300. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Laird to President Nixon1


  • Location of Soviet ICBM Defenses Allowed under the Prospective Strategic Arms Limitation Agreement

The Soviet Delegation to SALT has objected to an agreed interpretive statement specifying that ABM deployments for defense of ICBMs will be located West of the Mississippi and East of the Ural Mountains. The Soviet Delegation has branded such a statement as “unnecessary”.

I strongly recommend that Soviet agreement to the substance of the proposed interpretive statement be made a prerequisite to consummation of a strategic arms limitation agreement limiting ABMs. We should seek agreement on this matter at the summit if necessary. If agreement cannot be reached there, I recommend signature of the agreement be delayed while this problem is worked out with the Soviets.

The U.S. has consistently maintained that ICBM fields to be defended under the SALT agreement must be located West of the Mississippi and East of the Ural Mountains. More recently we have suggested that these be located at least 1500 kilometers from the national capital. Limits like these are necessary to isolate the ABM defenses of these ICBM fields from large population centers. If the Soviets were permitted to deploy their ICBM defenses west of the Urals, they would, in effect, be permitted an ABM radar base for defense of the heartland of the U.S.S.R., including coverage of Moscow from both the NCA defense and the ICBM defense. I believe such an outcome from SALT is unacceptable.

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