20. Minutes of a Review Group Meeting1


  • NSSM 28—“Stop Where We Are” Proposal


  • Henry A. Kissinger—Chairman
  • State
    • Richard F. Pedersen
    • Donald McHenry
    • Philip Farley
  • Defense
    • G. Warren Nutter
  • JCS
    • Maj. Gen. Royal B. Allison
  • CIA
    • R. Jack Smith
    • [name not declassified]
  • AEC
    • Allen Labowitz
  • USIA
    • Frank Shakespeare
  • ACDA
    • Gerard Smith
    • Spurgeon Keeny, Jr.
  • OST
    • Donald Steininger
  • OEP
    • Haakon Lindjord
  • NSC Staff
    • Morton Halperin
    • William Hyland
    • Winston Lord
    • Laurence Lynn
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt


It was confirmed that a directive was going out for the Steering Group to prepare specific SALT negotiating proposals in time for a June 25 NSC meeting on this subject. The Review Group agreed that this paper would include a fuller discussion of verification problems, to the extent possible in the limited time available. This discussion would cover for each negotiating option such questions as how easy it would be to violate the agreement, what sort of violations would concern us, and what choices we would have when we spotted violations. With regard to the paper on the “Stop Where We Are” proposal,2 it was agreed that, instead of attempting to weave counter arguments into it, OSD and JCS would prepare a counter paper that would set forth the major problems with this proposal.

Kissinger said that the purpose of the meeting was to go over the “Stop Where We Are” (SWWA) paper that had been completed after the SALT summary paper3 had gone through the Steering Group. The SWWA proposal suggests the option for the arms talks of the US and USSR staying where we are in strategic deployments, construction and development, either now or when agreement is reached, although the former probably makes more sense. From many points of view, this was the most comprehensive of the proposals that had been put forward. He thought the paper was very good. It leads one to the conclusion that this type of agreement would operate to the net advantage of the United States—this could pose problems of its negotiability. He was struck by the fact that there were not many counter arguments in the paper and wondered whether it had received the same type of analysis as the rest of NSSM 28.

G. Smith replied that Systems Analysis (OSD) and others had told him that it had received comparable analysis. Kissinger stressed that the purpose of his questions and the meeting was to review this paper, to ascertain whether other views should be included, and to see that the option is stated fairly. He assumed that ACDA’s intention was to have SWWA considered as one of the options rather than to be chosen the best option. G. Smith responded that this was correct, at least [Page 70] at this point. Kissinger then confirmed that the discussion would center on whether the SWWA paper presented a fair statement and not whether this option should be selected versus the others. He asked G. Smith whether he had any general comments on the paper. G. Smith said that he thought the paper spoke for itself and was glad to answer any questions. Kissinger then asked whether anyone wished to raise counter arguments or concerns not covered in the paper.

Allison said that he had some problems. The proposal had not been treated like the other NSSM 28 options and there was a need for pros and cons. SWWA was more comprehensive than the other options. The JCS had difficulties with a proposal this comprehensive because of certain specific aspects. He had gone over the subject in detail with General Wheeler and he wished to state that from a military standpoint, the JCS were quite concerned.

He then proceeded to mention some of the problems. First, the ban on MIRVs or MIRV testing involved the control of technology. This was neither feasible nor desirable. Secondly, there were great difficulties in controlling bombers and air defense which the paper did not adequately recognize. This problem had been looked at closely in the past and for many reasons, including the problem of defining bombers, might well present the most difficult aspect of an arms control agreement. For example, the proposal does not include the question of weapons, which illustrated an extreme example of the definition problem. One could be allowed to put Skybolts4 on bombers, for example. Thirdly, the JCS were very concerned about the verification aspects. The JCS representative had expressed these concerns in the Verification Panel’s report.5 There were uncertainties in new verification capabilities which were neither operative now nor had the full confidence of some military technical experts.

Kissinger wondered whether these objections were peculiar to this SWWA option or whether they applied to all the options. Allison replied that he was directing his remarks at this particular proposal. When Kissinger referred to the Skybolt example, Allison replied that the other options did not control bombers. Kissinger noted that this option controlled the number of bombers while others left open the possibility of increasing the number. Allison did not wish to forecast whether more bombers would be built under the other options.

