289. 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 44. Ref: Tohak 188.2 The following are points that should be elaborated for use in response to Jackson statements.

It is absurd to say that agreement freezes us at 4 to 1 disadvantage in payload when no-agreement situation would have permitted dynamic race in which Soviet payload advantage would increase further. We have now stopped SS–9 deployment which could have run free indefinitely. While Soviets can improve on SS–11 with new missile, they are constrained by silo size limitation (a point not yet public but of course part of the agreement) and they are on notice by our unilateral statement that significant increase in volume of follow on to SS–11 missile could jeopardize continuance of agreement. Moreover we had no program that would have done a thing to improve our payloads in next five years. Hence agreement stops nothing on our side that we had planned. Not aware of any program that Jackson had and that had any prospect of Congressional approval that would have changed payload situation.
On numbers of missiles the point is that no agreement situation would have guaranteed massive widening of Soviet advantage. This agreement puts lid on this trend for precisely the period at the end of which, barring a follow-on agreement, we can begin adding to our numbers by Trident. Had Jackson supported accelerated submarine program? Had he worked on JCS to support it? Did he have any program with chance of adoption that would have affected arithmetic in next five years?
On payload of particular Soviet missiles nothing in this agreement authorizes Soviets to do a thing that they could not have done even more dynamically without it. And nothing prevents US from improving payloads if had a program to do so. Trident is fully protected. What possible leverage did we have to negotiate a freeze on or diminution of Soviet payloads?
On warhead numbers, we again should compare agreement with no-agreement. Under no-agreement SS–9 would have been unconstrained and hence so would warhead multiplication. Now at least SS–9 number is fixed. But we can proceed unconstrained with the only new offensive program 7 ULMS–we had. We do have a problem about Soviet potential for increasing warheads. But there was never a chance to solve this in SALT I without MIRV ban, which was unobtainable. What we have done is to make this problem less severe than it would otherwise have been.
On submarines, we have limited Soviets to numbers some 25 below what they could have built without agreement and are forcing them to pay for any new submarines by reducing their numbers and payloads in land-based missiles plus in some 30 on H-class boats. Moreover, Y-class boats they can build in next 5 years are qualitatively inferior to our latest boats and, even more, to ULMs boats.

On ABMs, only way we could have gotten “effective ABM defense of missile sites” would have been to give Soviets the same, creating horrendous uncertainties re radar base for potential area defense. We have in fact gotten improved radar base for more effective defense at Grand Forks. Moreover, we already have major advantage in high acceleration interceptors and further development in this respect is in no way constrained.

As regards Moscow defense, Soviets can add 36 interceptors. This has no practical effect on our capacity to hold Moscow hostage, nor, indeed, on UK capacity to do likewise. To suggest Soviets can “expand” Moscow system in any meaningful way because of this agreement is absurd. With radar constraints, area limitation and interceptor ceiling, we are obviously better off than if Soviets had been free to do as they please.

We should have overall posture of welcoming full and exhaustive Congressional and indeed national debate. We have nothing to hide. The constant repetition that agreement “confers advantage” on Soviets is sheer demagoguery. It confers nothing that the Soviets could not have done. What it does do is to slow dramatically the process of acquiring advantage while enabling us to gear up for a major new program, provided, of course, people like Jackson devote their energy to supporting our defense programs rather than fighting an agreement that brakes the momentum of Soviet programs.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 480, President’s Trip Files, President’s Trip, USSR, Iran, Austria, Poland, May–Jun. 72, (HAKTO File). Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. Telegram Tohak 188 to Moscow, May 26, reported that the groups briefed on SALT were generally supportive, but that the real problem, as expected, lay with Senator Henry Jackson, whose statement was attached. Jackson stated that “far from curbing the arms race, the present agreements are likely to lead to an accelerated technological arms race with great uncertainties, profound instabilities and considerable costs.” He argued that the Moscow agreements froze the United States at a 4 to 1 overall missile payload disadvantage. The SALT agreement not only protected that Soviet advantage, but authorized them to increase it. The United States now had more warheads than the Soviets, but under this agreement the Soviets were free to multiply their warheads and authorized to expand greatly their overall missile capability. Jackson also complained that the agreement prohibited the United States from increasing its numbers of submarines, but authorized the Soviets to continue building them until they first equaled and then greatly surpassed us. (Ibid., Box 993, Haig Chronological File‐May 21–31, 1972 [1 of 2])