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

Dear Henry:

I write you the following in order to try to keep on the same beam as Washington. I know that operating thousands of miles from one’s capital, even with the best of electronic communication facilities, leads to a tendency toward misunderstanding of what one’s authorities want.

I gather that there is some feeling in Washington that the SALT Delegation is behind schedule and this is owing to our “fighting” the NSDM.2 I believe this is not a fair estimate of the situation.

The two main issues of zero and futuristic systems did not arise from any delegation effort to change the NSDM. The first post-Vienna zero sounding of the USSR was made before the NSDM was issued. My approach to Semenov was at White House authorization.

On futuristics, my proposed text language tracked directly the NSDM. The JCS raised the issue in Washington and urged a change in NSDM policy.3

In some other cases the delegation has sought authoritative interpretation of the NSDM language where the intent of the language was not clear. I believe that greater clarity and a better US position resulted without loss of time.

We have pressed the Soviets without success for more frequent meetings.

When we have guidance on zero and futuristics, the issues should quickly come to a head here. Till then, I see no alternative to pressing on with explanation of the articles of the US ABM text.

I trust you will present these points to the President since, if he thinks I am being dilatory or obstinate, my usefulness to him would be over.


  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1971, SALT. Top Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. Documents 171 and 180.
  3. See Document 186.