319. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) and the Chairman of the General Advisory Committee for Arms Control and Disarmament (McCloy)1
H: How are you sir, General Haig.
M: Yes General, how are you.
H: Fine. I just got a message from Moscow—from Henry and the President and they both asked me to call you.
H: To tell you that they had arrived at an agreement with the Soviets on the SALT business, which is essentially an unlimited duration ABM treaty and an interim agreement or freeze on the number of strategic ballistic missiles launchers for a five year period.
M: Five years, huh.
H: Right. And that is essentially a freeze with ah—This has been a very very tough going and we are very very pleased with the way the outcome was finally reached. Because essentially it is the Soviets that have driven along(?) almost every key issue. But this took the last two days of the most intense kind of work there. In essence, what we have is—what we feel we have done is really broken the momentum [Page 918] of their on-going programs without any limitation on what we have in our developmental cooker. Assuming of course that the Congress and this is the key aspect of our obligation in the thing—that the Congress funds the ULMS fully and the B–1 and some of the bomber development missiles, are things that we have asked for and will continue to ask for. But in light of that we just feel that we have got as good a proposition as we could have hoped to had and I just—being a military guy of course I have been damned concerned about it—but I do think we are in very good shape knowing all that I know.
(Throughout the above Haig comments, McCloy kept saying yes after each point)
M: Let me ask you this—this is somewhat troubling me. When you look between the lines here you find that they have an American superiority in submarines and the ICBMs and of course they have them in the IRs and the MRs. Isn’t this going to have—I am not talking about the [omission in the original] over kill and all that—but isn’t this going to have significant political repercussions. The fact you know just the [omission in the original] heaviest(?) battalions has some political consequences or imponderable consequences that can’t be related to the possible effect on a battle field or in a war. And the argumentation that I have been reading in the papers so far which troubles me a little bit is that well we have so many more warheads than they have and we have this wonderful MIRV business. In my judgement the Soviets are going to get MIRVs without any question—they have the full capacity to do it and with the [omission in the original] rate that they have it isn’t going to be very long before it is much superior to ours. Particularly if you give them the new heavy missiles they are going to have—completely even if not equalize(?) in the number of warriors(?). How do you answer that. What is the answer to that.
H: Well, first let me tell you in general there certainly is some truth in the psychological problem because of talking about certain systems and putting numbers of certain systems. In truth of course we are overwhelmingly ahead in the number of warheads but also under restraint in this thing is that our forward based systems which are targetted on the Soviet Union and our aircraft in which we have almost two to one numerically and a very strong qualitative edge. Look, the only way you can really best answer this thing is first, we have no way of rectifying these figures other than what we are doing and what we are doing is the ULMS and the B–1s. Now we went to the [omission in the original] on this and quite frankly three weeks ago we were under the view that maybe we would keep the submarines out and get into a crash building program. They didn’t want to do that—their view was that we had to go with the ULMS system rather than try to gerryrig a foresee(?) absolute nuclear submarine.[Page 919]
H: and missile systems. So they were very interested in getting the submarines included.
H: So that really turned the day. It was a cease(?) view that turned it departmentally here in the bureaucracy. I think they are right because what they are going to end up with and what we will approach at the end of the five year period with is massive momentum on our side in the submarine area with the ULM which does two things. One is to put pressure on the Soviets to continue and to try to seek a permanent agreement if you are arms control oriented. And secondly, it will put us in the position that is relatively much much better than we would have been without the ban.
H: You see they have been building at the rate of roughly 9 subs a year.
M: Nine, a year. Yes.
H: That is right. And they would have had one hell of a pile of subs facing us at the end of this five year period which we could not have built to overcome.
H: So on balance—
M: So you have given them 62 for 41 whatever it is to offset that.
H: That is right.
H: That is right. On balance, however, we are very comfortable with that because of—
M: Forward(?) bases, etc.
H: Yes, because of our four base [forward-based]systems, our aircraft and the MIRV numerical. Now they are building MIRV probably but you know we just haven’t—as hard as we are looking—we haven’t gotten confirmation yet.
M: There is no question in your mind that they can do that—if we can do it they can do it.
H: [omission in the original] no question.
M: If they can do it they are going to have a throw away [throw-weight] which will be—the MIRV will be more significant than perhaps our MIRV.
H: Now that we don’t believe. We think our MIRV—we have the expressed surface(?) on what we can do with it.
M: Yes.[Page 920]
H: If we decided to diversify in terms of our submarines then what have you. So we would quantitatively exploit our warhead base that way if we chose to do it. Now this is certainly—
M: Now this is the point I have heard talked about around up here—[omission in the original] appear so far in the Times and etc. The argumentation is that well they may have numerical superiority but we have got quantitative [qualitative?] superiority and we have got more warheads because we have got MIRV and they haven’t got it. And the criticism has been well they are putting too much emphasis on that form of argumentation. Because it is rather similar(?) in the sense that the Soviets we know—if they concentrate they are going to be able to get MIRVs and you oughtn’t just assume that this is a permanent superiority that we have.
H: No, well that is correct.
H: But I think the simple essence of what we have got here and this is a very generalized statement but it is totally true. We have halted the momentum of their program—we have forced the scrapping of 260 of their big—which are essentially first-class type weapons and have not disturbed one iota programs that we have underway.
