247. Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Head of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks Delegation in Helsinki (Smith)1

WH 21372. We have just received strong démarche through the President’s special channel with Moscow alleging that U.S. delegation is moving too slowly on number of residual issues. The President is most anxious to expedite your talks in every reasonable way, with the view toward having a final agreement not later than Wednesday, May 24th. The Soviets have assured the President that they are providing similar instructions to their delegation. The President hopes that within existing guidance, you will be able to move promptly to resolve remaining obstacles.

For your information, the Soviets listed such remaining items as their base figure of 48 submarines, the issue of mobile ICBM’s, definition of heavy missiles and the geographic location of ABM defense of ICBM field. We cannot, of course, yield on the latter item.

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Just received your 408.2

You should make continued effort to determine meaning of 48 number.3 Free ride for Soviets on H’s would indeed be problem.

Re Titan conversion, this can be handled as you suggest.

Re precision for “light” and “heavy”, I would appreciate your urgent recommendation. For example, could we say that neither side should replace current light missiles with new ones significantly larger than largest light missile that either side currently has. We could reach side understanding that significant means 10 percent larger.4

I would appreciate your urgent response to this message. Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1972, SALT. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. In backchannel message 408 to Kissinger, May 19, Smith reported on the continuing Soviet refusal to precisely define “heavy” or “light” missiles. (Ibid.)
  3. In backchannel message WH 21375 to Smith, May 19, Kissinger stated that there should be absolutely no doubt in Soviet minds concerning the U.S. SLBM position, and noting that the number 48 certainly did not originate from anyone on the U.S. side. (Ibid.)
  4. In his memoirs Smith recalled that as the summit approached, the U.S. delegation continued to press for a definition of heavy missiles. The Soviets contended that this was unnecessary because the obligation not to convert land-based launchers for light ICBMs into launchers for heavy ICBMs taken together with the commitment not to increase substantially the external dimensions of ICBM silo launchers dealt with the whole problem. The U.S. delegation insisted that although the silo launcher provision was important, it was no substitute for a definition of a heavy missile, which was necessary not for current missiles but for future missiles. On May 20 the Soviets said they could not agree to a definition of heavy missiles as those having a volume greater than 70 cubic meters or larger than the SS–11, the largest light missile either side deployed.