184. Memorandum From K. Wayne Smith and Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Guidance on ABM Ban Proposal

The surfacing in the front channel of Semenov’s receptiveness to a zero-ABM proposal requires decisions from you as to what direction we should now take. Gerry Smith has sent a cable (Tab A)2 which sets forth the Semenov/Smith discussions and urges that we promptly table a proposal for an ABM ban.

The Delegation (except Allison) supports this proposal and is preparing a draft ban proposal along the lines of August 4.3 Allison is taking this opportunity to reassert the long-standing JCS objection to zero ABM.4

There are two ways we can proceed on this:

We could ask the Working Group5 to do a detailed study of zero ABM levels in the context of the current negotiations. This is largely unnecessary, inasmuch as we did a thorough analysis of zero levels at the outset in developing the SALT building blocks and with minor modifications the outlines of the August 4 proposal are adequate. However, referring the issues to the Working Group could serve to buy time and reopen a forum for debating whether we would accept zero ABM at all.
If it is the President’s decision that zero ABM remains a part of the U.S. position, we could simply await the Delegation ban proposal, work it over at the Working Group/Backstopping level and refer it for approval perhaps without a Verification Panel meeting. There are some minor issues that need studying in the Verification Panel Working Group, but these are things which we understand fairly well in a broad way, e.g., destruction and dismantling procedures.

We need your guidance as to how to proceed. Please indicate your decisions below.

  • —Refer the entire issue to the Verification Panel Working Group and for consideration by the Verification Panel.
  • —Await the Delegation’s proposal and consider it at the Working Group level. A decision will be made subsequently as to whether the Verification Panel is required.
  • —Other. See me.6
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 881, SALT talks (Helsinki), Vol. XV, 1 May–July 1971. Top Secret; Nodis; SALT. Sent for urgent action. Sent through Haig and Kennedy.
  2. Attached but not printed is telegram USDEL SALT 854 from Helsinki, July 27.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 104.
  4. On July 28 Kissinger and Laird discussed the zero ABM issue at a breakfast meeting attended by Pursley, Haig, and Admiral Murphy. According to an unsigned memorandum for the record prepared on August 11, they had the following exchange: “Secretary Laird then expressed concern about the U.S. position in the SALT preparations on zero ABM. Dr. Kissinger commented that he was not very sure how this issue would come out, but he expected that we should not complicate the negotiations by the new proposal. Secretary Laird stated that Senator Jackson was having great difficulty with the number of sites we were proposing in the budget since it was apparent that we might take another position in our SALT negotiations.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1025, Presidential/HAK MemCons, MemCon—Sec. Laird, HAK, Gen. Pursley, Gen. Haig, and Adm. Murphy, July 28, 1971)
  5. Reference is to the Verification Panel Working Group.
  6. Kissinger did not initial any of the options but wrote in the margin: “If we can put it before Aug. 6 meeting, otherwise let Delegation put forward proposal.”