Allison then mentioned a fourth aspect, throw weight, which was of great concern to the military. This was a problem under an arms agreement for which a good solution had not yet been found. Here as [Page 71] elsewhere the JCS objective was the common government-wide one of finding a solution which was of net advantage to the United States. He then concluded that this constituted a brief rundown of the JCS concerns about this option, which had not gone through the same process as the other SALT proposals. He felt that more work was needed on this proposal. In summary, he repeated that the Chairman, JCS, was quite concerned with SWWA from the military standpoint.

Nutter commented on the moratorium question. The moratorium could have some very attractive features but we should not put forward the type envisaged in this proposal if we were really looking for a more limited arms control agreement. This could lead to difficult problems, both political and otherwise. Kissinger noted that a small group, on which all concerned agencies would be represented, was working on the MIRV issue. In response to Allison’s query, Farley confirmed that the JCS would have a representative once the group is functioning. Kissinger said that the purpose of this group was to explore the various aspects of this question and that therefore the kind of moratorium problem that Nutter had raised was getting a detailed look. He then asked G. Smith to comment on Allison’s remarks.

G. Smith said that he was concerned with the principle that we should not control technology. The Steering Group had gone over this problem at some length. The ACDA position was that if the principle were accepted, arms control would make no sense, for that is what arms control is all about. He cited the Limited Test Ban Treaty6 as an example of controlling technology, and continued that we were kidding ourselves if we attempted to get arms control agreements that do not control technology, for then the arms race could continue and even be more expensive. He thought this was a central issue—were the Joint Chiefs correct in saying that we should not control technology? It was important to clarify this point, for if that is our position, we were off on the wrong track. A related question the government should ask itself is: are we willing to control as much of the arms race as we can verify with confidence? The answer to this question determines the direction of our policy. He did not believe that there was clarity within the government on this point.

Kissinger wondered whether this was not the same issue as whether or not we chose to go for a limited, intermediate, or comprehensive agreement. G. Smith rejoined that the reasoning behind our decision was important. If the President chose a limited agreement but made it clear that he did so even though we could verify more, this [Page 72] would answer his question. He believed the answer should be in the other direction, that in 1969 governments should get as much as they can included under arms control agreements. In response to Kissinger’s query, he did not believe that this question was fully spelled out in the other SALT paper. Kissinger thought that this was a new point worth covering.

Sonnenfeldt assumed that we wished to have under an arms control agreement as much as would be in our interest—verification was not the only criterion. G. Smith questioned this assumption. Since 1945–6 we have said that we wanted arms control but that we could not trust the other side. The principal obstacle has been inspection. To some extent this problem has been dissipated through development of national means of verification. Therefore, we should now see whether we still agree with this principle or whether, even with sufficient verification, we would not want a comprehensive agreement. Sonnenfeldt said that he was referring to individual measures rather than the overall arms control concept. He envisaged some systems that it was not in our interest to control even though we could have complete verification. G. Smith rejoined that we would not be able to split out those systems which would be to our advantage. Kissinger suggested an ABM versus third countries as a system that we might not wish to include in an agreement even though we could verify compliance. In response to G. Smith’s comment that it would be difficult to pick out exceptions, Sonnenfeldt envisaged the possibility of trading off marginal systems with the other side. G. Smith agreed that we could attempt this but would face very serious negotiating problems.

G. Smith then referred to Allison’s concern about a complete freeze on bombers. He thought that perhaps we could reach an accepted definition with the Soviets. There was no reason not to try, especially in this field where we hold a substantial advantage. He would like to see a freeze on bombers. As for adding Skybolt, we and the Soviets could both accomplish this now. He thought it would be to our advantage, not to our disadvantage, to be able to take our bomber force and use it in the most technologically advanced fashion. As for the question of throw weight, this had received extensive discussion. The SWWA proposal attempted to get at this problem by controlling all tests, and from what he had heard recently, this should be a plus for this option. Concerning Nutter’s point about a moratorium, he agreed that the President should be able to accept in reality anything that we would propose. We should not make proposals that we could not live with or up to. Once we are committed to a moratorium, it may be very difficult to get out of it. In this regard he disagreed with the general mythology that we had taken a licking during the nuclear test moratorium. We were the first to say that we felt free to resume testing at any time. Kissinger noted that we did not resume testing and G. Smith responded [Page 73] that we were free to go ahead. We made a voluntary, unilateral decision not to do so. Kissinger did not see how G. Smith’s comments added to the argument for a moratorium. Our actions were a ploy to put the pressure on the Soviets to keep from testing. G. Smith said that we were attempting to reach an actual agreement at that time.

