25. Minutes of a Review Group Meeting1


  • SALT


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • Richard F. Pedersen
    • Erik Ronhovde
    • John Shaw
  • Defense
    • G. Warren Nutter
    • Yuan-Li Wu
  • CIA
    • R. Jack Smith
  • JCS
    • Maj. Gen. Royal B. Allison
  • USIA
    • Frank Shakespeare
  • Advisor
    • John McCloy
  • ACDA
    • Gerard C. Smith
    • Spurgeon Keeny
  • AEC
    • Allen Labowitz
  • OST
    • Donald Steininger
  • OEP
    • Chris Norred
  • NSC Staff
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
    • Morton Halperin
    • William Hyland
    • Winston Lord
[Page 90]


Before the Presidential trip,2 Kissinger would forward to the President a summary paper of the five SALT options3 and an issues paper4 which he would show to the other agencies principally involved. In addition the President would have a session with Gerard Smith to go over the entire subject. These procedures should provide sufficient guidelines for ACDA to begin drafting an opening position for SALT. The principal issues that would be delineated for the President would include whether we should open the talks with an exploratory phase or whether we should embark on specific negotiations from the outset. If we choose an exploratory phase the alternative ways include going in without a proposal, beginning with a specific proposal that would not necessarily represent our ultimate position, and setting forth optional proposals in order to elicit Soviet response. If we choose to begin talks with a concrete proposal, then the issue turns on whether we table a more limited one like alternatives 2 and 3 or a more comprehensive one like alternatives 4 and 5. ISA preferred an exploratory phase first in the talks while ACDA and State wished to negotiate from the outset. With regard to the optional proposals, ISA, without being fully satisfied with any of them, shared the JCS preference for more limited proposals, alternatives 2 or 3. ACDA and State preferred a more comprehensive proposal, alternatives 4 or 5.

There would be no NSC meeting before the President’s trip, but there probably would be one on SALT after his return. Before the trip there would be a high level meeting of concerned agencies on the verification problems, including the MIRV ban question.

Kissinger opened the discussion by pointing to the exception to options 4 and 5 which said both that they were undesirable and that they were acceptable only under carefully defined conditions. He found these two clauses not fully compatible. He asked if the conditions had been defined. Allison responded that these conditions had not yet been spelled out, but the basic JCS position was that alternatives 4 and 5 were unacceptable militarily and could be harmful to US security. Shaw pointed out that the language Kissinger had mentioned was the ISA and DDR&E position. Nutter said that the ISA position was that in order for options 4 and 5 to be acceptable, there would have to be very [Page 91] stringent conditions attached. They were working on defining these conditions. In response to Kissinger’s question, Nutter said that he would provide such conditions if OSD positions on them could be worked out in time. This was a difficult task. He said he could indicate some of the conditions that he had in mind and proceeded to read some of the elements that would be required with high confidence.

Kissinger then asked whether other views were not reflected in the paper or if there was anything in the paper that unfairly stated an agency’s position. Nutter said that his response depended on whether Kissinger was referring to the specifics of the paper or broader problems that he did not feel were addressed. Kissinger doubted that there would be a formal NSC meeting before the President’s trip. The President would review the subject with Gerard Smith and wanted a study. In transmitting a paper Kissinger wished to state the views of the various agencies, including the alternative options, relevant conditions, and other considerations. McCloy noted that his views would be tentative since he was not yet confirmed by the Senate and had only seen the paper for a short time.

Kissinger then asked G. Smith to sum up where he thought the government stood on SALT.

G. Smith recalled the NSSM 28 exercise which produced a summary paper with a number of options. Now the NSSM 62 exercise had added two new alternatives. He believed that we had gone about as far as possible in spelling out illustrative alternatives. The basic problem now was to choose one of three ways for the US to enter SALT. First, we could have no specific position and conduct a fishing expedition through exploratory conversations. Secondly, we could propose one or more specific arrangements which would not go so far as to ban testing or deployment of MIRVs or qualitative improvements in missiles. (Kissinger noted that this covered alternatives 1, 2, and 3.) Thirdly, we could make a proposal that included MIRVs, like options 4 or 5. Unless we choose to begin SALT with no proposal, we could not progress much further in defining our position until there was a better feel for the problems of policing MIRVs. He understood that this question would be looked at again at a fairly high level. Some people felt that no matter how exploratory our approach is, we would need a specific proposal to demonstrate our seriousness. He believed another reason for a concrete position was the hurdle of Congressional commitments. We could get a very negative reaction from some elements in Congress if we informed them that after six months of study we could only point to a number of illustrative possibilities. It would be curious to say that we had no definite position after six months, but this would not be intolerable if the Administration were willing to take the Congressional fire. He believed that everyone’s positions were as clear as day and that no more papers were needed to clarify the views [Page 92] of the various departments. He noted that the Secretary of State had not yet committed himself to a particular position.

