264. Note From President Ford to the Soviet Leadership1

The United States proposes that the two sides proceed in the following manner:

1. The U.S. and USSR agree to consolidate, and sign as soon as possible, the areas of agreement in a SALT II Treaty and defer the Backfire and certain “intermediate range” cruise missile issues for an agreed interim period, during which negotiations on these issues would continue.

2. In addition to those provisions already settled or still under discussion in Geneva, the treaty would also include provisions (a) to ban deployment of cruise missiles with a range over 600 km from all aircraft except those heavy bombers that are counted in the ceiling of 2,400; (b) to ban testing or production of air-launched cruise missiles with a range greater than 2,500 km; (c) to consider each heavy bomber equipped with a cruise missile with a range over 600 and up to 2,500 km as a MIRVed launcher and therefore to be counted against the ceiling of 1,320 MIRVed vehicles; and (d) at a time to be agreed upon, to review the range threshold limits on cruise missiles.

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3. On this basis the treaty would also include an agreement on the provisions for the verification of the deployment of MIRVed missiles, along the lines tentatively agreed in high level discussions, and, as well, agreement on the distinction between heavy and non-heavy ICBM’s and the definition of a heavy missile.

4. As a part of resolving the issues of the Backfire bomber and sea- and land-based cruise missiles, the two sides would agree that their common intention is to reduce strategic armaments below the 2,400 ceiling agreed at Vladivostok.

5. The U.S. and USSR would also conclude an interim agreement for the period beginning with the signature of the new treaty until January 1, 1979, to include the following mutual constraints: (a) during the interim period no sea-based or land-based cruise missiles would be tested to a range greater than 2,500 km; (b) during this period no sea-based or land-based cruise missiles with a range greater than 600 km would be operationally deployed on surface ships, on submarines, or on land; (c) the Soviet side would provide assurances that during this period the rate of production of the Soviet Backfire bomber would not be accelerated beyond the current and agreed rate, that the operational capabilities would not be improved, and, through other assurances to be agreed, that the Backfire bomber would not be deployed or operated in an intercontinental mode; (d) both sides would agree that their common objective would be to reach a mutually acceptable definitive solution to the problems of intermediate range sea- and land-based cruise missiles and the Backfire bomber as soon as possible. Negotiations to this end should begin immediately following the signing of the treaty based on Vladivostok; (e) negotiations on the resolution of the issues covered by the interim agreement would not replace the commitment, as currently reflected in the draft treaty being negotiated in Geneva, to conduct further negotiations beginning in 1977 for a more comprehensive agreement.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 17. No classification marking. Numerous drafts of the note, dated February 12–16, are ibid., KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1974–1977, Box 29, USSR, The “D” File. Ford briefed Ikle on the final version during a meeting in the Oval Office on the morning of February 16: “I wanted to bring you up to date about a decision I made over the weekend. It will be delivered to Dobrynin this morning. It is deferral, under the concept of buying time for Backfire and cruise missiles. We picked January ’79 as the best time before our deployment of cruise missiles and which will still keep some restraint on Backfire. I thought it best to include ALCMs in the treaty. For other cruise missiles, their deployment is banned over 600 kilometers. On ‘nuclear-armed,’ I thought it best to defer that to Geneva in order not to overload the Soviets at the moment.” “I think it is the best we can do under the circumstances,” Ford added. “I don’t think it has much chance.” (Ibid., Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 17) When Rumsfeld asked that afternoon whether Dobrynin had received the note, Ford replied: “Yes, it was given to him at 11:15, with a personal two and a half page note from me to Brezhnev.” (Memorandum of conversation; ibid.)