52. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin
  • Mr. Henry A. Kissinger

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT.]

Dobrynin then turned to the issue of sufficiency2 and said this was, of course, a very vague term on which further discussion might be useful. He wondered in what respect the ABM fitted into the sufficiency concept. He said that it was unfortunate that Helsinki was immediately followed by the ABM announcement.3 I told him that the ABM announcement came up, as he knew very well, as part of our regular budgetary cycle. It would have come up in January regardless of Helsinki, and nothing had happened in Helsinki that could affect our budgetary decisions. As he knew very well, we were engaged in a purely exploratory conversation.

Dobrynin then asked about the difference between area defense and point defense. I gave him a very crude explanation because I did not want to go into missile characteristics. With the President’s authority, I gave him a brief account of what the request would be like for next year, and I told him it was a minimum request which would keep the program going but which would retain all options for SALT.

Dobrynin said that he simply did not understand how the Minuteman defense could also be useful for area defense and how, if it was useful for area defense, it could make any difference to the Soviets what our intentions were. I told him that the best thing would be if I would let one of my technical experts explain the system to him, and we arranged a meeting for some weeks ahead.

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Dobrynin then read a little note to me (attached)4 which did not, he said, represent a formal communication but some tentative instructions. The note reads as follows:

  • “At the time of the Helsinki meetings the American delegation emphasized that it displays business-like attitude toward discussing the problem of curbing strategic offensive and defensive armaments race. We would like to say frankly that further development raises questions on our side in this respect.
  • “We do not understand, in particular, what was that that guided the American side when despite agreement about the confidential nature of the talks it in fact released to the press through its various spokesmen many elements of the contents of the Helsinki negotiations. Such an approach can hardly make a favorable impact on the atmosphere of the talks in the future.
  • “We would also like to stress that in the light of the exchange of views in Helsinki we are puzzled by the position on issues of strategic armaments taken by certain members of the U.S. Government, in particular, by the U.S. Secretary of Defense Laird. Mr. Laird has recently come out demanding substantial speed-up in the deployment of the ABM ‘Safeguard’ system, as well as declared the intention to speed up the development of a new type of strategic bomber and underwater long-range missile system. The Pentagon also advocates development of a new ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile.
  • “The demands by members of the U.S. Government that the U.S. should expedite nuclear missile arms race make for some thought as to the intentions here with respect to achieving agreement on curbing strategic offensive and defensive arms race.
  • “It is known that earlier, when the U.S. Government was taking its decision on deployment of the ‘Safeguard’system President Nixon connected its deployment with the course of Soviet-American talks. A question arises as to whether it should be understood that the Laird statement about speeding up the ABM deployment in the U.S. is connected with the position that the American side is going to take at the Soviet-American negotiations in Vienna?
  • “The Soviet Union in preparing for the Vienna talks proceeds from the assumption that statements by the American delegation at the Helsinki talks reflected the position of the Nixon Administration, and that that position has not changed during the time passed since the end of Helsinki negotiations. However, in connection with the Secretary of Defense Laird statement a question arises whether or not the American delegation is going to change its position?”

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I told Dobrynin that the best way to proceed would be for us to schedule another conversation devoted primarily to SALT. I told him that we were serious, and that it was difficult to talk in the abstract. Dobrynin wanted to know whether we were interested in a comprehensive or a limited agreement, whether we were going to change our position in Vienna, and what approach we were going to take. I told Dobrynin that we should have a full discussion, and that we might set up two channels—one for the formal negotiations, and one between him and me to deal with general principles.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 489, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1970, Vol. 1 [Part 2]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The luncheon meeting took place in the Residence Library at the White House. The full text of the memorandum of conversation is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Document 135.
  2. On February 18, the White House released the “First Annual Report to the Congress on United States Foreign Policy for the 1970s,” which discussed the strategic policy of “sufficiency,” as well as the role of ballistic missile defense. The full text of the report is printed in Public Papers, Nixon, 1970, pp. 116–190.
  3. At his January 30 news conference, Nixon stated that he had decided to move forward with Phase II of further deployment of the Safeguard system. See Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 40–41.
  4. Not attached.