234. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1
We are now close to final agreement on almost all the major SALT issues. Some issues may be kept open for ostensible resolution in Moscow, but as discussed with Brezhnev, they will be settled in the confidential channel before hand, so that the final outcome will be arranged by the time you arrive in Moscow. The basic agreements are along the lines explored with Dobrynin and are essentially the proposals made by Brezhnev to you.
Brezhnev indicated strongly that he desired these agreements to be signed during your stay in the USSR, and we are planning on a signing ceremony on Friday, May 26 in the Kremlin.
This paper includes highlights of the agreements, background on the negotiations and unresolved issues which will be cleared up this week.
I. The Current Agreements
We will conclude an ABM treaty and an Interim Agreement on Limiting Offensive Weapons. The following are the highlights:[Page 886]
A. The ABM Treaty
- —Limits each side to one ABM site for defense of Moscow and Washington and one site for each side for the defense of an ICBM field.
- —There will be a total of 200 ABM interceptors, 100 at each site.
- —Radars will be limited to Modern ABM Radar Complexes (called MARCs) six for each side within a circle of 150 km radius around the national capitals; (MARCs are a circle of 3 km diameter, in which radars can be deployed; in practice they can accommodate about one large radar or a few smaller ones).
- —For the ICBM defense fields there will be a total of twenty radars permitted; two of them will be the size of our two large radars deployed at Grand Forks; the other eighteen radars will be much smaller.
- —The Soviet ICBM protection site will be East of the Urals. (The Soviets are balking at specifying this location, but Brezhnev told me they would inform us of where it would be.) It is important that their site not be in the populated area of European Russia. Our comparable site will be at Grand Forks.
- —Other non-ABM radars that may be built in the future will be restricted, so as not to create a clandestine ABM potential but the precise limits are still under discussion.
- —The treaty will be of unlimited duration with withdrawal rights if supreme interests are jeopardized, and on six months notice.
B. The Interim Offensive Agreement
- —Limits ICBMs to those under construction or deployed at the time of signing the treaty or July 1. This will mean 1618 ICBMs for the USSR and 1054 for us. The USSR will field 313 large SS–9s, but they will be prohibited from converting other ICBM silos to accommodate the large SS–9 types. Other silos can be modified but not to a significant degree. Modernization is permitted.
- —Submarine launched ballistic missiles will be limited along the lines of Brezhnev’s proposal to me. For the Soviets there will be a ceiling of 950 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) on “modern submarines.” This means about 62 submarines. We will be limited to our current 41 submarines.2
- —The further construction of submarines on the Soviet side, however, will be compensated in part by their dismantling of older land-based ICBMs; in this way they reach their ceiling of 950 but their level of ICBMs goes down.
- —The Soviets will justify the unequal levels by counting 9 British and French submarines along with our 41, and reserving the right to increase their own level if this total is exceeded on the NATO side.
- —We cannot acknowledge in any agreement that the British and French boats are relevant to SALT; nor can we accept the Soviet contention that the SLBM matter is only temporarily resolved because of our forward bases.3
- —The Interim Agreement will run for five years (compared to the original Soviet proposal of 18 months), and both sides are committed to replacing it with a permanent and more comprehensive agreement.
- —Both sides will abide by the obligations of the agreement once it is signed, though formally the implementation will await ratification of the ABM treaty.
II. Pre-Summit Background
We arrived at the present agreement in two stages: in the May 20 agreement,4 which broke the deadlock over a separate ABM treaty versus an offense-defense package, and the most recent private discussions which resolved the ABM level and achieved the inclusion of submarine limitations.
A. The May 20 Understanding
By late 1970 the negotiations were grinding to a halt over two issues: (1) the Soviets wanted a separate agreement on ABMs only, which would mean leaving aside their most dangerous and dynamic programs; (2) if offensive weapons were to be included, however, the Soviets insisted on a strict definition of “strategic” that would include all our aircraft based abroad and on carriers.
In these circumstances, if we were to resume progress, there had to be some compromise. The explorations with Dobrynin and your exchanges with Brezhnev gradually developed a new basis for discussions. On May 20 you announced the breakthrough that we would concentrate on an ABM agreement, but also, in parallel, negotiate for limitations on certain offensive weapons. This permitted the USSR to back away from its separate ABM proposals and drop the inclusion of forward based systems since the offensive agreements would be limited and temporary.[Page 888]
B. The New Impasse May 1971–April 1972
The May 20 Agreement did not resolve the details of either the level of ABM or the scope of offensive controls. During the private discussions, however, the Soviets were put on notice that we would not be restricted to one ABM site in Washington. This would mean tearing down our site under construction in Grand Forks, while the Soviets merely kept their existing site in Moscow. In the confidential channel the likelihood that our proposals would include both ICBM limits and limits on submarine launched missiles had been signaled. The Soviets emphasized a freeze on ICBMs rather than limits on both ICBMs and submarines.
