122. Backchannel Message From the Chief of the Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (Smith) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

91. Dear Henry:

The Department of Defense announcement about the SS–9 development2 may be the most important US input to the overall strategic arms limitation situation since the beginning of the talks. I think you agree that the ken of strategic arms limitation is much broader than the specific negotiation going on here. I trust that the timing of this announcement was a carefully calculated one in the light of the way the administration wants to orchestrate this whole business. I am bound [Page 383] to say that I was somewhat surprised at the announcement as well as the fact that it would have been made without any check on the Delegation’s views on the wisdom of the timing.

I am sure the Soviets interpret our moves as part of a carefully managed program involving SALT negotiation proposals, propaganda, etc. I have the impression that their SALT approach is far broader than the negotiation forum.

In the SALT Delegation the administration has an accumulation of knowledge of Soviet perceptions of the overall US/USSR strategic relationship3 which I hope will be put to good use.

Best regards.

Gerry Smith
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1971 SALT. Secret; Exclusively Eyes Only. At the bottom of the page, Kissinger wrote: “To Gerry Smith. Re SS–9 story—we can’t advise you about what we don’t know. HK” The text of Kissinger’s note was sent as backchannel message WH2230 to Smith after he left Helsinki. The following notation was written on a memorandum from McManis to Haig concerning delivery of Kissinger’s note: “Message delivered by phone to Amb. Smith, 12/19/70. Please have copy delivered to his Washington office ‘eyes only’ on Monday, 21 December 1970.” (Ibid.)
  2. See footnote 2, Document 121.
  3. On December 18 K. Wayne Smith sent Kissinger a CIA working paper entitled “Measuring Strategic Power: A Possible Soviet View.” In a covering memorandum, Smith commented about the possible consequences of Soviet perceptions of the future strategic military balance. Assuming the Soviets were not seeking a first-strike capability, Smith concluded that “if SALT did not result in an ABM limitation, the Soviet planner would seek increased force levels and/or systems which improve the penetration of ABM defenses. (Possibly as a hedge against not getting an ABM agreement, the Soviets are now seeking to improve the penetration capabilities for the SS–9, SS–11, and SS–13 ICBMs.)” Assuming, on the other hand, the Soviets were seeking first-strike capability, Smith concluded that it was not clear that “the Soviets would view a SALT agreement for ABM limitation to be conducive to obtaining a first-strike capability whether they plan to cheat on the agreement or not.” Kissinger approved Smith’s attached memorandum to Helms initiating a follow-up study. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 714, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. XI, December 1970)