237. Editorial Note

On March 9, 1972, President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger and Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin met to discuss ongoing bilateral negotiations. According to the memorandum of conversation, which was prepared by Kissinger, SALT was mentioned briefly during the course of their discussion:

“With respect to SALT, Dobrynin raised again the issue of submarines. He said it was going to be an increasingly tough issue, particularly if we were asking for equivalence. I replied that he must have misunderstood me, because there were a number of modifications: first, as Smith had already hinted to Semenov, we were probably prepared to shift the cut-off date, which would add a number of submarines to the total; secondly, we had already proposed that they could convert some of their G- and H-class submarines, which would add six more. I then said that, thinking out loud, there was even a possibility of converting a few of their oldest missiles into submarines. He asked me to give him some idea of what total number would be permitted on this basis. I said that the total number I did not know, but I would let him know as soon as possible.” The memorandum of conversation is printed in full in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 56.

On March 17 at 1 p.m. Kissinger and Dobrynin met again. According to Kissinger’s memorandum of conversation, President [Page 698] Nixon joined the first part of the meeting to discuss arrangements for the summit. Dobrynin made it clear that he understood that major issues such as South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and SALT would be discussed with Kissinger, while arrangements for other issues to be covered at the summit would be handled by the bureaucracy. After Nixon left, Kissinger and Dobrynin turned to the major issues. Concerning SALT, Kissinger wrote: “Dobrynin asked how serious we were about SLBMs. I repeated once more that we were extremely serious, and that indeed I doubted that an agreement was possible that did not include SLBMs. Dobrynin said he would transmit this to Moscow. He asked me for our ABM position. I hinted at movement in the direction of two-for-two, but put it in form of thinking out loud with no definite prospect of a final decision.” (Ibid., Document 62)

On March 18 at 10:40 a.m. Dobrynin and Kissinger spoke on the telephone and had the following exchange about SALT:

“D: On SALT? On the first part I cannot get an answer.

K: The first part is the submarines. I want Semenov to know our delegation knows nothing of what I talked to you about. It is conceivable that we will slip that freeze date early in the discussions; that we accept your proposal early in the discussion, but until Smith says something to Semenov, Semenov shouldn’t say anything to Smith. On the ABM proposals you can mention it as a thinking out loud proposal. It is not absolutely final but something you could put as the voice of a friend who is often right.

“D: Yes, what about the second part? I just put it as a thinking out loud?

K: Well, is the second one under submarines? I just want some reaction from them.

“D: Some reaction as an idea rather than a Soviet proposal.

K: So far we have heard nothing from Moscow.

“D: I mentioned to them that you were thinking out loud.

K: Well, I have given it to you now and if they react in a constructive way we can move it very quickly.

“D: And in that connection they can make some counterproposals.

K: We can do them like we did some other things. Also we want to leave something open to be settled at the summit. You and I can agree but we should leave something to be settled in Helsinki.

“D: Yes.

K: We have instructed State and they, in the normal way, will call you. I am sure you will be called on Monday. We gave them the instruction last evening. Anatol, the two dates we gave State were the 4th of April or the 7th of April.

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“D: 4th or 7th.

K: Yes, our preference is the 4th. They are going to check it with the British and then they will get to you.

“D: Right, Henry, so have a nice rest. I will try not to bother you very much.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 371, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)