242. Conversation Among President Nixon, the Chief of the Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (Smith), and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

Nixon: Let me begin by saying that—speaking of hard work, you’re all working awfully hard, and I know that we’re now coming down to the real tough decisions. When I say “decisions,” I mean, I have to put some down. And the thing that I think I need you—that we’ve all got to realize that—and I told them this,2 and I’m going to tell you the same thing—is that if we get an agreement, the great danger that that agreement will pose to us, it’s not going to be on the side of those who want arms control, because they’re for any agreement. They’d prefer one that goes further, and so forth. But there will be a potentially very significant danger from those who say, “Who got took?” Needless to say, as you recall, after our China trip, they took a communiqué,3 which had very little to do with substance, but the whole—but many said, “Who won? Who lost?” Well, in a way because that was a good deal for both sides. But, in this instance, this is a highly substantive matter, as you know. And everybody is going to be watching the darn thing. Who won? Who lost? Is the United States in an inferior position to the Soviet Union? Did we get, you know, suckered here by these people and the rest?

What we have to do, therefore, is to be in a position, Gerry, where we’ve heard everybody. That’s why I gave the Defense Department plenty of time to present their case, you know, at one of the last meetings,4 and where I told them I have to consider it. You’ve not only got to hear ‘em, but we’ve got to be in a position that, if we make an agreement with these fellows, that we will not be open, particularly in this political year, to a resounding attack. And it’s—and in a political year, never underestimate from which side it will come. You may find some of the most, what you thought were all-out peace-at-any-price crowd, [Page 722] if they think they could take us on for making an agreement in which we got taken by the Russians, they would do it. Now, an example of that, if you think I’m overestimating, it is the very amusing thing that some of those who, at first blush, when they didn’t understand it, criticized, and wooed, and had wept buckets of crocodile tears about Taiwan, are people that would have sunk Taiwan without a trace 25 years ago—20 years ago. What they saw was the political [unclear]. See my point?

Smith: Sure.

Nixon: So what we have to do is to build a record. First, build a record that we considered the thing. And second, there ought to be an agreement, which is some—in other words, it’s—which we can thoroughly defend from a national security standpoint. The attack, in other words, is going to be from the Right. It will not be from the Left. And if it is from the Left, to hell with it. We’ll just have to fend it off, because it’s better than anybody else was going to be able to do. But the attack from the Right could be—by the “Right,” I’m referring to not the nut Right. I think that they’ll attack anyway. Human Events, National Review, and the rest will knock the hell out of us, saying, “Why do you even meet with the Russians? Why do you have a toast with them?” And all that. We understand that. But, what we want to remember is the responsible Right. What I mean by that, you know, after all, the fellows like Laird, and Moorer, and Henry Jackson, and others. I mean, the responsible Right will start raising hell—Stennis. We’ve got to be—if they do, we’ve got to be in the position to say, “Well, now, we considered all these views, and we rejected them for these reasons.” Or, “We accepted these positions,” and then be able to defend them. So, if you, when you go back, in talking to the delegation, as you get down to the, you know, the hard, hard ground, that last five yards to the goal line, which we hope that’s where it is, this is just scoring a damn touchdown, but it’s one that’s going to—maybe, we’ll be able to hold and still win the game in the public opinion field.

