209. Memorandum From Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Specific Strategic Freeze Proposal

In his Nodis cable, dated September 2,2 on strategic arms control talks, Ambassador Thompson recommended that we put forward a specific strategic freeze proposal prior to the announcement of the ABM decision. Although I recognize that on the present schedule there is probably not enough time to work out any proposal within the US Government, I have nevertheless given some thought to what form such a proposal might take. In order to be useful in the present circumstances and time scale, the proposal would have to have the following characteristics:

  • —simple in concept so that it can be easily understood without complex explanations;
  • —acceptable to all the interested elements within the US Government (DOD, JCS, and State). This means that from the US point of view it must clearly be to our over-all military advantage and consistent with the ABM deployment decision;
  • —interesting to the Soviets and difficult politically for them to ignore. To this end, it should be forthcoming in accepting some Soviet position and/or containing some new element in their interest.

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I believe the proposal outlined below would be consistent with the above criteria and would provide a reasonable basis on which to start discussions. Although it lacks some of the elements that have been considered in the past, such as an ABM freeze, it would certainly be better than nothing.

My proposal would consist of the following specific elements:

Freeze on any new starts on fixed land-based strategic missile launchers (ICBMs, IRBMs, MRBMs). This provides a substantial basis of interest for the Soviet Union since they would be allowed to complete the large number of ICBM sites now under way. Although it has been generally recognized inside the US Government that we would have to make this concession in any negotiable proposal, we have never to my knowledge specifically made the offer to the Soviets. If we make it clear that we are not trying to undercut the current Soviet building program, the Soviets would have a real incentive to agree before we start an expansion of our force.
Freeze on new construction of ballistic or cruise missile submarines. We have hedged on this proposal in the past apparently on the grounds that unilateral intelligence is inadequate. Actually, our intelligence on launched subs is extremely good. Any subs that have not already been launched would have to be declared to be permitted. This proposal would appear very forthcoming on our part and would be greatly to our military advantage. Even the Navy should be able to recognize that it could be to our advantage to stop or drastically limit the construction by the Soviets of the new class of Polaris-type (16 or more missiles) submarine which recent intelligence has identified.
Choice of either (a) no restriction on ABM deployment, or (b) limitations on ABM deployments for population defense to the same negotiated number of launchers (or missiles) in the US and Soviet Union. While expressing a preference for the latter approach, we would leave the choice to the Soviets since they have questioned the desirability of placing any limitations on defense. The approach of limiting launchers (or missiles) to the same number would leave open the question of the function of the Tallinn system for the time being. In the unlikely event it indeed has a significant ABM capability, we would have the option of a rather substantial ABM deployment. If the Soviet deployment is limited to the Moscow system, we would have placed a reasonably tight ceiling on ABM deployments while retaining the flexibility to undertake part or all of the proposed 1-67 Nike-X deployment.3 Time and negotiations would clarify this situation. Even though it complicates the verification job, we probably should use missiles rather than launchers as the unit of measure [Page 511] since we know that both the Tallinn and Moscow systems have more than one missile per launcher while the proposed US system would have a separate launcher for each missile. As a starter, this formulation would exclude deployments intended exclusively for the hardpoint defense of strategic missiles since these might be particularly difficult to sort out from air defense and would in any event only contribute to a secure deterrent posture.
Verification of the agreement would be based solely on unilateral capabilities. This would accept the Soviet position on verification. Although our own thinking has also been based on this premise, our previous proposal to the Soviets was ambiguous on this point and could have been interpreted as meaning that we wanted to include provisions in the agreement that would require formal verification or inspection.4

Since that which is not prohibited would be permitted, we and the Soviets would both be able to pursue qualitative improvements in our existing missile systems to whatever extent we desired. We, for example, would presumably continue the Poseidon, MIRVs, and Pen Aids; and the Soviets would presumably continue FOBS (fractional orbiting bombardment system) and whatever other qualitative improvements they have in mind.

I am not very hopeful of getting the Government to focus on this issue at this time. I do believe, however, a proposal along the above lines would be mutually advantageous to the Soviets and ourselves and would give the Soviets a concrete proposal to consider if that is what they need to force a decision to initiate the proposed strategic discussions.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, USSR,ABM Negotiations, 1/67-9/68, Box 231. Secret; Nodis.
  2. See Document 207.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 207.
  4. Not further identified.