H: So what we are doing is greatly improving our relative balance over the next five year period. If we did not have this freeze in the offensive area we would have come out in the end of the five [year]period with a greatly more serious disparity in our relative strengths. In other words we would have been relatively much weaker and that is really—
M: That is on the basis of this 8 or 9 year basis.
H: That is right.
H: That is right. And on what they have been building in the ground.
M: And in the ground too.
H: That is right.
M: Yes. Well the limitation on the ground—they should be stopped at whatever it is—1600.
H: That is right.
M: ICBMs. But they can substitute the big fellas for the whole—for how many of those—how many substitutions can they have of the new weapons.
H: On submarines of course.
M: I am not talking about submarines—about ICBMs. I was talking about the new 29s [ SS–9 s].[Page 921]
H: Well the feeling is fetched(?). Now they can modernize with the overall field(?)
M: 1600—can they substitute?
M: For all that 1600 new stuff.
H: Yes, they can modernize but they can’t put in bigger missiles.
There is a fix on the size of it and the whole. Now the technology there is no way of surveiling properly.
M: Yes. Now the fix on the size and the hole is that taken into account or not taken into account this new stuff [omission in the original].
H: Well the new stuff will be in. It has started.
M: It has started. So they could substitute that new stuff for everything they have got.
H: That is underway. That is right.
H: But what hasn’t been built they can not do if it goes beyond these figures.
M: These figures, yes. Now what can we do with our thousand or whatever it is—in the way of—
H: Well we will be able to modify our Minuteman.
H: Because that is within the very minor size changes that we fixed on.
H: We can go ahead with that if we decide to do it.
M: Well, just let me ask you this specifically. The fix that you put on the size hole in the silo and whatnot—that is big enough for the Soviets to put this new one in then isn’t it?
H: No, no.
H: No, no.
H: No, I don’t think it is. They are frozen with what they have got built or on the way. In other words what they have got the construction started on.
M: Yes, yes. I see [omission in the original] the entire 1600.
H: Oh lord no(?) no no.
M: Well [omission in the original] 288 the other day. That was in the newspaper. I don’t know if that is an accurate figure or not. Well at any rate we should do as much with ours as they can with theirs in terms of improvements.[Page 922]
H: Well here is what we have forced the Soviets to do. They have to either destroy about 200 of the large SS–7’s and 8’s missiles.
H: Which of course are essentially a first strike missile. Or forego buildup the deployment of an equal number of SLBM launchers. So we can within this build more submarines if we want and we can retire tightens(?) [ Titan ] missiles to do this on an equal number of per-side(?) [Pershing] launchers. So the larger net increase in warheads will come to us.
M: Yes. OK. I thought I had better—I am very glad to get this—I have got to go back to this meeting—to get this information and I think I will be coming down to Washington to sit down I don’t know maybe over the weekend to get a little more recognition (?) of exactly what did transpire after the last recommendations that we made2 and then be prepared whenever you think it is desirable to have a meeting with the Committee or—are you asking that we could do something to support the President on this thing or—
H: Well, yes, here is what we think—there already has been some backlash from the right. As you can well imagine.
M: Well, bound to have it. Yes.
H: And there are going to be people obviously asking you because of the role you play.
M: I think there are already some telephone calls coming through.
H: Right, sir. I think what the President hopes you will do pending any detailed briefing—which I am confident(?) you will be comfortable with. Hopefully to be as supportive as you can. And in doing so the one fundamental aspect of this whole proposition is our fear that a euphoria (?) will develop that will risk our [omission in the original] on the Hill the fundamental aspect of this agreement which from our point of view if it isn’t realize it could be a [omission in the original]. And that is we continue to get funded our own submarine program and our B–1 bomber program and the other programs on the missiles that are on the bombers—standoff missiles that we get this money because then we would have used this five year period of the freeze to greatly improve our relative position with the Soviets.
H: Without it—well it would be a disaster and you know what kind of euphoria will accompany this.
M: Yes.[Page 923]
H: And we want to talk about this being a great achievement that will accomplish these strengths(?) and the viability of which can only be maintained through strength.
H: That is the kind of thing we are hoping for.
M: Yes. OK. Now let me ask you this question. Could I up to this point—I have always refused to make any comments in response to inquiries on the ground that we are advisors to the President and our advice of course is confidential. And also—several times when we have been asked to appear—well I pointed out that we are advisors to the President and were exemplary [exempt] from calls on the Hill. Do you at this stage feel that it is proper for the Committee or me or any of the members of it to comment.
H: Yes, I do.
H: I think we have missed the bench mark [omission in the original] which cumulates an awful lot of the work done by the Committee and I think that the President feels that this is the time to go strong so that we don’t get a backlash that is going to affect the whole effort in years ahead.
M: OK. I get the point. And if I may take the liberty, I may when I get some more thoughts give you a ring again.
H: Great, sir. And we are ready to give you any detailed briefing that you want.
M: Thank you very much. It was nice of you to call me.
M: Thank you.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 999, Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files, Haig Telcons, 1972. No classification marking. Haig was in Washington; McCloy was in New York.↩
- See Document 241.↩