260. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
  • Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs


  • Secretary Kissinger’s SALT Discussions with Brezhnev

Kissinger: Wade did very well.

Rumsfeld: He was very pleased. It worked well.

The President: Henry, why don’t you bring us up to date?

Kissinger: They totally rejected Option IV. I then went to Modified Option III because I thought it was better for them. They rejected that on grounds that Backfire couldn’t be counted. They will give us in writing the range of the Backfire and a commitment that it wouldn’t be upgraded or used in an intercontinental role. It is not a lie based on design mission profile.

I think if we wrote down some specifications and some constraints, they would at least look at them.

They accepted the ALCM proposal. We can say we are giving something up, but since they wanted to count each missile, they gave up—especially their agreeing to 2500 kilometers.

They accepted SLCM from subs, but not surface ships.

[Page 994]

They want 600 kilometers for land-based. We made the mistake of going from 5500 to 2500. It called their attention to it.

Then they gave us the heavy missile definition.

Rumsfeld: This will defuse the violation argument on SALT I.

Kissinger: The soft areas are surface-ship SLCMs and land-based cruise missiles.

I get wildly different interpretations of the utility of surface-ship SLCMs. We could maybe count them as MIRV with an upper limit. Maybe if we counted land-based in the 2400.

Scowcroft/Rumsfeld: That won’t solve the European problem.

Kissinger: They will hang tough, I think, on 2500 kilometers on land-based. We can probably solve the surface-ship SLCMs.

Rumsfeld: But in Europe they are just like FBS.

Kissinger: But from Europe and Japan we can cover four-fifths of the USSR and they can just cover Europe.

We have insisted on 2500, but I think they won’t buy it.

Rumsfeld: There is also the nuclear versus the conventional warhead. Another issue is third country acquisition. If you bar conventional, you are barring the possibility of replacing some present systems.

I have never seen so much leaking as came out of your party.

Kissinger: It was done because it would have leaked after I briefed NATO.

Rumsfeld: Don’t blame it on NATO.

Kissinger: Cruise missile verification is really their problem through ’85. That can be our excuse for the nuclear versus conventional.

Rumsfeld: Cruise missile verification is a horror.

Scowcroft: You have the same problem with range if you allow 5500.

The President: I think we should look at all the issues and reach a judgment. What is the time schedule?

Kissinger: I think we should get something back to them before their Party Conference.

Rumsfeld: I was thinking we could get the VP Working Group going and try to get back to Dobrynin by 8 or 10 February.

Kissinger: One way would be to count all land-based over 600. That way we could have a few.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 17. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.