There’s also another very substantial danger that’s tied to that, in my view. If there is a great hue and cry, an outcry in this country, a lot of it politically-inspired, coming as it does just three weeks before the Democratic Convention, if we don’t get the agreement until Moscow, for example, or two—or a month before if you get it in May. I mean, on that sort of thing [unclear] the Democratic thing in July, there’s this great hue and outcry on this issue, joined in by some Republicans, as well. I don’t mean, I don’t mean all the Democrats; it’ll split them down the middle. But some of them will, will see it as a political opportunity if they—not only—not because they’re really against it but because they’ll want to say that we are stupid. But, this could create grave doubts in the world among our friends, because they’ll say, “My God, [Page 723] if the Americans are divided on this, maybe the Americans did make a deal which was not in the American interest; which was in the Soviet interest.” So, what I’m saying here is that let’s try to get an agreement, of course, above everything else, that we can live with, that is sound. But we also have to remember that about half of this battle—maybe a little more than half—it’s got to appear that way. It’s got to appear that way. You know, and I know, it’s got to appear that way, because if it doesn’t appear that way, it could, it could raise a lot of hell, and particularly in this kind of year. It’s unfortunate that it’s coming in this year. It’d be better if it came last year or next year. But it does come this year. We can’t choose. Coming as it does, just before the conventions, it will be a lively, lively subject. And, based on what I’ve heard, I think, I think we’re going to get this agreement, if we get it, if we get a package we can defend. But, it’s those considerations that I think we have to have in mind at this point, and rather than simply considerations of—I mean, which would be more obvious: well, does Smith feel that, you know, you don’t need to be concerned about the critics? Because, it isn’t a case where, normally—which would be normal. I wish it was where everybody could be—breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Thank God. It’s a good thing. It’s a good step. It’s a step toward peace. It’s a step toward limitation of armaments.” That would be the normal reaction, overwhelmingly, in this country. But, we can’t count on it now. It’s got to be solid, strong, and tough, so that we can debate it, stand up for it, kick hell out of the critics who are criticizing it for the wrong reason. You see what I mean? So that’s a—that’s a little of the thinking that I felt. Would you agree, Al?

Haig: Absolutely—

Nixon: You, you’re talking to all these conservatives who come in, and they’re violent. Hell, you’ve been—you’ve been talking to ‘em—

Haig: Yes, sir.

Nixon: —Tower and that bunch, huh?

Haig: [unclear]—

Smith: Mr. President, can I just on that—

Nixon: Yeah.

[unclear exchange]

Smith: —report.

Nixon: Sure.

Smith: I have talked to Congressional committees, I think, 35 times—

Nixon: I know.

Smith: —since we have been back.

Nixon: Uh-huh.

[Page 724]

Smith: And I don’t detect except in Tower, and perhaps Byrd and Scoop

Nixon: Yeah.

Smith: —any—

Nixon: How about Stennis?

Smith: Stennis said—and this is all on the basis—I mean, we’re trying to get IC—SLs included—he said, “Look, I’m for you.”

Nixon: He wants SLs in?

Smith: But he wasn’t biding his time—

Nixon: You see, he called me today and took a very hard position. But I—I—frankly, I think, took him off of it a little, because I said, “Now, look, you’re really coming down to the point of saying that we shouldn’t have agreement if we can’t get SLBMs in?” He said, “Well, that’s where my position is, but on the rest of the committee—” I said, “Well, suppose the price is too high?” Now, understand: I think—I think we’ve got to try. And, you know, Defense wants it in. Defense agrees. Defense wants it in. State wants it in. Everybody else, but I don’t know. [unclear]—

Smith: But, State will back off from that position, I’m sure. I want it in at the present time, but I want to be perfectly clear now with you, Mr. President, that I think—

Nixon: You don’t think we can get it, do you?

Smith: I think it—I think it would be a good deal without it, a first-class deal. I think what you need—

Nixon: Well that’s—Al, isn’t that your feeling? That it would be a good deal, Al? As a military man?

Haig: Yes, sir. That’s my general—

Nixon: [unclear] I understand is that the Defense Department can’t figure out on SLBMs. Let me—look, let me be quite candid with you on it. I got appraised of that at this meeting and also at the other meeting. Looking at it from the standpoint of what the United States really can do in terms of more defense in the event that the other side goes for more, we have a much better chance to go for submarines than land-based stuff. There’s no way you could get any more land-based stuff! No way. Right?

Haig: That’s right.

Nixon: Hell, we’ve been down in there with ABM, the defensive weapon system, it was close. But, of course, this country for years—well, ever since the turn of the century, has gone for navy, right? And that’s one view. On the other hand, if we get SLs in, you could make a—it’s certainly going to look a lot like that. Let’s have in mind the fact that—I don’t know. Unless it’s a good deal on SLs, I’m not for it. [Page 725] [unclear] But what is your—but, I’ve interrupted. What do you think? Your feelings are somewhat similar?

