240. Memorandum for the Record1



  • President Nixon
  • Vice President Agnew
  • Secretary of State William P. Rogers
  • Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird
  • General George A. Lincoln, Director, Office of Emergency Preparedness
  • Secretary of Treasury John B. Connally
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Under Secretary of State John N. Irwin II
  • Richard Helms, Director of Central Intelligence
  • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Ronald I. Spiers, Director, Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, Department of State
  • Amb. David Kennedy, U.S. Representative to NATO
  • Gerard Smith, Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • Philip J. Farley, Deputy Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • Spurgeon Keeny, Assistant Director for Science and Technology, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • Bruce Clarke, Director, Office of Strategic Research, Cental Intelligence Agency
  • Lt. General Royal B. Allison, Member SALT Delegation
  • Mr. Paul Nitze, Member SALT Delegation
  • Gardiner Tucker, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Systems Analysis)
  • Colonel Richard T. Kennedy, NSC Staff
  • Philip Odeen, NSC Staff
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC Staff

Nixon: The meeting today is on Arms Control. Let’s start with a briefing from Director Helms.

[Helms briefs from paper at Tab A]2

Nixon [to Laird]: What does this briefing mean?

Laird: The Soviets are embarked on a course to be the superior military force in the world and the superior strategic force. This goal is more for political than for military purposes. I am not sure the Soviets have stopped producing. They have continued to produce. Their capability for producing ballistic missile submarines we can’t match until ’75.

Moorer: They have conducted several launches at their test site. We have to wait to see the tests to see whether they are just modernizing or whether they are moving with a new missile.

Laird: As to the submarines, the two options Helms gives are correct. The last two sets of photos give evidence either of modernization of the propulsion system or new missiles (the SSN–6). They also could be putting in SSN–8s, which have a longer range. They have been testing the SSN–8 successfully with inertial guidance. This has a high accuracy capability, with remarkable accuracy and technicality. We have the technology but we have not used it. We have no system deployed at present like this. We can’t rule out its extension on the submarine. It could mean an ULMS-type submarine in the fleet at an early date. I am convinced they are going for a superior force.

Nixon: The decisions must be in this context. We should have no illusions. We believe in arms control but we have to realize they have been going for superiority. They may be using the talks for this.

Laird: I believe this.

Kissinger: The Verification Panel met three times on the many issues involved.3 There are three major issues we should discuss today: ABM levels; the inclusion of SLBMs; and duration of the agreement. Perhaps we should have a word also on large phased array radars. We need a decision later in April.

[Page 709]

On ABM: The present proposal in practical effect is a freeze. They have indicated 2-for-2 might be acceptable—this means six possible proposals, in three categories: (1) Stop each side where it is; (2) Allow each side a limited ABM defense; and (3) Permit each side hard-site defense of ICBM sites (radar and missiles).

On the first: If each side stops where it is, this reduces the concern that the Soviets are developing a radar net capable of upgrading. It’s easier to move them to zero. We stop Malmstrom; they have to stop nothing. The advantage of this is that it’s the one with greatest simplicity. The problems are that the present ABM deployment gives a number of advantages. The Moscow system is better suited than Malmstrom for these. The Safeguard has only a small number of radars. The defense could be defeated. Thus to defend an ICBM field we would need more interceptors.

I am more worried about an accidental attack on a missile field than anything else. It could come from insanity.

The primary advantage of Malmstrom is its operational experience. Moscow has the same advantage for Soviet defense.

Variations are possible—for example, either the Soviets get two missile sites for ours or else we change Malmstrom to Washington if we want. The judgment would depend on whether Congress would accept Washington—otherwise we are back to 2 for 1. Malmstrom is already authorized.

Laird: We have Sentinel authority for Washington. We would have to go back to the Congress.

Kissinger: Another problem with one for one is that we have proposed a technical arrangement for radars which makes it easy to defeat the Moscow defense. If this is also to be used for missile sites, it would mean no defense. The Soviets want a different radar arrangement for missile site defense. We could shift another site this way. The Soviets could propose a radar setup that would merge with hard site defense so it’s resistant to qualitative control—that slides into a massive hard site defense. We would have to go for strict qualitative limitations on radars and missiles.

Third, there are proposals based on the theory that the present proposals are too inadequate for real defense or area defense. Thus there would be an unlimited number of interceptors and radars but only those useful for defense of missiles.

The strategic issue is how many more ICBM missiles are protected. The domestic issue is: What is advertised as strategic arms limitation gives more radars and ABMs than before.

Nixon: I have to make the political decision. The main problem is whether we get an agreement which limits us and lets the Soviets get [Page 710]superiority. Make no mistake: we want an agreement that lets us do as much as possible. The political argument will be that we didn’t tie their hands enough.

Kissinger: The arguments against are, first, whether it’s negotiable, and whether the Soviets understand what we mean.

Nixon: They understand. The question is whether we understand what they want.