As for the ACDA position, he was in favor of as broad an arrangement as verifiable, and he was more optimistic than the JCS concerning what could be verified. He hoped to get guidance from the President before the latter’s trip so that he could begin to draft the opening statement. He also hoped for an early high level meeting of the MIRV verification group which would sit down and continually study this problem. Kissinger thought that he would want the group to focus on the whole panoply of verification problems. He noted that there was already a good paper on MIRVs.5 G. Smith replied that the group would concentrate early on the MIRV question. He added that the paper had been discussed at the experts level. He would like to see high level officials meet for a day or two if necessary to soak up the facts, calculations, estimates, and doubts on this question and thus come up with a sharper focus on this issue. Kissinger said that the President had approved this idea and that the group would get together soon. G. Smith believed that a substantial amount of time should be blocked out, for the question had only been treated in bits and pieces to date.

Kissinger queried what was new in the NSSM 62 exercise. He noted that two options had been added. G. Smith replied that some language and modalities had also been added. More detailed refinement was needed. Kissinger wondered whether anything had come up in NATO consultations which would affect our judgments on the alternatives. G. Smith believed that the State Department should brief the President on the consultation exercise. The allied consensus seemed to favor a broad, comprehensive agreement. The consultations went surprisingly smoothly. There was not even much concentration on verification or a need for the planned US briefing on this question. All our allies’ questions were anticipated, and we detected no great note of urgency from them. It was a professional rather than a political exercise.

Pedersen agreed with this summation and suggested that Kissinger read Ambassador Ellsworth’s report. The latter’s fundamental conclusion was that by and large our allies favored as comprehensive an agreement as our security interests permit. They recognize the importance of US judgments on this question. In response to McCloy’s question, G. Smith said that consultations had taken place at the Permanent Representatives’ level. Pedersen noted that there had been time for careful consultations with their home governments. Kissinger asked Sonnenfeldt’s impressions of the NATO consultations. The latter agreed that these were the general conclusions, but there were some specific [Page 93] problems that needed to be discussed. G. Smith noted that Farley would be back the next day with a first hand report.

Kissinger said that the SALT paper was a model of fairness in the sense that there was no clear basis for choosing one alternative over the others. There was some treatment of how comprehensive an agreement we should propose. He wondered what the reasons were for choosing the most comprehensive agreement over more limited ones. G. Smith replied that there were two fundamental reasons. First, when you leave weapons systems in the open you divert the arms race into the permitted channels. You might fool yourself that you have accomplished something. He added that a very limited agreement gave the large plum to the Soviets of the recognition of parity, a moral equivalency, a mutual sufficiency. To grant this we should get more than just a freeze on ICBMs. Secondly, the more weapons systems that are restricted, the more signals we get earlier that cheating is going on. Under a regime prohibiting further missiles of any sort, any change in the status quo would alert us.

In response to Kissinger’s question whether all agreed with these thoughts, Nutter replied that his agency had no strong position yet. OSD did have some problems. For example they were uneasy on the status of preparations with regard to points 1 and 11 in the NSSM. Re point 11, he believed that agency differences were well stated with regard to the packages; however, what was not addressed were those differences concerning the whole approach to SALT. Also DOD was not yet satisfied on the verification problem. In the first three packages there were elements of a possible acceptable proposal, but there were large questions because so much depended on the Russian attitude as well as on our own. The last two options were not acceptable to OSD without some very stringent conditions and not acceptable to the JCS under any conditions. He confirmed to Kissinger that the OSD conditions were not yet defined and that they were trying to accomplish this difficult task. Kissinger noted that the difference between options 3 and 4 was the MIRV ban and the difference between options 4 and 5 was the qualitative improvements. Nutter replied that, in that sense, OSD’s problems increased with the comprehensiveness of the agreement, unless we were able to specify very clearly the conditions needed to cover verification and other ancillary problems.

