278. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1

SALT Background

We are now close to final agreement on almost all the major SALT issues. Some issues may be kept open for ostensible resolution in Moscow, but as discussed with Brezhnev, they will be settled in the confidential channel before hand, so that the final outcome will be arranged by the time you arrive in Moscow. The basic agreements are along the lines explored with Dobrynin and are essentially the proposals made by Brezhnev to you.

Brezhnev indicated strongly that he desired these agreements to be signed during your stay in the USSR, and we are planning on a signing ceremony on Friday, May 26 in the Kremlin.

This paper includes highlights of the agreements, background on the negotiations and unresolved issues which will be cleared up this week.

I. The Current Agreements

We will conclude an ABM treaty and an Interim Agreement on Limiting Offensive Weapons. The following are the highlights:

A. The ABM Treaty

  • —Limits each side to one ABM site for defense of Moscow and Washington and one site for each side for the defense of an ICBM field.
  • —There will be a total of 200 ABM interceptors, 100 at each site.
  • —Radars will be limited to Modern ABM Radar Complexes (called MARCs) six for each side within a circle of 150 km radius around the national capitals; (MARCs are a circle of 3 km diameter, in which radars can be deployed; in practice they can accommodate about one large radar or a few smaller ones).
  • —For the ICBM defense fields there will be a total of twenty radars permitted; two of them will be the size of our two large radars deployed at Grand Forks; the other eighteen radars will be much smaller.
  • —The Soviet ICBM protection site will be East of the Urals. (The Soviets are balking at specifying this location, but Brezhnev told me they would inform us of where it would be.) It is important that their site not be in the populated area of European Russia. Our comparable site will be at Grand Forks.
  • —Other non-ABM radars that may be built in the future will be restricted, so as not to create a clandestine ABM potential but the precise limits are still under discussion.
  • —The treaty will be of unlimited duration with withdrawal rights if supreme interests are jeopardized, and on six months notice.

B. The Interim Offensive Agreement

  • —Limits ICBMs to those under construction or deployed at the time of signing the treaty or July 1. This will mean 1618 ICBMs for the USSR and 1054 for us. The USSR will field 313 large SS–9s, but they will be prohibited from converting other ICBM silos to accommodate the large SS–9 types. Other silos can be modified but not to a significant degree. Modernization is permitted.
  • —Submarine launched ballistic missiles will be limited along the lines of Brezhnev’s proposal to me.2 For the Soviets there will be a ceiling of 950 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) on “modern submarines.” This means about 62 submarines. We will be limited to our current 41 submarines.3
  • —The further construction of submarines on the Soviet side, however, will be compensated in part by their dismantling of older land-based ICBMs; in this way they reach their ceiling of 950 but their level of ICBMs goes down.
  • —The Soviets will justify the unequal levels by counting 9 British and French submarines along with our 41, and reserving the right to increase their own level if this total is exceeded on the NATO side.
  • —We cannot acknowledge in any agreement that the British and French boats are relevant to SALT; nor can we accept the Soviet contention that the SLBM matter is only temporarily resolved because of our forward bases.4
  • —The Interim Agreement will run for five years (compared to the original Soviet proposal of 18 months), and both sides are committed to replacing it with a permanent and more comprehensive agreement.
  • —Both sides will abide by the obligations of the agreement once it is signed, though formally the implementation will await ratification of the ABM treaty.

[Omitted here is a summary account of SALT negotiations since late 1970.]

III. Unresolved Issues

A. Limits on Other Large Phased-Array Radars (OLPARs).

The US has consistently sought some controls over OLPARs since enough of these large radars scattered throughout the Soviet Union could be clandestine base for a territorial defense ABM system. The Soviets agreed to general but vague provisions which prohibit giving these radars ABM capabilities or testing them in an ABM mode.

The US further sought some control over future construction of these radars. The latest US proposal was that, except for verification or space tracking purposes, neither side could build an OLPAR larger than our Safeguard missile site radar (MSR).

