305. 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

437. Message for Dr. Henry A. Kissinger in Moscow. Deliver by 8:30 a.m. Moscow time.

Dear Henry:

Re WH0059.2

Re Para 1: Agree.
Para 2: Assuming “dismantling” text is OK I will agree.
Para 3: New Soviet text clearly preferable to para 3 of SALT 13673 (not 1363 as cited in reftel).
Para 4: We will make unilateral statement as per para 3 SALT 1367.4
Para 5: See para C above.
Para 6: Figure of 740 was derived as follows. Estimated range of Soviet SLBM launchers at present as given us by White House (State 89509 of 5/22)5 based on CIA estimate of 41–43 subs with 608–652 Y class launchers operational and under construction, by our definition, plus 100 launchers on G and H class subs makes a total range of 708–752 SL’s operational or under construction. 740 is a relatively safe arbitrary figure up toward the high side of this range. 740 was chosen because with a ceiling of 950 launchers and assuming 209 SS7’s and SS8’s (a no dissent firm national estimate) the ceiling can be reached by full replacement. 950 minus 209 equals 741, rounded to 740.

Our definition of operational and under construction, referred to above, has been discussed with Soviets here. Wording placed before them on May 3, 1972 but not yet accepted by them is as follows:

The parties understand that SLBM launchers “under construction” are those SLBM launchers on submarines which are on building ways, in launch basins, being fitted out, or on sea trials, and that “operational” SLBM launchers include those on submarines undergoing conversion or overhaul.

You will note that our latest proposal May 22 (USDEL SALT VII 1362) does not refer to 740 although this number appeared in earlier US proposal of May 19 (USDEL SALT VII 1350).

You will recall that US May 22 proposal would require immediate replacement regardless of actual SL numbers at date of signature and is clearly best basis SL arrangement involving “immediate replacement.” (This means that first submarine for which hull sections are put [Page 879] into construction hall after signature of agreement would have to be a replacement submarine and under present ad ref agreed interpretive statement dismantling of replaced launchers must start by time of sea trials of replacement submarine.)

Warm regards

Gerry Smith
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1972 SALT. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Copies were sent to Howe and Odeen.
  2. Document 304.
  3. In telegram USDEL SALT 1367 from Helsinki, May 23, Smith reported that the delegation was continuing to press for an agreed interpretive statement on the location of ABM defenses for ICBMs, and in conjunction with Article III on SLBM limitation was seeking an agreed interpretation of SLBM launchers “operational” and “under construction.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 883, SALT, SALT talks (Helenski) [sic], Vol. 18, May–August 1972)
  4. The statement in telegram 1367 reads: “The US delegation regrets that the Soviet delegation has not been willing to agree on a common definition of a heavy missile. Under these circumstances, the US delegation believes it necessary to state the following: the United States would consider any ICBM having a volume significantly greater than that of the largest light ICBM now operational on either side to be a heavy ICBM. The US proceeds on the premise that the Soviets will give due account to this consideration.”
  5. See footnote 2, Document 288, and Document 291.