83. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Your Next Meeting with Dobrynin, April 6, 1972


Their new ABM proposal (Tab A),2 as you are aware, is their old two for one with a deferred three for two. The number 225 for interceptors [Page 261] is simply a straight line projection from their previous 150 for two for one, i.e., presumably 75 at each of their sites and 100+ at each of ours. This is, of course, the first time the Soviets have offered “deferral” (guess who taught them the idea).3 This proposal is, if anything, worse than the December 15 one,4 although having broached deferral it may be intended to carry some implication of one for one with eventual two for two. The three to five year period is also of some interest in view of Brezhnev’s shift to a three year offensive freeze. This has not yet surfaced in Helsinki.

You should tell Dobrynin that your first reaction is negative—no advance, in principle, over their previous position.

You should go on to stress the clear relationship in our view between what happens on ABMs and what happens on SLBMs. The present Soviet position means clear inequality in our disfavor in both defensive and offensive weapons. This may be a situation that cannot be avoided without an agreement but we certainly cannot accept it as the result of agreement.

It is in this context that Smith today is offering two for two on ABMs (instead of our present two for one) if the Soviets move on SLBMs.5 (Note: Smith has not made any new specific SLBM proposal, other than a straight freeze. But you have given Dobrynin a modified [Page 262] freedom–to–mix, G and H to Yankee, proposition.6 There has been no Soviet response to either.)

I believe you should not today debate further the merits of either ABM proposal but stress the need for basic decisions if we are to get anywhere near agreement by the summit. We have made a basic decision—permitting the Soviets an ICBM defense which they do not now have. You hope the Politburo is addressing more fundamental matters than the tactical—and discouraging—revisions in the latest Soviet ABM proposal.

(Note: We will do a more considered analysis with Odeen when the Soviets have tabled their proposal in Helsinki.)7

Other Matters

A progress report on bilateral issues is at Tab B.8 (State does not know about Peterson’s talks with Dobrynin about Patolichev 9 and a Joint Commission.)

Matters Are Moving Too Slowly on Some Key Issues:

  • —On Lend–Lease, Dobrynin has just told State that the Soviets will not even make a decision until April 6. We have long since proposed April 7 as the opening date. (There is no point having Patolichev come if there has not at least been one round on lend–lease.)10
  • —On maritime relations, there is fencing about the date for round two (maybe April 17) and there has been no substantive Soviet response [Page 263] to our round one proposals (although there are preliminary indications of some give), thus preventing us from developing a round two position. You should impress on Dobrynin the importance of these talks and the importance we attach to our position.
  • —On incidents–at–sea we are in process of exploring a date for round two (the Soviets have made clear they will not complete the round one understandings without a second round and we have gone to our fallback of agreeing to it).
  • —The agricultural project seems on the rails. Butz and Palmby11 are due in Moscow April 10.
  • —Health and Space are OK. On Environment, they owe Train a response to his illustrative umbrella agreement, David owes them something on science. (We are reviewing a US position paper looking toward some preliminary agreement at the summit.)12

Summit Arrangements

There appear to be no snags at this point. The advance is to get to Moscow by April 19—Embassy Moscow is exploring this date. (You may want to mention that Hyland is going from here.)

You have a separate memo to Chapin giving him the green light to raise the radio–TV address with Vorontsov on Friday.13 You should mention this to Dobrynin.14


There is no way of telling how the Soviets evaluate the McGovern victory in Wisconsin.15 You may want to give Dobrynin your judgment that it has improved further the President’s chances because it has increased the uncertainty among the Democrats. (The Soviets may be estimating that they have some new leverage on the President because of Vietnam and the strength of protest votes.)

