287. 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

413. Dear Henry:

I was very glad to get your assurance about the solidity of our SLBM position and that the number 48 has no US blessing. Today I advised Semenov of these two points.

In view of your message of last night (WH21372)2 in which you referred to the President’s hope that we would move promptly, we met this morning with the Soviet Delegation and made the necessary statements about mobiles and covered facilities.

In a private conversation with Semenov and stressing that I was not speaking under instructions, I told him that in order to move the SL situation, I thought I could get approval for a reformulation of our position along following lines. If the protocol did not refer to 48 submarines, and if it is understood that any hull sections entering construction halls after the date of signature of the agreement would only be for submarines carrying SLBM launchers replacing other SLBM or older ICBM launchers, we could agree to the protocol not mentioning 740. We could agree to an explicit statement that SLBM submarines [Page 835] could replace older submarines within the agreed ceiling level. We would also be prepared to provide in an appropriate separate form assurance that during the freeze the US would not have operational more than 41 SLBM submarines.

You will recognize that this does not depart in substance from our NSDM position as amplified by the statement in your message of last night (WH21372) “re Titan conversion, this can be handled as you suggest.” Semenov said he would immediately put this new formulation to Moscow.

I suggest for consideration a top level “counter démarche” to the one referred to in your WH21372 pointing out that the United States is now making all of the running (the Soviet statements were entirely negative in the session this morning on “heavy” ICBMs and on “east of the Urals”). Démarche might also give high level endorsement to informal SL position put today by Smith to Semenov, perhaps that this is position on which the President would be willing to close at Moscow.

We will try your formulation on “heavy versus light” ICBMs with Soviet Delegation today, and I will advise.

Warm regards.

Gerry Smith
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1972 SALT. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. A copy was sent to Haig.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 283.