Kissinger noted that he was trying to get a feel for agency positions; he asked for the JCS preference between options 3 and 1, for example. Allison said that the JCS were focusing on alternatives 2 and 3 and did not see much merit in alternative 1. He commented that option 2 mixed land mobile, sea-based and land missiles and was somewhat different from the previous option 2. He had some doubt about mixing totally all three of these missiles; it would make for a very tough [Page 94] verification job. He repeated that within packages 2 and 3 there were elements which could be used to work out an acceptable proposal.

Nutter commented that with regard to verification we should think about such problems as what conditions we needed and where we would want on site inspection. He then raised a broader question, referring to the first point in the NSSM. He thought that there would be broader guidance on the strategy of the negotiations as well as the tactics. He was not sure that we knew exactly how we wished to proceed. His agency was moving towards the line of splitting the talks into two phases. The first one would be a phase of probing Soviet intentions, objectives, and strategy. This could be done in a number of different ways and not just through a general discussion. Perhaps we would make a specific proposal designed to produce treatment of different concepts. We might perhaps even propose a moratorium. We would not necessarily be prepared to accept these positions ultimately. We would try to find out Soviet positions before getting down to the business of reaching an agreement. Maybe such agreement would be impossible if the first, exploratory phase proved unpromising.

Kissinger asked Nutter what kind of principles he envisaged our discussing with the Soviets in the exploratory phase. Nutter mentioned their attitude toward linkage of offensive and defensive systems, whether or not they have a concept of parity and what it was, their views toward superiority, either overall or with regard to specific systems. He agreed with Kissinger that it was doubtful that the Soviets would announce a concept of superiority in a meeting with us. Kissinger suspected that the Soviets would announce parity and we would only know what they had in mind when we began to examine specific aspects of their position. Pedersen noted that parity would be a political plus for the Soviets. Nutter mentioned that we did not know the Soviets’ position on intermediate missiles. He could not help but believe that the Soviets would raise the tactical nuclear issue. We would have problems with this question.

Nutter pointed out that our current alternative packages might look quite different after we had had preliminary discussions with the Russians. Kissinger asked if he was suggesting that we start without a concrete proposal. Nutter replied that this was not the only method. We might put forward one not for ultimate agreement, but in order to elicit a response from the other side. Kissinger wondered what we would do if the Soviets then accepted our proposal. Nutter said we would have to be prepared for this eventuality. Perhaps we would not wish to put forward a concrete proposal but rather begin merely with general talks.

Shakespeare asked how strongly OSD and JCS weighed on-site inspection. Nutter said it was very important for MIRVs and Allison added that it was also important for other problems. Kissinger noted [Page 95] the importance of on-site inspection for a MIRV deployment ban but wondered whether it was needed for a ban on MIRV testing. Allison responded that it would be required for a variety of systems, not just MIRVs. We would need it for any items which posed doubts, e.g., MRVs, submarine construction, etc.

G. Smith asked whether any study had been done on how much of our own classified information we would have to expose if we were to pursue this “screwdriver” approach toward on-site inspection. Allison said that a study had been done, and McCloy noted that this was an old issue. G. Smith commented that in testifying before Congress he would want to know what he would have to say with regard to the weapons design data we were showing the Soviets. Shakespeare asked whether we would be prepared to grant on-site inspection in this country to the degree that we would need it in the Soviet Union. Allison responded that personally he would agree to this. He believed that we could have sufficiently intrusive inspection to achieve our purposes but not so intrusive as to give away the farm to the enemy.

McCloy recollected that this issue was studied for many years. We had started with elaborate proposals for on site inspection and the “open skies”6 suggestion to improve mutual confidence. We had put great emphasis on an elaborate verification system. We found that the Soviets resisted this violently, considering it espionage. The more they resisted the more we pressed this issue. At about that time we studied what we would be prepared to do with regard to inspection on our territory and found that we were reluctant in many respects. This was especially true for the AEC and among members of Congress. Fortunately, we never had to resolve this issue. The Soviets were so obdurate that we picked up some kudos without having to be put on the spot. Shakespeare wondered why the Soviets were so obdurate. Was it a question of general Soviet xenophobia? McCloy believed it was their general secretive disposition. In his experience he was always impressed with their secretiveness in all aspects. He was not sure that it was a definite determination to reserve the right to cheat. He added that there was also the element of political psychology. They were a closed, not a free, state, and they did not wish inspection to intrude upon that situation.

