38. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1


Where We Stand

The November 10 NSC meeting will be the first NSC review of SALT issues since last July.2

At last July’s meeting, you reviewed several specific arms control packages or options—ranging from those emphasizing a simple freeze on the number of ICBMs to comprehensive “Stop Where We Are” proposals.

Following this meeting, on July 21, you wrote a letter to Gerry Smith containing interim guidance on how he should approach SALT.3 Your main points were:

  • —Any agreement must satisfy your criteria of strategic sufficiency so that our security will not be jeopardized;
  • —you were willing to consider both “quantitative” and “qualitative” limits on offensive and defensive strategic weapons; i.e., limits on both numbers of strategic missiles and on important missile characteristics, such as whether they carry MIRVs;
  • —any agreement must meet the test of verifiability to your own personal satisfaction.

There was divided opinion on which options were best:

  • —the JCS tended to oppose the comprehensive options because they would put too many limits on our programs, would be difficult to verify, and thus would be risky;
  • ACDA tended to favor comprehensive options, and to oppose limited ones, because they would have the greatest impact on “the arms race” while still maintaining our security;
  • —virtually everyone, however, would have settled for the previous Administration’s position, which we called Option III, which was a middle-ground option to which they were all previously committed.

Since July, the Government has done a substantial amount of additional analysis. Some believe that the work of the MIRV Panel and [Page 148] the Verification Panel—which you asked to be set up—is the most thorough work ever done on arms control issues.

We have learned a great deal from this work. For example, the previous Administration’s option—Option III—now appears to be one of the weakest options, whereas a few months ago it looked to be one of the strongest. Option III freezes ICBMs and SLBMs, bans mobile ICBMs, the relocation or replacement of ICBMs, and changes in silos, but permits MIRV and sets ABMs at agreed levels. It thus precludes the US from taking measures that would improve the survivability of ICBMs (relocation and new silos) and prevents the development of mobile missiles to reduce ICBM vulnerability to a Soviet attack.

Because your letter to Gerry Smith does not reflect our improved understanding of verification problems, your guidance to the delegation should be revised in the light of our new understanding of the issues.

What Are the Options: (Descriptions of the Options are in Annex A)4

The various options which have been considered in US planning break down into three general categories.

Those options which limit numbers of missiles and provide for no MIRV ban and no reductions (Options I, II, III, III–A). In general, these options would stop the growth of some or all strategic missile forces. In most other respects, they would not change the strategic situation from what it would be without an agreement.
Those options which include, in addition to limits on missiles, a MIRV ban and other limits on the missile capabilities (Options IV, V, V–A and VI). These options would significantly change the situation from what it would be with no agreement.
  • —Some believe that we could significantly slow down the arms race without serious risk to our security.
  • —Others believe such options would create great uncertainties and risks because we could not verify compliance with confidence and because cheating or sudden abrogation could seriously threaten our security.
That option which provides for mutual reductions in fixed land-based missiles (Option VII).
  • —This way of reducing the offensive threat is an alternative to a MIRV ban.
  • —It has been offered as a substitute for a MIRV ban because options with a MIRV ban may not be verifiable; if force reductions can be agreed upon, it makes living with MIRVs more acceptable strategically.
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The numbers of permitted ABMs under each option is an open question. However, it is generally agreed that:

  • —if MIRVs, which we used to penetrate defenses, are not banned, it is acceptable to have ABM levels equivalent to our Safeguard program on both sides;
  • —if MIRVs are banned, ABMs would have to be reduced to much lower than Safeguard levels if we are to have high confidence in our deterrent. Thus, if MIRVs are to be banned, we will probably have to give up Safeguard, particularly the area defense against China and other third countries.

What Are the Issues?

The Verification Panel has looked at these options in terms of the strategic issues they raise and of their verifiability.5

In general, and at the risk of oversimplification, each option can be analyzed in terms of:

  • —the constraints it puts on the strategic offensive threat;
  • —the constraints it puts on ways to counter offensive threats.

As a general rule, we should avoid options which put very few restraints on the threat but a great many constraints on ways of countering these threats. (This is the basic weakness, in my judgment, of Option III.)

Constraints on the Threat

There are several ways of constraining the strategic threat:

We can seek to freeze strategic land-based and submarine-based ballistic missiles at the levels of those now operational and under construction.
  • —There is general agreement that we can verify such measures and that they should be included in an agreement.
  • ACDA believes such measures are one-sidedly in our favor because the Russians are still building missiles and we are not. ACDA asserts that to be negotiable an agreement would have to include more than these measures, including concessions on our part.
  • —Others believe that such measures (a) are not one-sided, because we would be limiting our freedom to deploy more missiles, too; and (b) would represent a fundamental step forward in arms control and thus should not be downgraded.

We can seek to ban MIRVs.

Proponents of such measures argue:

  • MIRVs are the most destabilizing element in the strategic arms competition because they may make it possible for one side to use one missile to destroy several enemy missiles, thus shifting the strategic balance in its favor.
  • MIRVs are the most important program we have underway; if we don’t include them in an agreement, the Soviets won’t think we are serious about arms control.
  • —Very soon it will be too late to stop MIRV deployment; both sides will have tested MIRVs to such an extent that neither can have confidence the other has not deployed MIRVs already. (Some believe this point has already been reached.)
  • —We can verify a ban on MIRV flight testing.

