298. Backchannel Message From the Chief of the Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (Smith) to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig)1

433. Message for Dr. Henry A. Kissinger in Moscow. Deliver immediately even if Dr. Kissinger is in meeting.

Dear Henry:

Sonnenfeldt telcon2 suggests that root of possible misunderstanding between us lies in Soviet formula use simply of the word “missiles” rather than the words (which we have tried to negotiate and which we were planning to make in a unilateral statement) “the largest light ICBM now operational on either side.”

If at Moscow you can get agreement that there will be no significant increase (a) in the size of ICBM silo launchers, or (b) in the volume of ICBMs beyond that of the largest light ICBM currently deployed by either side, and you can get the word “significant” further defined to be no more than 10 to 15 per cent, that would be great improvement.

Warm regards.

Gerry Smith
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1972 SALT. Top Secret; Sensitive; Flash; Exclusively Eyes Only. Haig initialed the message. Copies were sent to Howe and Odeen.
  2. Smith prepared a memorandum for the record of his telephone conversation with Sonnenfeldt, May 24, that reads: “After recognition of the open line being used, Sonnenfeldt said they had Amb. Smith’s message from Mosbacher which they couldn’t understand, and that they were trying to get the definitions precisely as Amb. Smith was recommending. GS said Delegation did not want to use specific numbers. Sonnenfeldt wanted to know if Delegation wanted lesser number or larger number; Amb. Smith said no number, that the number they were trying to put in would have an impact on American programs, it is much too small and we are better off without a number. Sonnenfeldt said: We want to leave it vague? GS said: We want to leave it the way the Delegation has worked it out.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 383, ACDA Files: FRC 383–97–0010, Director’s Files, Smith/White House Correspondence, SALT, March–May 1972)