Concerning SWWA, it was a serious proposal and not just a public relations effort. It had been given to the Steering Group on May 14 and all agencies had had a chance to study it. Since it had been open for review for five weeks, ACDA was not vulnerable to the charge that it was a last minute effort. Kissinger said that its status had never been clear; it was now being looked at systematically. G. Smith said that the Strategic Analysis Panel had reviewed it and had been urged to complete their studies. There had also been CIA consideration. Thus the report was not in any sense an “illegal” added starter. It had been formally sent around to each agency. Allison said that although the proposal had been tabled, it had not gone through the full NSSM 28 process. He recalled that G. Smith had tabled it as “just an idea”. G. Smith rejoined that he had said that he hoped that it was an idea that had reached its time.

Shakespeare agreed with G. Smith that SWWA was the most attractive option for people here and abroad. It seemed to connote a self-evident fairness. However, there could be problems with public opinion both here and overseas, particularly concerning the “verification with confidence” problem. Western Europe and others in the free world depended on US military strength. There would be great pressure concerning the confidence of our verification capabilities and people would not be willing to live with risks. Kissinger wondered whether this consideration did not apply to all the options. Shakespeare replied that it did but was most relevant for this one. This agreement could fall apart if serious public relations trouble developed here and abroad. G. Smith said that it was the judgment of the intelligence community, with some JCS dissent, that this sort of approach was the easiest to verify. J. Smith confirmed this point. Kissinger questioned why it was the easiest to verify, and J. Smith replied, because of its comprehensiveness. Any deployments or testing could provide grounds for suspecting violations. Kissinger wondered whether verification problems were necessarily more difficult if, for example, bombers or submarines were not covered by the agreement. He agreed that these exceptions would complicate the question of strategic balance, but he was not sure they would increase the intelligence problem. J. Smith underlined the testing moratorium aspect in this regard. He agreed with Kissinger’s observation that a moratorium on testing would make it easier to verify the agreement. G. Smith added that if all moves in a game were prohibited, it would be easier to detect violations than if some moves were allowed. Kissinger noted that each one of the various options controls [Page 74] different weapons systems and that one adds categories as one went from a limited measure to a more inclusive one. The intelligence problem concerned whether one could verify the systems being controlled under the agreement. This verification issue should be distinguished from the issue of the impact of various agreements on the strategic equation.

G. Smith cited a land mobile missile system as one example of easier verification under SWWA and Kissinger agreed. In fact, Kissinger wondered why land mobile missiles were included in any of the options.

Keeny said there were other examples of where SWWA helped the verification problem. For example, a freeze on air defense simplifies the problem of controlling ABMs by limiting SAMs which might have dual capability. J. Smith said SWWA helped verification both of deployments and of identifying on-going systems, for under a complete moratorium any activity would be suspicious.

In response to Shakespeare’s query on how one verifies all activities, J. Smith replied through monitoring of testing. G. Smith noted that there would be no ban on research and development under SWWA. In response to Kissinger’s question, G. Smith said that IRBMs could not be upgraded. Keeny noted that these were frozen under all the SALT options. He agreed with Kissinger that the fact that the Soviets could upgrade some of their IRBMs to ICBMs would cause a problem, but this problem was common to all the options. Under SWWA we would be able to check new types of missiles.

Lynn said that the phrase “verify with confidence” implies that we would have enough confidence in our capabilities not to make a response or to worry about abrogation of an agreement while monitoring the other side’s activity. The difficulty with SWWA was that by banning all activity on both sides, anything that the other side began to do could worry us, for we would be forestalled in our own programs (i.e., we would not be able to respond without violating the agreement ourselves). He was thus concerned about the degree to which we would be nervous about our intelligence capabilities with regard to Soviet activities.