At Tab C, FYI, there is an interesting Soviet indoctrination lecture on the President’s trip which you may want to look over.16

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 67, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Sonnenfeldt Papers [1 of 2]. Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Haig also initialed the memorandum.
  2. The text of the Soviet note, Tab A, which Sokolov gave Hicks on April 5, reads: “The United States, besides ABM defense of one base of ICBM’s, would have the right to deploy ABM facilities for defense of Washington, D.C.; and the Soviet Union, besides ABM defense of the capital and of ICBM silo launchers amounting to 50% of the number of launchers at the abovementioned US base, would have the right to additionally deploy ABM facilities for the defense of yet other 50% of the same number of ICBM launchers in the United States. This right would not be used by the sides during an agreed period (for example, 3–5 years). The total number of ABM launchers, with due account of those which could be additionally deployed for the abovementioned purposes, should not exceed 225. The rest of the conditions for limitations should be similar to those which go with the version now under discussion.”
  3. Reference is evidently to the oral note Kissinger gave Dobrynin on April 26, 1971, in which he suggested that “the decision on the nature of sites to be permitted in the ABM agreement be deferred to subsequent negotiations.” (Kissinger, White House Years, p. 817)
  4. In his statement at the conclusion of negotiations in Vienna on December 15, Semenov submitted the following proposal: “The U.S. would retain ABM system components at one ICBM base. In the USSR the ABM system would be limited to defense of the National Capital and also to protection of a number of ICBM silo launchers amounting to 50 percent of the number of launchers at the U.S. ICBM base which is protected by ABM systems components.” (Telegram 1134 from USDEL SALT VI, December 15; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 18–3 AUS(VI)) Odeen and Sonnenfeldt assessed the proposal in a December 16 memorandum to Kissinger. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 882, SALT, SALT (Helsinki), Sept.–Dec. 1971 (Memoranda & Misc.))
  5. Semenov presented the Soviet ABM proposal (see footnote 2 above) during an informal meeting at Helsinki on April 6; Smith then outlined the U.S. position (see Document 66), linking inclusion of SLBM’s in the interim agreement and its “two–for–two” proposal on the number of sites allowed in the ABM treaty. (Telegram 1240 from USDEL SALT VII, April 6; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 18–3 FIN(HE))
  6. Kissinger floated this proposal in his meeting with Dobrynin on March 9; see Document 56. Also see Kissinger, White House Years, p. 1131.
  7. Although their analysis of the Soviet ABM proposal has not been found, Odeen and Sonnenfeldt gave Kissinger an April 17 memorandum, assessing SALT in light of evidence that previous estimates of the Soviet SLBM program had been “significantly inflated.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 5, Chronological File, 1969–75, 1972–April)
  8. Attached at Tab B but not printed is a March 31 memorandum from Hillenbrand to Kissinger, providing a bi–weekly status report on negotiations with the Soviet Union, pursuant to NSDM 153 (Document 52).
  9. See footnote 6, Document 75.
  10. In a note to Haig on April 6, Sonnenfeldt forwarded a directive for the conduct of the lend–lease negotiations. “It has now become extremely urgent,” he explained, “because following Henry’s talk with D[obrynin] the Soviets have not informed us that their delegation will come next weekend and be ready to open talks April 10.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 718, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. XXI) The directive—issued on April 7 by Kissinger and Flanigan to Rogers and “his designee as lend–lease negotiator”—included the following instructions: ‘Our negotiator should not link a lend–lease settlement with other trade or credit matters. If the Soviets raise additional issues, we should indicate that we wish to settle the lend–lease issue first and that any trade and credit matters of interest to the Soviets will be considered apart from the lend–lease negotiations. If the foregoing is not negotiable, our negotiator should attempt to complete the lend–lease negotiations as a separate matter while informing the Soviets that, if they insist, the settlement will not come into force until a later date. If this proves unacceptable to the Soviets, our negotiator should seek further instructions.” (Ibid.)
  11. Clarence D. Palmby, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for International Affairs and Commodity Programs.
  12. Not found.
  13. Not found.
  14. Kissinger wrote “Press” after this paragraph.
  15. Senator George S. McGovern (D–South Dakota) won the Democratic primary in Wisconsin on April 4 with 30 percent of the vote.
  16. Attached at Tab C but not printed is airgram A–249 from Moscow, in which the Embassy reported: “Judging from questions being asked at Leningrad lectures, President Nixon’s forthcoming visit to the USSR is not popular with the local public.” Also in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US/Nixon.