181. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

138194. Eyes only for the Ambassador. 1. Of prime importance among subjects you will take up with Kosygin is, of course, proposal for talks on strategic arms control. Kosygin will presumably be familiar with the President’s letter2 and your oral remarks to Gromyko (State 123253),3 and we hope will be prepared respond. You should stress strong highest level US interest in subject; and desire to proceed with talks.

2. You may wish to repeat salient points your earlier statement. In particular, at your discretion, we suggest stressing; (1) fact that US prepared consider strategic offensive missile systems as well as defensive anti-missile systems, (2) need as urgent first step to seek agreement to head off escalation of arms race in such strategic-missile and anti-missile systems, and (3) US readiness rely to fullest extent on unilateral verification and belief that major step in freezing strategic systems possible on that basis without on-site inspection.

3. As you will have noted in London’s 6503 to Department,4 repeated info to Moscow, Kosygin seems to rest on simple proposition defensive strategic systems morally superior to offensive ones. If he makes this point to you, you may wish note interaction and interrelation two sides of same coin of strategic relation of forces, and that as indicated US prepared discuss and reach agreement with respect to curbing both.

4. Kosygin may raise question of reductions in strategic forces. You should say that possibility agreement on reductions would certainly be enhanced by prior agreement not to make additional deployments, but we believe necessary first learn to walk before we can run. Also note that unilateral verification probably more difficult for reductions, though without implying that any and all reductions would necessarily require inspection. (You may also wish note one important difference from 1964 strategic nuclear delivery freeze proposal5 is focus on launchers, rather than on production of missiles, which latter would require on-site inspection for verification.) FYI: Current consideration US position [Page 441] focuses on launcher freeze, and not on reductions, which we wish defer. Special NIE6 has just been prepared which confirms very substantial, though of course not unlimited, capabilities for unilateral verification of measures along lines now being considered for strategic launcher freeze. End FYI.

5. If Kosygin displays concern over stated need to discuss “respective strategic systems of both sides” you should stress that our only objective is have clear mutual understanding, not probe into Soviet military secrets. We will be prepared to limit focus our attention to matters directly relevant and necessary to reach agreement. At same time, Kosygin might bear in mind that to extent important uncertainties exist with respect nature and capabilities given system, elementary prudence will require defining categories of weapons systems or resolving doubts in favor of more formidable alternatives. May, therefore, be mutual advantages in clarifying certain ambiguities. This of course question requiring expert discussion.

6. If Kosygin asks what US regards as “offensive strategic nuclear missile delivery systems,” you may note that we would expect discuss with Soviet representation but assume our general approach would be missile systems of medium and intercontinental ranges, land and sea based. With respect defensive anti-missile systems, would have to include systems capable of countering strategic missiles, including defensive systems having dual anti-aircraft and anti-missile capability. Again, we assume this type of question would be discussed more concretely in further discussions. FYI: Disarmament Principals have not yet met in proposed talks. Deputies reached consensus on including above indicated offensive and defensive systems: MRBMs and IRBMs, ICBMs, SLBMs and SLCMs, and ABMs and “SAMs which may have significant anti-missile capability.” (We recognize difficulty in defining last named category.) However, final decision on categories US would propose or be prepared to include, on such questions as mobile land-based strategic missiles, not yet taken. Current consensus not to bring in bombers. You should not, therefore, go beyond general remarks this paragraph, and use them only if Kosygin raises question and if in your judgment such comments will be helpful in eliciting positive Soviet reaction. End FYI.

7. No decision yet taken on question what to do about deployments underway at present time or at time of possible agreement. We therefore wish avoid this question at this time. If Kosygin raises issue, you may note that we recognize question of facilities already under construction as problem which would need be addressed in the [future?]7

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 383, Central Policy File: FRC 86 A 5, Folder 3539. Top Secret; Nodis; Priority. Drafted by Raymond L. Garthoff (G/PM) on February 15; cleared by Walsh, Kohler, Fisher, and Malcolm Toon (EUR/SOV); and approved by Katzenbach.
  2. See Document 178.
  3. See Document 179.
  4. Telegram 6503, February 15, describes talks held in London between Wilson and Kosygin on arms control and security problems. Not printed. (Department of State, S/S-I Files, Exdis/Limdis Telegrams/Airgrams, Reel 147, February 11-28, 1967)
  5. See Document 21.
  6. Presumably a reference to SNIE 11-10-67, “U.S. Capabilities To Monitor Certain Limitations on Strategic Weapons Program,” February 14, 1967. (Johnson Library, National Security File, National Intelligence Estimates, Box 4)
  7. The telegram is unsigned.