238. Memorandum From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Smith) to Secretary of State Rogers 1


  • Withdrawal Clause in SALT ABM Treaty

Some weeks ago, you asked me to send along a paper outlining how the Soviet-American disagreement on the “withdrawal” clause in an ABM treaty might be solved.

Both sides agree that the ABM treaty should contain the usual “supreme interests” withdrawal clause permitting each party to withdraw “if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests.” The parties also have agreed that before exercise of this right, six months’ notice must be given, together with a statement of the “extraordinary events.”

You will recall that we have been pressing for a supplementary withdrawal right conditioned on the non-success of the subsequent negotiations for a treaty limiting offensive weapons. This effort is rooted in our position that satisfactory offensive limitations must be in effect while our ABM programs are limited, and our reluctance to become committed to an ABM limitation alone. The Soviets say this supplementary right is unnecessary and would prejudice the independent nature of the ABM treaty.

Since no international tribunal is in existence or in prospect to handle breaches of contract of the SALT sort, it seems clear that we are facing [Page 700] a political matter, not a legal matter. I think a good case can be made that U.S. interests can be well protected with a “supreme interests” withdrawal clause and without a “special” withdrawal clause.

What I envisage is that the President advise the Soviet leadership that we are willing to go ahead with a “supreme interests” withdrawal clause on the understanding that, if a treaty limiting offensive strategic weapons was not negotiated within a reasonable period of time, a situation could exist where U.S. supreme interests were prejudiced and, in such event, we would consider ourselves justified in exercising the supreme interests withdrawal right. I think that the Soviets would at most “take note” of this assertion. During the Congressional review of any SALT agreements, this Presidential assertion and the Soviet reaction thereto could be made a part of the record.

If this procedure seems sufficient for the ABM treaty, the same approach could be used if necessary in connection with the withdrawal problem in the interim freeze agreement.

I have attached a fuller argument of the case that the “supreme interests” clause sufficiently protects United States’ interests.2

I believe that in asking for this paper, you had in mind making an independent approach to the President on this point in connection with the “home stretch” phase of our SALT negotiation.

Gerard Smith 3

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 383, ACDA Files, FRC 383–97–0010, Box 1, Director’s Files, Gerard Smith’s Files, Smith/Rogers Correspondence, April–December 1972. Secret. Drafted by Smith on March 9. A handwritten notation on the first page of the memorandum indicates that Smith hand-delivered it to Rogers.
  2. The paper, “The Withdrawal Provision in SALT,” is not attached.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.