Smith: Well, I think [unclear] we ought to try, and there’s some chance that we can get the SLs included. Now, in this clause—

Nixon: You think there is a chance?

Smith: Yes. Bill Rogers asked me about it, to mention to you. He’s going to send you a memo suggesting you write Kosygin stressing the importance of this. Now, I feel—

Nixon: If I wrote anybody, I wouldn’t write Kosygin; I’d write Brezhnev. But the second point is: I don’t think at this point that I should write—well, it’s just my reaction, I don’t know if you agree, but I don’t think I should be writing—using that chip with that fellow at this point. Do you agree? Do you want it done?

Smith: Well, I think that there is a real chance that the Soviets are interpreting May 20th5 as—

Nixon: Excluding them—

Smith: —not requiring them to go into SLBMs.

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Smith: And, as long as they have that interpretation—

Nixon: Yeah.

Smith: —our chances—

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Smith: They are—

Nixon: Impossible.

Smith: Now, whether this is the right time for you to weigh in, or later, I don’t know.

Nixon: I don’t like to weigh in, Gerry, on something that we’re going to get turned down on.

Smith: I agree.

Nixon: I think that when I weigh in, we’ve got to have a pretty good idea that, that we’re going to get the deal, you know what I mean?

Smith: Yeah.

Nixon: And, and then, we’ll go in with everything. You can say, “Now, this is the President.” These guys are tough, as you know. And, of course, the other way will be tough, too, but—well, anyway, I’ve got the message, and I’ll consider it.

Smith: My—

Nixon: [unclear]—

[Page 726]

Smith: My read, Mr. President—

Nixon: The intuition is not to do it.

Smith: We’re—we’re trying to stop—

Nixon: Why don’t you tell them?

Smith: Well, I’ve told them many a time. [Laughing] Again, I think—

Nixon: Well, you can tell them you and I have talked, and you’re working on it. Well, we’ll put it in the—and we’re going to have it in the instructions, isn’t that right, Al?

Haig: Yes, sir. We’ll have the instructions—

Nixon: Yeah.

Smith: But when we started Vienna last November, Mr. President, I communicated a personal message from you—

Nixon: Right.

Smith: —to Semenov on this buildup. And I think the least we should do is something like that—

Nixon: Yeah.

Smith: —or else, they’ll think that we’re [unclear]—

Nixon: ‘Cause there’s something else you could do: Is there any way you could, as a fallback position, say that that would be the next phase, or something to that effect? That’s another way to get at it, you see?

Smith: Oh, they’ll agree to that in a minute—

Nixon: They’ve already agreed to that?

Smith: They’ll—they say we immediately should sit down after this and negotiate [unclear] like the summit.

Nixon: Also, I suppose other things that are—well—

Smith: But you have all sorts of arguments that I haven’t heard surface. I didn’t want to get in a donnybrook—

Nixon: I know.

Smith: —in the NSC.

Nixon: No use for ‘em, did you? No, I [unclear] but I hear them all, so that nobody can say I didn’t listen, you see? Hmm.

Smith: For instance, one of the things we don’t often hear is that the French and the British are going to have nine votes, which is over 20 percent of ours, and the Soviets flatly say to me those votes are not going to be on our side; they’re going to be on your side. And this is a little bit of an insurance policy we’ve got to have. We’re trying to stop three Soviet programs to just one of ours.

Nixon: Three?

Smith: IC, SL, and ABM. Now, if you only stop two of the Soviets’ to one of ours, it still seems to me a pretty good deal because our, [Page 727] our programs are not going to be stopped at all—the intensity. And they’re big. They’re much bigger than we like to make out. Poseidon and the Minuteman are tremendous.

Nixon: Poseidon and—

Smith: And the Minuteman III, which is a MIRV

Nixon: Yeah.

Smith: —that can be a land-based missile.

Nixon: Yeah, yeah. I know.