Let me hear more arguments on hard site. I know the argument that we might be getting more.

Laird: The 12-site Safeguard program is viable and meets the three criteria. We have argued for it before Congress; we have four sites presently approved. We are going forward with the site survey of Washington. It makes sense if we have 12 sites; it can’t be justified with 2 or 4 sites.

We have a program for a point-defense system. We asked for it last year, and Congress gave us the money last year for this. It gives a small point-defense but not an area defense of 12 sites. It will be easier to get Congress to approve this than a 12-site system or a 4-site system related to a 12-site Safeguard. Any other system at 2 or 4 gives nothing strategically.

Nixon: 12 for Safeguard makes sense but 2 or 4 does not?

Laird: Yes.

Nixon: Tom?

Moorer: The JCS believe we should have NCA. Any agreement on ABM should include NCA. We do not intend to shoot first; thus we must have this protection for reaction time.

Laird: The other side knows you have credibility.

Nixon: What about on a plane?

Laird: It’s the cheapest way to give credibility to the deterrent.

Nixon: What Congress will do gives credibility.

Laird: Congress would support it if it’s part of SALT. There is strong support in the defense and appropriation committees if it’s part of SALT. If not, NCA would only be the last of the 12 sites.

Nixon: Moscow defends more than NCA, so it’s not an even trade.

Laird: Yes, they get a double pay-off.

Smith: A Washington–Moscow tradeoff would give more population defense for Washington than for Moscow. In the range of interceptors—100—it’s not a real advantage. You can’t really cover both Moscow and a missile site.

Nixon: What does population have to do with who strikes first? If they strike first, does population have relevance?

[Page 711]

Smith: Yes, because population protection gives an advantage.

Nixon: We aren’t going to strike first. They are protecting more than population at Moscow.

Smith: They are protecting against China.

Laird: We have the contract signed. The Congress OK’d it and we have major support for hard site defense. The Safeguard problem is the 12 sites we had to have.

Nixon: Is hard site defense negotiable?

Smith: We have not mentioned it at all to either the Soviets or the Allies. If we go up with a SALT treaty with a program for a new ABM system, we’ll never get it.

Nitze: In the Soviet statements, they are thinking of 2-for-2, with one on each side as a hard site defense of a missile field. They see possible ground here for compromise. These are the only grounds for negotiations. Gerry and I disagree on this.

Smith: We have talked 200 interceptors; now the Soviets have reduced from 300 to 150 for two sites. Now we go back to a proposal for 1000+ and unlimited radars—this is a whole new world. It would take 2 or 3 years to get to a discussion.

Nitze: They think an unlimited number of radars limited in geography and qualitatively constrained are not dangerous. The reason they talked a lower number of interceptors is because we were. We may have a problem on a large number of interceptors, but the OSD proposal suggested that only we move this way. We could then go forward after 3 years.

Nixon: What about submarines?

Kissinger: If we go for limited ICBMs, we could have constraints on radars and gear further limitations to an offensive agreement.

Smith: We could propose unlimited radar at _______.4 The question is, do we want to let the Soviets go to higher levels of interceptors? We might drive them this way.

Laird: We wouldn’t say this. We would keep the question open and see how the offensive limits go.

Smith: I was under instruction to negotiate two sites with the Russians.

Kissinger: The present proposal, Mr. President, is to limit the Soviets to 35–37 Y-Class, and 560–590 tubes. Old ones could be replaced by new ones. That would bring them to 40–43 Y-Class—the same number as we. But they have 8 additional under construction. They have showed no interest in including SLBMs and they are pushing ahead [Page 712]on their program. A cut-off of July 1, 1971, would force them to stop some that are now going on. They doing eight per year; we are now doing none. We have ULMS but it is far away.

Laird: We wouldn’t get 10 of ULMS until 1982; then we’d get three per year.

Kissinger: So we have these options: We could stick with the present proposals. We could make a more attractive agreement if it’s not included. We could slip the freeze date to July 1972, which would give them equivalence. They could also convert the G&H class subs. They need more subs to keep an equivalent number on station than we do—but the advantage is not great. We could allow freedom to mix ICBM’s and SLBMs. We could permit them to convert soft-pad SS–9’s and SS–8’s to SLBMs. This would give them 8 more subs. We could force them to convert more modern missiles into SLBMs. They would have to sacrifice the more modern missile but it would not degrade their strategic capability.

Thus either of the above gets them to about 60 subs.

My judgment is without these additions to our proposal, we can’t get an agreement. If SLBM’s are not constrained, they build 8 a year and we can’t catch up.

Nixon: Why can’t we catch up?

Moorer: We could construct 3 or 4 additional subs of the present class or we could convert conventional subs, but it’s expensive and inefficient and interferes with other programs.

Nixon: What about a crash program? Could we do better than ‘78?

Moorer: With priority, interfering with ULMS, we could move up to 10, but I would not recommend it. We would prefer to accelerate ULMS.

