259. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Issues for My Moscow Trip

[Omitted here is material unrelated to SALT.]


The major substantive subject being negotiated prior to the summit is SALT. It is at the moment stalled on two major issues and several minor, largely technical ones.

The major issues are (1) whether to include SLBMs in the offensive agreement and (2) where each side can deploy its ABMs. We have related these two by taking the position that an offensive agreement excluding SLBMs would confer such numerical advantages to the Soviet Union that it would be impossible for us to accept equality in the defensive agreement. The Soviets argue that the defensive agreement is permanent and therefore should be equal, while the offensive one is merely interim and any imbalances can be worked out in the follow-on talks for a permanent offensive agreement.

We have not yet exhausted all possible fallbacks on the SLBM question. These would involve schemes whereby the Soviets could continue construction of SLBMs in exchange for dismantling older SLBMs and ICBMs. Present evidence, however, suggests that the Soviets are unwilling to include an SLBM even if, as under the above schemes, they could in fact continue their present rate of construction for several years. Thus, we must confront a decision as to whether to accept a SALT agreement without SLBMs and perhaps with only an understanding that submarines will be the first subject of follow-on negotiations. If there is to be a SALT agreement in the next several weeks, we would probably have to take this step.

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As regards ABMs we can probably expect only a slight advantage, even if we concede on SLBMs. I would not propose in Moscow to accept equality even if the Soviets remain adamant in insisting on it. A number of variants involving certain advantages for us have been examined within our Government. But one special issue needs to be faced: are we prepared to give up our second ABM site at the Malmstrom ICBM field in exchange for an ABM site in Washington? Secretary Laird and Gerry Smith have both recommended this, and there is some evidence that the Soviets might accept a deal whereby each side would have one ABM site in an ICBM field (Grand Forks for us) and one around the national capital. Such a scheme would still permit us to defend a larger number of ICBMs since our ICBM fields contain more launchers than do Soviet fields. If the Soviets continued to make an issue of this “inequality” we would have to consider the matter between my trip and the time of the summit.

A further SALT issue relates to the duration of the offensive agreement. We have argued for an indefinite duration, the Soviets for three years. (If the agreement lapsed after a fixed period we would end up with an ABM-only agreement, which we oppose.) But we can probably accept some fixed duration, e.g. four years, on the understanding that if by that time there was no permanent offensive agreement, we might abrogate the ABM treaty.2

[Omitted here is material unrelated to SALT.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 21, HAK Trip Files, HAK’s Secret Moscow Trip Apr 1972, TOHAK/HAKTO File [1 of 2]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent for action. For the full text of the memorandum, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 125.
  2. Nixon initialed his approval of Kissinger’s approach to his secret Moscow meetings and wrote: “OK—as modified by RN’s oral instructions.” For the oral modifications, see Document 260.