278. Backchannel Message From the Head of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks Delegation (Smith) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) in Moscow1

Tohak 162. Please deliver immediately.

Dear Henry:

Re your telecon2 tonight:

1.
I do not feel sufficiently clued in to Moscow exchanges to give categorical advice regarding your telephone inquiry.
2.
I do not understand reason for apparent switch from this morning’s reported position that Soviets would accept Article III with its “immediate replacement” formula.
3.
In these circumstances, I can only advise President to hold to present U.S. position tonight. I would add parenthetically that difference between U.S. and USSR positions appears to me to be 60 old launchers on 20 diesel boats (plus 2 additional G-class test beds with 10 modern launchers on them).
4.
If, subsequently, President finds it necessary to adjust U.S. position, he might consider following line. If:
(A)
Soviet position is that 60 old launchers on 20 diesel boats would make the difference between a major strategic arms limitation agreement or no agreement, and if our position therefore is that these diesel boats need not be included in the freeze;
(B)
The Soviets will agree to have not more than these 20 diesel SL subs (plus the 2 test beds) during the freeze and not to place modern SLBM launchers on them;
(C)
They agree that any modern replacements for these diesel boats must be counted under the 950–62 ceilings; the U.S. could agree.
5.
However, such adjustment should be based on the understanding that any additional modern SLBM submarine started after the date of the signature of the agreement will count as a replacement submarine, [Page 1111]and must be accompanied by dismantling of appropriate number of H-class subs and/or SS–7’s and SS–8’s.
6.
It is easier to state these conditions than to spell out a formulation for an agreement that could be explained logically, but in view of short time in which you wanted answer, this is best I can suggest.3

Warm regards.

Gerard Smith

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 480, President’s Trip Files, President’s Moscow, Iran, Poland, Austria Trip, May–Jun. 72, Tohak (File No. 2), The Situation Room [Part 2]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only; Flash.
  2. No record of this telephone conversation has been found.
  3. In telegram Hakto 37 to Smith, May 25, Kissinger replied that meetings in Moscow were occurring sporadically between the President’s meetings with Soviet leaders, and that Smith’s latest views had been very helpful in the late evening session. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, President’s Trip Files, Box 480, President’s Trip, USSR, Iran, Austria, Poland, May–Jun. 1972, Hakto File) In his memoirs Smith wrote that on rereading his message (Tohak 162), he began to have doubts and wired Kissinger again advocating a harder position, noting the “U.S. need for a rational explanation of an agreed replacement formula that would not be a clear admission of a free ride for the Soviets.” Smith recalled that his advice on the G-class launchers obviously angered the Moscow White House. (Doubletalk, p. 426) In Kissinger’s account of this incident, he wrote that “Smith, having first accepted my G-class formula, changed his mind and called it a ‘free ride’ for the Soviets to maintain these boats.” He said that he thought Smith would never have taken this position “but for the frustration of being so far from the conclusion of what he had every reason to consider his own negotiation.” Salving bruised feelings would have to wait, however, and Kissinger sent “a sharp reply.” (White House Years, p. 1240) In telegram Hakto 39, May 25, Kissinger responded to Smith that his previous cable had seemed much better, and asked: “1. Can you explain how 60 missiles of 300–700 mile range, barred from modernization, in diesel submarines that have to surface to fire, representing less than 3 per cent of the total Soviet force, could represent a free ride. What are we giving up that we were going to do? The Soviets in turn get a ceiling on their SLBM’s, a ban on modernization of the G-class, and lose 240 launchers. If the Soviets refuse to accept the compromise, I want someone to explain how our security is enhanced when we then confront the G’s, the H’s, 240 more launchers, and a larger number of SLBM’s.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 480, President’s Trip Files, President’s Trip, USSR, Iran, Austria, Poland, May–Jun. 1972, Hakto File)