230. Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Chief of the Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (Smith)1
WH20110. Strictly for your own information, I would like to give you the essence of comments Dobrynin has made to me on the offensive weapons problem.2 This information has gone to no one else. I would be interested in your reaction.
In the course of a general tour d’horizon, and saying he was thinking out loud, Dobrynin said he saw three “intellectual” possibilities in regard to the SLBM problem: (1) no limitation on submarines, (2) limitation on total number of submarines and (3) limitation on total number of missiles with freedom to mix between land and sea based. As a subdivision of (3) he saw separate ceilings for land and sea-based systems. In a somewhat speculative manner he thought that if the Soviet Union were to agree at all to include SLBMs the alternative I.P. (3) was probably the best. In the course of this conversation, Dobrynin seemed to indicate that from their standpoint a limitation on missiles was preferable to a limitation on boats,3 although I pointed out that our change on this was due to apparent Soviet fears that we would add to the missiles on boats if boats were limited and that we might count other than Y-class Soviet boats.
Dobrynin also wondered why we wanted an SLBM limitation at all as long as we were starting up a new sea-based program. I told him that our position was still in favor of SLBM limitation and I also said that if we deployed a new system an old missile would have to be taken out of the inventory in exchange for a new one to maintain the [Page 684] ceiling. At the end, Dobrynin reverted to the point that under present circumstances it might be best to keep sea systems unconstrained.4
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1972 SALT. Secret; Sensitive; Exclusive; Eyes Only.↩
- On January 21 Kissinger met with Dobrynin to discuss SALT and other issues. A memorandum of conversation, prepared by Kissinger, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 39. The section on SALT is almost identical to the summary in this message. On January 31 Kissinger sent Rogers a summary of his conversation with Dobrynin. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 9, Part 2)↩
- In backchannel message WH20113 to Smith, January 29, Kissinger corrected this part of the sentence to read, “in the course of this conversation Dobrynin seemed to indicate that from their standpoint a limitation on boats was preferable to a limitation on missiles.” (Ibid., Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1972 SALT)↩
- In his memorandum of conversation with Dobrynin, Kissinger elaborated further by stating: “Dobrynin asked whether it [i.e., excluding the SLBM program from the agreement] would still remain unacceptable in early May if we still hadn’t broken the deadlock. I said I had no idea but at this moment it was unacceptable.”↩