Kissinger noted that for every option the JCS were against ABM-associated radars but not against fixed ABM levels. Radars required a [Page 96] longer construction time than missiles; if there were no ban on radars, missiles could be deployed fairly quickly. Allison gave several JCS reasons for this position. There was the verification aspect first of all. There was the difficulty of defining ABM-associated radars. There are a variety of uses to which radars are put. The Soviet Union is radar-rich; through inter-netting they could get around a ban. Thus a ban on ABM-associated radars would restrict us and have little impact upon them. Kissinger wondered if the ban were limited to missile components whether it could be evaded. One might deploy many missiles all at once if radars were already available. Allison replied that an ABM could be evaded if a country really wished to do so. In any event the JCS preferred not to have a ban on the ABM radars.

Kissinger wondered how these issues should be presented to the President so that he could give G. Smith enough guidance to do some preliminary drafting during the Presidential trip. G. Smith believed that a summary paper had been prepared, and he was willing to leave for Kissinger the setting out of the key issues for the President. Kissinger suggested that the material for the President could cover the question of the type of agreement that we wish, whether we might put forward one or several illustrative proposals, and whether we should discuss principles or specific proposals first. He did not believe there was a need to resolve the verification issue. A group would meet on this subject before the President left. He asked whether this was a fair statement of what the President needed to decide before his trip.

G. Smith generally agreed but added the necessity of focusing on Congressional consultation. There seemed to be a possibility of no consultations until August 10. Congress adjourned on August 13. Thus we could be involved in talks with the Soviets without any Congressional consultation. This would be most unfortunate. He had hoped that some consultations would be undertaken by the President before his trip. This was now not possible. He thought it was poor tactics for people involved in this question in the government to move ahead too far before the President was involved. To treat consultations seriatim would produce confusing news stories. He believed the President should assemble in one room selected Congressional leaders. Responsible officials below the President could talk to specific points. In short, in thinking about the substance of SALT preparations, the President should not overlook his Congressional clients. Decisions on our positions could be affected by the consultations.

Kissinger then summed up the disagreements that had been surfaced. First, there was a disagreement whether we should begin with any specific proposal. The OSD position was that on the first go-around we should concentrate on general principles, using them in an exploratory way. Alternatively, we might use a specific proposal to elicit [Page 97] Soviet response. Nutter said that we might use a specific proposal but it would not necessarily be what we would ultimately aim for. Kissinger noted that we would have to be prepared for the other side to accept our proposal. It was difficult to distinguish between a probing proposal and a serious proposal.

McCloy saw some advantages in exploratory talks about general principles without tying ourselves to one proposal. Kissinger understood this approach. On the other hand he was not clear about what would be told G. Smith with regard to a proposal for probing purposes. This would amount to staying flexible. He had assumed that we would not put forward any proposal on a take it or leave it basis. We can expect complicated negotiations. He understood the McCloy concept of exploratory conversations. As for a Presidential decision, if we decide we must put forward a proposal, the difference between the G. Smith and Nutter approach would seem to be a nuance of attitude.

G. Smith said that there would not be too much difference between these two approaches if we tabled something concrete. The big difference lay between tabling a position and merely exploring with the other side. If we begin with general exploration, the Soviets would soon be talking about German revanchism. He added that the last Administration had decided to table a specific proposal. It had already gone through the phase of laying out principles and objectives with the other side. He did not see any great prospects of getting much material from the Soviets in discussions which would help us to fashion our concrete positions. And he saw a very large Congressional problem with the merely exploratory approach. For example, if the ABM issue were still being decided, and we were to inform the Congress that we were only exploring principles with the Soviets, we would get a very sharp negative reaction from all those who had believed in commitments on ABMs or a MIRV test ban and moratorium. Kissinger wondered whether Congress would be happier if we came out against a MIRV test ban. G. Smith acknowledged that they would not. However, we would at least be sticking to the President’s commitment to seriously consider a MIRV ban in the negotiations, although we would not be agreeing to it in advance. Nutter said that he would not push for an immediate concrete proposal unless that were the only way to get the Soviets to talk. In response to Kissinger’s question as to what kind of elements we might wish to put forward to probe the Soviets, Nutter mentioned on site inspection.

(Kissinger left the meeting briefly at this point and asked G. Smith to take the chair.)

McCloy said that he was trying to sharpen the issue of exploratory talks. He thought that a purely exploratory approach would get fuzzy with a quasi-proposal. He thought that at this stage in history there was some advantage in having a very thorough go-around with the Soviets [Page 98] on the strategic relationship as a basis for then deciding where we wish to come out. However, he was not necessarily arguing for this position.

