19. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1

[Omitted here is discussion related to the U.S. strategic posture printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIV, National Security Policy, 1969–1972, Document 36.]

Smith Briefing2

RN: Are their subs under construction as good as ours?

Laird: They are Polaris type. They could be developing quieter subs.

RN: Civil defense should be included in the evaluations of capability. This is related to political warning. Not decisive, but should be there.

Major new factor is our verification capability.

Lincoln: Could capability be neutralized?

Helms: Sure, very easily.

RN: On-site inspection should be raised, and if you give it away get something for it.

Rogers: We would want to avoid making this a major issue. They would question our good faith. (Laird disagrees: don’t bring it up later on.) Smith: Depends on what our proposal is.

RN: You must assume they will cheat.

Doubts “good faith” assertion, but discuss it later.

Smith: We should try for “old-fashioned” on-site inspection. But also seek supplemental measures. But some agreements would require neither.

[Page 66]

RN: SWWA 3 is propaganda point, a gimmick. Neither side will negotiate on that basis. But it could be used as propaganda. Reserve it for later consideration. It’s like a cease-fire in VN. Not serious.

RN: What will they ask for?

They will ask for flight test limits, because they have done so much of it to us.

What’s purpose of Soviet MRV? (to Helms) Is it first-strike weapon or not? (Helms: oh, yes sir, it is.)

With cities, they don’t need it. They aren’t stupid.

Laird, Packard: Poseidon really isn’t a hard target weapon. Subs can’t navigate that well; we can’t achieve the necessary accuracies.

RN: On Intelligence reports:

Strict separation between fact, opinion.
Intelligence information has been used to prove conclusions, rather than draw conclusions. Around this table, I don’t want that kind of talk. We’re here to learn the facts. In 1965–1968, Intelligence Community was 50% too low. We must be hard-headed in looking at the facts. (He laid line down hard to Helms.)

Helms: More than half of our search areas are continuously covered by clouds.

Maintaining arms control agreement would not be easy. We can probably give timely warning of cheating on a scale that would alter the strategic balance.

[less than 1 line not declassified]

Packard Briefing4

Get Wheeler’s talking points on targeting considerations

Today, our capability gives you limited capability in other than A.D. situations.
Option IV—MIRV ban—would not be in our best interests, because of targeting limitations.5
Desirability of having an ABM of undetermined size.
2–1 advantage in Soviet throw weight.

RN: Who would benefit from MIRV moratorium?

Wheeler: I don’t think we would. Soviets might like to stop both our MIRVs and ABMs.

RN: Why not stop testing for a year? Would it bother you?

Wheeler: Yes sir, it would. We can’t be satisfied with ours. They might be OK. We would be constrained to stay with single RVs.

[Page 67]

RN: Why is MIRV important? Forget payload; enough is enough. Is it because we can hit the additional targets? Is that what it comes down to?

Wheeler: Targets. We can get good accuracies on MM III.

RN: Do we tie MIRV & ABMs together because of defending hard sites? Is ABM help against their MRV?

Wheeler: Spartan (4 MT) will kill all 3 RVs.

Our MIRV’s clusters can’t be killed with one warhead.

Laird: They can’t read our program as having hard target capability.

Rogers: WRT6 payload, doesn’t freezing numbers put us at a disadvantage?

Laird: Throw weight will make big difference in long run. We have to consider this point.

Smith: In 10 years, will we both be better off with MIRVs? With payload problem, we will both be worse off.

Laird: We only have 40 Titans7 with hard target capability.

RN: If we can maintain 30% a.d. how can we talk of Soviet first strike?

Laird: We would have to remain reliant on bombers.

Rogers: Who would benefit from MIRV ban?

Laird: Could make a case it would be about even. They believe all tests have been successful. If so, they have moved ahead of us. They’ve had “confidence firings.”

RN: Charts show that MIRV ban is our worst option. Is that right? What are charts up there for?8 (Maybe for fun.) Is option III worse or not?

Packard: Depends on whether we limit ICBMs. Gives us extra targeting capability. Should couple MIRV band with ICBM limits. Must work out numbers problem.

Rogers: Point is that Soviets can target our missiles.

Packard: We couldn’t deploy and have it unknown. They can.

Smith: Wouldn’t we see their confidence firings?

Wheeler: Test it in an IR/MRBM.

Smith: Upgrade our detection capabilities.

Wheeler: It will increase the force we can apply against them.

RN: It all comes down to diplomacy as we all know. First strike, counterforce can be an asset.

[Page 68]

RN: Shouldn’t tell the whole truth. Could talk about MRVs, however.

Rogers: Get something reapproach. They’re testing, we’re testing.

HAK: Develop a single answer and clear it. (Party line.)

Who gains from deployment ban?
Who gains from testing ban?
Can you be sure? What about clandestine testing?

SALT Options Paper.9

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–109, NSC Minutes Originals 1969. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting was held in the Cabinet Room of the White House from 10:14 a.m. to 12:48 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) Among the briefing materials he sent to Nixon on June 17, Kissinger included a summary of Presidential decisions that he recommended should result from the meeting. These included obtaining NSC endorsement of the four criteria of strategic sufficiency presented in the NSC Staff paper “U.S. Strategic Posture: Basic Issues” (see footnote 2, Document 12). The paper listed four conditions that defined strategic sufficiency “maintain high confidence that our second strike capability is sufficient to deter an all-out Soviet surprise attack on our strategic forces; maintain forces to insure that the Soviet Union would have no incentive to strike the United States first in a crisis; maintain the capability to deny to the Soviet Union the ability to cause significantly more deaths and industrial damage in the United States in a nuclear war than they themselves would suffer; and, deploy defenses which limit damage from small attacks or accidental launches to a low level” (see Document 34, Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIV, National Security Policy, 1969–1972). Kissinger explained endorsement of the criteria was “important because it will establish clear guidelines for the SALT talks and for consultations with our allies.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 873, SALT, Volume II, June–July 1969)
  2. No other record of this briefing has been found.
  3. See Document 16.
  4. No other record of this briefing has been found.
  5. The options are those set forth in Document 14.
  6. With Respect To.
  7. A family of weapons and the first U.S. two-stage ICBM and first underground silo-based ICBM.
  8. These charts apparently illustrated the various options. They were not found.
  9. In Nixon’s briefing materials, Kissinger included a summary of the options described in the NSSM 28 report (see Document 14), but recommended that Nixon postpone discussion of SALT issues until the Review Group considered it at a meeting scheduled for June 19. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 873, SALT, Volume II, June–July 1969)