Smith: So that it—

Nixon: And that won’t be stopped?

Smith: That won’t be stopped. Now, there’s a tactical point that I hesitate to raise now—

Nixon: That’s all right. Raise it if you want.

Smith: [unclear] You mentioned Scoop Jackson. Scoop is the oldest friend I have, and—

Nixon: Great guy.

Smith: And I think [unclear]—

Nixon: If the Democratic Party had any damn brains they’d nominate him, but they won’t.

Smith: I have worked with him for 25 years, I think. Last year, on the 29th of May—March, he made a proposal for an interim freeze, and it did not include SLBMs.6 See the Congressional Record. He wanted also to stop the American Minuteman III program, and the Soviets were just going to stop their ICBMs. Now, in addition to that, he proposed—

Nixon: Um-hmm?

Smith: —this hard-site defense thing, but he—

Nixon: He’s on the hard-site defense?

Smith: But the inclusion or exclusion of SLs, logically, has nothing to do with the type of defense you can [unclear] that for, so that if Scoop starts to—acting up—

Nixon: Hell, I know [unclear]—

Smith: —it might be a little slower.

Nixon: Well, on the other hand, let me say I don’t like to take him on for other reasons, because he’s such a damn decent, responsible guy, you know what I mean? It isn’t that. I don’t think that he’s the one to be concerned about. The ones that are going to surprise you, di-di-di-di [etc.]. To me, the Taiwan thing was a hell of an eye-opener. Good God, when I, when I read about some of these clowns that I know, that [Page 728] I mean, attacked Eisenhower for Quemoy/Matsu; who were always kicking Foster Dulles in the ass because of that, the China lobby, and the rest. And here, they’re all crying tears over Taiwan. And I thought, “What the hell gives here?” And I realized it’s all politics. [Laughs] They knew there was no problem, you know? So, that’s what I think we’ve got to watch. In other words, just be sure the record is one—we’ve got to be sure the record is a darn good one, and we can go out and sell this deal and sell it strongly as one that is in the interests of the United States, and this is going to be in our interest; it isn’t going to make us second-best. You know, let’s put it in the vernacular. That’s what I’m trying to get at.

Smith: Well, I’m completely persuaded by this. If I were a Soviet planner, and I’ve told this to a lot of people, I would be concerned about the way the balance is going. Because—

Nixon: You would?

Smith: When you came into office, we had 1,710 independently targetable warheads. Now we’ve got double that. In 2½ years, we’re going to double our present figures.

Nixon: Because of MIRV?

Smith: And that, I think, is the important thing: the number of warheads you can deliver. Not the fact that they have some more submarines [unclear]—

Nixon: That’s in power-weight?

Smith: That’s the thing. Now, each one of these is three times the size of the Hiroshima explosion.

Nixon: [unclear]

Smith: And the Minuteman MIRVs are, I don’t know, ten times the size of Hiroshima. Now, if we want more to do the job, if you make a deal without the boats, we’ll just build boats. I don’t think you need more, but you—your hands aren’t tied at all.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT.]

Smith: So that I have no problem of conscience here about certifying that we’re much better off if we can make a deal—

Nixon: Now, on the hard-site thing: We—I know their position, and, of course, it’s the position of arms control people. I must say that you have to be impressed by the vigor and the, you know, the campaign. That, that Defense guys really argue it strong, their whole thing, you know. What—But you, basically, take the same position that the arms control group does. Is that really—?

Smith: I think it would be a tragedy—

Nixon: But they, they took us—they—we spent—I would say—I don’t know—I think they had 30 minutes on that.

[Page 729]

Haig: Yes, sir. They did.

Nixon: You think—don’t you think they covered about as much as he, or—ok, let me just ask you: do you endorse their position?

Smith: Yes. A hundred percent—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Smith: I think it’s—

Nixon: You think it’s a new arms race, and all that?

Smith: And I think you’d lose a great deal of support from the fellows in Congress who you’ve been briefing. This has been an entirely new thought, to build up instead of reduce. Our allies haven’t got a whiff of this. It’s an entirely new ballgame, at the last minute, you’re proposing. But, basically, I’m against it because it won’t work.

