220. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Discussion with the President, Secretary of State, and Kissinger, January 3, 1972

The President seemed to want to give me his impressions rather than get a report on where we stand. He said he had read the report of last week’s Verification Panel meeting2 and was acquainted with where things stand.

He stressed the strong tendency developing to distrust Soviet motivations in the military field. He referred to the American Security Council’s effort, which clearly had important financing. He referred to a number of Senators who had expressed worry to him about SALT. He had assured them that we had a good negotiator and we would not make an improvident agreement.

I stressed the importance of getting Congressional advisors now, and the President seemed to think that Stennis and Cooper would be useful candidates.

The President said that we would get affirmative guidance on the question of a treaty and on freezing SL launchers rather than boats. Kissinger afterwards said that he had not been able to get the President to focus on the question of equal numbers of interceptors for the 2-to-1 proposal.

Apparently the President has in mind that we take soundings as to what is feasible in the defensive field and report to him on his return from China. He is concerned that as soon as we reach our rock-bottom position it will be publicly known and “the fat will be in the fire”. Kissinger afterwards said to me that I should let him know if we really need new guidance and he would get further to work on the problem.

I pointed out to the President the importance of combining with any new acceleration of our SLBM program signaled by Fiscal 73 budget should be accompanied by some private indication to the Soviets by Kissinger or Rogers that this of course would be contingent to some extent on including the SL’s in the freeze.

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I pointed out that the Soviets in good measure had stepped up to the President’s challenge which I had delivered on the opening day of this Vienna session about having serious exchanges in the offensive field. Of course, the SLBM question remains in the same position. Kissinger said we would have to step up to that separately.

I asked the President if the Indian episode had affected our thinking about SALT.3 He said I should proceed on course—clearly world events did have some linkage, and he expressed some doubt that one could have confidence in the USSR if they were out to rook us in other areas. Rogers and I stressed the public relations importance of not suggesting publicly that any SALT deal would be based on trust—it would be verifiable.

I pointed out to the President that I had no interest in making an improvident deal. My whole background in Government had been on the side of people like Jackson and Rickover who had been primarily interested in military security.

The President said that Cooper had decided not to run. I said I was sorry to hear that because I had in mind talking to him about it tomorrow in Vienna. The President asked me to tell Cooper that he hoped he would run—or words to that effect.

Gerard Smith 4
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, ACDA Files: FRC 383–97–0010, Box 1, Director’s Files, Smith/White House Correspondence, January–May 1972. Top Secret; Eyes Only. A tape recording of this conversation is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 642–20. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Smith, Rogers, and Kissinger from 10:23 to 10:56 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. See Document 218.
  3. See Document 217.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears Smith’s typed signature.