232. Editorial Note

On February 15, 1972, President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger and Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin met at the Soviet Embassy in Washington to discuss a number of issues, including the strategic arms limitation talks (SALT). According to the memorandum of conversation, prepared by Kissinger, they had the following exchange on SALT:

Dobrynin said that the new American SLBM program made an agreement very difficult. It would not be easy in the Soviet Union, he said, to explain why a freeze would not simply be a device for stopping an ongoing Soviet program while giving the United States an opportunity [Page 686] to tool up for a new submarine program. The military people had been on the defensive before, but now he could foresee that they would be very much on the offensive, and this was a factor that could not be neglected. He would have a very difficult time convincing Moscow that an SLBM deal was in the cards, partly because he thought that our program was neatly timed to start right after the expiration date of any projected freeze.

“As for ABMs, Dobrynin said he wondered whether we would settle for the Soviet proposal plus giving us two sites, of which one did not have to be Washington. I said I thought we should handle the SLBM and the ABM question together and that our position was not at this time subject to modification.” The memorandum of conversation is printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 51.

During their meeting, Kissinger handed Dobrynin a letter from President Nixon addressed to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev that broached a variety of issues which would arise at the summit. Nixon wrote the following concerning SALT:

“With respect to the talks on strategic arms and within the existing confidential channel, we must now concentrate on those points where our position still diverge so that the period after the resumption of talks in Helsinki can be used to put the final touches to the agreement. As in the case of the talks that culminated in the announcement of May 20, 1971, I am hopeful that this channel will lead us to success.” (Ibid.)