Nixon: You don’t think it will work?

Smith: They’re talking about, look, maybe 1,000 interceptors, 2,000 interceptors. I don’t think the Senate is going to give a sort of blank check to the Executive Branch. I said, “How many interceptors are you fellows talking about?” Obviously, we don’t know. Indefinite. I even question if we can get consent to—

Nixon: Let me say this: that it’s very important, whatever we decide on it, though, to keep the—to keep a line out there. Let’s not have a big debate about it. See my point?

Smith: Well, I think that—

Nixon: You see, if we [unclear] if the—if—there is a strong lobby for it, see? So, I want to keep them guessing while, while I consider it. See my point?

Smith: One tactic that you could do—

Nixon Yeah?

Smith: —is the one we’ve worked out with this future system involving lasers. We’ve got the Soviets to agree that if they get developed, we’ll both look at it, and before we decide the clause of a main treaty. Now, this hard-site is still a dream if it’s developed. And if either side wants it—

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Smith: —we can amend the treaty.

Nixon: Well, this doesn’t stop the R&D, does it?

Smith: No.

Nixon: Which Laird says he’s got the money for. Right, Al?

Smith: And it wouldn’t stop deploying these components in one of the sites, or two of the sites, whatever you decide. You could take these short-range radars and Sprint missiles and operate them.

Nixon: Um-hmm.

[Page 730]

Smith: What I don’t think you should do is set up something that will leave the whole ABM framework uncertain until three or four years in the future and give us a right to then deploy an unlimited number of interceptors and radars.

Nixon: Do you—you share the view that the hard-site thing would—might lead them to be able to develop a good defense?

Smith: It will certainly give them a bigger base than they have now to do just that.

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Smith: And the CIA people tell us it would increase your verification problems. And it’s the sort of thing the Soviet military might very well grab at.

Nixon: Hmm.

Smith: But my guess is the Soviet political people would say, “This is just entirely—”

Nixon: Do you think they have some differences?

Smith: I’m sure of it.

Nixon: You’re rather sure? They say they do, but I wonder how much credence you give to that. Is that what—?

Smith: I’m—After 2½ years, I’m sure of it.

Nixon: Do you see it, then?

Smith: There are the fellows—

Nixon: Hmm?

Smith: —who want to put the money into civilian resources, and there are the fellows who say—

Nixon: Um-hmm. They want to—

Smith: “—whatever the Americans say, we’ve got to be ready for an attack by them. We’ve got to pay whatever it costs.”

Nixon: Do you think they, then, underestimate our political problem here?

Smith: Well, which one?

Nixon: [unclear]—

Smith: We have a number of them. Which—?

Nixon: Well, the political problem of, basically, the new isolation, the new—the, you know, put the money into the ghettos, and all that sort of thing. [unclear]—

Smith: I think their military fellows do. I think they believe their own pap: that the military-industrial sector—

Nixon: That which—they—in other words, we’re just the greedy capitalist, imperialist, warmonger in power right now? The military fellows believe that?

[Page 731]

Smith: I’m sure they do.

Nixon: You see, we might have a—I’m just thinking if I were writing the Democratic platform. It’s going to be a bitch to write because Scoop ain’t going to [laughs]. He’ll have to ignore his wife on this issue. But they’re likely to call for a $30 billion cut on a $34 billion budget. That would certainly tend to risk, to weaken our bargaining power. So, it seems to me, if we’re going to make a deal, we got to make it before then. Right?

Smith: That was a very perceptive comment that you made at the NSC.7 It’s going to be rough for them.

Nixon: Yeah.

Smith: Military budgets.

Nixon: Yeah. Well, the—you think they want a deal?

Smith: Yes, sir.

Nixon: You’re convinced of that?