  • —This is a highly technical problem. The measurement criteria used are the product of the area of the radar’s antenna (i.e., the aperture) and the radar’s power. The power-aperture of our MSR is just less than 3 million (3 × 106) watt-meters squared.
  • —The two exceptions—verification or space tracking—are because radars are needed in small numbers for such purposes and because radars for these purposes are the easiest to distinguish from ABM radars.

The Soviets apparently accepted this proposal on April 22.5 There was an ambiguity in their language, but there were indications that this would not be a problem.

About a week later, the Soviets discovered that there was a “small problem” of defining power-aperture levels. The Soviets claimed that they thought the MSR had a power-aperture of 50 million (5 × 107) watt-meters squared, or about 15–20 times larger than it is. In fact, at least two Soviets had been told the MSR’s correct size in January.

It is unclear whether the Soviets have changed their mind on accepting our proposal, or whether they had all the time intended to look conciliatory initially and then to claim a significant misunderstanding over levels.

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We cannot accept the Soviet standard since it is so high as to be almost meaningless. Moreover, it implicitly accepts radars of a “smaller” size. If we are unable to achieve an acceptable compromise, we may drop the disputed provision on definitions and rely on the more general exclusion of large radars except for agreed purposes.

B. Location of the ICBM Defense Area.

There is some dispute, however, over where the Soviets can deploy their ICBM defense area. (The US site will obviously be at Grand Forks, where construction is already well along.)

The Soviets have ICBM fields scattered throughout much of their country. We have strongly insisted the ICBM defense area be somewhere east of the Urals, since this is a relatively unpopulated area, thereby reducing concern over the system providing extensive population defense. This is an altogether reasonable request since all six of the Soviet SS–9 fields are east of the Urals.

The Soviets have balked at specifying now where their ICBM defense would be. We will withhold final agreement on radars until we are certain of the Soviet location.

C. SLBM Limitation.

The remaining issues with the language of the SLBM provisions are:

Whether each additional SLBM which is constructed must replace on a one-for-one basis old ICBM or SLBMs. Our current position at Helsinki requires this; it keeps the aggregate total of missile launchers constant. The Brezhnev proposal was vague. Now the Soviets more or less agree, but are fuzzing the question of their starting base, i.e., how many “modern” SLBMs they have at this point. They are saying 48 (which we think means their current 37 plus 9) to compensate for Britain and France.
How the British and French boats will be handled. The Brezhnev proposal specifically referred to the Allies as one reason for the Soviets getting a numerical edge. Further, the Soviets claimed the right to build one more submarine (beyond 62) for each additional ones the Allies built.

We resist any reference to our NATO Allies in the Interim Agreement. The Allies would be upset if they were unknowingly made a part of the bilateral agreement.

D. Including Mobile ICBMs.

We seek to include all ICBM launchers in the interim freeze, including mobile ICBMs. Since neither side has deployed mobile systems, this [Page 816] would effectively ban their deployment. In contrast, the Soviets argue that mobile ICBMs should be negotiated in the follow-on talks. This is important but not crucial in the short term.6

If we are unable to include mobiles in the interim freeze (i.e., effectively ban them), we may:

Agree that there is no decision one way or another on banning mobiles, but obtain a parallel understanding that the Soviets would not deploy mobiles for a few years.
Allow replacement of old ICBMs by mobile ICBMs. This would allow deployment, but halt an increase in the overall number of Soviet ICBMs.
A unilateral statement by the US that we would expect both sides to consult on the number of mobiles, etc., before either side started deployments.

E. Definition of “Light” versus “Heavy” ICBMs.

While the Soviets have agreed not to convert “light” ICBMs to “heavy” ICBMs, they have balked at agreeing to a definition of the dividing line between the two. We proposed that the line be: no larger than the Soviet SS–11, or no larger than 70 cubic meters.

—The SS–11 is about 67 cubic meters and the SS–9 is about 220 m3. Some definition is likely in the next few days.