Opponents argue:

  • —We cannot verify a ban on either MIRV testing or deployment except under conditions that are unacceptable to us, for example, with collateral constraints on tests of exoatmospheric penetration aids and of multiple objects in space.
  • —Both sides could already deploy their multiple warhead systems now without further flight testing for use against cities. If MIRV tests were banned in an agreement, Congress would not let us deploy ours, while the Soviets could deploy theirs and improve them clandestinely.

(Note: Relationship Between MIRVs and ABMs.

If we give up our MIRVs, we will be giving up our high-confidence means of penetrating ABM defenses. There is general agreement that this makes it necessary to place low limits on Soviet ABM defenses which in turn means that we would have to agree to our ABM defenses being kept at a low level.

On this aspect of the MIRV argument, there is disagreement between those who would be prepared to give up much if not all of our Safeguard program and those who would wish to preserve at least the protection of our bomber bases and of the country as a whole against small attacks or against an attack from China.

There is a further disagreement between those who believe that we could detect Soviet cheating on an agreement limiting ABMs in time to take countermeasures and those who believe that Soviet scope for clandestine improvement and enlargement of their ABM defenses would be substantial.)

We can seek to control missile accuracy, payload size or throw weight.
  • —There is agreement that such measures would be useful, particularly because they would constrain counterforce threats.
  • —However, there are problems in defining these complex issues for purposes of an agreement, and there would be severe problems in verifying such agreements.
We can seek force reductions, i.e. trade off our older Minuteman Missiles and B–52s, in exchange for reductions in Soviet SS–9s.
  • —Proponents in OSD argue that since MIRVs cannot be banned with confidence, seeking force reductions is the only alternative approach to controlling strategic weapons that would be regarded in Congress and elsewhere as fundamental.
  • —Others believe that reductions, though desirable, would not be negotiable at this stage. Also, such moves might alarm some in NATO, who would worry that strategic threats to them—the IR/MRBMs—would be more serious because of the weakening of our offensive deterrent forces.

Constraints on Countermeasures to Offensive Threats

Most options now ban some or all measures to enable both sides to take actions to offset growth in the opponent’s offensive threats. This may be unwise.


Should we seek to ban land mobile missiles?

Proponents of a ban argue that

  • —Unless we ban mobile land-based missiles, we will have difficulty counting how many the Soviets have [until?] we can verify a total ban with confidence.
  • —It is not necessary for the US to maintain an option to deploy land mobiles because the survivability of our strategic forces is adequate without them.

Opponents argue that

  • —The verification problems aren’t significantly worse if land mobiles are allowed than if they are banned.
  • —The US should preserve the option to deploy land mobile missiles as a means of insuring the survival of its land based forces.


Should we allow relocation of ICBMs into hard rock silos?

  • —Proponents of a ban on relocations argue that if it were allowed, the Soviets could make the “relocated” missiles much larger and more capable than those they replace.
  • —Opponents argue that we need to preserve this option to insure that we have a survivable land based missile force.

Should an agreement allow both sides to substitute submarine-based for land-based forces?

  • —Proponents of a ban of such substitutions argue that unless we fix a separate limit on land-based and sea-based forces, we will not be able to determine with confidence how many missiles the Soviets have in total and whether or not they are complying with the agreed overall total.
  • —Oppponents argue that the freedom to move our missiles to sea if we wished is an important way of insuring an adequate surviving strategic posture and that verification problems are not serious.

Should an agreement allow for ABM defense of missile silos?

  • —Current Safeguard plans call for the US to deploy about 260 ABM missiles to defend 300 Minuteman silos (out of a total of 880 Safeguard interceptors).
  • —There seems to be general agreement that this part of Safeguard is negotiable if other means to insure the survivability of our forces are assured.
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These various individual measures are building blocks which could be combined in many different ways. The options the Government has been considering represent illustrative combinations of these measures.

The Moratorium Issue

Gerard Smith has recommended putting to the Soviets in Helsinki a proposal for a short-term moratorium—renewable if there is progress in the talks on (a) MIRV/MRV testing, (b) new ABM deployments—meaning in our case deferment of Safeguard Phase II and in the Soviet case stopping after the 64 launchers around Moscow, and (3) new construction starts on ICBM launchers.

The proposal has not been examined in detail in the Government.

Smith argues that

  • —we need to make an early effort to slow up the current momentum of Soviet strategic programs;
  • —we are sufficiently ahead in MIRV technology that we can afford to test the possibilities of agreement and would still be in a good position to resume our MIRV activities if no agreement occurs and the moratorium is ended;
  • —we would strengthen our hand with Congress.

Others argue that

  • —the terms of the moratorium would have to be defined in detail and thus would involve negotiations as complex as those for an actual agreement;
  • —there are serious verification problems;
  • —the Soviets would string us along and begin deployment of their MIRV while Congress would never let us proceed with deployment if testing were prohibited under a moratorium;
  • —by focussing on MIRV now, we would have to include it in an agreement which, in this view, would not be verifiable.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–025, NSC Meeting 11/10/69 SALT (NSSM 62). Top Secret; Sensitive. This paper is annex B to a briefing memorandum that Kissinger sent to Nixon for the NSC meeting scheduled for November 10.
  2. See Document 25.
  3. Document 26.
  4. Document 37.
  5. See Document 33.