Smith: Semenov talks in terms of buttoning up this next session by the first of May so that he can have three weeks to clean up and get his leadership sufficiently acquainted with it. He mentioned he’d like to have nothing left over. Now, this sounds to me like a man who wants a deal and expects that we’re going to work out something. It also points out how short a time we’ve got. We’ve got six weeks, so if we’re going in with some positions that we know we’re going to have to recede from, I hope that—

Nixon: Hmm?

Smith: —Al and his friends will be able to give us some quick—

Nixon: Decisions?

Smith: —decisions from you about—

Nixon: Yeah, I understand.

Smith: I don’t know, because we don’t have it when—like we used to have when we talked about three months—

Nixon: I know.

Smith: —four months ago. And that—

Nixon: In other words, you feel that they are—that they feel they have to have a deal, and—which balances the problem that some feel on our side: that we have to have one. I mean, it’s a—it would be a very bad position for us, wouldn’t it, if we went in there saying, “Oh, God, we’ve got to have a deal,” and they didn’t feel that way. You don’t think they look at it that way now, do you? Or—how do you see that one? Is that—?

[Page 732]

Smith: I think they probably calculate [unclear].

Nixon: Yeah.

Smith: The Americans need a deal more than they do—

Nixon: Right.

Smith: —because of great expectations—

Nixon: Great expectations of the summit, and there’s going to be an election. Right. Now, on their side, though, how do we calculate them?

Smith: Well, they’ve had it now for 2½ years. I’m sure they’ve got pressures at home to make a deal. I think they’re concerned [unclear] things like this hard-site talk. That if the SALT collapses—

Nixon: Yeah?

Smith: —then a new impetus might—

Nixon: Let them worry about that. Let it hang out there. You know, that’s why I say, “Don’t reject it too quickly.”

Smith: Well, I thought, for instance, I would throw out a few fish. Like: we don’t have to finish in May—

Nixon: Yeah.

Smith: —maybe we could go back to Vienna after the summit and see if we can cut some more problems. Let them think a little bit.

Nixon: You go to Vienna now or Helsinki—?

Smith: I go to Helsinki this time. But I would just start talking a little bit about the Vienna phase after this; it will make them think a little bit.

Nixon: What did Thompson think before he died?8 Did he think they want a deal?

Smith: Yes, and I believe—

Nixon: Too bad he couldn’t live to see it if we get one.

Smith: And I believe that Tommy would strongly endorse what we’re saying here: if you can’t get the SLs, you’ve still got the—

Nixon: So, you’d still take the deal, without the SLs? That’s your feeling?

Smith: The great problem is to get the ABMs under some control. Because, otherwise, we can, and they can, spend billions of dollars, and it’s like a tic-tac-toe game.

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Smith: Every guy to make an “X” knows how to play. The other fellow puts an “O” down and—

[Page 733]

Nixon: From our standpoint, of course, the great prize is to get those land-based ones under control, too. I mean their offensives. Hmm?

Smith: Well, I would have thought if—when we started this three years ago, if we’d said to you, “Look, we can get 100 to 150 interceptors,” something like that—“ABMs, that we have to think about penetrating, stop their ICBM program, [coughs] like 300 of these big ones,” it would have looked like a pretty good deal to us. [Pause] And I don’t see any trouble at all on the right—on the left-wing side.

Nixon: No, no, no. I—

Smith: Unless they say you didn’t go far enough.

Nixon: Oh, I agree. We have to—

Smith: And that is [unclear]—

Nixon: I’m not worried about that. I’m not worried about that. We can manage that. Say, “Well, what the hell? We’ve come a long way. Where were you?” You know? But non-proliferation has nothing to do with limitation; neither did the test ban.

Smith: But this will help non-proliferation, if we can show the other countries we’re putting limits on ourselves.

Nixon: Sure. Sure.

Smith: It’ll help.

Nixon: Sure. But what I meant is, when you’re talking about a test ban and non-proliferation, it has nothing to do with power balance between the Soviet Union and United States. It makes it a little more difficult.

Smith: On this one, you got a different ballpark.

Nixon: That’s right. So this gets to the heart of the problem, too. That’s why the non-proliferation is hard to negotiate, and so is the test ban. But this should be—this is about the magnitude of a hundred times the size, because it goes to the heart of each nation’s security. Right?

