22. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1

Smith: What are we trying to do? What guidance do we get?

Four possibilities:

  • Continue consultations
  • Propaganda
  • Détente
  • Improve U.S. Security

NSSM–32 showed we had security interest in talks.

We can improve chances for peace.

We should approach SALT positively.

RN: How does it happen, when? Where? Who? Agenda?

Smith: Procedures at a low level, perhaps not public.

Public relations level
Presidential, private participation

Laird: Thinking now formalized

Some against better than none
Pres. retaliation capability
Soviet reading parallel to ours
Sovs have 20 economic restraints
Retaliatory effects of strategic posture can be calculated with confidence.
Agreement can be monitored with ease and confidence.

Laird: We have to create our package based on our thinking or revise our thinking.

RN: I don’t agree with 3 of them. Let’s not be naive. Sovs same as ours? Objective is retaliatory? It is diplomatic.

Laird: Retaliatory capacity is supreme with us. We can lose our ICBMs and have enough left. I can’t accept that.

RN: I have responsibility. Defense estimate must be able to conduct effective diplomacy when I am through. When I lay it down it must be followed.

[Page 84]

Smith: Our position should be exploratory, not rigid at outset. Should be flexible.

RN: I agree with that. “Getting to know you.”

Smith: We should table a proposal we can live with.

RN: Will they put out a proposal? I think they will say stop where we are, then disarm.

Smith: Shows arms control options. Analysis results.

RN: NAC paper should be exploratory, not selling. Consultation should be therapy.

Laird: Remember that NAC materials will get into Soviet hands.

RN: Congressional briefings should be sanitized. Papers will lobby us into most comprehensive.

HAK: Must recognize importance of our forces to Allies, importance of consultations to Alliance relationships.

RN: Put ridiculous options at either end. Same with Congress.

RN: I will prepare for myself a Q&A.

Important thing is success of the negotiation. Consultations should not impair that.

Wheeler: A, B and C3 would be used with Allies. ICBM freeze would not be negotiable. I am not satisfied by results of verification panel. Opposed to unverifiable restraints on technology. Helms’ assessments don’t jibe with other presentations. He was moderate. Tests of confidence in peacetime different from covert evasions.

RN: Technical people think with their hearts not their heads.

Initial position in talks should not be known to Congress and Allies in advance. Should be something new, not initiatives already discussed.

You feel we should make substantial proposal, will they respond with propaganda proposal?

Smith: Yes.

RN: Why should we be serious?

To demonstrate that we are really in good faith?

Smith: Yes.

RN: I don’t agree with Thompson thesis. There are other reasons. We have to worry about opinion in U.S. Main reason for being substantive is to appear serious and in the end it might work. More for U.S. public opinion than for showing good faith to the Soviets.

[Page 85]

Real negotiations will be long and tenuous. Soviets don’t care about world opinion. They are worried about their security.

Proposals in steps. What is your thinking on that?

Smith: Hard to see how we could talk about ICBMs, submarines. We aren’t doing anything, they are.

RN: You should explore taking it in smaller bites.

Laird: “Thrust” i.e. payload is easier to check than multiples.

Smith: Easier to fall back from comprehensive position. Maybe ask for more verification than we will settle for.

HAK: Verification always gets whittled back. Pressures build up in this country.

RN: Area defense against China should not be negotiable.

HAK: We shouldn’t gear our approach to look reasonable to American people.

RN: Can’t satisfy fashionable opinion.

Concerned about broad public opinion.

RN: If we mention IR/MRs, don’t we have to discuss our tac nucs.

Laird: Only a very few of our tac nucs can be used against them. RN: Important thing in NATO is Q&A.

Say here’s what we’re not talking about.

Say here’s what we are talking about.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–109, NSC Minutes Originals 1969. Top Secret. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting took place in the Cabinet Room from 11:02 a.m. until 12:48 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. See Document 4 and footnote 2, Document 12.
  3. Option A was the limited proposal; Option B, the intermediate; and Option C, the comprehensive. See Document 14.
  4. On June 26 Nixon sent a memorandum to Rogers, Laird, and Smith that set forth the guidance to be used in preparing for NATO consultation on SALT. The main points were the following: give Allies a sense of participation in SALT options; reassure their security concerns; avoid discussing any specific negotiating position; provide a series of questions and answers; and avoid leaks. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–023, NSC Meeting 6/25/69 SALT NSSM 28) The first round of consultations with the allies took place June 30–July 1.