J. Smith responded that verification with confidence meant verifying those actions which could significantly alter the strategic balance. Secondly, there was the assumption that there would be some sort of machinery to implement and monitor an arms agreement, not unlike that which existed for the test ban. There had been a steady stream of US-Soviet messages concerning activities that either side did not understand. This had proven helpful, even though, of course, it fell short of inspection.

Kissinger noted that by examining an option separately it was apt to carry an undue burden of critique. For example, the Review Group was devoting more care to this option because it stood alone. G. Smith rejoined that he was glad to have it closely surveyed.

[Page 75]

Lynn repeated his point that the more vulnerable an agreement was to changes, the more rigorous the demand on our intelligence capabilities. J. Smith agreed that there would be more questions for the intelligence community to handle. Kissinger believed that it was a larger problem than this. It was important to distinguish between the ease of controlling systems from the demands on our intelligence capabilities concerning the dangers of violation. G. Smith felt that the more systems that were allowed under an agreement, the greater the requirements for intelligence. He referred to page 11 in the SWWA paper concerning our sensitivity to cheating. In the case where the Soviets violated the agreement by adding 300 ICBMs, our retaliatory capability would remain above 40%. If the Soviets cheated and added 500 area ABMs, the US retaliatory capability would drop to 35%, which was still above the magic McNamara figure. Kissinger noted that this was one figure which he thought should be abolished. G. Smith agreed that concentrating on this number alone was unfortunate. Allison added that this sort of calculation represented only one of the tools for judgment. One also had to examine how a nuclear exchange was fought, whether military targets were hit, damage limitation, etc. He therefore agreed with Kissinger that this type of figure was insufficient. G. Smith noted that all the options had used this criterion and that was why he was also referring to it.

Keeny returned to the question of stability. He believed that the SWWA proposal represented the most stable type of agreement (as opposed to permitting MIRVs for example), since all three strategic force components were now invulnerable and assured a high level of survival. G. Smith believed that strategic analysis bore this out and pointed out page 9 of the paper which showed that under SWWA 79% of US land-based ICBMs would survive a first strike in 1978. In response to Halperin’s question, he believed that 44% would survive without any arms control agreement. Keeny thought this figure could drop, but Hyland recalled that Safeguard could keep the figure up.

Lynn used the illustration of the Soviets discovering a technological problem with their SS9s or SS11s. He wondered whether they might test to solve this problem and at the same time improve their accuracy. He wondered what our reaction would be if we had evidence of this and if we would be worried. Keeny thought that we would, and noted this was an example of a possible slow erosion of an agreement. In response to Lynn’s query about our reaction if it appeared that SS11s were being developed for hard targets, Keeny noted that SS11s seem inaccurate. He added that SS11s would never have high accuracy against hard targets unless a new reentry vehicle were developed. This would not be permitted under SWWA. They could test for confidence the present reentry vehicle, but they could not test [Page 76] new ones. J Smith noted that this was a broad question which applied to all options.

Lynn said that this option assumed no qualitative improvements. This opened up a whole range of potential ambiguities in the agreement that could cause much worry in the future. There followed a brief exchange concerning the accuracy of the SS9 and the SS11 and the importance of reentry vehicles.

J. Smith recalled that the intelligence community, those charged with the NIEs on verification, and the Verification Panel had arrived at unanimous views on these questions, except for some footnotes by the JCS representative which reflected DDR&E opinions. He was not saying that there was no room for other points of view, but was only underlining the consensus opinion of the intelligence community. Allison agreed, but said there were still those in the world who would take a different view. G. Smith thought it was very significant that the very people who would be charged with the responsibility of monitoring arms control agreements have confidence in our verification capabilities while those people who would not have this responsibility saw problems. Shakespeare commented that there would nevertheless be difficulties with public opinion if the military authorities in this country were unsure of our verification capabilities. G. Smith agreed with this observation.

There followed an extensive discussion, primarily involving [name not declassified], J. Smith, Hyland and Allison, with regard to very sensitive intelligence capabilities for monitoring Soviet testing.