Shakespeare asked whether we had had any contacts with the Soviets since the President’s June 19 press conference.7 G. Smith said that he had heard nothing substantively, only reports from lower level officials which were probably nothing more than irresponsible chit-chat. He had heard, for example, that the Soviets had said that we could get a MIRV test ban quickly but that all other agreements would take a good deal of time. Also he had heard that their response would be forthcoming soon and would probably shoot for August 15 in Vienna as the opening venue. In response to Shakespeare’s question, G. Smith said that we should wait and do nothing until the Soviets respond to our proposal. There was a good chance that when Ambassador Dobrynin returned to Washington next week he might carry with him such a response. In any event, there was little disposition in the US government to push the Soviets or to appear too eager to begin the talks.

G. Smith then commented on McCloy’s suggestion that we might not wish to table a specific proposal at the outset. He noted that Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson felt that it was important that we put something on the table if we expect to launch serious talks. Even a quick and dirty proposal would be better than nothing in order to get movement in the talks. He noted McNamara had held the view that we should get into a dialogue on strategic principles rather than starting with a specific proposal. Shaw said that this had changed. The McNamara concepts had been discussed, but it was decided in preparing for the talks to begin with a concrete proposal. He added that there had been general discussion with the Soviets on two occasions about strategic principles and these had produced little information. McCloy interjected that he was not necessarily arguing for a purely exploratory opening, but was just trying to sharpen the issue. Pedersen felt this approach carried considerable risk. The Soviets might come up with a large package and we would then be in a difficult position with a limited response. McCloy noted that they might even try to blow us out of the water with a return to General and Complete Disarmament.

Shakespeare asked J. Smith about the strain on the Soviet economy of strategic forces. J. Smith said that strategic forces took a bigger bite out of the Soviet economy than ours. It was an enduring strain which cut into their investment and consumer goods. But strategic forces remained the Soviets’ first priority. They were not a burden which they could not carry or increase if they wished to, but they do have to pay a price. Shakespeare wondered what the economic pressures [Page 99] would be on the Russians if there were to be an arms race. J. Smith acknowledged that this was very worrisome for them because an escalation of heavy weapons would be a very expensive undertaking. G. Smith believed that the only safe assumption was that the Soviets will pay whatever is necessary to maintain their strategic position. There is no evidence that they would not be willing to pay this price. Nutter thought that this subject affected the degree to which they were willing to negotiate. J. Smith agreed that it increased their negotiating willingness. McCloy noted that the recent arms build up by the Soviets really began after the Cuban missile crisis. At that time the Soviets said that they would never allow themselves to be in an inferior position again. Since 1962 they have been building up steadily, and not only in nuclear field. He noted the Czechoslovakian invasion and the Soviet fleet in the Mediterranean. He believed the major purpose of all this activity was to make Western Europe more accommodating to Soviet policy. They would not give up their recent military gains lightly. J. Smith noted that it had been a long, tough haul for the Soviets since 1962 and they would not wish to have to do this again. McCloy commented that therefore this was not just an issue of money; we should also keep an eye on Soviet objectives.

G. Smith believed that this discussion suggested that the Soviet attitude on on site inspection might be different than in the past. They might approach this subject differently if it were clear to them that an agreement could save them billions of rubles to use on general purpose forces or housing. McCloy was convinced that in the past they had refused on site inspection because they believed that they could get all that they wished from the US while the Soviet society in turn was a closed one. They saw no reason to lose this advantage. In our country the New York Times would report an ABM deployment the day after it took place. Perhaps now however, the Soviets might be willing to make a gesture in this field. G. Smith thought this was more likely now since they know that we have better unilateral surveillance capabilities and that their society is no longer so closed.

Shakespeare asked whether on site inspection was important for substantive reasons and not just psychological ones. Allison said that both considerations were significant. Shakespeare believed that if it were important for substantive reasons then we needed to have on site inspection for our national security. If it were a question of psychological desirability, then it was a political decision. Pedersen noted that the question of necessity was relative. The more we could improve our verification capability, the better off we were. G. Smith thought, for example, that the JCS could accept option 1 without on site inspection. Allison said that the JCS would always wish for on site inspection, but each case should be looked at on its merits.

(Kissinger then returned to chair the meeting.)