I. The Soviet Perspective

With the signing of initial SALT agreements, the ABM treaty and the interim offensive agreement, the Soviet leaders may feel they have accomplished their minimal strategic objective. They have conceded limits on their most dynamic offensive force, ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) as the price for forestalling a round of competition in defensive systems. Regardless of how the Safeguard ABM looked to critics in this country, to the Soviets it loomed as the potential for a heavy defense of the US territory. It was a possible forerunner, together with our MIRVs and improvement of our missile accuracies, of a threat of a US first strike capability. This has been their driving strategic concern in SALT.

SALT also has a definite political character for the Soviets. It marks, in their view, a definitive achievement of equal status with the US. Beyond this symbolism SALT can be exploited, along with other political [Page 817] developments in Europe to advance the Soviet effort to create a more stable relationship with their Western adversaries at a time when China is becoming their most urgent, intractable problem. Indeed, the demonstration of a Superpower relationship exploitable against China, was an underlying Soviet motive in the past negotiations, and is an incentive for keeping the dialogue alive in the future.

Indeed, the Soviets will now look to the second phase of SALT, and in Moscow will probably want to explore at least timing and some of their principal concerns.

  • —It is evident from their conduct of the negotiations that they intend to make our forward bases a key issue. Brezhnev indicated this. Though they set this aside in the May 20 understanding,7 they are free to raise it in the next SALT phase.
  • —Moreover, since the offensive agreement is for five years, the Soviets claim that it will have to be replaced with a permanent agreement that will deal with the entire strategic equation. In their interpretation, this means dealing with all weapons capable of striking the USSR (our aircraft abroad and our carrier aircraft).

A second issue in the Soviet view is translating the implied strategic stability of the SALT agreements into more political terms. Brezhnev has privately proposed a nuclear non-aggression treaty.8 Though not directly related to the second phase of SALT, or proposed in that context, it would appear that this will be a priority Soviet aim.

There are two Soviet motives in such an agreement:

  • —It could undermine NATO strategy and doctrine if the principal Western nuclear power seemed committed to refrain from any use of nuclear weapons.
  • —As designed by the Soviets, the agreement could be turned against third countries (China) by implying a commitment to joint US-Soviet action to prevent the use of nuclear weapons by third powers.

Brezhnev has not gone into detail on either the second phase of SALT or the nuclear non-aggression treaty. But by raising our forward bases in the Moscow discussions and submitting a draft non-aggression pact, it is clear that he will use the summit to explore new US commitments that could prove highly disruptive to the Western Alliance and be exploited by the Soviets against China.

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Your Position

We have consistently warned the Soviets that we will not deal behind the backs of our Allies on strategic issues, nor bargain with their weapons systems or our own commitments to the Alliance. Moreover, we cannot accept the notion that our forward-based aircraft are “strategic” while the large Soviet arsenal of intermediate-range missiles are beyond the scope of SALT.

Yet it is inevitable that we will have to confront these questions.

Our objectives in the next phase of SALT, however, are quite different.

  • —The current agreements on offensive weapons limit numbers of submarines and ICBMs, but qualitative improvements such as MIRVing can proceed. Even though the large Soviet SS–9s are limited to 313, in time the Soviets can develop the combination of MIRVs, accuracy and warhead yields that will threaten our Minuteman ICBMs.
  • —With ABM systems now limited to low levels, we have no clear options to protect our land-based systems, other than transferring missile launchers to sea.
  • Our aim in the next phase of SALT, therefore, is to raise the question of reductions of the most threatening offensive forces (the Soviet SS–9s). This was part of our original comprehensive proposal and the Soviets, early in SALT, acknowledged that reductions should be an ultimate goal.

In addition, we have the question of a more permanent resolution of the level of offensive forces in all systems.

  • —We have conceded in both ICBM and SLBM unequal numbers in the Soviet favor; since we had no active offensive programs stopping the current Soviet buildup was a key objective.
  • —Now, with some underlying stability created, we should deal with the disparity in numbers.
  • —But in arriving at new, preferably equal ceilings our concern will be to retain flexibility to build new submarines, especially if the threat to our land-based missiles grows.

