302. Backchannel Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Tohak 127. Subject: SLBM Provisions. Smith’s message (SALT 04362) raises the question of whether an SL agreement that would not call for compulsory replacements from the start is worth making at this time. He advises that it would be better to proceed with just a freeze on ICBMs and leave the SLBMs until the next phase.

I just received a call from Admiral Moorer saying that the Chiefs had just met to discuss the SLBM issue. He stated that they would not support an offensive agreement including SLBMs unless the Soviets are required to replace older SLBMs in order to reach their ceiling. This, of course, is consistent with the position they have taken in the past.

Laird has written that “the inequalities in the offensive agreement that would result from U.S. proposals are as large as we can tolerate.”3 Initial contacts with Congress indicate that it is very helpful if we can say that the SLBM arrangement is a freeze at present levels, allowing more boats and SLBMs only if the Soviets replace old ICBMs and SLBMs.

Our discussions with key Hawks as well as with Herman Kahn and Bill Kinter confirm that justification of that agreement is exceedingly difficult unless we can say that we have limited the total number of missiles at about current levels. The additional Y-class construction can then be explained as shifts in mix within the total, replacing old, large ICBMs and older SLBMs. Any arrangement that lets the Soviet build some numbers of additional submarines without replacement would be very hard to explain.


The Initial Soviet Number

As we have written earlier, the Soviets can be limited to 41–43 Y-class boats as the number currently operational or under construction by either: (a) stating this number is an understanding; or (2) insisting [Page 867] on the definitions of operational and under construction which the Delegation has proposed.

The present Delegation SLBM proposal relies on the latter course. The Soviets in Helsinki today began to challenge the need for such definitions.


Replacing the SLBMs on G and H Class Boats

The present Delegation proposal counts all SLBMs. However, so long as we keep the Soviet base point at 41–43 boats, we can fall back from all SLBMs to count only modern SLBM launchers.

In order to get to 62 boats and the the 950 SLBM limit, the Soviets must replace most of the older boats and launchers. For example, even assuming the worst and unlikely case of 43 boats and 652 launchers, the Soviets would have to phase out or modernize 89 of their 100 G and H launchers to reach the 950 limit. This is because there are only 209 SS–7s and 8s.

However, because of the political problems back home, it would be much simpler to count all SLBMs rather than try to explain the arithmetic.

  1. Source: 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. Top Secret; Flash. Sent for information to Sonnenfeldt and Hyland. Printed from the copy approved for transmission.
  2. Document 301.
  3. See Document 299.