231. 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

Re WH–20110 and WH–20113:2 Dobrynin’s first “intellectual” possibility (I.P.)—”no limitation on submarines”—perhaps Dobrynin meant here to list the option of no limitation at all affecting SL’s. After our recent change in position, a limitaton on submarines is no longer an issue. This change was made in response to Soviet flat opposition to any SALT constraints on submarines per se and to permit them to substitute new SL’s on Y-class boats for old SL’s on G- and H-class boats. His indication that a limit on boats might be preferable to a limit on missiles (WH–20113) is mystifying and inconsistent with what we have learned here. The only plausible interpretation I can think of is that he would welcome a deal where boats were frozen at about the present level—U.S. 41 versus Soviet 70–75 (aggregating the Y, G, and H classes) with both sides free to substitute new boats (containing as many missiles as could be fitted) for old boats. That could produce the wholly unacceptable arithmetic U.S. 41 times 24, and USSR 70–75 times 24 (assuming that as maximum number of missiles per boat).

Dobrynin’s second I.P., “limitation on total number of submarines”. This is answered by the above comment.

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Dobrynin’s third I.P., “limitation on total number of missiles with freedom to mix between land- and sea-based”. It is unclear if he was referring to “two-way” freedom to mix. You will recall difficulty I see in having such a mixing provision which contemplates an arrangement going out into the future for a substantial number of years included in a negotiating freeze which, hopefully, is a temporary device. In addition, one should consider the effect of full freedom to mix (both ways) on the problem of making sure that new MLBM’s are not added during the freeze. (There is also the problem of avoiding a bad precedent for the subsequent offensive limitation treaty.) If freedom to mix is deemed consistent with an interim freeze, it would be sensible to consider freedom to substitute SL’s for IC’s as suggested SALT–1164.3

Dobrynin’s No. 3 alternate I.P. is or is close to our present offer, depending on whether it would provide substitution of new SL’s for old SL’s.

I assume the Dobrynin conversation was in recent days. If so, its coincidence with the possible Soviet SL move reported Vienna 1284 is worth noting.

Best regards

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 383, ACDA Files: FRC 383–97–0010, Box 1, Director’s Files, Smith Files, Smith/White House Correspondence, January–May 1972. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusive Eyes Only. The message number, “Vienna 144” is handwritten at the top of the first page. The text printed here is the copy Smith approved.
  2. See Document 230 and footnote 3 thereto.
  3. Document 223, but Smith’s copy does not bear the telegram number USDEL 1164.
  4. According to backchannel message 128 to Kissinger, January 28, Semenov had been cryptic about an SLBM freeze and had stated: “You know some problems have a tendency to be self-settling. Here life itself speaks for itself and there is no need for any great hustle and bustle.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1972 SALT)