48. Minutes of Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • Review of U.S.-Soviet Negotiations


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State:
    • Mr. John N. Irwin, II
    • Mr. Martin Hillenbrand
    • Mr. Joseph Neubert
  • DOD:
    • Mr. G. Warren Nutter
    • Mr. Lawrence Eagleburger
  • JCS:
    • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
    • Rear Adm. James H. Doyle
  • CIA:
    • Mr. David Blee
  • CIEP:
    • Mr. Deane Hinton
  • OST:
    • Dr. Edward David
  • NASA:
    • Dr. George Low
  • CEQ:
    • Mr. Russell E. Train
  • Commerce:
    • Mr. Harold Scott
  • Treasury:
    • Dr. Charles Walker
    • Mr. John McGinnis
  • NSC:
    • Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt
    • Mr. Richard Kennedy
    • Mr. William Hyland
    • Mr. Dennis Clift
    • Mr. Mark Wandler

It was agreed that:

  • —The three issues discussed at the meetings—a joint space docking mission; environmental cooperation; and a joint commission on scientific and technical cooperation—will be put to the President for decision.
  • —All agencies should submit to the IG/EUR a list of bilateral issues which might be brought to a point before May and a list of agreements which might be ready for the President to sign at the Moscow Summit.

Dr. Kissinger: I thought we should have a brief meeting to go over the response to NSSM 143: the Review of the U.S.-Soviet negotiations.2 As I see it, some of the more important bilateral issues are already the subject of separate White House instructions and guidance. U.S.-Soviet Trading Relationships, for example, are covered by NSSM 145.3 We have also provided guidance on U.S.USSR Cooperation in Health and Medical Affairs. Isn’t that agreement going to be announced today?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Yes. Secretary Richardson did it this morning.

Dr. Kissinger: Good. (to Mr. Hillenbrand) We will also send you some guidance shortly on the Maritime Talks. I want to concentrate here on three things: (1) the status of the proposed Joint Space Docking Mission; (2) bilateral Environmental Cooperation; and (3) the proposed U.S.-Soviet Commission on Scientific and Technical Cooperation. With regard to the whole menu of negotiations, we have two basic [Page 162] decisions to make. The first is which negotiations do we want to sign or conclude in Moscow, and the second is which negotiations do we want to give an impetus to in Moscow—so that there will be substantial post-Summit negotiating activity. Let’s have a brief word now about the docking mission.

Dr. Low: The working level negotiations have been going well so far. We agreed with the Soviets at a meeting in Moscow late last year that such a mission would be technically feasible. The mission, which would take place in 1975, would involve the rendezvous and docking of a leftover Apollo craft and a Salyut-type space station.

In our view, there is no reason why we can’t proceed with this mission. But it will be expensive. We estimate it will cost about $275 million over and above what we are planning to do.

Dr. Kissinger: Will the $275 million be the joint cost or just our cost?

Dr. Low: It will be our cost, and we are not sure we can get Congressional support for this expenditure. To sum up, then, the project is technically feasible, and there is support for it on both sides. There are, however, questions of cost and Congressional support, although I must add we have not yet tested the idea out in Congress.

Dr. Kissinger: Why is the cost so high? Since this is a joint project, I would think the cost should be lower.

Dr. Low: The cost is very high because this is a mission that would not be flown in the normal course of events. The Apollo program is ending, and there are no manned flights scheduled between the Sky-lab project of 1973 and the first Space Shuttle missions of 1978 or 1979. The proposed joint docking mission would use one of the leftover Apollo spacecraft, but we would still have to pay for the maintenance of the entire system. Despite the budgetary problem, I think it would be an advantage for us to fill the gap in scheduled manned flights.

Dr. Kissinger: Are you saying you need a Presidential decision to go ahead with the project?

Dr. Low: Yes. We also need a budgetary decision on the expenditure of these funds. Once that is done, we would have to test the idea out in Congress.

