71. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Laird to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • SALT

I am deeply concerned about the manner in which the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks in Vienna are getting underway.2 First, I was shocked to learn Friday evening, April 17, that Ambassador Smith had made an initial statement3 without clearing the statement in Washington. I am under the impression the presentation of the opening statement came as a surprise to others besides me. Second, I was dismayed to find that Ambassador Smith did not indicate in his opening statement, at least as I read the report4 of that statement, that Option D5 would be presented as part of our opening “package.”

Other developments are giving me considerable cause for concern. I have received reports the U.S. Delegation is interpreting and molding Option C to fit preconceived notions which bear strong resemblance to the oft-expressed ACDA position. There are reports, too, the Soviets may be contemplating tabling a MIRV/MRV option which could put us at a considerable disadvantage unless our Option C/Option D plan has been offered in full. In addition, I find no clear system for reviewing the U.S. delegation’s proposed statements.

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In my judgment, we must insure expeditiously that both the substance and administration of our negotiating effort are put in order.6

Mel Laird
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files:FRC 330–76–076, Box 12, USSR, 388.3. Top Secret; Sensitive. A handwritten notation reads: “No release.”
  2. The second round of SALT negotiations began in Vienna on April 16.
  3. Telegram USDEL SALT 11, April 17, summarized opening statements by Smith and Semenov on April 16. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 877, SALT, SALT talks (Vienna), Vol. VIII, April 9–May 10, 1970)
  4. Not found.
  5. Negotiating options A–D are set forth in the enclosure to NSDM 51, Document 68.
  6. On April 22 Nixon sent a memorandum to Rogers, Laird, Helms, and Smith that expressed his discontent with press leaks concerning the desirability of a moratorium on MIRV and ABM deployment. “These arguments are inconsistent with NSDM 51,” he noted, “and undercut our negotiating position at SALT.” Nixon added a handwritten note that reads: “Any individual who gives any encouragement to this kind of speculation should be first reprimanded and then discharged.” On Laird’s copy of the memorandum is a handwritten message: “watch out—close hold; no release; stop; halt.” (Ford Library, Laird Papers, Box 25, SALT, Chronological File) On May 4 Kissinger replied to Laird’s concerns. Kissinger assured him that the Backstopping Committee would review future SALT Delegation statements. Kissinger also informed Laird that Nixon had approved supplementary guidance that made the reductions option equal with the MIRV ban approach. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 330–76–076, Box 12, USSR, 388.3)