252. Editorial Note

On April 5, 1972, the Soviet Embassy informally presented a new proposal on ABMs to the National Security Council staff. The text of the Soviet note reads:

“The United States, besides ABM defense of one base of ICBMs, would have the right to deploy ABM facilities for defense of Washington, D.C.; and the Soviet Union, besides ABM defense of capital and of ICBM silo launchers amounting to 50% of the number of launchers at the abovementioned US base, would have the right to additionally deploy ABM facilities for the defense of yet 50% of the same number of ICBM launchers in the United States. This right would not be used by the sides during an agreed period (for example, 3–5 years). The total number of ABM launchers, with due account of those which could be additionally deployed for the abovementioned purposes, should not exceed 225. The rest of the conditions for limitations should be similar to those which go with the version now under consideration.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 493, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1972, Vol. 10)

At 11:10 a.m. on April 5 President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger and Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin spoke on the telephone about the Soviet proposal:

“D: It’s a new version as you asked me to keep you informed. Giving you two days before, just for your information.

K: What we want is frankly some opportunity to talk before, so we can keep some control over it, but you are going to present it anyway in a day or two. We had given you about two weeks advance warning in exchange of our position.

“D: It’s not very big.

[Page 756]

K: No, it’s very courteous and I would like to see it.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 371, Telephone Records, Chronological File)

At 11:42 a.m. Kissinger informed Chief of the Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks Smith of his conversation with Dobrynin:

K: Gerry, I have just had a call from Dobrynin saying that they will make a proposal tomorrow or the day after in Helsinki on ABM and I think you ought to wait with making ours until you have seen theirs.

“S: Well, this is certainly a bad one.

K: I don’t want to tell you how to run your business. I sent you a cable last night authorizing you to go ahead and in the absence of this call from Dobrynin, which is personal, they informed us that within the next 48 hours they will make one to you.

“S: The [omission in the original] I have is that if they make a proposal like one-to-one it will make it harder later to make a proposal for two-to-two and it will make us look like we are [omission in the original] it, but if it’s got to be done we can hold out.

K: What do you think?

“S: My personal feeling is we expected they would make their proposal tomorrow but instead of that all hands agreed we would have this exchange take place simultaneously.

K: If they propose one-to-one and we come two-for-two, does it make any difference?

“S: Except if they propose one-to-one it would be different. Then it wouldn’t happen simultaneously.

K: Why don’t you let them go first and depending on their proposal make yours. Who speaks first?

“S: This is going to be an informal session in our office and my feeling is he will speak first [omission in the original] but he may say you indicated you had some specifics and I would like to hear yours.

K: Look, on tactics I have to let you run it the way you want. If you think—if I find anything out about the proposal where can I reach you?” (Ibid.)

Also on April 5 Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council staff sent Kissinger talking points for his April 6 scheduled meeting with Dobrynin. Sonnenfeldt analyzed the Soviet ABM proposal as follows:

“Their new ABM proposal (Tab A), as you are aware, is their old two for one with a deferred three for two. The number 225 for interceptors is simply a straight line projection from their previous 150 for two for one, i.e., presumably 75 at each of their sites and 100+ at each [Page 757] of ours. This is, of course, the first time the Soviets have offered ‘deferral’(guess who taught them the idea). This proposal is, if anything, worse than the December 15 one, although having broached deferral it may be intended to carry some implication of one for one with eventual two for two. The three to five year period is also of some interest in view of Brezhnev’s shift to a three year offensive freeze. This has not yet surfaced in Helsinki.

“You should tell Dobrynin that your first reaction is negative—no advance, in principle, over their previous position.

“You should go on to stress the clear relationship in our view between what happens on ABMs and what happens on SLBMs. The present Soviet position means clear inequality in our disfavor in both defensive and offensive weapons. This may be a situation that cannot be avoided without an agreement but we certainly cannot accept it as the result of agreement.

“It is in this context that Smith today is offering two for two on ABMs (instead of our present two for one) if the Soviets move on SLBMs. (Note: Smith has not made any new specific SLBM proposal, other than a straight freeze. But you have given Dobrynin a modified freedom-to-mix, G and H to Yankee, proposition. There has been no Soviet response to either.)

“I believe you should not today debate further the merits of either ABM proposal but stress the need for basic decisions if we are to get anywhere near agreement by the summit. We have made a basic decision—permitting the Soviets an ICBM defense which they do not now have. You hope the Politburo is addressing more fundamental matters than the tactical—and discouraging—revisions in the latest Soviet ABM proposal.

“(Note: We will do a more considered analysis with Odeen when the Soviets have tabled their proposal in Helsinki.)”

For the full text of Sonnenfeldt’s memorandum, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 83.

On April 6, 8:16–9:27 a.m., Kissinger and Dobrynin met to discuss a variety of issues, including Vietnam, the Middle East, and SALT. According to a memorandum of conversation prepared by Kissinger, they had the following exchange concerning SALT:

“We then turned to other matters. Dobrynin raised the issue of SALT. He said the matter had been carefully studied in Moscow and the conclusion had been reached that it would be very difficult to include submarines in the proposal. On the other hand, there was the conviction that if submarines were not included we would be able to come to a solution fairly rapidly. I told Dobrynin that the question of SLBMs was a very difficult one for us, and that I was not very optimistic [Page 758] that we could move on it. It was a point on which our military felt extremely strongly.

Dobrynin asked whether some progress could not be made by settling on land-based missiles plus the ABM agreement and agreeing to make SLBMs the first item on the agenda of the follow-on discussions. I told him that we would consider that and I would give him an answer at one of our next meetings. At the same time I said that our problem was extremely difficult. We were being asked to accept inferiority in land-based missiles as part of the freeze, and equality if not worse in the ABM agreement. That was an inequitable arrangement. Therefore if SLBMs were to be excluded one would have to find compensation elsewhere by having some slight ABM advantage on the side of the United States.

“We agreed to consider that at a subsequent meeting.”

The full text of the memorandum of conversation is ibid., Document 84.