343. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Senators Fulbright, Javits, Symington, Scott, Mansfield, Aiken, Sparkman, Spong, Percy, Muskie, and Cooper)
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Tom Korologos, White House Staff
  • David Abshire, Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations
  • Peter Rodman, NSC Staff

Senator Fulbright: Mr. Kissinger has once again consented to come down to brief us, which we very much appreciate. The floor is yours. You know the subjects we are interested in. When is the war going to be over? After that you can answer questions on whatever you want.

Mr. Korologos: Let me say first that we should observe the same ground rules as we have done before. This is off-the-record. This has been satisfactory before.

Senator Fulbright: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Very satisfactory. Actually I prefer to answer your questions.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to SALT.]

Senator Symington: You realize you put us all on the spot, hedging on the SALT deal. First you sign the agreement, then Laird says he won’t go along unless all of these big things he wants are funded, then Scoop says the deal is no damn good. But I remember that you in Moscow cited our bombers and our FBA, our forward based aircraft. But Jackson then said it stinks and the Administration then supports Jackson.

Now I think the SALT agreement is out the window unless the Russians are totally stupid. One F–4 in Frankfurt can carry 690 kilotons. And yet Jackson says our planes in Europe aren’t worth anything and the Administration supports his amendment.2 But if these planes are worthless, we should take them out of there. But if we do want to keep them there, then the Russians will never deal with us if we try to exclude them from an agreement.

[Page 984]

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t want to get into a debate which is now happily concluded. Everything I said in Moscow and in my briefing to the Congressional leaders I stand by. I believe the deal we made was a provident one. Certainly they can build some more submarines than we have. But without the agreement they would build them anyway. The most the critics can say is that the Russians only agreed to stop where they would have stopped anyway; now since we know we would not be building any more, then it is clear there could be no damage in the agreement.

In the next phase of SALT we have the problem of how to define equality. The future has to be that any attempt by either side to achieve strategic superiority can only lead to disaster. No country will stand still for a decisive thrust at superiority by the other side. The question any leader would have to face is, can he launch an attack that is really going to be decisive? Remember that no one has ever launched as many as ten missiles simultaneously. How could a leader stake the survival of his whole society on a plan which launches a thousand missiles, that has to be coordinated with submarines, etc.? Therefore the question I have put before the interdepartmental group working on this is, what do we mean by equality? At least we can have a unified view within the government. Now obviously for the Soviet Union anything that can reach the Soviet Union has strategic implications. I feel that it is just as wrong to try to be cute in negotiations and gain advantages that way as to try a unilateral buildup for superiority.

In so far as putting you in difficulty, I regret it, because I thought everyone treated the SALT agreements with statesmanship and a positive spirit. In the next phase we hope to broaden the scope of the negotiations, so it will be clear that the numbers in the first agreement were unequal only because we were there limiting weapons where the Soviets happened to be ahead. I believe the SALT agreement as negotiated was in the best interest of the United States.

Senator Symington: The one signed in Moscow or the one changed in Washington?

Dr. Kissinger: The one in Moscow. The amendment is an advisory opinion only. Ron Ziegler made a statement the other day that the SALT agreement was the agreement signed between the President and the General Secretary in Moscow. The Jackson amendment was advisory—although we take any expression of Congressional concern very seriously. I’ll send you a copy.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to SALT.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1026, Presidential/HAK MemCons, MemConKissinger, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, October 4, 1972. Confidential. The conversation took place in a meeting room in a Senate office building.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 337.