93. 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

Vietnam/Summit. There is no evidence so far that the Soviets are actively considering dropping the summit. On the contrary, while Soviet propaganda and Brezhnev himself (publicly in a communiqué with Honecker2 and privately to Butz3 and of course directly to the President)4 are critical of US bombing in Vietnam, they clearly talk of the summit as a fact. Arrangements for the advance are proceeding; Brezhnev was quite fulsome to Butz about the “big welcome” the President would get and the “new big step” the visit would represent. In other respects, too, the Soviets are proceeding in their dealings with us as before.

On our side the picture is of course a bit different. The Soviets will assume that columns like those by Kraft and Evans and Novak5 were officially inspired. And they have no doubt hoisted in what the President said at the BW ceremony6 together with the press play about it and the earlier public statements by Laird and McCloskey.7 (Only Secretary Rogers has been slightly off this pattern in making a broadly positive public statement on the new US–Soviet Exchange Agreement yesterday.)8

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With the Canadian Parliament speech coming up,9 it is probably best for us to hold our fire now as regards the Vietnam/summit interrelationship. While we want to keep the pressure on the Soviets to do something in Vietnam, we don’t want to build pressure on ourselves to do something about the summit. We should remember (1) that Brezhnev obviously wants the summit and that he now knows we make a connection and (2) that if by the time of the summit the DRV has been fought to anywhere near a standstill the President will go to Moscow in a strong position. We can now afford to wait.

SALT . My reading of latest developments on SLBM is that the most that is obtainable now is some assurance that they will be taken up as the first order of business in the next SALT phase. Soviets at all levels have referred to the “complicated” problems involved and I would judge that this relates to the fact that the Soviets are busy bringing in a follow–on boat and the SS–NX–8. There may be genuine perplexity in the Politburo.

If you do pursue the idea of a follow–on negotiation you should nail down that this will not be tied to FBS. An agreement to SLBM follow–on negotiations may well be suitable for summit promulgation.

(Note: I personally have reservations about this course, but if we cannot get anything on SLBMs in this phase, it may be a lesser evil.)

At the same time you may want to go one more round with Dobrynin before in effect dropping SLBM for now.

As regards ABM, you and Smith have rejected the latest Soviet proposal.10 This ought to be made definitive so no more time is wasted on it.

Smith as you know has gone forward with our two for two proposal conditioned on SLBM inclusion. The delegation has also told the Soviets that we have no ABM position for the case that the Soviets do not agree to include SLBMs. This is strictly speaking true and it is tactically sound since we don’t yet want to give up on SLBMs. But you and Dobrynin have already in effect begun to talk around [Page 296] this possibility and you have, I think, made clear that if SLBMs are not included we need some advantage on ABMs.11 (You have Odeen’s and my paper on how to do this; see Tab A.)12

The situation is going to be complicated when Smith makes his “personal” inquiry about substituting NCA for the second US/ICBM site.13 (Incidentally, is this with SLBMs included or excluded? If the latter it would provide us with an advantage only by Soviet definition, i.e., that our ICBM site defense would “protect” more ICBMs than a single site Soviet ICBM defense.) I think you should today establish the principle that if SLBMs are excluded we will need an ABM advantage. Next time you should make him a specific proposal. (Note: If Dobrynin is going to be in Moscow for an extended period, this may have to be done by Smith.)

Other Issues

Bilateral matters seem to be under control.

Grain talks, despite some unnecessary public statements by Butz in Moscow, will probably deadlock on the credit issue. The Soviets want concessionary terms—up to ten years at low interest rates. We cannot, by law, go above three years at commercial rates. (Brezhnev told Butz he can survive without a deal.) I suggest you stay away from this one for now.

Lend–lease begins here this week.

Commercial Shipping. The Soviets have given us a forthcoming counterproposal but a good deal of work still needs to be done. The talks are scheduled for Monday April 17 in Moscow (Nat Samuels, Gibson, etc.). I got your word to postpone for a week too late to hold up on this. But I will tell Samuels to cool the rhetoric. Again, I think you can stay away from this one for now.

Incidents at Sea. Nothing needs to be said to Dobrynin.