Smith: I’m sure of that.

Nixon: That’s what they think; it’s what we’ve got to think, too.

Smith: May I raise another tactical question, Mr. President?

Nixon: [unclear]

Smith: I think it would be bad, even if we could get—to reach an agreement before you were ready to sign it. Because if one may have been, been reached in—I mean, at our level—

Nixon: Yeah.

Smith: —early in May. If there’s a leak, it would be shot at—

Nixon: Sure.

Smith: —from all sides. So, if we’re—

[Page 734]

Nixon: They’d pound it to pieces. They potentially kick your hard-site deal.

Smith: My sense—

Nixon: If it didn’t have that in, you’d have all hell breaking loose, and the pressures would come on: demands from Congress that you come down. [unclear] You know what I mean?

Smith: So, I would suggest that, as a tactic, one think about deliberately not reaching an agreement. Even, if necessary, holding out—

Nixon: I don’t think it’s probably going to be necessary [unclear]—

Smith: Well, I think that’s probably too—

Nixon: I see your point, though. I think you’re absolutely right.

Smith: Then, you can face them with a fait accompli.

Nixon: Because if we come to the—well, then, also, there should be some problems that we may have to solve, and there may—and I think there probably will be. So, if we can come to there, and then whack it, and then sell it with the highest it’ll be—I’ll put it this way, Gerry: It’s going to be much easier for us to sell it at the highest level then it would be for you to sell it.

Smith: Sure.

Nixon: Isn’t that really what it gets down to?

Smith: And it will be much easier to sell a fait accompli—

Nixon: Yeah.

Smith: —when you come back with a—

Nixon: That’s right.

Smith: —with a good deal than to have people pecking away at it in advance of the summit.

Nixon: In fact, you may have to play a few games there. There’s, I mean, ok, well, there’s a problem here and a problem there. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen here, and—but we’re going to do our very best—

Smith: On—

Nixon: —and we’ll have to discuss the thing again in Moscow.

Smith: On a thing like duration—

Nixon: You [unclear]—you come in—

Smith: —[unclear] could do that.

Nixon: What’s that?

Smith: On this question of how long do you think it should last, that might be a good one to do—

Nixon: Right.

Smith: —just to hold it open.

[Page 735]

Nixon: And that’s something that you could—I don’t know. We don’t have a basis for hope now, but my general feeling is that I don’t know how this would work, but if we don’t reach an agreement, which I don’t think will happen for reasons that you’ve mentioned, probably shouldn’t ‘til we’re ready to, to wrap it up. I hadn’t thought about this, and I don’t want you to say anything about it to anybody—anybody—just, just pass the word to Al or, I don’t know, whoever you want in Defense to hear it—if we don’t, I’m not inclined to think that we ought to have the whole, the whole delegation come to Moscow and conduct it. The—I think you should, but what’s your feeling on that? I [unclear] Al, have we done any thinking about that sort of—? Or, maybe—if it—well, understand: they’ve all worked on it, and I suppose that, maybe on that side—God. To have a whole—you see my [unclear] of the problem? Maybe you have to. Well, think about it. Think about that. Or, do you have a response—I meant, a feeling about it now that you’d like to express? Maybe they have to—

Smith: Well, I—I have a feeling that these fellows are all professionals, and they would understand it if—

Nixon: Yeah?

Smith: —they were told it would overload the circuit. On the other hand, if it could possibly be damaging—

Nixon: If there’s something left to be done. Well, I see your point. What’s your feeling, Al? You have anything—?

Haig: I think it might be troublesome. I think we ought to just give it a good, hard look now.

Nixon: They might—it might be troublesome if—

Smith: I think the sweeter if you keep Nitze, for instance—

Nixon: Yeah.

Smith: —it’ll be easier on Congressional testimonies—

Nixon: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Right. That’s very, very persuasive. You have to have the whole group. I think you’re right. If we come down there—well, that’s no problem, you know. And also, there will be work to be done, and we’ll want their advice. Stay up ‘til—I hope the damn Russians don’t stay up as late as the Chinese. The thing about them, they sleep all morning and work all night.

