41. Editorial Note

The first round of strategic arms limitation talks (SALT) opened in Helsinki, Finland on November 17, 1969. The United States Delegation was led by the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Gerard Smith. It also included five additional delegates: Philip Farley, Deputy Director of ACDA; Paul Nitze, who represented the Department of Defense; Lieutenant General Royal Allison, who represented the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson; and Harold Brown, President of California Technological Institute and an expert in the field of science and technology. The six-man Soviet SALT Delegation was headed by Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Semenov and included Colonel General Nikolai Ogarkov, who served as the principal military adviser; Aleksandr Shchukin, an authority on defense research; Deputy Minister of the Radio Industry of the Soviet Union Petr Pleshakov; Colonel General of Engineering-Technical Services Nikolai Alekseyev; and Ambassador Georgi Korniyenko, chief of the U.S. Division of the Soviet Foreign Ministry.

In a November 18 letter to President Nixon, Smith communicated his first impressions of the negotiations:

“The first business session this morning went off slightly better than I had expected. Semenov’s statement had a minimum of polemic; and although it gives evidence of being designed for public consumption in the event the talks collapse, it also seems clearly intended to lay the basis for a serious exchange of views. The whole text will, of course, be available through normal channels, but I was struck with a few passages that seemed unusual. He spoke of nuclear war as a disaster for both sides—of the dangers of grave miscalculations—of unauthorized use of weapons—and of hostilities resulting from third power provocation.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 875, SALT, Volume V, November 17–30, 1969)

Smith continued to provide Nixon with summaries of the initial talks between the two delegations. In a letter sent to Nixon on November 24, Smith stated that the U.S. Delegation presented “Illustrative Elements” (from NSDM 33, Document 40) in an attempt to elicit Soviet thinking about various strategic systems and to set an agenda for discussing offensive and defensive systems. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 875, SALT, Volume V, November 17–30, 1969) Smith’s third report, sent to Nixon on December 1, [Page 164] was more detailed yet no more definitive on resolving issues between the two nations:

“Neither side in the full meetings or in private exchanges has so much as mentioned Multiple Independently-Targeted Reentry Vehicles (MIRV). I have no clear idea to offer as to the Soviet reasoning. My hunch is that they calculate that there is sufficient Congress/public pressure to cause us to raise MIRV and that they will not, therefore, have to take whatever small loss in bargaining power may go along with being first to raise MIRV. And it may be that feeling behind in the MIRV competition, they sense that they would be showing weakness by raising the subject and so prefer to wait us out. So far the Soviets have not reacted to our Option II illustration except to subtract MRBM/IRBM and add forward based and carrier aircraft. Semenov acknowledges they owe us a ‘debt’ on this score. Even though their ABM declaratory policy is likely not unrelated to the upcoming Safeguard Phase II decision, it is strikingly different from past Soviet declarations about defensive missiles.” (Ibid.)