Patolichev. You may want to hint that this visit may have to be postponed if Vietnam gets worse. (You may recall that this was to be the occasion when we would intimate that EXIM may be in the cards at [Page 297] the summit.) The precise state of play is that Dobrynin owes Peterson an answer to the invitation for the period between April 27 and May 10. Pete thinks he may get a response at a Valenti/Dobrynin affair Thursday night.14 (Incidentally, I told Peterson’s man that if Pete goes he should keep it cool and correct.)

Exchanges Agreement. Signed.

Science: David has his marching orders and will be getting back to Dobrynin in the next several days.

Environment. Dobrynin told Hillenbrand he will be contacting Train with a Soviet reaction to our illustrative proposal.15

Space Docking. NASA says all issues are under control as directed by the SRG.

Summit Preparations. The advance is to leave early April 17. Practical arrangements for the group are in train. We will have a problem with Soviet insistence that the President fly in Soviet aircraft inside the USSR. Scowcroft is appalled at sloppy Soviet flight and safety practices, even for their VIPs. The Soviets maintain that if their top leaders are to accompany the President, as they did de Gaulle and others, it will have to be in one of their own planes. (They also refer to what happened in China.) We may have to consider a compromise by using a Soviet plane to Leningrad and ours to Baku.

(Note: I have the impression Chapin is not fully aware of your discussion of arrangements with Dobrynin. You should fill him in, if necessary.)16

The Soviets are apparently being tough on the press question (100 man limit). Unless this has already been settled it is worth trying to improve on.

MBFR . My recollection is that you owe some sort of a response. We now have a paper17 on principles which you will get shortly. It is based on what is already common ground with the allies. You may [Page 298] want to indicate that the President will be prepared to discuss principles in Moscow. (The other two possibilities—an effort to agree on a “quick and dirty” reduction, and an understanding on negotiating procedures—have many problems and pitfalls.)18

  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 initialed the memorandum.
  2. See footnote 6, Document 92.
  3. See Document 101.
  4. See Document 72.
  5. Joseph Kraft, syndicated columnist, and Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, co–authors of a syndicated column; both appeared in The Washington Post and other newspapers.
  6. See Document 89.
  7. See footnote 2, Document 91.
  8. The exchange agreement was signed by Beam and Smirnov in Moscow on April 11. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, May 15, 1972, pp. 708–714. In a statement welcoming its signature, Rogers declared: “President Nixon has expressed this administration’s strong conviction that a sound relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union is an essential ingredient in our search for peace and security in the world today.” (Ibid., p. 707) In an April 13 memorandum to the President, Kissinger also assessed the agreement in positive terms. “State is justifiably pleased with the Agreement,” he explained, “which meets US objectives and is the best in the series going back to the fifties. The Soviets were very responsive during the negotiations—an encouraging and positive sign and probably attributable to the pre–Summit atmosphere.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 718, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. XXI)
  9. See Document 100.
  10. Although no record has been found of Kissinger’s rejection, the Department informed Smith on April 10 that the President had decided that the “Soviet ABM proposal of April 6 is unacceptable in its present form.” (Telegram 61537 to USDEL SALT VII (Helsinki), April 10; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 18–3 FIN(HE))
  11. See Document 84.
  12. Not attached. Reference may be to the briefing book Odeen and Sonnenfeldt prepared for Kissinger under cover of an April 15 memorandum. The briefing book contains a draft memorandum from Kissinger to the President, which addresses the SLBM issue in detail—including the proposal to seek an advantage in the ABM treaty if SLBMs were excluded from the interim agreement. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–011, SALT Briefing Book 4/15/72)
  13. Smith made his “personal” inquiry in a meeting with Semenov on April 22; see Document 147.
  14. Reference is presumably to a social event on April 13 hosted by Jack Valenti, President of the Motion Picture Association of America.
  15. Hillenbrand invited Dobrynin to meet at the Department on April 10 for a review of outstanding bilateral issues, including Train’s proposals for cooperation on the environment. An account of the discussion is in telegram 61736 to Moscow, April 10. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL USUSSR)
  16. According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met Chapin, Haig, and Hyland on April 13 at 4:05 p.m. for 20 minutes to discuss Moscow. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976) No other record of the discussion has been found.
  17. Reference is to a memorandum Odeen and Sonnenfeldt gave Kissinger on MBFR principles for the summit on April 14. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 482, President’s Trip Files, MBFRCSCE Backup Book [Part 1])
  18. Kissinger wrote “5%” in the margin next to this paragraph, an apparent reference to the proposed level of “quick and dirty” mutual and balanced force reductions.