280. Memorandum From Philip Odeen, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, and John Lehman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Resuming SALT

An issue which will have to be addressed at the Summit and which directly affects our early post-Summit work is the question of when we resume SALT talks—an issue closely related to the process of ratification.

The Soviets have expressed interest in an early resumption of the SALT negotiations after the Summit.

The U.S. position on when to resume relates to:

(1)
What relationship we see between the ratification process and the follow-on talks. (We think it is imperative to get ratification before follow-on talks.)
(2)
What relationships we see between ratification/follow-on talks and the campaign:
  • —We think that quick ratification is important to preserve the impact of the agreement.
  • —We think that some kind of follow-on talks, probably not overly detailed, should take place prior to the election to keep up momentum.

Discussion

In no case would we recommend opening the follow-up discussions before ratification. Continuing the discussions while debating the initial agreement could invite strong pressures for renegotiation of aspects of the agreement; bring pressure to put forth certain positions in talks, etc.

In any case, we think early ratification is probably in our best interests. It can be argued, of course, that “stretching-out” the process would allow ratification closer to election time and have more impact on the election. But, we believe that a long ratification process will invite critical debate and dim the luster of the agreements. Moreover, the longer the process goes, the more will be the possibility that the Soviets will engage in major flight-testing of their new big missile. Moreover, it is not inconceivable that over a long period of ratification, issues could [Page 823]arise in which the Soviets would try to use an unfinished SALT agreement as a lever.

There are also good arguments for resuming the talks reasonably early.

  • —First, there seem to be important political advantages in keeping up the apparent momentum of the talks. Of course, this end could be served by holding talks in the fall, but we question whether we want to be involved in major substantive discussions (which would be expected by that time), while under the pressure of the campaign. If we had early talks we could more easily concentrate on procedures for the Standing Consultative Commission and confine the talks to explorations.
  • —Many (OSD in particular) think it is important to lay out the negotiating ground early. It is argued that Soviet counterforce capabilities should be our primary target in SALT Phase II. Thus, it might be important to convey very clearly the problems which would be raised by such irreversible actions as testing SS–9 MIRVs. It is certainly optimistic to expect Soviet delays in MIRV testing in accommodation to our concerns, but there would be utility in an early expression of our view on the proper direction for Phase II.

Regardless of our wishes, the political process leading to ratification may take us into the fall.

The Congress plans to recess around June 30 for about three weeks; they will return in late July and be in session for about three weeks and recess until after Labor Day. It is almost out of the question to get Congressional action completed by June 30, but it might be possible with an all-out effort to get it through in the short session between conventions. The intensely “political” climate might help us to get the agreements through rather quickly. We could give the process a “push” by indicating our desire to get on with SALT Phase II and the necessity for ratification before further talks.

The foregoing leads us to the following recommendations:

  • —We should not set a definite time with the Soviets for resumption but should indicate interest in early resumption (we might even get something in the communiqué).
  • —We should take the opportunity of Friday’s leadership meeting to explain that we think early ratification is important to maintaining the momentum of the talks and to seek their support of the schedule.

Your Decision

1.

a. Agree, structure preparations for early ratification and resumption of talks.2

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b. No, delay ratification until fall

c. Other—See me.

2.

a. Include early ratification pitch in President’s talker for Friday’s leadership meeting.

b. Wait until return from Moscow.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 883, SALT, SALT talks (Helenski) [sic], Vol. 18, May–August 1972. Top Secret. Sent for urgent action. Haig initialed the memorandum.
  2. Kissinger initialed his approval of this option.
  3. Kissinger initialed his approval of this option.