Dr. Kissinger: If the President is behind it, I don’t think you would have very much to worry about. Let’s not worry about what Congressional Committees may say. It will be difficult to argue against the abstract decision if this is a joint U.S.-Soviet project, with full Presidential commitment. Can you bring the whole thing to a head by summer?

Dr. Low: Yes, I think so.

[Page 163]

Dr. Kissinger: Okay. We will get a Presidential decision before we let MacGregor’s people out.

Dr. David: There is one time-critical factor in this situation: the President’s Research and Development message to the Congress in March. It would be useful to have a decision on the docking mission before the message is submitted to Congress.

Dr. Kissinger: Can we get a firm decision on the mission by the end of May?

Dr. Low: We have a technical agreement now. Both sides say it is technically feasible to go ahead with it.

Dr. Kissinger: There’s nothing else required of us, then, except a Presidential decision?

Dr. Low: That’s right. We have already ratified the technical agreement, but the Soviets have not done so yet.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Hillenbrand) Marty, doesn’t this fall into your area now?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Yes. We will keep track of it.

Dr. Kissinger: I think you should be the focal point for bringing this about.

Mr. Blee: I would like to point out that the CIA space analysts feel some frustration with this proposed mission. Our analysts feel that the Soviets are not yet ready to share a lot of their technical knowledge with us. This is particularly so in such areas as communications and telemetry. Therefore, we feel we may have some difficulty with the implementation of the mission.

Dr. Kissinger: Can’t we explore this with the Soviets? Can’t we tell them what our concerns are and ask them for some answers before we sign the agreement?

Mr. Blee: If we did that, we would end up with a very detailed agreement. It would certainly be a much more detailed agreement than we are now contemplating.

Dr. Low: We have already had two technical meetings with the Soviets, and we have reached agreement on certain things, such as the size of the docking vehicles and the lights to be used. There are many more issues, however, remaining to be settled before and during the mission. One of these issues, as David [Blee]4 said, is communications. That is a very complicated area.

Dr. Kissinger: Do we need a Presidential decision on that?

Dr. Low: No, I don’t think so.

[Page 164]

Dr. Kissinger: We should get down on paper all the issues concerning us and then tell the Soviets about them.5

Dr. Low: We would need one or more technical meetings to get all these issues settled. The next meeting isn’t scheduled until June.

Dr. Kissinger: Wouldn’t it be possible to move that meeting up to April? I understand your point. It would be embarrassing if the President says we are going ahead with the project—and it then collapses. But he can say that we are going ahead with it, although we realize we still have many technical details to work out. Then there is no embarrassment if the project is cancelled because of technical difficulties.

Dr. Low: You are right.

Dr. Kissinger: Does anyone have any other views on this?

Adm. Moorer: I would like to return to the communications problem. For safety purposes, there has to be a good deal of coordination. Everything will be alright if there is no emergency. If there is an emergency, however, we could be faced with a great problem.

Dr. Kissinger: I would think that the Soviets’ interest in this area is as great as our interest.

Mr. Blee: In any event, I think it will be impossible to work out all the details between now and May.

Dr. Kissinger: You may be right. I don’t know all the issues. Nevertheless, we should take those issues of concern to us—issues that might abort the mission—and try to settle them before May.

Mr. Blee: We have no objection to that. I want to point out, though, that there are a large number of detailed issues of concern to us.

Dr. Kissinger: Alright. We can see if the Soviets agree that we need more coordination on communications. If so, we can settle the details later. What we should do between now and May is agree on what details will be settled later. (to Mr. David) Ed, do you want to work with Dr. Low on this? If we can identify issues which may hinder the agreement, we can make decisions on them.

Dr. David: I will work with NASA on this.

Mr. Hillenbrand: We need a political decision now. When we have that, the experts can work out the modalities.

[Page 165]

Dr. Kissinger: We should narrow the issues down sufficiently so that by the time the President goes to Moscow we will not suddenly be faced with any hidden issues.

Mr. Hillenbrand: We need a feasibility study.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s right. You know that Brezhnev won’t sign any agreement at the Summit if he knows the project is not feasible.