Smith: Well, they’re changing their habits a little.

Nixon: I mean the Chinese do.

Smith: Yeah. Oh, I know—

Nixon: I don’t know about the Russians.

Smith: The Russians are working more reasonable—working more—

Nixon: [unclear] They used to work a lot at night.

[Page 736]

Smith: —and they’re drinking less.

Nixon: They what?

Smith: Because, they’re drinking less, and they’re working—

Nixon: Are they cutting the drinking?

Smith: —a more normal day, yeah.

Nixon: Yeah. They used to—they used to just drink like—hell, when I was there—

Smith: I think they found that was pretty counterproductive. There were—we’ll see people under the table all—

Nixon: But now, they’re more moderate?

Smith: That’s our experience. They don’t force you to drink bottoms up.

Nixon: Well, they’re not going to force me to drink bottoms up. [Laughing] I can’t stand that stuff. I had enough of that Maotai wine—just a little sip of each. Well, let me say this: we’ll get out instructions that will be, you know, give a good bargaining position for you. We’ll also be in a position to be in very close touch as things go along. We—it will not be possible all the time, let’s face it. You know what I mean? I’ve got to—I must say that on that SLBMs, that’s a very coy defense by—you can go into the fine points, but don’t make a deal unless you get it. I don’t think we can put that in [unclear]. Huh? Because damn it, we didn’t say that at the beginning. We didn’t say that last May. That—they’re right about that, aren’t they? That wasn’t in the May understanding was it?

Smith: [unclear]

Nixon: The May understanding involved ABMs and land-based offensive missiles, as I recall.

Smith: That, that should—

Haig: That was the normal understanding—

Nixon: It doesn’t say that specific thing, but that’s what we understood. Huh?

Haig: They would interpret it that way, I think.

Smith: And when Semenov talked to me in Vienna, just about that same time, he was just talking about ICBMs. And I asked him, “How about the SLBMs?” Even then, he said, “Oh, no. I didn’t say anything. I was just asking questions.” But, I think they’re entitled to interpret May 20th as not requiring—and those new boats. And I think you’re well aware of, Mr. President, the great gripe they have on the submarine thing is that we can have forward bases and they can’t. They can’t use Cuba and we can use Spain—

[unclear exchange]

Smith: And that’s a tremendous advantage.

[Page 737]

Nixon: Hmm.

Smith: And I—this is, to a good extent, behind their drive, and now they have more boats to make up for that. Now, it’s a transient advantage, because we might get thrown out of Spain and—

Nixon: [unclear]—

Smith: —thrown out of Scotland. Nothing is planned in perpetuity.

Nixon: That’s right.

Smith: At present, we’ve a great asset—

Nixon: Yeah.

Smith: —which makes the numbers business look a lot more manageable.

Nixon: I see.

Smith: And on the question of where Tom Moorer comes out, for instance, I was surprised to hear him in the Verification Panel, and in the NSC, say, “Well, if the boats are not going to be included, then we want to have a short-term interim agreement.” Now, I never thought I’d hear the Chairman of the Chiefs even speculating about a deal that does not include the boats. So, he’s thinking about—

Nixon: Hmm?

Smith: —if you can’t get the boats, then let’s have a short-term freeze agreement. I took that to mean that he’s—

Nixon: I see.

Smith: —he’s crossed that Rubicon.

Nixon: Well, anyway, I appreciate the chance to talk to you.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 691–5. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Smith and Haig from 5:10 to 5:47 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editor transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume. On March 18 between 11:05 and 11:52 a.m. Kissinger and Nixon discussed talking points for this meeting with Smith. A recording of this conversation is ibid., White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 688–4.
  2. Nixon is presumably referring to the GAC; see Document 241.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 241.
  4. See Document 240.
  5. See Document 160.
  6. See footnote 4, Document 150.
  7. See Document 240.
  8. Llewellyn Thompson died February 6.