195. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis (Tucker) to Secretary of Defense Laird and the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Packard)1


  • Telephone Conversation with Paul Nitze, 9/11/71

“Secondary Issues”. Nitze feels good progress is being made on developing common language, on well defined differences, on the definitions and conditions to go into an ABM agreement. They are proceeding to prepare agreed texts, with certain words or paragraphs bracketed if there is not agreement. Nitze expects the following issues to remain bracketed at the end of SALT V (Helsinki):

Our definitions of ABM interceptors and radars to include those of a type indistinguishable from missiles and radars tested in an ABM mode. The Soviets object to the words indistinguishable from in these definitions. Paul expects the Soviets will agree to a Minute which specifies that interceptors or radars of a type tested in an ABM mode include any missiles or radars indistinguishable from these respective types. In this event, we can agree to drop the indistinguishable from feature of our definitions.
The U.S. paragraph which limits radars of greater than one million watt-meters squared and which provides for peripheral, outward-looking early warning radars. Paul feels the Soviet delegation does not have the authority to agree at Helsinki, but may agree later.
The article dealing with ABM levels and Modern ABM Radar Complexes. Paul feels agreement on levels will clearly not be reached in SALT V.
The U.S. paragraph on future types of ABM devices. The Soviets object in principle to limiting unknown or unspecified devices. Paul feels the U.S. should compromise.
The U.S. withdrawal clause. The Soviets insist withdrawal should be possible only by invoking “supreme national interest”.
On non-transfer to third countries. Paul feels the U.S. should agree to no transfer of any of the components of ABM systems (radars, launchers, interceptors) defined in the limitation agreement.

Thus the principal remaining ABM issues will be: the levels, control of radars, and the withdrawal provisions.

Regarding the interim offense agreement, Paul feels that the Soviets will agree to the freeze on ICBMs, although they will quarrel over the cut-off dates and the definitions of “under construction” and “operational”. He feels they will also agree to a freeze on MLBMs, although they have indicated they have some questions regarding our data on numbers.
On SLBMs, Paul believes the instructions to the Soviet delegation are firm that they should reject it. On the other hand, they have made no good case against it. Paul expressed a deep concern over the negotiating record which led up to the May 20 announcement. He senses that the Soviets base their case strongly on that record. He said our delegation is fighting hard for inclusion of SLBMs, but he feels “the tree may have been sawed off some time ago”. Paul urged that Mel take Henry up on his offer to let Mel read the record, if he has not yet done so, at least as it refers to SLBMs, so as to understand what flexibility we have. [GLT comment: My impression, through NSC staff, is that the negotiating record is ambiguous and could be used to support either position; that Kissinger said at one point that the U.S. could accept a freeze on ICBM only, but that subsequently he stated our desire to limit SLBMs as well. In any case the precise meaning of the May 20th announcement is now being negotiated at Helsinki, and we should act as though it clearly included SLBMs.]2
Nitze’s view is that the delegation does not need new guidance before the end of SALT V, but should continue along their present lines.

Regarding the new Soviet ABM proposal. Paul saw two ways to think about the ICBM-defense part. One was for the U.S. to have just what we planned for Grand Forks as a part of 12-site Safeguard, with a Soviet equivalent. The other was a more optimized one-site defense of ICBM, perhaps covering two fields rather than one, with more interceptors and radars than in current Safeguard plans. He said Gerry Smith strongly favored the first approach and opposed the second. Roy Allison comes in between, preferring to defend one Minuteman [Page 604] field with more interceptors and radars. Paul said the Soviets apparently were considering defense with short-range interceptors only, whereas he thought we would need Spartans as well as Sprints. Paul said he had vague indications the Soviets were not thinking their ICBM defense would be limited to East of the Urals, in the relatively sparsely populated region of the USSR, but he planned to push the clarification. [GLT comment: The essential question is whether we can define and negotiate constraints which will give us confidence the Soviet “ICBM defense” ABM will not have significant value—defense capability. If we can, and if we can put tight limits on the Moscow defense and US NCA defense systems, then we have little to lose from Soviet ICBM defense, and should go for an optimized U.S. ICBM defense.]

Paul said the Delegation thinking was that the U.S. response to the new Soviet proposal should be generally negative, but say the U.S. is ready to explore it, and needs clarification. [GLT comment: I agree if we also make forcefully clear that defense and offense are coupled, that a new ABM proposal implies also a new offense proposal, and that we cannot take a position on the new ABM proposal until we hear the Soviet views on corresponding offense limits.]

Paul reported that he and Gerry Smith will be meeting with Semenov on Monday to seek clarification of the Soviet proposal. He promised feedback before the upcoming Principals’ meeting.

Paul said Gerry plans to send back tomorrow a list of options to be assessed in preparation for Vienna. They are:

Freeze where we are now both at Grand Forks and Moscow.
Complete Grand Forks (as planned in Safeguard) and Moscow.
The new Soviet proposal.

Paul said Gerry strongly prefers a because Gerry feels that it gives the best base for going eventually to zero ABM. He said Gerry believes the President is serious about proposing a zero ABM agreement at Vienna. Paul, on the other hand, had understood the President to be thinking of zero ABM after the initial agreement, as part of the follow-on firm agreement on offense. [GLT comment: Our number one goal must be to limit or reduce the Soviet offense, and to stay near offense parity. Zero ABM must be a means to that end, not an end in itself. The trouble with option a is that it leaves the U.S. with an inoperative system too close to zero, and therefore gives the Soviets no incentive to bargain for zero. We must go for a more capable option.]

I reviewed with Paul our assessment of the status, and the following objectives:
Move from the U.S. offense draft to a more equitable one.
Make clear the coupling between offense and defense. Force the Soviets to discuss offense before going further on ABM.
Force Soviets to apply their principles of
  • no unilateral advantage
  • common (“homogeneous”) purposes
  • equal numbers
  • to Ballistic Missiles as well as to ABMs.
Avoid broadening offense limits to FBS or bombers now.

Paul understands and appreciated these, but felt they might be precluded (especially c.) by the May 20th record, which proposed equitability for defense, but a freeze on offense. He agreed the U.S. drafts had apparently gone beyond May 20, but felt it would be very hard to break away from the offense draft now that it has been tabled.

Gardiner Tucker
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–009, Verification Panel Meeting SALT 9/15/71. Top Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. All brackets are in the original.