315. Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Chief of the Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (Smith)1

WH0077/Hakto 40. 1. Tentative agreement reached on outstanding issues. President and Brezhnev hope very much to sign agreement no later than 8 p.m. tonight. You should arrive in Moscow by 1830. Semenov is welcome to ride in your plane.

2. Following are agreed in principle subject to editing by you in Helsinki. If any substantive point still deeply concerns you, please contact us at once.2

3. “Text of Joint Statement on Article III of the Treaty on the Limitation of ABM Systems: The Parties understand that the center of ABM system deployment area centered on the national capital, and the center of the ABM system deployment area wherein ICBM silo launchers are located shall for each Party be at a distance of no less than 1300 kilometres.

“The American side will also make a unilateral statement to the effect that the center of the ABM system deployment area for ICBM silo launchers in the USA will be located in the ICBM silo launchers deployment area at Grand Forks, North Dakota.”

4. Following text agreed on silo-dimension:

“Text of the Joint Statement on the Prohibition of the Conversion of Light ICBMs Into Heavy ICBMs:

“The Parties understand that in the process of modernization and replacement the size of land based ICBM silo launchers will not be significantly increased.”

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5. In addition, following is agreed interpretive statement:

“The Parties agree that the term ‘significantly increase’ means that the increase will not be greater than 10–15 percent of the present size of land-based ICBM silo launchers.”

6. Following is text of statement on dismantling:

“Text of the Joint Statement on Procedures for the Dismantling or Destruction of Launchers for Older ICBM and Launchers of Older Submarines: The dismantling or destruction of launchers for ICBMs of older types constructed before 1964 and launchers for ballistic missiles of older submarines being replaced by new launchers of modern submarines shall start simultaneously with the beginning of sea-going tests of a submarine intended as replacement and shall be completed within the shortest possible agreed period of time. Such dismantling or destruction, as well as timely notification thereof, shall be carried out in accordance with procedures to be agreed in the Standing Consultative Commission.”

7. On SLBMs, Soviet draft text of Article III follows, but already sent you earlier.

“Text of Article III of the Interim Agreement on Certain Measures With Respect to the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms:

“The Parties undertake to limit submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and modern submarines with ballistic missiles to the number operational and under construction on the date of signature of this agreement, and also to launchers and submarines constructed additionally, provided that their construction will be carried out in a manner prescribed for the sides as replacements for equal numbers of launchers for ICBMs of older types constructed before 1964, or launchers of older submarines.”

8. Protocol to interim agreement will be Soviet text sent you late last night plus US additional sentence.3

Note: Titan replacement question will not be included in protocol and will be handled in other channels. Will explain later.

Text follows:

“The Parties understand that in accordance with Article III of the interim agreement, for the period during which this agreement remains in force:

“The USA may have not more than 710 submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and not more than 44 modern submarines with ballistic missile launchers. The Soviet Union may have not more than 950 submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and not more than 62 modern submarines with ballistic missiles.

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“Additional submarine launched ballistic missile launchers up to the above mentioned levels for the U.S.A.—7 in excess of 656 nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and for the U.S.S.R.—in excess of 740 nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers, operational and under construction, may become operational as replacements for equal numbers of launchers for ICBMs of older types constructed before 1964 or of ballistic missile launchers of older submarines.

“Deployment of modern submarine-launched ballistic missiles on any submarine, regardless of type, will be counted against the total submarine-launched ballistic missiles permitted for the U.S. and the USSR.

“This protocol shall be regarded as an integral part of the interim agreement.”

9. Believe these are all relevant texts available to us. Call on open line if you have problems.

10. This entire package accepted by Gromyko this morning. Semenov will have Russian texts which we have not been checked here.

11. Your help is much appreciated. President is very proud of accomplishment and your contribution.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1972 SALT. Top Secret; Sensitive; Flash; Exclusively Eyes Only. Haig initialed the message. Copies were sent to Howe and Odeen.
  2. In backchannel message Hakto 42 to Helsinki, Kissinger informed Smith that Nixon and Brezhnev had definitely agreed to sign the SALT agreement that night at 8 p.m. Moscow time and wrote: “Don’t be bashful about making suggestions to the other side because our impression is that they will accept anything reasonable within basic framework of agreement.” (Ibid.) In his memoirs, Smith recalled, “I wonder what would have happened if, with about seven hours left to do the editing, hold a final meeting of the delegates, and make the flight to Moscow, I had taken up this suggestion and proposed substantive changes. The expression, ‘you must be kidding’ came to mind when I read this contrived record of how Kissinger valued the delegation’s judgment.” (Doubletalk, pp. 429–430)
  3. See Document 311.