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

814. Dear Henry: Here are some personal impressions as we go into the third week of SALT IV.

There is a feeling that matters are in some suspense based, I think, on the following factors:

The Soviet Party Congress2 is taking some of the play away from SALT.
Semenov’s position in the first Smith/Semenov private conversation did not offer much of an indication of whether there will be movement in the Soviet offensive control position.3
We do not yet have Washington’s details of ABM controls to take up with the Soviets. Thus, we cannot push much further in exploring the third option or in exploration in depth of what we have said we will give priority to: ABMs.
With three US ABM proposals on the table, there is some wonderment as to how and how long to maintain the position that all have equal status. In this regard, it is interesting that the Soviet reaction to the third option was not to reject the concept, but only the four-to-one ratio. But I think this will be as far as we will get in exploring this until we indicate flexibility on the ratio.
There is uncertainty as to what US policy will be about separate agreements on the Accident question and Hot Line Upgrade.
There is a speculative feeling in the air that with US political pressures for moratoria and acceptance of ABM only, the US position may become more flexible.
Uncertainties as to the extent and significance of the new Soviet silo construction program.
Uncertainties about how much latitude Washington wants the delegation to have in probing/negotiating.
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The Soviets are, I believe, unclear as to what we have in mind for this Vienna phase. We have said we will give priority to ABM discussions. We have also emphasized the large missile question. They may believe that we envisage a first agreement on ABMs (Moscow/Safeguard) plus a limitation on modern large missiles.

I do not see how we can learn very much about what can be done on offensive limitations until we can negotiate more on FBS, something I don’t feel free to do under present instructions.4

The above is a list of some of the factors that I see at work here. I send it back not in any sense as a wail, but to permit you to get a somewhat better sense of the state of mind here at this time.

This message is also being sent to the Secretary of State.

Warm regards.

Gerry Smith
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 383, ACDA Files: FRC 383–97–0010, Director’s Files, Smith/Farley Files, Chronological File, Smith/Rogers Correspondence, October 1970–November 1971. Secret; Eyes Only. A handwritten note indicates the message was also read on the telephone to Farley for personal delivery to Rogers.
  2. The 24th Soviet Party Congress opened on March 30.
  3. In telegram USDEL SALT 559 from Vienna, March 19, Smith reported his conversation with Semenov on March 15. When Smith expressed concern over the apparent buildup of Soviet ICBMs, Semenov replied that the development referred to by Smith had no bearing on the strategic relationship between the two countries nor on the SALT negotiations. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 880, Subject Files, SALT, SALT talks (Vienna), Vol. XIV, January 1–April 1971)
  4. See Document 138.