257. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1

Secretary Kissinger asked me to provide you with the following report of his latest meeting with General Secretary Brezhnev.

1. Have concluded four-hour evening session which yielded important progress, specifically Soviet concession on throw weight and a willingness to consider reductions even beyond 2300. Moreover, we have narrowed differences on SLCMs and obtained concrete assurances on Backfire performance. It is clear that significant agreement is within our grasp, but decision will have to be made by you after my return.

2. Following are the details of the session. Brezhnev began by picking up the previous discussion with Gromyko on the definition of a heavy missile and the interpretation of the increase in silo dimensions by no more than 10–15 percent. He accepted my proposal of September that they would agree to define a heavy missile as any ICBM having a launching weight and throw weight greater than the largest light missile existing on either side at the time the agreement goes into effect. This means of course the SS–19 now becomes the threshold. In return, we agreed to their interpretation that the original silo could be increased by no more than 32 percent of its volume. This has no meaning as long as the throw weight definition has been agreed. So that represented a significant concession we have been insisting on for years in both SALT negotiations.

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3. Then Brezhnev turned to a point-by-point discussion of the five-year interim agreement. First, he noted that we now agreed on banning ALCMs on any aircraft other than heavy bombers, banning any ALCM over 2500 KM, and banning cruise missiles over 600 KM on submarines. I confirmed this description of the status of the discussions. Brezhnev then went into the counting of B–1 as three MIRVed vehicles and B–52 as only one. I had said at the second meeting that we would agree to limit the number of ALCMs on the B–1 to no more than the number of any individual B–52. (Of course, both aircraft are designed to carry 20.) Brezhnev argued against this but I feel this was mostly bargaining material. He then turned to the five-year interim agreement and rejected it both on grounds that it included Backfire and that they still wanted a ban on SLCMs over 600 KM on surface ships. He repeated their proposal that all land-based cruise missiles over 600 KM should be banned.

4. At this point he went over his assurances on the Backfire performance, and emphasized that he would make the limit of performance at 2200 KM a matter of record that would be binding for the duration of the agreement, if we would agree that this issue was completely settled and would not be raised in subsequent talks. He also agreed that there would be no upgrading of Backfire and that he would discuss specific criteria.

5. Then he made a new proposal, namely that they would agree to reduction to 2300 and “even larger” if we accepted their proposal on land-based and sea-based cruise missiles, that is to ban them over 600 KM.

6. He would not be drawn out further on the scale of reductions but certainly 2200 is possible in light of his statements. I probed to see whether they might come back to the counting of sea-based SLCMs as MIRV and this probably is not a firm position. I asked some questions about the criteria on Backfire performance, but it was clear that we will have to give them the specifics if we want to go in this direction.

7. I consider that we have now achieved significant concessions on the issues we have pressed: First, the MIRV counting rules can be confirmed in return for the ALCM counting as MIRV; second, we have set a limit on throw weight; third, we have the opportunity to dictate a set of limitations on Backfire performance; fourth, we have a chance at a significant reduction in Soviet forces, that would constitute almost 20 percent of their present force, and we can probably work out a cruise missile solution that counts land-based intercontinental cruise missiles and counts SLCMs on surface ships as MIRV. I could probably have wrapped up the agreement under normal conditions. In light of the discussions in Washington that Brent has reported I could not go further than to say this was a constructive initiative on Brezhnev’s part, but [Page 974] that I would have to report it and we would reply within two or three weeks. Given the massive confusions reflected in the NSC meeting,2 I had no choice but to let the opportunity to exploit this breakthrough go by.

8. I raised Angola very privately with Brezhnev and warned him we would not be passive in the face of the Cuban expeditionary force. I then said it for the record in the large meeting,3 and Gromyko and I will meet on it tomorrow morning.

9. I believe that what has been achieved here in two days offers us the chance for an agreement that is clearly in our interest. I intend to brief the press that progress has been made, and that some issues have been settled while the differences on others have been narrowed.

10. Finally, it is imperative that everyone now be quiet until we can return and review where we stand.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East Discussions, 1974–1976, Box 1, USSR Memcons and Reports, January 21–23, 1976—Kissinger Moscow Trip (2). Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. The original is an uninitialed copy.
  2. See Document 253.
  3. See footnote 7, Document 249 and Document 256 and footnote 4 thereto.