295. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Leonid I. Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU
  • Andrei M. Aleksandrov-Agentov, Assistant to the General Secretary
  • Viktor M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter
  • The President
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs


  • SALT

Gen Secy Brezhnev: What do you consider to be the outstanding issues?

Dr. Kissinger: There are four areas: (1) the location of the second Soviet ABM site, (2) the definition of “heavy” ICBM, (3) the SLBM limits, and (4) mobile land-based ICBMs.

Gen Secy Brezhnev: Then Dr. Kissinger is behind events. They have already been settled.

Dr. Kissinger: Only on the external dimensions of the silos, not what is inside.

Gen Secy Brezhnev: [very irritably]2 You cannot put large missiles into small holes.

Dr. Kissinger: It is more complicated than that. It is nevertheless possible.

Gen Secy Brezhnev: No. Any change does not involve modification of the size of the silos. Thickening the walls may look like a change of the character of the missile but it isn’t. All the changes are within existing procedures. Why do you raise this issue?

Dr. Kissinger: With new launch procedures it is possible to increase the size of the missile inside the existing silos.

Gen Secy Brezhnev: [drawing diagrams] This is impossible. There are no prospects in the foreseeable future that we will engage in activities of this kind. We will not change the diameter of the missile. But we change the weight/yield ratio.

[Page 849]

We are prepared to drop the word “significant” from the phrase “no significant increase” [in the interpretive statement on Article II].3

The President: Our concern is not the provision of silos but modernization leading to a change in the volume of these missiles. Anyway, a change in volume cannot be verified.

Gen Secy Brezhnev: If we are trying to trick one another, why do we need a piece of paper? We are playing clean. Of course, any modification involves improvement. Therefore, why do you raise the issue? The approach of “catching each other out” is quite inadmissible. The best they can do is improve the efficiency of existing missiles.

I will make another proposal. We will accept the 1500-kilometer distance provision [the requirement that the second Soviet ABM site be at least 1500 kilometers from the national capital]. We will have the same number of sites. But ours will cover few ICBMs. We can also move it elsewhere. We had wanted to move it to European Russia. We have the same kind of ICBM centers as you have.

On submarines, because of the territorial differences between the two sides, we have asked for a larger figure. If you promise not to build new submarines, we accept your right to do so [right to convert Titans to SLBMs].

Dr. Kissinger: I propose counting at least the number of H-Class submarines in the Soviet figure. [He recites the figures.]

Gen Secy Brezhnev: [irritated] So you have the information on the number of submarines we have. The U.S. proposal means that you can build submarines to replace your old ones. You want complete freedom to reconstruct your entire fleet, and substitute Poseidons for Polaris. But we cannot accept replacement of your entire fleet.

I would agree to the following version: not to name 48 in the agreement but to agree that the replacement figure is 48. It is hard to explain to our military men if we don’t get a 7-number advantage. If you want me to say our military men are very pleased by this method, then we can only say that they are not.

Speaking man to man, since we know the implications of these armaments and since we are both civilized men, we know these weapons [Page 850] must never be used. Perhaps we shall not be able to achieve agreement here on the non-use of nuclear weapons; we can reach accord when Dr. Kissinger comes back to Moscow in September. This would overlap all other considerations. How can I contemplate it [the use of nuclear weapons]? We are now conducting negotiations with the present as well as the future President of the United States.

Transcribed from Dr. Kissinger’s notes.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 487, President’s Trip Files, The President’s Conversations in Salzburg, Moscow, Tehran, and Warsaw, May 1972, Part 1. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Transcribed from Kissinger’s notes. The meeting was held in St. Catherine’s Hall, Grand Kremlin Palace.
  2. All brackets are in the original.
  3. In backchannel message Hakto 20 to Helsinki, May 23, 1523Z, Kissinger informed Smith about the President’s conversation about SALT that afternoon, including Brezhnev’s statement that the Soviets were prepared to drop the “significant” between “no” and “increase” in the interpretive statement relating to Article II. Kissinger also reported Brezhnev’s assertion that the Soviets had no intention of increasing the size of their missiles. Kissinger asked Smith to comment by Flash reply regarding the acceptability of Brezhnev’s proposal. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 479, President’s Trip Files, President’s Moscow, Iran, Poland, Austria Trip TOHAK File No. 1, Situation Room, May–June 1972)