244. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis (Tucker) to Secretary of Defense Laird 1


  • SALT VII Instructions—NSDM–158

NSDM–1582 could be setting the stage for a summit resolution of outstanding issues by coupling two major difficult issues—SLBM launcher limits and ABM levels—while simplifying agreement on several less important issues. Specifically, the President has decided to

Press for SLBM inclusion:
  • —by tying a change in present U.S.ABM position (from “2 or 1” to “2 for 2”) to Soviet acceptance of SLBM inclusion;
  • —by allowing the SLBM freeze date to slip to the date of signature;
  • —but stating that if Soviets continue to reject SLBM inclusion after three weeks in Helsinki the Delegation should “make recommendations for Presidential decision regarding the inclusion of SLBMs and ABM levels.”
Reject meaningful ICBM defense:
  • —by limiting interceptors to 100 per site;
  • —by pressing for the MARC concept of radar controls at ICBM fields;
  • —by providing even in the fallback on radar controls at ICBM fields that the radars shall not exceed the numbers needed to support the agreed level of interceptors;
  • —but directing Gerry Smith to state that if the USSR undertakes a program which would substantially increase the threat to our retaliatory forces, the US would consider this to jeopardize our supreme interests [Page 744] and to provide the basis for withdrawal under the supreme interest provision.
Press (initially) for an unlimited duration offense agreement and the special right of withdrawal from ABM agreement:
  • —but stating that a 5-year duration is the minimum acceptable for the offense agreement;
  • —and stating that the President is prepared to omit the special withdrawal provision, substituting for this provision a unilateral statement to the effect that failure to reach more complete offensive limitations could jeopardize our supreme interests and constitute a basis for withdrawal from the ABM treaty.
Stress control on ABM capable components:
  • —by pressing for strict OLPAR limits (“for now”);
  • —by directing the Delegation to clarify “testing in an ABM mode” by providing the Soviets with qualitative examples.
Eliminate several possible sources of disagreement:
  • —by directing that no further statements be made on early warning radar defense, the legality of existing national means of verification, selective direct observation and technology for use in early warning radars;
  • —by removing the special limit and date on MLBM completion.

I am pleased by the President’s stress on the coupling of offense and defense—tactically, in the coupling of SLBM limits and ABM levels, strategically, by the statement to the effect that a concerted Soviet program to increase substantially the threat to our retaliatory forces could be a basis for withdrawal from the ABM treaty.

I am pleased by the President’s stress on limiting SLBMs. The NSDM, while not as tough as our position, is much harder than could have been expected from earlier White House statements. If the Soviets continue to reject SLBM limits in the first three weeks in Helsinki we should be on guard to insist on their inclusion in any new instructions, and should insist that SLBM launcher limits not be dropped prior to the summit meeting.

The toughness of the initial positions on duration and withdrawal and on OLPARs and ABM mode testing is welcome, even though there is indication of a willingness to fall back.

I am keenly disappointed by the decision to reject Site Defense of Minuteman. I am sorry to see Malmstrom allowed as an alternative to Washington because this will complicate justifying to Congress an NCA defense in lieu of the Malmstrom Safeguard site already under construction. As a result we might wind up with an expensive and unjustifiable two-site Safeguard deployment, still have a vulnerable Minuteman and lack an NCA defense. Instead of a strategically significant defense of [Page 745] ICBM fields within the agreement, the NSDM relies on a unilateral U.S. declaration that we may withdraw from the defense agreement “if the Soviets were to undertake a concerted program which substantially increased the threat to the survivability of our strategic retaliatory forces.” Thus it increases the probability that we might have to withdraw from the defense agreement in the next few years, and means that adequate offensive controls will be harder to obtain in the follow-on negotiations.

Paul Nitze feels that the numerous fallback positions in the NSDM and the requests for the Delegation to send recommendations back to Washington after three weeks indicate a willingness to complicate the negotiations to the point of jeopardizing ad referendum agreement at Helsinki. Perhaps the White House wishes to reduce disagreements to two or three major issues which could be resolved at the summit.

In spite of my disappointment, I don’t think we should make any reclama on the decision on ABM levels at this time. The issue was fairly presented at the NSC, and the NSDM clearly reflects a lot of care in preparation. We must watch the talks in the next three weeks, responding as the situation develops while we begin careful consideration of the next phase. If there should be agreement at the Moscow meeting, it would be appropriate for the President to discuss the initiation of follow-on negotiations in Moscow. So far little attention has been given to this subject.

Gardiner Tucker
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files:FRC 330–77–0095, Box 7, USSR, 388.3. Top Secret; Nodis. A notation on the memorandum indicates that Laird saw it on March 29. An attached handwritten note from Tucker to Laird reads: “Paul Nitze called on the secure phone from Paris to report that it looked like the Soviets were willing to discuss the inclusion of SLBMs in the offensive agreement if the US was willing to modify its ABM position. Therefore, Paul feels we will be negotiating ABM much earlier than he had originally forecast.”
  2. Document 243.