The negotiations began to deadlock. The Soviets insisted that if we protected our ICBM fields, then they should have an equal right to do so. Indeed, they went on to make a principle out of the question of strict equality (meaning identical ABM systems). Since we had no site for our national capital, working out pure symmetry became a tedious exercise. In any case, we ultimately came to the position that either side could choose between having 2 ICBM protection sites, or 1 ICBM site plus defense of the national capital (NCA). The Soviets countered with several proposals, all of which gave them an advantage. They claimed that since we could protect more ICBMs in one single field (about 150) than they could (their ICBM fields are smaller), they needed 2 or 3 ABM sites for ICBM defense, while we retained only one. Their reasoning that the number of ICBMs protected was the criterion was, of course, specious. The number of ABM interceptors and radars determine the capacity of the defense, not the area of protection.
The second impasse was over whether to include a limit on submarine launched ballistic missiles. At first, the Soviets claimed that this was outside the May 20 understanding, but they backed away from a confrontation on this. They argued instead that SLBMs required compensation because we could base them in forward areas and they could not. They also pointed out that we were initiating a new program of ULMs, while proposing to freeze the Soviet program.
To accommodate their concerns about freezing the number of submarines, we shifted to a limit on the number of missiles tubes, so that they could scrap older submarines and replace them with newer ones.5
With the summit in mind, and your trip to Peking approaching, Dobrynin began to explore in January two approaches: either the issue of SLBMs be set aside and resolved after the initial agreements, or that the limit be placed on the total number of missiles for submarines, with [Page 889]freedom to dismantle older land-based ICBMs and replace them with submarine launched missiles. (This was originally an American idea introduced in our early proposal in 1970, but not pursued in the context of a limited agreement.)6
As you instructed, it was emphasized to Dobrynin that our proposals were not subject to modification, and that our ABM position would ultimately depend on the resolution of the SLBM question. When negotiations resumed in March of this year, we tied the resolution of the ABM and SLBM issues together.
Dobrynin was told that we could introduce some flexibility in our ABM position if it appeared that the USSR could agree to the inclusion of SLBMs. Contrary to the general skepticism in Washington whether this linkage would work, Brezhnev in his letter in late March7 indicated that they would study our SLBM position. In the formal negotiations, however, they continued to balk.
On the ABM impasse, it was clear that we either had to concede more Soviet sites for ICBM protection or reconsider deploying our own defense of Washington. On a purely personal basis, Gerard Smith discussed the latter with his counterpart, and there was an indication of a willingness to move in this direction, but without commitment on the SLBM package. The Soviets obviously hoped to achieve the compromise on ABMs without making a concession on SLBMs.
C. The Brezhnev Proposal
The Soviets had indicated through the confidential channel that they were anxious to sign a SALT agreement in Moscow during your visit. Thus, in my meetings with Brezhnev,8 he made two new proposals that reflected discussions with Dobrynin and moved close to our basic positions.
- —First he proposed that we each have two ABM sites; one for defense of the national capital, and the other for ICBM defense; Brezhnev emphasized he had retreated from the proposition that they had to defend an equal number of ICBMs and needed more ABM sites than we did.
- —Second, they proposed a numerical ceiling on SLBMs at our present level for the US, and 950 SLBMs on “modern submarines” for the USSR. This would involve continuing construction of Soviet submarines up to about 62 for the USSR. He justified the differential by [Page 890]pointing out that the US, Britain and France combined would have a combined total of 50 submarines. He implied the differential between our 50 and their 62 would be achieved by dismantling older land-based ICBMs.
As you instructed, Brezhnev was told that these proposals were generally constructive, but the ABM issue would be reviewed, and that we had problems with the differential in submarines. The concept of replacing old land-based with new submarine launched missiles was clarified, and it was left that our delegation would work out the numbers. On the introduction of the British and French that while they could make such a justification unilaterally, our position was that we had no right to tell our Allies what to do; we could negotiate the numbers but not accept the Soviets rationale. We left it that the figures were agreed.
These were the proposals discussed at the NSC meeting,9 and are the underlying positions that constitute the current agreements.
III. Unresolved Issues
A. Limits on Other Large Phased-Array Radars (OLPARs)
The US has consistently sought some controls over OLPARs since enough of these large radars scattered throughout the Soviet Union could be clandestine base for a territorial defense ABM system. The Soviets agreed to general but vague provisions which prohibit giving these radars ABM capabilities or testing them in an ABM mode.
The US further sought some control over future construction of these radars. The latest US proposal was that, except for verification or space tracking purposes, neither side could build an OLPAR larger than our Safeguard missile site radar (MSR).
- —This is a highly technical problem. The measurement criteria used is the product of the area of the radar’s antenna (i.e., the aperture) and the radar’s power. The power-aperture of our MSR is just less than 3 million (3 × 106) watt-meters squared.
- —The two exceptions—verification or space tracking—are because radars are needed in small numbers for such purposes and because radars for these purposes are the easiest to distinguish from ABM radars.
The Soviets apparently accepted this proposal on April 22.10 There was an ambiguity in their language, but there were indications that this would not be a problem.[Page 891]
About a week later, the Soviets discovered that there was a “small problem” of defining power-aperture levels. The Soviets claimed that they thought the MSR had a power-aperture of 50 million (5 × 107) watt-meters squared, or about 15–20 times larger than it is. In fact, at least two Soviets had been told the MSR’s correct size in January.
