3. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1
Summary of Paper
[Omitted here is material unrelated to SALT.]
Arms Limitation Talks
Recent interest in pursuing strategic arms limitation talks is motivated not only by the present state of the strategic balance but also by the likely outcome of attempts by either side to increase its relative capabilities in the absence of an agreement.
- Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union can launch a massively destructive attack on the other after absorbing an all-out attack on its strategic forces.
- Neither side in the foreseeable future can hope to be able to alter significantly this ability to damage the other.
- The present costs of strategic forces are large and will get significantly larger if additional programs go unchecked.
Therefore, negotiating a strategic arms limitations agreement can have at least three objectives in terms of the strategic balance:
- By reducing the strategic arms competition, an agreement could reduce many of the uncertainties which now influence our programs.
- Just by talking, we might gain valuable information and improved understanding with the Soviet Union on how each side sees nuclear forces and strategy.
- In the long run, the costs of our strategic forces will probably be lower with an agreement than without one.
The primary question on strategic grounds is, should we go forward with strategic arms limitation talks in the near future or delay a decision pending completion of the military posture review (in six months or, if the strategic portion is accelerated, in two months)? Regarding this issue, there are two questions:
- What would be the consequences of waiting six months in terms of the strategic balance?
- What might the conclusions of the military posture review suggest concerning the U.S. position for possible talks with the Soviets? How soon could enough of the review be completed to reach these conclusions?
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–020, NSC Meeting Biafra, Strategic Policy Issues 2/14/69. Top Secret. This summary of a 21-page paper, entitled “Strategic Policy Issues” was included in the President’s briefing book for the February 14 NSC meeting. The full text of the summary is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIV, National Security Policy, 1969–1972, Document 6.↩