157. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Soviet reaction to U.S. deployment of Nike-X, Postures A or B
A U.S. ABM program to reduce fatalities in a nuclear exchange to the range of 5–15 million would force the Soviet Union to respond to re-establish the credibility of its assured destruction capability—both to themselves and to the world. They regard this capability as the bedrock of their security, now secrecy has been virtually lost.
They would seek the cheapest way to accomplish this objective, given the severe resource allocation conflicts they now confront—and will continue foreseeably to confront.
The precise mix they would choose I cannot confidently predict; but it might well include ICBM’s with very large warheads.

Among the ways they might envisage to achieve this objective will be negotiations to stabilize the nuclear arms race with the United States; although that route will confront at least three severe problems:

  • —inspection and sea-based ICBM’s;
  • —warheads as opposed to launching vehicles, as the unit of measure in an agreement;
  • —the parity question: can they accept a freeze which appears to lock them into permanent nuclear inferiority?

They will carefully weigh the advantages and costs of an agreement against the advantages and costs of the next cheapest way to re-establish an adequate assured destruction capability.

I recommend that we war-game and staff out the problem stated in para. 4, as a matter of urgency.
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 70 A 4662, 471.94 ABM (Nov & Dec) 1966. Top Secret. “Mr. Vance has seen” is stamped on the memorandum. Regarding the context of this memorandum, see footnote 1, Document 155.