223. Backchannel Message From the Chief of the Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (Smith) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Subject: SALT Explorations. From talk with President January 4,2 I gather that my general mission now (in addition to carrying out the latest NSDM)3 is to prospect for practical solutions for major remaining issues for report to him post China.

At first meeting January 5,4 Soviets indicated interest in keeping up pace, apparently in expectation of more new material from us than may be forthcoming. In next two meetings, per the NSDM, we will agree to treaty form for ABM agreement and offer to freeze SLBM launchers rather than submarines.

Without further U.S. initiative, it may as early as January 13 become apparent to Soviets that we are in effect stalled. To avoid such [Page 668] development, we could say that we need amplifications from Soviets to better understand their positions on ABM levels, radar, mobile ICBM’s, etc., before we can recommend to Washington any changes in U.S. position. I expect that Soviets will not be responsive to such approach unless we also give indication of some receptivity to change in U.S. positions maintained since last summer.

In our telecon of January 3,5 I promised to send along ideas for carrying out exploration which President directed be made. I do not have in mind any change in NSDM guidance at this time. Here they are:


Explore on non-committal basis Soviet reaction to possible U.S. ABM move (as discussed at December 23 Verification Panel meeting)6 to provide for an equal number of launchers/interceptors (say 150) for defense of either two ICBM sites or NCA. This would afford test of any Soviet interest in U.S. 2-or-1 proposal.
Explore on non-committal basis possible ABM move under which each side would have right to no more than two ABM sites, one for ICBM defense and one for NCA defense with deferral for an agreed period of deployment at second site. Members of Soviet Delegation have solicited U.S. proposal for 2–2 “deferred” deployment arrangement.

Offensive Freeze

Explore on non-committal basis Soviet interest in interim freeze with each side holding to aggregate number of ICBM’s and SLBM’s operational or under construction on agreed date with one-way freedom to mix from land to sea. (Shchukin January 5 again indicated, as he had before holiday break, that such approach might meet Soviet objection to inclusion of SL’s in interim freeze.) Such probe would be worthwhile to help subsequent Presidential decision about freeze inclusion/exclusion of SL’s. You will recall that Nitze stated at December 23 Verification Panel that Laird would buy this approach even though Soviet aggregate would substantially exceed U.S. aggregate.

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I know that studies of some of above problems are underway in NSC machinery, but in view of sterile prospects here by next week’s end, I suggest need for early authorization of non-committal explorations.

I believe on basis of delegation discussions that all principal Delegates would concur in general line suggested here, but have not discussed this message with them. If there is no objection, I will solicit Delegation consensus on this matter for transmission to Washington on most restricted basis.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 383, ACDA Files: FRC 383–97–0010, Box 1, Director’s Files, Gerard Smith, Smith/White House Correspondence, January–May 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusive Eyes Only. The text printed here is the copy Smith approved and does not have a message number.
  2. The meeting took place on January 3; see Document 219.
  3. Document 221.
  4. Telegram USDEL SALT 1157 from Vienna, January 5, reported Smith’s conversations with Semenov during their first meeting. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 882, SALT, SALT talks (Helenski) [sic], Vol. 17, January–April 1972)
  5. Kissinger and Smith spoke at 1:15 p.m. According to a transcript of their conversation, Kissinger told Smith, “I am not sure the President is ready to give his position [on ABM levels].” Smith replied, “Other alternative would be a 2–2 arrangement. One or other or we will not get much more out of them. If some disposition to go 2–2 then we could ask them about going for 2—.” The conversation ended with Smith asking, “Could I send in a different guidance?” Kissinger replied, “No problem if it’s kept between us.” Smith said, “I will get you something this week.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 370, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)
  6. See Document 218.