Dr. Low: I don’t want to be negative, but I should point out again that we don’t have problems with the major issues. The detailed issues are the ones we’re concerned with.

Dr. Kissinger: But what do we have to lose by having another round of talks with the Soviets?

Dr. Low: These detailed issues can’t be solved at one meeting. We need at least a year to work them out.

Dr. Kissinger: They can say they will work these issues out with us. Then it may very well be that the mission is not feasible because of some technical reason. There’s nothing wrong with that. (to Dr. Walker) Do you want to say anything?

Dr. Walker: No. I’m just listening and learning. I do think, though, that we might have some difficulty with the idea of safety.

Dr. Low: We won’t have difficulty on the value of safety—just the procedures for achieving it.

Dr. David: I think these technical issues can be settled because they are not high-profile issues. The dangers are there, alright, but they can be overcome because no one would lose face by giving in a little on any particular issue.

Dr. Kissinger: Can we live with a directive saying the President wants to go ahead with the joint mission and that he wants one more meeting before the Summit to try to narrow the differences? A technical group, composed of NASA, CIA and Marty’s people, should agree on the technical issues we want to discuss and then conduct the talks.

All agreed.

Dr. Low: If we do have a second round of talks, can we tell the Soviets that this topic will be on the Summit agenda?

Dr. Kissinger: Sure.

Mr. Hillenbrand: It would be a good idea to tell them that because it would give the talks a sense of urgency.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Hillenbrand) I assume Marty, that you will be telling Dobrynin, anyway.

Dr. Kissinger: Can we talk now about environmental cooperation?

Mr. Train: Yes. We have identified several areas where environmental cooperation would be beneficial to both sides. We have drafted, with the State Department, an agreement which would establish a [Page 166] framework for continuing exchanges in this area. We have questions of timing, not of technical difficulties.

Dr. Kissinger: What programs do you have in mind?

Mr. Train: We recommend such things as: water problems; solid waste management; arid land problems; preservation of species; and earthquake prediction. The Soviets claim, incidentally, great expertise in earthquake prediction. If we want to reach an agreement in any of these areas in May, we have to get cracking now.

Dr. Kissinger: It seems to me that we have two choices. The President could sign a final agreement in Moscow, or he could sign a preliminary agreement, saying that there will be post-Summit negotiations in this area. I want to stress that we don’t have to reach a final agreement in Moscow on every bilateral issue between us and the Soviets. On environmental matters, you and Marty could have preliminary discussions with the Soviet Embassy here on how to get the negotiations started. Then, perhaps, the President could sign an agreement in Moscow which would call for a cooperative six-month study in certain areas. This kind of an approach would take away some of the frenzy to reach final agreements. (to Dr. David) Ed, do you want to tell us about scientific cooperation?

Dr. David: We made one major proposal, to set up a joint commission on mutual scientific and technical matters. I think the commission would help us because the Soviets are ahead of us in several areas. We, of course, have done a great deal of work in areas they are interested in, too. I think it would be a good proposal to discuss at the Summit, since it would focus high level attention on the idea. What we have to do now is staff out the idea—find out how the commission would be set up and what kind of work it would do. We can go ahead with it, if you wish.

Dr. Kissinger: We can handle it by saying at the Summit that a technical group will work out the details later.

Dr. David: It can be done that way.

Mr. Hillenbrand: How would this commission affect our regular exchange agreement?

Dr. David: We would say that whatever exchanges are initiated by the commission would not be considered as part of the regular exchange agreement.

Mr. Hillenbrand: I think that’s the right way to do it. Our exchange agreement is in delicate balance. If the commission pulls any exchanges out of the regular agreement, it will create problems.

Adm. Moorer: I want to point out the Law of the Sea segment in the NSSM response is, in our view, over-optimistic. I don’t think we are anywhere near total agreement with the Soviets, particularly on the [Page 167] issue of what constitutes an international strait. I suggest we get a substitute paper for page 14 [Law of the Sea Discussions]. We would also like to see some other changes made.

