280. Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

Hakto 36 1. SLBM compromise now on table here after hours of talk. Best we can possibly obtain is base number of 740 nuclear-submarine launched ballistic missile launchers, including launcher on H class boats. In addition, we have proposed to add clause that deployment of modern SLBMs on any submarine, regardless of type will be counted against total of SLBMs permitted US and USSR. Soviets will take this to Brezhnev and presumably Politburo tomorrow.

[Page 1115]

2. Effect of forgoing is to force Soviets to begin retiring either H class boats or SS–7s and 8s for next boat under construction and to oblige them to count missile modernization on G class boats against 950 total.

3. President is unwilling to see some 60 300-mile SLBMs stand in the way of an agreement that will clearly impose ceilings on Soviets in regard to ICBMs and SLBMs which they could readily exceed in five-year period without freeze not to mention the retirement of 240 launchers this agreement would bring about.

4. It should also be understood that base figure now formulated gets Soviets down to 710 on Y class boats. Thus the Soviets will have to retire some 240 launchers including all of H class subs to reach permitted total.

5. President wishes all senior officials to be fully aware of these considerations and expects all of them to give full support to compromise if Soviets accept. Please get Chiefs aboard immediately.

6. This information must of course be extremely closely held until we receive reply from Soviets.2

  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, HAKTO File. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Flash.
  2. In telegram Tohak 170, at 0141Z (4:41 a.m. in Moscow) on May 26, Haig responded that “thanks to yeoman work by Admiral Moorer, the JCS ‘in accord’ with proposed SALT package with provision that U.S. strategic programs be accelerated.” Haig added that the crucial factor with the JCS had been the modernization proviso which had “never been surfaced here until your telephone call to me.” (Ibid.) In follow-up telegram Tohak 183, May 26, Haig transmitted the formal, detailed JCS position on the SALT package, stating that if this was the best agreement the President could reach, rather than scuttling the treaty, the JCS were in accord—provided that the administration took the “action necessary to ensure the acceleration of our ongoing offensive programs as well as improvements to existing systems.” (Ibid.) Calling this reply “a classic of Pentagon politics,” Kissinger said that they were determined to do this anyhow. He noted, however, that the JCS argument was not without logical flaws. “Their insistence on an acceleration of our strategic programs was grounded not on a Soviet buildup extending over a decade, but on sixty antiquated Soviet missiles of minimal range on diesel submarines.” (White House Years, p. 1240)