214. Letter From President Ford to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev1

Dear Mr. General Secretary:

I have taken careful note of your letter of October 27 regarding the SALT negotiations.2 I regret very much that you have been unable to find any areas of compromise between the positions of the two sides. I continue to believe that it is a matter of great importance to both your side and ours to continue to search for a solution which will enable us to resolve satisfactorily the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks.

In your letter you referred to cruise missiles as weapons systems capable of performing the same missions as weapons included in the agreement. But, as you recall, there was no specific discussion of cruise missiles at Vladivostok and indeed these weapons systems closely resemble those known as forward-based systems, which have been explicitly excluded from the Vladivostok agreement. The only understanding at Vladivostok that can possibly be connected to cruise missiles related to “air-to-surface missiles” with which bombers may be equipped. Thus, in putting forward proposals to limit cruise missiles on aircraft and on seagoing vessels which clearly are not intercontinental systems, the United States is making a significant concession to your side.

You pointed out in your letter that the US side has proposed that the Soviet aircraft known as Backfire should be limited by the new agreement. The Backfire aircraft was not discussed at Vladivostok, but aircraft with intercontinental capabilities (heavy bombers) are obviously of the type which have been considered in SALT and are an appropriate subject for discussion in these negotiations. We acknowledge that the Backfire may have been designed for peripheral attack missions. However, at the extremes of its capabilities, the Backfire aircraft appears capable of intercontinental missions particularly if equipped with a tanker fleet and based in northern areas. Thus, it is in a sense a hybrid category and we have made a substantial concession in permitting up to 300 above the 2400 ceiling.

It is apparent that we have reached a deadlock. Despite the current differences between the two sides, I still believe that it is of paramount importance to both sides to resolve these matters by a reasonable com [Page 848] promise. In your message you referred to another meeting between our representatives. If you have any suggestions in this respect, I will appreciate receiving them.


Gerald R. Ford3
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 6, SALT, Nov.–Dec. 1975. No classification marking. According to marginalia, the letter was delivered to the Soviet Embassy at 2:30 p.m. on November 4.
  2. Document 212.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.