Mr. Irwin: I don’t think there is any magic language in any of these papers. Even if some of them may be too optimistic, that should not change the basic concept.

Dr. Kissinger: We’re not going to agree with the Soviets on the basis of these papers, anyway.

Mr. Irwin: Tom’s point was a good one. We can redo some of the papers.

Adm. Moorer: We’re not out of the woods yet with the Soviets on straits.

Dr. Kissinger: I want to stress that if any agency has discussions with the Soviets, Marty should be kept fully informed. And once in a while, he will inform me.

Mr. Nutter: To follow up what Tom was saying, we have some comments on trade questions. We think a few of the papers should be revised.

Dr. Kissinger: These are status reports, not negotiating papers.

Mr. Irwin: That’s right.

Dr. Kissinger: We will have a decision by the end of next week on the three matters we discussed today. We should all review what items might be brought up at the Summit. There is no need for the SRG to review every item. We just want to work on those items which the President might touch at the Summit. All agencies, therefore, should let us know by the middle of next week which items they want to bring to a point before we go to Moscow.

Mr. Irwin: Do you want to say anything about the negotiation of the exchange agreement?

Dr. Kissinger: No. What about it?

Mr. Hillenbrand: This will be negotiated next month by Ambassador Beam in Moscow. It should be ready for signing in May.

Dr. Kissinger: Are there any interagency problems with it?

Mr. Hillenbrand: No.

Dr. Kissinger: We are going to make a policy statement stating that we will act as a united government at the Summit. This will be announced next week. All agencies should keep Marty scrupulously informed about their discussions with the Soviets. Let the IG know next week which items you think should be ready for signing in Moscow.

Mr. Hillenbrand: There are several other items besides the ones we discussed today. These include the exchanges agreement and the agreement on Consulates General.

[Page 168]

Dr. Kissinger: We will have to make up a checklist for the President so that he gets all these things into his mind.

Dr. David: I will start working with John Walsh on the joint science and technology commission.

Dr. Kissinger: You won’t work with the Soviets?

Dr. David: No.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H—113, SRG Minutes, Originals. Secret. These notes were attached to and transmitted under cover of a February 15 memorandum from Davis to Kissinger. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room.
  2. In NSSM 143, December 15, 1971, Nixon “directed that all bilateral issues that may be subject to discussions or negotiations with the U.S.S.R. between now and the summit meeting be reviewed by the Senior Review Group.” (Ibid., Box H-188, NSSM Files, NSSM 143) The response is printed as Document 34.
  3. In NSSM 145, January 17, Nixon noted the various proposals for the U.S.-Soviet trading relationship and directed that these proposals should be reviewed and considered. (Ibid., Box H-189, NSSM Files, NSSM 145) In NSDM 151, February 14, the President directed that the Department of State take the lead in developing a position on lend-lease negotiations and that the Department of Agriculture take the lead in developing scenarios relating to grain sales to the Soviet Union. (Ibid., Box H-230, NSSM Files, NSDM 151)
  4. All brackets in the source text.
  5. On February 16 Irwin transmitted to Kissinger the Department of State paper on U.S.-Soviet bilateral matters relevant to the summit. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US/Nixon) The President provided guidance for bilateral negotiations on a joint space docking mission, environmental cooperation, and a joint scientific commission in NSDM 153, February 17. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H-231, NSDM Files, NSDM 153)
  6. In a March 31 memorandum for Kissinger entitled “Review of U.S.-Soviet Negotiations,” Sonnenfeldt noted that responses had been received from the Departments of State, Interior, and Defense on these various bilateral negotiations. He noted that Irwin had a priority list of issues in terms of whether agreements on them could be ready for signature at the summit, that Laird had suggested maritime-related talks “should proceed on their merits without linkage to the Moscow visit,” and that Secretary of the Interior Rogers Morton had suggested that an agreement for bilateral cooperation in an additional technical research field could be signed at Moscow. (Ibid., NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 67, Country Files, Europe, U.S.S.R., Sonnenfeldt Papers [2 of 2])