4. Editorial Note

On February 14, 1969, the National Security Council met to discuss the ongoing review of U.S. strategic policy pursuant to the issuance on January 23 of NSSM 3, “U.S. Military Posture and Balance of Power.” After a detailed discussion of force levels and research and development issues, the meeting turned to strategic arms limitation talks (SALT):

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“[Secretary of State] Rogers: On SALT, delay can be made 2–3 months, beyond that we will be hard pressed to resist pressures.

“[President] Nixon: We should get our ducks in a row. Three months from now we should be ready. In the meantime maybe we can make progress in other fields.

“[President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger] HAK: Option that we may not have talks should be left open.

Nixon: We would be foolish not to explain possibility of getting something going in other fields. Shouldn’t just react.

Rogers: Isn’t easy to find out what other admin[istration] represented to the other side. [Former President’s Special Assistant Walt W.] Rostow gave them a paper, but we can’t get a copy of it.

Nixon: Not content.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–109, NSC Minutes, Originals, 1969) Documentation on NSSM 3, including the full text of the notes of the NSC meetingis printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIV, National Security Policy, 1969–1972, Document 7.

On February 17 Nixon raised the question of timing for opening strategic arms limitation talks during his first meeting with Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin. Nixon stated: “It was not his view that the initiation of such talks must be conditioned on the settlement of larger political issues. We both recognize that the principal purpose of strategic arms talks is peace, but there is no guarantee that freezing strategic weapons at the present level alone would bring about peace. […] It is incumbent upon us, therefore, when we begin strategic arms talks to do what we can in a parallel way to de-fuse critical political situations such as the Middle East and Viet-Nam.”

Dobrynin replied that “he was not pressing the President to set the exact time for beginning arms talks. He wanted simply to clarify his own understanding of the linkage between arms talks and negotiations on political issues. His government, of course, would be interested in having a more precise idea as to when the President would be prepared to begin an exchange of views on the missile problem, even if preliminary and at the level of experts.”

Nixon explained that his administration would soon decide but would first review the issue. He also reminded Dobrynin that Gerard Smith had been appointed Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. The full text of the memorandum of conversation between Nixon and Dobrynin is printed ibid., volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Document 14.