It is unclear whether the Soviets have changed their mind on accepting our proposal, or whether they had all the time intended to look conciliatory initially and then to claim a significant misunderstanding over levels.
We cannot accept the Soviet standard since it is so high as to be almost meaningless. Moreover, it implicitly accepts radars of a “smaller” size. If we are unable to achieve an acceptable compromise, we may drop the disputed provision on definitions and rely on the more general exclusion of large radars except for agreed purposes.
B. Location of the ICBM Defense Area
There is some dispute, however, over where the Soviets can deploy their ICBM defense area. (The US site will obviously be at Grand Forks, where construction is already well along.)
The Soviets have ICBM fields scattered throughout much of their country. We have strongly insisted the ICBM defense area be somewhat east of the Urals, since this is a relatively unpopulated area, thereby reducing concern over the system providing extensive population defense. This is an altogether reasonable request since all six of the Soviet SS–9 fields are east of the Urals.
The Soviets have balked at specifying now where their ICBM defense would be. We will withhold final agreement on radars until we are certain of the Soviet location.
C. SLBM Limitation
The remaining issues with the language of the SLBM provisions are:
- Whether each additional SLBM which is constructed must replace on a one-for-one basis old ICBM or SLBMs. Our current position at Helsinki requires this; it keeps the aggregate total of missile launchers constant. The Brezhnev proposal was vague. Now the Soviets more or less agree, but are fuzzing the question of their starting base, i.e., how many “modern” SLBMs they have at this point. They are saying 48 (which we think means their current 37 plus 9) to compensate for Britain and France.
- How the British and French boats will be handled. The Brezhnev proposal specifically referred to the Allies as one reason for the Soviets getting a numerical edge. Further, the Soviets claimed the right to build one more submarine (beyond 62) for each additional one the Allies built.
We resist any reference to our NATO Allies in the Interim Agreement. The Allies would be upset if they were unknowingly made a part of the bilateral agreement.
D. Including Mobile ICBMs
We seek to include all ICBM launchers in the interim freeze, including mobile ICBMs. Since neither side has deployed mobile systems, this would effectively ban their deployment. In contrast, the Soviets argue that mobile ICBMs should be negotiated in the follow-on talks. This is important but not crucial in the short term.
If we are unable to include mobiles in the interim freeze (i.e., effectively ban them), we may:
- Agree that there is no decision one way or another on banning mobiles, but obtain a parallel understanding that the Soviets would not deploy mobiles for a few years.
- Allow replacement of old ICBMs by mobile ICBMs. This would allow deployment, but halt an increase in the overall number of Soviet ICBMs.
- A unilateral statement by the US that we would expect both sides to consult on the number of mobiles, etc., before either side started deployments.
E. Definition of “Light” versus “Heavy” ICBMs
While the Soviets have agreed not to convert “light” ICBMs to “heavy” ICBMs, they have balked at agreeing to a definition of the dividing line between the two. We proposed that the line be: no larger than the Soviet SS–11, or no larger than 70 cubic meters.
—The SS–11 is about 67 cubic meters and the SS–9 is about 220 m3. Some definition is likely in the next few days.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 487, President’s Trip Files, For the President’s Personal Briefcase, May 1972, Part 1. Secret; Exclusively Eyes Only. No drafting information appears on the paper. A notation on the paper indicates the President saw it. According to a May 16 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, this was part of the second briefing book for the summit sent to the President. (Ibid., RG 59, S/P Files: Lot 77 D 112, Box 335, Lord Chronology, May, 1972) The other part of the second briefing book, “Nuclear Non-Aggression Treaty,” is ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 487, President’s Trip Files, For the President’s Personal Briefcase, May 1972, Part 1.↩
- The President wrote a question mark in the margin next to this sentence.↩
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- On May 20, 1971, the President announced that the United States and Soviet Union had agreed to negotiate an agreement for the limitation of ABM systems and also an agreement limiting certain strategic offensive weapons For text of the announcement, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1971, p. 648.↩
- The President highlighted this paragraph.↩
- See Document 39. Kissinger describes his January 21 meeting with Dobrynin in White House Years, pp. 1126–1127.↩
- See Document 72.↩
- See Documents 139 and 160. Kissinger discusses the SALT proposals put forth by Brezhnev during his trip to Moscow in White House Years, pp. 1148–1150.↩
- For a record of the May 8 NSC meeting, see Document 204. For Kissinger’s recollection of the meeting, see White House Years, pp. 1184–1185.↩
- See Document 139.↩
- See Document 159. In his memoirs, Kissinger described Brezhnev “in an expansive mood,” asking to see him alone and suddenly introducing the idea of an “understanding” not to use nuclear weapons against each other, calling this a step of “immense significance” and a “peaceful bomb.” Kissinger commented that it would most certainly have been the latter, producing explosions in the NATO alliance, in China, and throughout the world, since it would have seemed either a US-Soviet condominium or an American abdication. He wrote that he “politely” turned the idea aside. In June 1973 the two sides agreed on what Kissinger called “a bland set of principles that had been systematically stripped of all implications harmful to our interests.” (White House Years, p. 1152)↩
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