviet Union has repeatedly misrepresented the U.S. position regarding the opening of arms control talks between our two countries in Vienna. From this latest Soviet statement, it appears that the Soviets were not serious about their proposal. We regret this. As noted above, we have consistently accepted their proposal to meet in Vienna. We prefer that this matter be dealt with in diplomatic channels.