263. 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

329. Dear Henry:

At today’s Smith/Semenov meeting, he opened by repeating that SL issue was under serious consideration in Moscow.

He said never in his life had he seen such preparations as were being made for President’s visit.

He presented OLPAR written formulation, which Nitze approves. Subject to our dropping prior consultation provision, Sovs would agree to smallest ABM radar as ceiling for OLPARs.

He also presented formula banning multiple ABM warheads, which is acceptable in substance.

Based on our telecon of April 10,2 I then probed on personal basis Soviet interest in ABM approach permitting one ICBM site plus national capital at 150 kilometers. Under this approach, we could agree to 6 MARCs for NCA. If there was defended only one ICBM site on each side, the MARC concept would be especially useful for ICBM defense. I indicated that we could double our present proposed number of MARCs. (You will recall that NSDM3 authorizes me to triple; we will in all likelihood need to go that far or slightly higher.)

Semenov indicated strong interest in his side’s part is such an approach. I stressed that it was in the context of SLBM inclusion.

We have learned that Semenov’s instructions are to respond to US initiative, but not to make a new Soviet proposal.

In light of these developments, it would be very helpful from our angle to have early Washington response to delegation recommendations in USDEL SALT VII 1261.4

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If this unofficially floated ABM approach is not to be US position, damage limitation argues for early advice to Soviets.

Soviets, per Kishilov, are thinking of a 15 May Helsinki end, with both agreements wrapped up “to last comma.”

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 Eyes Only. Copies were sent to Haig and Howe.
  2. See Document 255.
  3. Reference is to NSDM 158, Document 243.
  4. In telegram USDEL SALT 1261 from Helsinki, April 14, the delegation submitted its recommendations on SLBMs, ABM limitations, and provisions for the duration of and withdrawal from the proposed agreement on freezing offensive weapons. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 18–3 FIN (HE))