127. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Ambassador, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT.]

[Page 390]


Dobrynin then turned to SALT. He said that my observations had been studied with the greatest attention in Moscow. While no final decision had been taken he could assure me that there was considerable sympathy for the approach. He had been instructed, however, to ask a number of questions first. First, when I spoke of a freeze on deployment, did I mean quantitative only or did I include qualitative? I replied that since it would be impossible to verify qualitative freeze I meant quantitative only.

Secondly, Dobrynin asked, when I had spoken of an ABM agreement had I meant the Washington–Moscow system only or had I included zero ABM or perhaps stopping at the existing sites as I had already mentioned to him? I responded that frankly we had not made a final decision on this but that we were openminded on those three approaches.2 We were prepared to negotiate a zero ABM agreement if they were prepared to tear down their existing installations. We had also proposed an NCA agreement and lately we had taken some interest in an agreement confined to three sites on our side and the Moscow system on their side. Dobrynin said that he had advanced this in Moscow. He had to tell me honestly that the political people found it easiest to have a Moscow–Washington agreement and that the military people had at first not understood the three site-Moscow-agreement but had now begun to study it sympathetically. All he could tell me was that none of these three possibilities was excluded and that the Soviets were prepared to be very constructive.

Dobrynin continued that the major problem in fact was the issue of forward-based aircraft. I said it was obvious that we could not upset the strategic balance by forward deployments of aircraft. This might be handled more easily under a tacit arrangement pending negotiations, although we could not accept limitations on carrier deployment under those circumstances. Dobrynin replied that he did not have any firm instructions but the tentative thinking of Moscow was that a SALT agreement along the lines of what I had proposed to him should be concluded at the Summit; that preparatory work for it should be done by Dobrynin and myself; and that the Vienna negotiations, in order to show some progress, might conclude an agreement on accidental war. [Page 391] I told him that we did not want the provocative attack issue handled in this forum and he said he understood. However the question of accidental war was simple and could be handled in that forum. I told him I would have to check with the President.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 4. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Kissinger sent the memorandum of conversation to Nixon under a January 27 covering memorandum. The full text of the memorandum of conversation is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970–September 1971, Document 103.
  2. On January 27 Kissinger informed Smith of Nixon’s final decision. According to a memorandum for the file, prepared by Smith: “Kissinger told me today that the President was interested in the proposal that we announce publicly that we made a zero ABM offer and that he planned to do it sometime early in March. I told him I thought the timing was good.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 383, ACDA Files: FRC 383–97–0010, Director’s Files, Smith Files, Chronological File, Reports from ACDA regarding White House Actions on Working with Soviet, January–March 1971)