Rogers: Aren’t we ahead because we are MIRVing Poseidon? Can we be ahead on this basis by the Fall of ‘78?

Laird: They couldn’t deploy multiple warheads before two years. I’m not concerned about 51 Soviet submarines versus 41 of ours. The problem is we have to get the new program coming along so our people and our allies can see what we are doing.

Rogers: We all agree on that.

Laird: We have to move ahead with the advanced technology we have.

Kissinger: If there is no follow-on agreement, we could wind up with 70 Soviet and 41 U.S. If there is a follow-on negotiation, and they lay down 16 more and then propose a freeze, we are then in trouble if we are moving at a leisurely pace. We need a program which puts the pressure on.

[Page 713]

Nixon: Gerry, is this out of the ballpark?

Smith: No, not necessarily.

Rogers: They had the impression we are going to give in on SLBMs. I think we should press hard. It’s hard to justify an agreement without it. Help from you at the highest level might help. There is a pause on ICBMs but not on SLBMs even though we have.

Smith: Mel’s point is important. It may be only a pause on ICBMs. Thus an agreement is important.

Rogers: We have to show we’re not going to give.

Agnew: If we make an agreement without limiting the technological race we have to be careful. A good agreement could become a bad one.

Moorer: On defensive systems, we spoke of constraining but they have not. We need to fight for equivalency or we will have trouble publicly for rationalizing it.

Kissinger: You may have to come to a decision as to whether we want an agreement or whether to limit what we can—ICBMs—or let it go.

Nixon: In terms of ICBMs, we will have trouble getting any program. In SLBMs we have a program; it is credible for us and for bargaining. We can’t negotiate it. In the ICBM field, it’s imperative to get a deal. We can’t build and they know it. On submarines, it’s in our interest to get a deal but if we can’t, we can get a program.

Laird: No question. It has a better chance of Congressional support.

Kissinger: We have a real time problem. We can build for three years until we have to scrap. If the Soviets scrap the 8 they are doing, they can do only modernization—larger hulls. Both sides are laying keels and actually there would be no interruption of the construction program. This affects the question of duration.

President: Duration?

Kissinger: There are strong arguments for a short duration. The same clause links the offensive freeze with abrogation of the defensive freeze. An ABM treaty will give them a chance to catch up. Thus it’s not clear we would be better off at the end. There is also a question of our offensive position—it depends on how we’re tooled up. If we don’t interrupt the construction program. So they are strong arguments for a short term. If subs are included, the duration should be on the longer side.

Rogers: If subs are in, it can be longer. If not, it should be shorter. We must make a major effort to convince the Soviets we want SLBMs included. If we leave subs out, the whole proposition is more doubtful. They are moving ahead on submarines.

Moorer: We want finally an aggregate total. If we can’t get an SLBM freeze, then the discussion period should be short. We should emphasize equivalency.

[Page 714]

Kissinger: We must not explicitly link them. The Soviets want a short freeze—that argues for no SLBMs.

Laird: Our stronger position is now.

Rogers: The Soviets think we are under pressure to sign before Moscow. We want to disabuse them of that. The treaty language is good. Our negotiators should be congratulated. It’s a splendid team.

Nixon: Do the translations agree?

Smith: Yes, we have an authenticated translation.

Nixon: The team expresses different points of view. We need that. It’s good.

Laird: We must make a decision that gets us in the best possible position for the follow-on discussions. If we give in now on SLBMs, we will have also pressure on FBS in NATO in the next round. We need to see how this will stand up in the future. American industry has to move on the technology.

[Secretary Laird shows some pictures, including pictures of the Spirit of ’76.]

Nixon: This was a helpful discussion. We all want the best possible deal. I appreciate DOD’s expression of views of hard site defense. We don’t want them to think we have one. It’s desirable, given all the possibilities of cheating and whether it’s a balanced agreement. They are moving substantially but we are inhibited. The American people might be “scared” to move ahead. We have the same advantages, but if we look ahead, we see that the Soviets want to be ahead. They have lots more movement than we; they are not concerned with their image of peace in the world or for their own people. The arguments there for an agreement now are strong. Our position with respect to the Soviets has steadily eroded since 1961–62. It’s not going to change much. We have the only ABM—which won by 1 vote—as the only new weapons systems in 10 years. Our programming position may be better now than later. It may be the last time we are able to look at them from a position of relative strength.

We don’t have to have an agreement because we are going to Moscow. We do it in the context of the national interest—they are moving in the arms race and we are not. We are beginning on both sides to halt the escalation, in a race that neither side can be allowed to win. We can’t let them go to massive superiority—but it’s more difficult for us to match them.

[The meeting ended.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–110, NSC Meeting Minutes, NSC Minutes Originals 1971 thru 6–20–74. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room.
  2. Attached but not printed is a paper entitled “Developments in Soviet Strategic Forces Related to SALT.” All brackets are in the original.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 239.
  4. Omission is in the original.