We also have to face the question of qualitative controls.

  • —Both sides agreed to lay aside controls on MIRVs in the initial agreements. The Soviets had no interest in being frozen in a position of inferiority, since their MIRV program lagged far behind ours. However, we also had diametrically opposing approaches to limitations. Our analysis indicated that only by stopping all testing of MIRVs could we have confidence in a ban. The Soviets proposed to stop production, which we could not verify, but to allow testing to proceed.
  • MIRVs thus may become a critical issue.

Finally, there is the question of ABMs.

  • —With ABMs limited to two sites, there will be pressures in this country for a total ban.
  • —The Soviets apparently will not give up their Moscow system in any case, but might want to reduce our deployments to one site in the follow-on talks. Judging from the remarks of their SALT delegation, they do not consider the ABM question entirely settled.

In sum, we have an interest in trying to build on the current agreements to establish some more permanent and viable limitations that reduce the threat of our forces. The Soviets may not share this interest. Indeed, they may see the next phase as an opportunity for exploitation.

Your general position in Moscow should be

  • —to emphasize the importance of what has been accomplished already in terms of creating a more stable strategic balance and in terms of contributing to a better political relationship;9
  • —to indicate that the tasks are not complete, and the second round could be more important because we need to translate current gains into more permanent arrangements;
  • to leave open commitments to any particular substantive approach in the next phase;
  • —to indicate that we will be examining the questions of the overall ceiling on offensive forces, and some reductions;
  • —to suggest that for the time being ABMs are settled and the next phase should concentrate on offensive limits.

As for the timing, we do not regard it as urgent, since both governments need to ensure the ratification of the treaty and other agreements, and to set up the mechanism for implementation.

  • —we contemplate the fall as the time for resuming negotiations;
  • —this permits time to consider new comprehensive plans;
  • —the confidential channels will be open however if the Soviets wish to pursue SALT in the interim.

Interpretations of the Current Agreements

Both of the current agreements provide the standard clause for withdrawal if supreme interests are jeopardized. Such circumstances of course, cannot be precisely defined in advance, but it is clear that if the Soviets were now to embark on a concerted program that would jeopardize the survivability of our strategic retaliatory forces, we would have to invoke this clause.

In Moscow at an appropriate point in the private discussions you may want to clarify our position so that the Soviets will be on notice; moreover, our interpretation may play a role in the Congressional debates on the treaty ratification.10

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You might say:

  • —In reaching these agreements both sides expect to contribute to strategic stability;
  • —If these expectations are not fulfilled and the threat to the strategic retaliatory forces of the US substantially increases, you would consider this jeopardizing our supreme interests;
  • —In such a case, we could withdraw from the current agreements under the supreme interests clause;
  • —You wanted this to be clearly understood, since this interpretation will be given to the Congress as the question arises during Congressional hearings.11
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 487, President’s Trip Files, For the President’s Personal Briefcase, May 1972. Secret; Exclusively Eyes Only. A notation on the paper indicates the President saw it. According to a May 16 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, the paper was part of a briefing book for the summit prepared for the President. (Ibid., RG 59, S/P Files: Lot 77 D 112, Box 335, Winston Lord—Chron File, May 1972) The full text of the paper is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 234.
  2. See Document 267.
  3. Nixon highlighted this paragraph and wrote a question mark in the margin.
  4. Nixon highlighted this paragraph.
  5. See Document 262. Kissinger discussed the SALT proposals set forth by Brezhnev during his secret trip to Moscow in White House Years, pp. 1148–1150.
  6. Nixon highlighted this paragraph.
  7. See Document 160.
  8. See Document 262. In his memoirs Kissinger described how, during his secret trip to Moscow, Brezhnev took him aside and introduced the idea of a U.S.-Soviet “understanding” not to use nuclear weapons against each other, calling this step of “immense significance” and a “peaceful bomb.” (White House Years, p. 1152)
  9. Nixon highlighted this and the next three points.
  10. Nixon highlighted this paragraph.
  11. Nixon highlighted all of these four points.