257. Backchannel Message From the Chief of the Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (Smith) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

301. Dear Henry:

Full report on Smith/Semenov April 10 dinner meeting will be made in normal channels.2 Here are my impressions on session.

He is concerned re shortness of time available.
ABM Article III (levels and character of sites) is only real ABM issue left. I recalled OLPAR and withdrawal matters. He thinks they are “solvable.”
USSR “as great land power” making very significant offer to freeze land-based ICBMs.
Combination of significant ABM and freeze agreements would open way for broader agreements and improved relations.
SL inclusion condition is “artificial.”SL place in arsenal a “very special” and “complicated” one.
As authorized by April 10 telcon,3 I advised him White House did not have in mind holding back a part of agreement for negotiation at summit. Semenov confirmed that USSR had same position.
I did not make personal probe you okayed telcon April 10 re Semenov reaction to US second site limited to NCA rather than present option between NCA and second IC site because today (April 11) we will formally table US 2–2 position. Probing re a change in it before it was tabled seemed, on second thought, unwise. I will so probe soon and report results.
I detected no “give” on their SL position.
On my leaving Semenov said “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Warm regards.

Gerry Smith
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1972 SALT. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusive. Copies were sent to Haig and Sonnenfeldt.
  2. Smith sent a full report in telegram USDEL SALT 1253, April 11. (Ibid., Box 882, SALT, SALT talks (Helenski) [sic], Vol. 17, January–April 1972)
  3. See Document 255.