157. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Gerard Smith
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger


  • SALT Developments

On May 19, I was at Dr. Kissinger’s office for breakfast. He told me that he would like to give me the whole background of SALT developments on his part.

On January 8, he had been in touch with Dobrynin about ways to break the impasse. He said that all of the subsequent record, including the January 7th contact2 would be made available to me. It is not clear to me whether Dobrynin or Kissinger took the initiative, but there has been an exchange of papers, there has been worked out an understanding that the United States would negotiate an ABM agreement with the Soviets, and the Soviets would agree to a halt in ICBMs while negotiations for offensive restraints were continued. The President is to make an announcement of this fact on the 21st of May and a similar announcement is to be made in Moscow. The President has written or is going to write a letter to Kosygin spelling out the arrangement.

Apparently Kissinger pushed Dobrynin to a more liberal position than the original Soviet one which was that the ABM deal should be worked out first and then the terms of the ICBM deal. Then Dobrynin moved to agreement in principle on the ICBM, with the details worked out after the ABM deal. Apparently the latest position of Dobrynin is that the two would be worked out in parallel (although this is not clear).

[Page 492]

I looked at the proposed announcement and pointed out that drafting was imprecise and the language that the countries had agreed to agree would be criticized. I suggested a fix and Kissinger said he would try to make it. I suggested that the way the announcement read was not the best in terms of keeping our bargaining power since it assumed that an ABM agreement would be reached. Kissinger said he had no flexibility to make any further changes. He said that Laird was being advised at 1:00 PM,3 and that the President was advising Rogers4 just then. I pointed out that I was not interested in process but the product, and I thought the product was good. I asked what about NAC consultation? He said a pre-prepared telegram had been gotten together. I asked him if the President deliberately wanted me to be out of town when he made this announcement. Kissinger said no, and that under the circumstances he was sure that the President would be glad to have me participate in briefing the Leadership of Congress tomorrow morning and participate in the backgrounding of the press. (He had planned to have Mr. Farley do that.) Kissinger said that in backgrounding the press he would make no mention of his participation in the process. He would say that we had reached this point by negotiations at a number of levels. Kissinger spoke of the pressures that have been put on the President to go in the opposite direction. He told me what the President’s natural inclination had been. He spoke of the possibility that had been considered of building up our missiles and leaving it up to The Congress to decide who was in favor of national security and who was not.

He spoke of the fact that we had considered at times in the past public announcements referring to the SWWA notion of the Spring of 1969.5 He spoke of calling up Dobrynin to congratulate him on being made a member of the Central Committee. He spoke about how he had told Dobrynin that an NCA/NCA deal was not what interested us. I asked him if it was clear that Minuteman III would not be involved in a halt, and he said “yes, it was clear.” I pointed out that this would limit Soviet offensive programs and not American offensive programs and implied that it would be quite a trick if we could pull it off. He reported his difficulties in understanding the Secretary of Defense’s [Page 493] position. Sometimes he was a dove and sometimes he took a very hard line. I congratulated Kissinger on his capability to keep privacy. He questioned me as to what the ACDA attitude would be. I told him I thought our people would be very pleased at the end product.6

I talked to Bill Rogers who shared my view of the process/product question. I suggested that he should try to advise the British and Japanese Governments in advance. I told him that NAC reaction as to the procedure would not be good. In talking to Kissinger, I asked him if he had detected any interest on Dobrynin’s part on a Zero ABM. He had not. Kissinger said that he had told Dobrynin there was a need for a political decision. Dobrynin said: “What do you mean by that?” The answer was not very clear, but in effect it was “let’s commit ourselves to go for a deal even though we don’t have present agreement on all the ‘legalities’.”

Gerard Smith 7
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 383, ACDA Files: FRC 383–97–0010, Box 2, Director’s Files, Smith/Farley Files, Chronological File, Farley Correspondence, SALT, November 1969–August 1971. Secret; Eyes Only. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office.
  2. No record of discussions on January 7 or 8 have been found. For their meeting on January 9, see Document 124.
  3. See Document 158.
  4. In his diary, May 19, Haldeman recorded Rogers’s reaction to his meeting with the President: “I then went over to the State Department; had about an hour with Rogers. He was clearly very upset. His basic point was ‘why didn’t you tell me that you were doing this? There’s no need for me to be involved, but I do have to be informed.’ He made the point that both K and the P had promised him that they would not have any other further meetings with any Ambassadors, and particularly with Dobrynin, without letting him know.” ( Haldeman Diaries, Multimedia Edition)
  5. Document 16.
  6. Attached but not printed is an addendum to the memorandum of conversation that reads: “After pointing out how loose the drafting was I told Henry that I could take no responsibility for the drafting. He understood, and said he knew who would be blamed if anything went wrong. Recalled my proposal in a message from Vienna that a public announcement be made. Kissinger said he wanted this approach included in the NSDM 102 [Document 138] guidance but it had not worked out that way. The only way they could get the result was this highly secretive process.”
  7. Printed from a copy that bears Smith’s typed signature.