[Page 100]

Nutter thought that it was easy to set forth the disadvantages of beginning talks by just discussing principles. He thought, however, that we also should be clear on the disadvantages of plunging blindly ahead with a concrete proposal. We were uncertain concerning Soviet intentions and interents.

Kissinger saw that we had two choices: We could begin by discussing general principles, as McCloy had suggested, or we could make a proposal that we could accept. If we put forward a proposal that was not designed to be acceptable to us, we would get fantastic pressure from disarmament groups and certain senators. We would spend as much time on domestic battles as we would eliciting views from the other side. He thought therefore that he could tell the President that there were two possible exploratory approaches. Either we could begin probing the Soviets with principles (which could be fairly specific) or we could put forward two or more concrete packages. He believed Nutter’s idea was to have two or three proposals for each category of weapons in order to elicit a Soviet response. Nutter said that we should be prepared to accept any one of them. Kissinger wondered whether anyone else saw merit in putting forward proposals that were designed not to be acceptable. Nutter interjected that he would not characterize his suggestion in that fashion. We should be willing to accept elements of the proposals, but they should not be intended to be a full package. When Kissinger asked him whether OSD had such a package for exploratory reasons, Nutter replied that this was a difficult problem. This approach had not received adequate attention. Kissinger wondered what directive on this subject could be given to the Steering Group.

Pedersen believed that we would have to know our real negotiating aims among the five options before proposing something specific. Nutter suggested that we needed only a tentative goal. This approach might not work, he acknowledged, but attention should be paid to it.

Kissinger said that there were two questions with regard to the exploratory approach. First, do we start in this fashion? Assuming the answer is yes, then how do we proceed? One view, suggested by McCloy, was to talk about principles. The other view was to put forward a quasi-proposal in order to elicit Soviet thinking. Nutter repeated that he was not wedded to this second approach. McCloy thought that the exploratory concept should be set down on paper and could look persuasive, but he recognized that it was late in the day for this. Pedersen repeated that he thought that we must know roughly our final position and that our exploratory position would be determined by our final one. He thought we should decide on our objectives first and then we could decide whether we start talking about principles, or part of our package, or our whole package.

Kissinger suggested, in light of all the work that had been done, that if we decide upon the exploratory route we might wish to put forward [Page 101] several options as we had done with our NATO allies. Thus we could put forward options 2 and 3 and perhaps 4—it depended on Presidential willingness to override objections. G. Smith noted the time problem with the exploratory approach. This could take months. McCloy noted that it could take a couple of years. G. Smith suggested a possible stormy Congressional reaction when we were asked if we were trying to get a MIRV ban, and we replied that this would come later after exploring principles.

Kissinger, noting that it was his duty to try to represent Presidential thinking, said that he did not believe that the President had committed himself to trying to get a MIRV moratorium. G. Smith responded that the President was committed to seriously consider this question. Kissinger replied that he had expressed willingness to consider this problem within the government, but was not committed to putting forward a MIRV moratorium proposal.

G. Smith then asked Nutter a series of questions designed to clarify the exploratory approach. He wondered whether DOD would allow him to explore a MIRV moratorium or a zero ABM level, for example. Nutter replied to these questions by saying that his department would have to think about them. They were working hard to determine what conditions would be acceptable. They had not had time to address these questions. G. Smith noted that this added up to SALT beginning at Christmas rather than in August. Nutter repeated that the strategy for the talks had not been really addressed. Pedersen underlined the importance of the implications of G. Smith’s questions. Nutter said that a piecemeal approach to the talks might not work. In response to G. Smith’s query what he would ask of the Soviets, Nutter replied that he would have to think about this problem. He had not been able to study it.

McCloy suggested going to the Soviets and asking them to explain what they were doing with their strategic and general purpose forces. Where were they headed in these fields? Could we cut across the board and stop these buildups? How about the position of Europe and our NATO allies? What were their intentions? etc. G. Smith replied that the Soviets would respond with surprise for they thought that they were going to talk about strategic arms. They would be most happy to talk about Western imperialism and German revanchism. He thought getting into this kind of debate would not advance the cause of strategic arms control. McCloy said that we could then call for a halt to the arms race, and G. Smith said that this was his objective.

Kissinger said that it was necessary to move this issue to a point where G. Smith could get some guidance by Tuesday when the President’s trip began. G. Smith acknowledged that he needed enough guidance to keep him busy, if not happy.