Shakespeare wondered whether we could state to the Western world that without on site inspection in the Soviet Union we could be absolutely certain that there would be no violations of the arms control agreement. He believed that such an unequivocal statement would be necessary. G. Smith responded that whatever we said about this question would be challenged. In any event, we could not state that we would be absolutely certain that there would never be undetected cheating. What we could say would be that we would have high confidence that there would be no major undetected violations that would affect the strategic balance. In response to Shakespeare’s question, G. Smith said that we had not yet taken a position on whether we should ask the Soviet Union to agree to on site inspection. Pedersen noted that even with on site inspection we could not give categorical assurances about violations. Shakespeare rejoined that we would, however, have more confidence. G. Smith felt that absolute assurances would be deceiving the American people. For example, we would never be certain about land mobile missiles.

Kissinger interjected that about two thirds of the discussion seemed to apply to all options and was meaningful primarily in terms [Page 77] of all the proposals. He reported that as a result of the NSC meeting7 a memorandum was going out directing the Steering Group to prepare a number of negotiating packages, including one or two for each major category of agreement. He believed that if the SWWA proposal was to go before the NSC it should include the considerations that Allison had raised. G. Smith replied that he was prepared to put in any language that Allison wished to have represent the JCS position. Kissinger believed this was a good arrangement. For all the options the NSC should be told what work was still going on, if analysis was not completed on all the proposals. There should be a discussion of such problems as how easy it would be to violate each of the proposed agreements, what sort of violations would concern us, and what choices we would have when we spotted violations. He thus wished to see a more comprehensive treatment of the entire verification problem for each of the options. This would help the NSC to get a clearer picture of what it was getting into when it considered each option.

Nutter cited a Vietnam example with regard to our reaction to violations of agreements. He noted that one of the conditions of the bombing halt was the understanding that there would be no attacks on populated areas by the other side. These attacks have since occurred, but we have not yet admitted violation of the understanding, preferring to qualify each individual incident. Kissinger said this illustrated the problems of what we should do when an arms control agreement is violated. Nutter suggested that we didn’t wish to determine that an understanding had been broken. G. Smith said that this consideration applied to any of the arms control options.

Allison did not agree that two thirds of the discussion applied to any of the options. For example, not all of his problems with SWWA applied to the other proposals. Kissinger believed that many of the questions in the discussion did apply to all the options, although the degree of concern may vary from proposal to proposal.

Allison said that it would be difficult for the JCS to weave their views into the SWWA paper. Perhaps it would be better if their views were set forth comprehensively. Other options had received a balance of pros and cons. It was not clear to him how these would be inserted into the present paper. Nutter agreed, and G. Smith thought that Allison’s suggestion was a better way of approaching the problem than attempting to list pros and cons in the ACDA paper.

Kissinger agreed with this procedure. He said that in developing negotiating options for next week’s NSC meeting, the drafters should [Page 78] draw upon the SWWA paper and the JCS/OSD submission.8 Sonnenfeldt noted that the directive that was going out to prepare negotiating options instructed the Steering Group to state the advantages and problems for each proposal. Kissinger said that he wished to have a complete joint OSD/JCS paper on SWWA in addition to seeing their arguments in the negotiating paper. Allison confirmed that this paper would identify difficulties and describe the reasoning behind these concerns.

J. Smith made three points with regard to the discussion on verification. First, Kissinger and others had heard Helms’ presentation at the NSC meeting which was carefully moderated and made no undue claims. Secondly, there was a remarkable degree of unanimity among the intelligence community on this question, especially compared with the large disarray that existed only 18 months ago. Thirdly, he believed the JCS problems needed much further investigation. They concern important questions but were not really at the heart of the verification problem. When Kissinger asked why they were not, J. Smith replied because they dealt with specific singular aspects rather than the overall question. G. Smith noted that the JCS representative dealt with the overall problem when he said, in a page 3 dissent in the Verification Panel’s Report, that the assessment of verification confidence with regard to SWWA was optimistic. J. Smith responded that this was a reference to a specific point on page 8 and concerned the MIRV problem.

Kissinger posed the following type of question: would the Soviets be permitted to conduct operational testing with regard to the SS9 and its reentry vehicle? Would this be considered an operational system or would one need to call it a MIRV and place it under the MIRV ban? G. Smith replied that for confidence purposes we could test our A3 and they could test their reentry vehicle. Kissinger believed that we would have considerable disagreement on this question. Some would claim that what they were doing with their SS9 was not comparable to our testing of our A3. G. Smith thought this was a more manageable problem. The Soviets could not go ahead with new R&D testing without our noting it as a violation and calling the deal off. He did not wish to settle this question now, but it was not self-evident that it would necessarily work to our disadvantage.

