299. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Laird to President Nixon1


  • Submarine-launched Ballistic Missile Launcher Limits

The Soviets are continuing to resist our proposal to limit SLBM launchers to a total of 950. They are arguing that our definition of the term “under construction” is inappropriate, and they are asserting that they have 48 “modern” submarines operational and under construction. We estimate that they have between 41 and 43 such submarines operational and under construction. The effect of the Soviet approach is to allow them to reach the 950 level without replacing the 100 SLBM launchers in G and H class submarines. In effect, they are converting an issue on SLBM launcher levels into a technical issue on how we define such terms as “under construction” and “modern” submarines.

I believe the inequalities in the offense agreement that would result from U.S. proposals are as large as we can tolerate. I strongly recommend therefore that the U.S. continue to insist that the total number of SLBM launchers on the Soviet side be limited to 950 and that the number of missile launching submarines be limited to 62. This matter should be pressed at the summit if necessary.

Melvin R. Laird
  1. Source: Ford Library, Laird Papers, Box 26, SALT, Chronological File. Top Secret.