Kissinger said that the disagreements should be stated to the President. He said that the first decision to be made was whether we should structure the initial phase of the talks toward explorations or toward [Page 102] negotiating an agreement right from the beginning. If the President decides that he did not wish to negotiate from the outset but rather wanted to find out more about the Soviet position, we would then face the question of how best to elicit Soviet response, recalling the cautions that had been expressed. For this route, there were the McCloy suggestion of exploring principles and Nutter’s idea of a specific proposal, which would probably be different than the ones under consideration. This latter approach would mean designing a new proposal to meet these conditions. Nutter commented that he did not disagree with McCloy’s approach, but rather was suggesting another way.

Kissinger then suggested a third way of exploring. Like the NATO consultations, we could have 3 or 4 schemes, and be ready to live with them. The President would have to decide on the MIRV moratorium question. If it were not included in our proposals, we could tell Congressional critics that we had considered this problem and decided that such a moratorium would not be in our interests. He thought this method of putting forward several proposals would be a way of exploring with the Soviets while at the same time answering the charge that we had come up with nothing after all this time. In sum, the President could decide that he wished to negotiate right away or that he wished to begin with explorations. As for the latter, he could choose either to talk about principles, or to put forward a series of options like the NATO consultations, or to table a new option designed to elicit response from the other side.

J. Smith believed that the formulation of the issue of exploration versus negotiations suggested a greater difference than there really was in substance. All talks were somewhat exploratory. The real essence of the problem was whether we had committed ourselves in our own mind to our objectives, whether we had decided that we must have certain elements or we would not conclude an agreement. When Kissinger asked him for specific examples, J. Smith cited the ABM as just one of many. Kissinger asked G. Smith whether he wanted to have objectives without which we would not conclude an agreement. G. Smith replied that he hoped we would not start talks without some idea where we wanted to come out. Pedersen agreed with J. Smith’s view that the two approaches might not be so different. If we were to explore without any specific proposal, we should still know about where we wanted to come out. If we went ahead with a concrete proposal it would fall into the general area that we were looking for but we could end up with possible variations. Kissinger asked Pedersen whether he thought that if the President could live with two or three options we could put these forward to test the other side. Pedersen believed that this approach was consistent with his concept of variations in our basic objectives. J. Smith said that it was important to have our objectives clearly defined. Nutter cautioned that we should not get locked into positions. Some of the packages under consideration [Page 103] seemed livable, but we did not know how the Soviets would react. We could have some notion of our objectives, but they should be hedged. We might find some surprises.

Kissinger wondered how the President could decide other than through one of the alternatives that he had laid out. J. Smith asked how we would go about proposing two or three packages if we decided to negotiate on substance. Kissinger said that, assuming we were entering the talks prepared to talk substance, we would have the tactical question of whether or not to move toward substantive outcomes in an exploratory fashion and attempt to find out the other side’s response without locking ourselves in. Pedersen suggested two ways of doing this. We could put forward a concrete proposal, whether or not we were locked into it. Or we would not put forward one, but rather elements of it. Kissinger suggested this might be a fourth alternative to the routes he had listed. Allison said that this approach was like option 3 which could be presented with modifications. Many elements would still have to worked out, but that’s what negotiations were for.

Kissinger said that the group had just discussed the preliminary phase, whether or not it should be exploratory or substantive. He now turned to the substantive phase and which options agencies preferred. He asked whether anybody was behind alternative 1. Nutter replied that he did not wish to say which option his agency would choose, but elements in package 1 could lead to a possible outcome. Allison noted that there also were likely elements in option 2. Nutter added that he did not believe that any one of the alternatives was the correct one. Kissinger said that he had detected that option 1 had less support than the others, and he wished to flag this point for the President.

He saw the basic disagreement on the options as follows. Those who were in favor of a comprehensive agreement argue that a more limited approach would shift the arms race into the permitted areas of arms build up. Those opposed to the comprehensive approach stressed the verification problem and other uncertainties. Alternatives 2 and 3 were relatively more limited than 4 and 5. He thought that if these were the only available options, OSD and JCS would consider that 2 and 3 were more desirable than 4 and 5 in terms of national security. He thought that ACDA preferred a more comprehensive approach, subject to the judgment of the senior verification panel.8 He repeated that [Page 104] there would be a meeting of such a panel with high officials of all the agencies concerned before the Presidential trip. Pedersen noted that the State Department, as an institution, sided with ACDA, subject to discussions with the Secretary.

