192. National Security Decision Memorandum 1271


  • The Members of the National Security Council
  • The Attorney General
  • The Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • The Director of Central Intelligence


  • Further Instructions for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks at Helsinki (SALT V)

The President has reviewed the issues raised by the Delegation and discussed by the Verification Panel2 and has made the following decisions:

The U.S. proposal in the 27 July draft agreement3 as well as the fallback position authorized in NSDM 117 remain the preferred U.S. position on ABM limitations. The U.S. Delegation should not introduce a proposal for zero-level ABM deployments nor should the Delegation pursue the issue further in this phase of the negotiations. A ban on all ABM deployments remains an ultimate U.S. objective and will be a subject for negotiations after we have reached an agreement on defensive limitations and an interim agreement on offensive limitations. The Soviet delegation should be informed privately of this position.
The Chairman of the Delegation is directed to provide the following interpretations of the freedom of choice between the ABM alternatives in paragraph 1 of Article 3 of the 27 July draft agreement: First, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. must indicate clearly their choice of an ABM deployment before the negotiations on ABM systems are completed or an agreement is initialled. When it is an appropriate time for selection, the Soviet Delegation should be informed that the U.S. choice would be a deployment at ICBM fields. Second, there should be an [Page 599] understanding that neither country would have the right to change its deployment except by mutual agreement.
The agreement should contain a provision whereby neither side shall deploy ABM systems using devices other than ABM interceptor missiles, ABM launchers, or ABM radars to perform the functions of these components. (This provision, along with that in the next paragraph, should not prohibit the development and testing of future ABM components in a fixed, land-based mode.)
The agreement should contain a provision whereby neither party shall develop, produce, test, or deploy: (a) sea-based, air-based, space-based, or mobile land-based ABM launchers, ABM missiles, or ABM radars; (b) ABM components other than ABM interceptor missiles or ABM radars to perform the functions of these components.
In presenting this position, the Delegation should not invite a detailed negotiation or discussion of future ABM systems. Our objective is to reach agreement on the broad principle that the agreement should not be interpreted in such a way that either side could circumvent its provisions through future ABM systems or components. We intend to handle any problems that may arise through the Joint Commission and the formal review procedures.
For the information of the Delegation, the provisions in paragraph 4 above are not intended to require either country to destroy existing deployed non-radar sensors or similar future ones. Rather, the provisions are intended to prohibit ABM sensors. If the issue is raised by the Soviets, the Delegation should seek guidance from Washington.
At some early time at the discretion of the Chairman of the Delegation it should be made clear that the U.S. interprets the spirit of the defensive limitations agreement—i.e., its stringent limits on ABM systems, and particularly the complete ban on launchers with a rapid reload capability—to impose a ban on the development, testing, production, or deployment of ABM interceptor missiles having more than one warhead on each missile.
The need for avoiding leaks is particularly compelling during this sensitive stage of the negotiations. The President’s directive of October 31, 1969, entitled, “Avoidance of Leaks on SALT,”4 is reaffirmed.

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–208, National Security Decision Memoranda, NSDMs 201–250. Top Secret; Nodis; SALT. Copies were sent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the senior members of the U.S. SALT Delegation. In an August 12 letter to Smith, President Nixon summarized his instructions and concluded, “thus, I am very reluctant to introduce a complete ban as our preferred solution and thereby move the negotiations back into the realm of comprehensive agreements. Nor do I want to create any pretext for the USSR to reopen the question of a completely separate ABM agreement.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 985, Haig Chronological File, Haig Chron, Aug 7–12, 1971)
  2. See footnote 3, Document 190.
  3. See Document 183.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 40.