134. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Henry A. Kissinger
  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin

I said I was prepared to discuss the letter that Dobrynin had said we might send to Kosygin (copy attached). Dobrynin corrected my statement by saying I had proposed the letter. He had merely agreed to it. I said, it is true, I had proposed the letter, but he had suggested that at our next meeting—which was today—I should have a draft. Dobrynin agreed with that formulation.

Dobrynin read the draft very carefully and then asked me a number of questions; for example, with respect to paragraph 5.c., he asked what was the meaning of the phrase that there could be no new construction started after April 1. I said since there was a limit of no construction of any sort after January 1, it seemed to me that this was self-explanatory. Since the Soviet Union would not be able to finish anything that they started after April 1, it wasn’t probable that they would start anything. Dobrynin said it would be easier for them to accept the terminal date than the starting date; in other words, they would agree not to do any construction of any kind after January 1, 1972. Dobrynin also questioned whether it was realistic to propose an agreement on offensive weapons be reached by July 1, 1972. I agreed that that could be extended to January 1, 1973. Dobrynin suggested that we eliminate the two paragraphs on MIRV’s, since it was self-evident that these would be permitted. He also questioned paragraph 6.c. in its context because he thought that this would be a better explanation for paragraph 7, rather than it by itself and, in any case, it was up to the discretion of each side whether it wanted to give such a list.

Dobrynin also questioned whether it was better to have a five-year expiration clause or whether we could have it in the same manner as the nuclear test ban with both sides having the right to abrogate when [Page 406] their supreme national interest was involved. I told him this would certainly be a fair counter-proposal to make by their side. Dobrynin did not question the three missile sites but suggested that the Soviet Union might come back to NCA limitations. He said he would have a massive translation job to do that night and promised me an early answer. He thought this should be well wrapped up before March 15.


Draft Letter From President Nixon to Chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers Kosygin 2

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I have carefully reviewed the exchanges of our representatives during the past 15 months in regard to the limitation of strategic armaments. I have been struck by the serious and forthright manner in which these talks have been conducted. This properly reflects the crucial importance, both for the future of relations between our two countries and for the peace and security of peoples everywhere, of the responsibility we jointly share to work toward a safer and more rational world order.
I have studied your proposal for an agreement limiting ABM’s and understand the considerations you have advanced in support of this proposal. I am sure that you have likewise examined the proposals and considerations which my representatives have advanced concerning the relationship between limitations on strategic defensive and strategic offensive weapons.
It seems to me quite possible to take proper account of the concerns and interests which underlie the proposals which we have each advanced. To achieve the breakthrough which we both desire and which peoples everywhere await, I propose to you that our respective delegations to the next session of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, beginning in Vienna on March 15, 1971, should be instructed to make maximum possible progress toward an agreement containing the following elements:
Strategic Defensive Armaments
As you are aware, the proposals which have been advanced by the United States hitherto have envisaged either a complete elimination [Page 407] of ABM deployments or a limitation of such deployments to the protection of National Command Authorities. These proposals are made in the context of the various comprehensive limitation proposals, covering both offensive and defensive strategic armaments, put forward by the representatives of the United States.
I would still be prepared to consider the complete elimination of ABM deployments.
However, in consideration of the situation in the negotiations to date, I now propose an agreement under which each of us would maintain, or complete, the strategic defensive (ABM) deployments we have already initiated. Specifically, in your case this would mean the ABM defense now being deployed in a circle around your capital city of Moscow. In our case, this would mean completion of ABM deployment for the protection of three of our land-based ICBM sites. I am convinced that a limitation thus based on actual programs already under way in both our countries would be both equitable and speedily achievable.
The agreement would stipulate the collateral measures, for example in regard to the deployment of various types of radar, whereby assurance would be provided that ABM deployment would be strictly confined to the agreed objectives.
Research and Development and certain agreed forms of modernization of the permitted deployments would not be precluded by the agreement.
Each side would inform the other side of the indicators by which it would judge the activities of the other side with respect to strategic defensive armaments after the agreement is in force and which could raise questions concerning the viability of the agreement.
The agreement would have an initial fixed duration, for example, of five years.
Strategic Offensive Armaments
I have taken note of the current status of the construction of fixed land-based ICBM launchers in the USSR.
I propose that the agreement to limit strategic defensive deployments, would include a commitment by both sides to negotiate by an agreed date (for example, July 1, 1972) an agreement to limit offensive strategic armaments.
It would also be understood that as of an early agreed date, for example April 1, 1971, all new construction of land-based ICBM launchers would cease. It would also be understood that work to complete launchers under construction could continue for another agreed period but would in any case cease as of January 1, 1972.
It would be a part of this understanding, reached in connection with the formal agreement on strategic defensive limitations, that modernization [Page 408] or replacement of land-based ICBM’s would not be precluded, provided that these activities do not affect the understanding not to initiate new land-based ICBM construction as of an agreed date, and to cease work to complete previously initiated land-based ICBM construction as of January 1, 1972.
Multiple Warheads
I have carefully examined the record of the discussions on this subject that have taken place between our representatives.
It would appear that the understanding associated with an initial agreement in the form that I have proposed above could not include limitations with respect to the various types of multiple warheads which both of us are developing and deploying.
However, in connection with an initial agreement I would plan to inform you, as part of the associated understanding, of the indicators by which we would judge your activities and which, in our view, would raise questions concerning our security interests. You would, of course, be free to provide me with a similar list of indicators concerning the Soviet Union’s judgment of activities on the part of the United States.
Apart from the inherent right to abrogate the agreement, each side would of course be at liberty to take such steps with respect to its own weapons programs as are not explicitly precluded by the agreement, or the understanding associated with it, and which it deems necessary to safeguard its security interests in the light of qualitative and other changes in the other side’s strategic weapons programs.
Mr. Chairman: I consider that the foregoing basic approach to an initial agreement holds promise of being translated into a successful agreement this year. I will be prepared to instruct my representatives at the Vienna sessions in accordance with it on the assumption that you will similarly instruct your delegation. Our representatives will have a great deal of work to accomplish to translate this general approach into the terms of an agreement. I know that both our delegations will exert the utmost effort to achieve success.
I suggest that we examine the status of their work after approximately six to eight weeks and then determine what, if any, additional guidance we may wish to provide to ensure success for this significant endeavor.
I am deeply convinced that we have within our reach a mutually acceptable initial agreement, and I assure you that I will devote my full energy and authority to remove any obstacles that may stand in the way of a successful outcome. I know that your colleagues and you approach this historic task in the same spirit.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 79, Country Files, Europe, USSR, SALT, May 20, 1971 Announcement—State Department. Top Secret; Sensitive. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting took place in the Map Room at the White House from 7:15 to 8:25 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–1976 Record of Schedule) The NSC staff extracted this discussion of SALT from a memorandum of conversation of the entire meeting, which covered a range of topics. The memorandum of conversation, which is the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 4, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970–September 1971, Document 121.
  2. Secret.