225. Memorandum From Philip Odeen and Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • OSD and our ABM Position at SALT

OSD appears to be mounting a major campaign to push their SALT ABM position (i.e., one-for-one now with the possibility of later deploying Hard-Site Defense).

Mel Laird will reportedly raise this issue with you at your breakfast together, now planned for Friday.2

Gardiner Tucker yesterday asked to meet with Phil Odeen and then pushed the OSD position quite hard. Gen. Pursely also called Phil last week on the same issue.

The OSD Proposal

As you recall, OSD is seeking in the long run an ABM arrangement whereby:

For now, the U.S. gets one Safeguard site and the Soviets get Moscow ABM.
We enter into an agreement not to build further ABMs unless some time limit (between three and five years) expires without a follow-on agreement.
If one of the events occurs or the time period expires, then
  • —The U.S. could build NCA defense, plus
  • —The U.S. could also add at its Safeguard site a Hard-Site Defense system with a large number of short-range interceptors and short-range radars. The number would not be specified now, but OSD admits that at least 1000 interceptors would be required to make the system worthwhile.
  • —The Soviets could add a Hard-Site Defense at one ABM site. (Earlier, OSD had allowed the Soviets to protect equal number of missile silos—which would allow the Soviets ABM defense at two or possibly three ICBM fields to our one. However, OSD now optimistically believes that we could limit the Soviet ICBM defense to one site.)

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An Interim Step

OSD now suggests an interim step of exploration to determine whether the Soviets would be interested in their proposal. OSD would authorize the Delegation to see if the Soviets were willing to accept some fundamental principles:

Acceptable geographic limits on location of the ICBM defense;
Strict qualitative limits on the capabilities of the Hard-Site Defense interceptors and radars;
Strict controls on Other Large Phased Array Radars (OLPARS), i.e., those situated elsewhere about the country;
Acceptable deferral provisions.

If the Soviets do not accept these principles, then OSD would say we should drop the Hard-Site approach.

OSD is pushing now because they recognize that, if the Delegation is not authorized to undertake explorations like these in the next few weeks or surely before the end of the Vienna session, it would be impossible to negotiate any complicated Hard-Site deal by the time of the Moscow summit.

You are well aware of the arguments pro and con for the detailed OSD proposal. The interim proposal does have the advantage of only being exploratory, rather than making us lay out a detailed position. However, it still represents a complete shift from the present trend of our negotiations, which has been to reduce the number of sites and interceptors. The interim approach would at a minimum sharply undercut our present 2-or-1 position.

Your Next Step

We are not sure whether and, if so, when and how the President plans to resolve the ABM imbroglio with the Soviets. However, even if the OSD proposal was the preferred solution, there are good reasons to tell Secretary Laird that the President could not immediately authorize the Delegation to make the change proposed by OSD. This change would encounter stiff bureaucratic resistance. (The OSD proposal is now strongly opposed by Gerard Smith and apparently by State and CIA. The JCS would probably remain neutral.) Hence, it would help if everyone could feel normal inter-agency processes have been used.

  • —There is now in the finishing stages a detailed inter-agency paper on ABM options, including OSD’s,3 which would involve an [Page 672] increase in the number of interceptors and sites. This paper will be ready early next week; consequently, action before next week would be premature. (The paper has been underway since November. OSD, one of the two co-authors, has vacillated and is responsible for some of the delay.)
  • —We have just started a brief summary paper which looks at both higher and lower ABM options. This paper should be completed and coordinated with the agencies in two weeks. However, we could do a hurried job in a week if you want us to.
  • Smith should be recommending soon in the front channel that we explore equal numbers of interceptors. The OSD proposal might be considered at the same time.
  • —Even with a delay of a few weeks, there is sufficient time to present any new proposals to the Soviets in this session. The Delegation apparently now expects the Vienna session will probably not be over until mid-February or the end of January at the earliest. Even though they express concern that they might have little new to say after another week it seems clear that by letting them have considerable discretion on minor issues there will be enough grist for the remaining weeks.

Hence, a decision should be deferred for probably two weeks to allow all the papers to be finished.

You might want to promise Laird that there will be a Verification Panel meeting within the next two weeks to consider any modifications in our ABM position.

Alternatively, if you do not want to commit yourself to a meeting, you could tell Laird that the President would be ill-advised to make any decision until the papers have been completed. However, a decision then (to change our position or not) would be appropriate without a meeting since the analysis would have been agreed to and the agency views known.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 882, SALT, SALT talks (Helenski) [sic], Vol. 17, January–April 1972. Top Secret. Sent for urgent information.
  2. On January 13 Haig sent Kissinger a memorandum about his breakfast meeting with Laird, scheduled for Friday, January 14. No record of the meeting has been found. (Ibid., Box 230, Agency Files, Defense, January 1972, Vol. 15)
  3. On January 12 James P. Wade, Jr., of the OSD SALT Support Group sent the third draft of a paper, “Higher Level ABM Options in SALT” to the Verification Panel Working Group. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330–79–125, ABM Higher Levels)