43. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Packard) to the Under Secretary of State (Richardson) and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Need for U.S. SALT Delegation to clarify U.S. Posture on ABM Levels

I am concerned that the statements made so far by our delegates, both formally and informally, may have given the Soviet side the misleading impression that Safeguard is negotiable down to quite low levels. This may lead the Soviets to miscalculate the strategy that they adopt for the main talks, thus at least prolonging those talks. I have attached [Page 167] an analysis of the comments our delegation has so far made, to explain this concern.2

The President has made quite clear that he is committed to the area defense component of the Safeguard system, whose purpose is to reduce U.S. fatalities to a minimum level in the event of a Chinese attack or an accidental launch. He has also made clear that the total Safeguard deployment is subject to modification as the threat changes, so that if the U.S. reaches verifiable stable agreements with the Soviets, which increase or reduce the threat against which Safeguard is designed, then that portion of Safeguard which defends against the Soviet threat will be modified accordingly.

I propose that Gerard Smith be instructed to take an opportunity, before the close of the Helsinki talks, to clarify the U.S. position in this matter. One way would be for Smith, in the final presentation in which he plans to reaffirm our commitment to NATO security, to also reaffirm the U.S. commitment to ABM defense against China, and to include the quotation from the President’s statement of March 14, 1969:3 “Since our deployment is to be closely related to the threat, it is subject to modification as the threat changes, either through negotiations or through unilateral actions by the Soviet Union or Communist China.”

David Packard
  1. Source: Ford Library, Laird Papers, Box 24, SALT, Chronological. Secret. On December 11 Sonnenfeldt forwarded this memorandum to Kissinger under a covering memorandum that noted: “I think you should be aware that not only on the ABM issues, but on some other questions, the delegation seems to go beyond its instructions. We just learned that without formally asking for instructions they submitted to the Soviets a new version of a final communiqué without having discussed the first version in any detail. This first version had been cleared in Washington, and the delegation had been told we wanted to defer considering any fallback positions.” Kissinger drew an arrow to that paragraph and wrote: “How could this happen?” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 875, SALT, Volume VI, December 1–30, 1969)
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. On March 14 Nixon’s decisions about ABM and MIRV testing were announced in a White House press release. See Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 216–219.