[Page 79]

Farley believed that if we went into SALT with the SWWA position, we would need to develop with the other side a careful identification of where they are and where we are. Nutter referred again to the specific question of the MIRV versus MRV capabilities, and the need for testing on both sides. Kissinger repeated his view that there would be much discussion concerning a comparison of our A3 with their RV. G. Smith acknowledged that it would not be a simple negotiation. He agreed with Kissinger’s observation that we would need a MIRV ban for high confidence in SWWA. Kissinger wondered whether the A3 would have to come under a MIRV ban. Keeny believed that it would unless we were able to make ad hoc trade-offs of exceptions with the other side. Kissinger recognized that it would not be possible to have the answers to such questions for next week’s NSC meeting, but he thought that the uncertainties in each of the packages should be highlighted for the principals.

In response to Halperin’s question whether SWWA would ban A3 testing, there followed a brief exchange among Keeny, Halperin and G. Smith. Keeny believed this question was fudged in the proposal, but that under a strictly legal definition A3 testing would not be permitted. The intent of the SWWA proposal was that the A3 would be banned unless we negotiated a trade-off with the other side. There was some discussion of whether flight or development testing would not be allowed while confidence firing would be, and whether one could distinguish between these types of tests. Keeny believed that the Soviets probably could distinguish between testing purposes. He repeated that the SWWA proposal tried to leave open this question for further study. For example, we might wish to rule out FOBS testing and the Soviets might maintain that FOBS was an established system. Lynn envisaged situations where we might even have to strip warheads off missiles. Allison pointed out that this discussion illustrated the complexities of SWWA, and Kissinger noted that these complexities had borne in on him in recent weeks. Keeny believed that we might be able to keep the A3 without testing, with some degradation in our confidence in the system.

Nutter said that it was one thing to have confidence in our verification capabilities and another question whether this meant anything. What would we do if we detected violations by the other side? We could be in the same fix as we have been with regard to the Vietnam bombing halt. Pedersen said that he did not believe that this type of question could be answered in advance. Kissinger wondered how much we would care about the other side’s violations, for example in a situation where it needed 45 tests to develop a system—would one or two illegal tests be acceptable to us? Although it was difficult to answer this type of question in advance, the answers will not be any easier in the future if we fly blind, not having examined this problem beforehand.

[Page 80]

Keeny said that with regard to the A3 we might try to get the Soviets to accept it as a unique system, one of long standing development. The Soviets in turn might ask for exceptions for themselves, e.g., with regard to the SS9. We might then have to drop our attempt on the A3. Halperin wondered how important the A3 would be if ABM levels were frozen; he didn’t have the answer.

Kissinger summarized that OSD and JCS would state in their own paper their concerns with the SWWA proposal. ACDA and the other Steering Group agencies would prepare negotiating models for tentative consideration at the next NSC meeting.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–038, Review Group, SALTSWWA” 6/19/69. Top Secret. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. On June 23 Halperin forwarded these minutes through Lord to Kissinger. A notation on the covering memorandum indicates that Kissinger saw it on June 26.
  2. Document 16.
  3. Document 14.
  4. Air-launched ballistic missiles.
  5. See footnote 4, Document 14.
  6. The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was negotiated in July 1963 and entered into force in October 1963. (14 UST 1313)
  7. See Document 19.
  8. Reference is to a memorandum from Wheeler to Laird, JCSM–377–69, June 17, entitled “Preparation of U.S. Position for Possible Strategic Arms Talks,” in which the JCS position on the NSSM 28 paper was delineated. Wheeler concluded that “the Joint Chiefs of Staff note that, with appropriate modifications as discussed above, the range of options outlined in the NSSM–28 Report, except Option IV, could provide the basis for development of a strategic arms control proposal for discussion with the USSR. The foregoing is based on the understanding that the options and variants would not impose limitations on application of technology or force modernization and would include provisions for verification, replacement criteria, safeguards, and withdrawal.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files:FRC 330–75–0103, Box 16, USSR, 388.3)