J. Smith pointed to the idea of a US-Soviet review commission, mentioned on page 113 of the report, and said that this was very important for the verification problem. Depending on its modalities, such a commission had great potential for easing or increasing the difficult verification problems. It provided a forum for explaining anomalous or disturbing data. If it were a court of inquiry, there could be more difficult problems. In any event, the existence of this commission and its type of mechanism had important implications. The thrust of the idea in the paper was to provide a place to blow the whistle on suspicious events.

With regard to the verification problem, Kissinger said that there had been a review of our unilateral capabilities and the panel was defining our uncertainties. There was a policy disagreement. Some believed that our unilateral capabilities were not sufficient and that we required on site inspection. Others were willing to rely on our national capabilities.

G. Smith believed that everyone agreed that we should make a hard try for some direct observations no matter what option we choose. We should not assume that on site inspection was out of the question. His agency was working on specific methods for direct observation.

Kissinger suggested that radars and a ban on MIRVs were examples that needed on site inspection. Allison said that MIRV bans were the best example. J. Smith said that all agreed that it was not possible to verify unilaterally a MIRV deployment ban. There had been a careful review and delineation of areas where national means of verification would work.

Kissinger thought that the verification issue should be treated in specific terms. On site inspection versus national verification should not become a theological issue. It should be treated practically, in terms of concrete negotiating issues. G. Smith commented that we should have the following issue in mind. If an agreement looked advantageous to us and we decided that we did not need on site inspection for monitoring purposes, then would we nevertheless refuse to go ahead without on site inspection because of its value in confirming Soviet motives? He believed our past positions on this question were wrong. We should try to get on site inspection, but be prepared to fall off if the rest of the deal looked advantageous to us. Kissinger noted that it was hard to decide this question in the abstract. G. Smith responded that we could decide that we would not accept any deal without on site inspection. McCloy cautioned that we could rationalize away on site inspection [Page 105] when we were under pressures for an agreement. G. Smith said that this depended on the deal in question. We had resisted such pressures since 1961 on a comprehensive test ban. McCloy noted that we had succumbed to such pressures with regard to the partial test ban that was actually negotiated. G. Smith rejoined that some observers thought that we were doing more testing under the limited ban than we had before. In any event we should not proceed on the assumption that this government could not resist such pressures. Pedersen noted that the factual situation had changed in view of the improvement of our national detection capabilities. McCloy agreed that the old formulas for inspection had been modified by our satellites. Nevertheless, he would not wish to see the whole objective swept away without even a remnant of the principle of on site inspection. Perhaps we would not be so weak against pressures this time.

Kissinger noted that with respect to verification there had been much technical discussion on what we could and could not observe. There had been less discussion on the more troublesome question of what we would do about suspected violations. J. Smith saw an analogy with the test ban. If an anomalous event occurred, we would ask the Soviets about it and say that we did not understand what they were doing. McCloy commented that the review commission might be a good idea, and J. Smith repeated that it could have a big impact.

Kissinger then closed the meeting by saying there would almost certainly be no NSC meeting on this subject before the Presidential trip. The President would have a good session with G. Smith before he left. Kissinger said that he would check with the principals of the agencies primarily concerned to see that the alternatives and issues of SALT were correctly stated for the President.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–039, Review Group SALT 7/17/69. Top Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Nixon’s trip abroad, July 26–August 3, included stops in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, South Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Romania, and the United Kingdom.
  3. The summary of the paper on SALT negotiating positions, prepared in response to NSSM 62, is Document 27.
  4. The issues paper was an undated memorandum to which the summary options were attached. See footnote 1, Document 27.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 27.
  6. An “open skies” treaty was first proposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the Geneva Conference of 1955. Eisenhower’s proposal, which was rejected by the Soviets, would have given all participating countries a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them by permitting aerial observation flights over the territory of the signatories.
  7. See Document 18.
  8. In a June 30 memorandum to Kissinger, Smith recommended that “since verification capability is central to SALT and doubts have been raised about the verification panel’s findings, I suggest that the President call for a higher level verification review panel charged with trying to get a better understanding of what US unilateral capabilities are.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–024, NSC Meeting 10/8/69) Nixon approved a memorandum dated July 15 in which Kissinger recommended that the President establish an NSC Verification Panel and appoint him as chair. (Ibid., Box 845, ABMMIRV, MIRV Panel Meeting 2:30 p.m., Situation Room, July 16, 1969)