264. Editorial Note

On May 24, 1972, White House Chief of Staff Haldeman recorded in his diary that President Nixon had called him in before the first head-to-head meeting and told him that he and Assistant to the President Henry Kissinger were pleased because they thought that they had gotten SALT “pretty well wrapped up” the previous evening. The President was worried, however, that they “were going to have a hell of a problem with the conservatives at home.” Haldeman noted that Nixon was “pushing hard for the Joint Chiefs, Defense people and other military to work on selling the hawks.” (The Haldeman Diaries: Multimedia Edition) During the May 24 Washington Special Actions Group meeting, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Haig announced that he had asked the Verification Panel Working Group to meet at 11:30 that morning to start preparing a detailed rationale for SALT in light of the reaction of the Senate hawks to recent briefings. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Thomas Moorer said, “Without exception, the hawks feel we will have a problem with the public accepting the SALT agreements. And the net result of this will be a decrease in support for the DOD budget.” Deputy Secretary of Defense Kenneth Rush said that most of the hawks in the Senate were very disturbed at the idea of freezing the ICBMs at a ratio of one to one and a half. He suggested that they stress that the United States had asked for the offensive agreement in order “to stop the Soviet momentum” and point out that “we are going ahead with Hard-Site Defense, ULMS and Trident.” Moorer agreed, pointing out that “we would be in this position even if there were no SALT” because “our ICBM curve is straight while the Soviet ICBM curve rises sharply.” He added that “the public doesn’t know the nuances of SALT. The only thing it knows is that 1,500 is one and a half times 1,000.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–116, WSAG Minutes, Originals)