80. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • SALT Status

As requested, the following is an outline of major developments, a summary of our position, plus detailed background on the Soviet position on individual items:

Outline of Main Developments

The first phase lasted roughly from the opening on April 16 to about early May, during which both sides presented formal positions.

We presented Option C on April 20 and the Soviets presented their “Basic Provisions” on the same day.

Soviet Basic Provisions include as first presented:

  • —aggregate limit on ICBMs, “nuclear” submarine launched missiles, and strategic bombers; freedom to mix among all three, mobile missiles permitted;
  • —withdrawal of forward based offensive and defensive nuclear delivery systems capable of striking the USSR;
  • —a limit (undefined) on ABMs;
  • —ban on MIRV/MRV deployment and production (but not flight testing);
  • —no transfer of technology to third countries;
  • —continuing consultations;
  • —verification by national means.

Note: Excluded are Soviet submarine launched cruise missiles, diesel submarines, medium bombers, and MR/IRBMs.

On April 27 Semyonov announced that having considered our proposals and consulted Moscow it was “possible” to agree to limit ABMs to insuring the defense of a single target—“the national capitals.”

On April 30 we presented Option D.

At the May 6 session, Semyonov, in effect, rejected both of our approaches: “The American delegation’s proposals taken as a whole evoke feeling of serious dissatisfaction in many respects.”

Interim Phase

In a private conversation on May 8 a member of the Soviet delegation (Grinevsky) told Garthoff that both US approaches were “quite unacceptable to the Soviet side.” The first because it includes on site inspection; the second because it allowed MIRVs. He suggested it would be necessary to get away from packages on both sides and recalled American comment in Helsinki on a possible “narrow” agreement to be followed by negotiation on other elements.

In the first private SemyonovSmith conversation (May 13) the former took much the same line: that our comprehensive proposal was not really comprehensive since it excluded forward based aircraft. Since the two sides had failed to agree on a broad and comprehensive approach, Semyonov proposed returning to the Helsinki work program and proceeding with discussion of individual items to see if “points of congruence could be developed.”

Concentrating on Offensive Limits

In the plenary meeting of May 19, Semyonov proceeded on the understanding that the talks would follow the Helsinki program and take up offensive systems item by item. Their position is that we should concentrate on “central” strategic systems, a phrase we used first, and which the Soviets define as ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers.

In private, however, the Soviets elaborated more freely on some of their positions. They hinted at some deal for forward based aircraft, rejected some illustrative aggregate of 2200 as too high, and began to play down the importance of MIRVs.

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At the same time, in private they began stressing the urgency of some agreement in Vienna, without which resumption in Helsinki would not be worthwhile; they periodically implied that Cambodia might affect the talks.

On May 26 Semyonov, in effect, dropped the demand for control on forward based aircraft, on condition the USSR would be “compensated” in other strategic offensive systems (later defined as a bonus in ICBMs or SLBMs).

On June 1, in the second private SemyonovSmith conversation, Smith said Washington was working on digesting and analyzing the situation in Vienna and in the meantime he could not alter our position. Smith pressed for clarification of specific numbers in Soviet proposals for limitation of offensive systems, but Semyonov wanted agreement in principle first.

On June 2, Semyonov was sharply critical of “actual start and speeding up” US MIRV deployment which raised doubts that the US wanted MIRV agreement; he has also cited Laird’s May 12 statement that “without preserving our strength there would be no need, no incentive for the other side to negotiate.”2

On June 2 Secretary Rogers saw Dobrynin 3 and told him that Smith had asked him to impress upon the Soviets that it would be helpful if they would be more specific with respect to their SALT proposals and answers to our questions. Dobrynin replied that the Soviets were at a point of trying to sort out the proposals and attempting to ascertain whether it could be useful to concentrate on a broad approach or focus on items which might be the subject of initial limited agreement.

Option C (As presented April 20)


Aggregate total of 1710; completion of systems under construction permitted in proportion to systems now operational; SS–9s limited to 250.

Retrofitting of launchers with missiles not previously deployed limited to volume of 70 cubic meters.

Freedom to substitute sea based missiles for land based.

No relocation or modification of ICBMs in externally observable ways.

Deployment and testing of land mobile ICBMs prohibited.

No additional MR/IRBM silos allowed.

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Agreed procedures for notification and implementation of launcher destruction and replacement.

Use of covered facilities for fitting-out and overhaul, conversion and berthing submarines and surface ships prohibited.


Numbers limited to those operational.

Relocation or modification in externally observable ways prohibited.

Deployment and testing of mobile prohibited.

Limitation (e.g. size) would be placed on permitted mobile systems in order to assure compliance with ban on mobile MR/IRBMs.

Cruise Missile Systems

Testing or deployment of fixed land based or land mobile cruise missiles of medium or greater range prohibited.

Submarine and associated launchers for cruise missiles (SLCMs) would be limited to an equal number.


Heavy strategic bombers limited to currently operational category composed of B–52 and Soviet heavy bombers.

No limitation on aircraft other than heavy strategic bombers.


Prohibition on deployment and flight testing of missiles bearing multiple re-entry vehicles (except Polaris A–3).

Flight test prohibition applies to any missiles with multiple reentry vehicle dispensing mechanisms, and vehicles which could maneuver independently; missiles already deployed would be withdrawn.

Additional flight test prohibition including post-boost and atmospheric maneuvering RVs; endo-atmospheric pen-aids.

Tests preannounced; conducted on agreed ranges.

Verification by on-site inspection.


Limited to that number appropriate to defense of national command authority; 100 launchers and interceptors permitted with associated radars.

Agreement on the retention, replacement or dismantling of existing radars possessing technical capabilities for contributing to ABM systems beyond that permitted for NCA defense.

Limitation on radars suitable for ABM role.

Agreements to conduct talks, in future, on requirements and plans for radars other than ABM radars.

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ABM flight tests and confidence firings would be preannounced and limited to agreed number, at agreed test ranges.

Testing of mobile sea based, air based and space based ABMs prohibited.

Upgrading of SAMs prohibited. On-site inspection.

Option D (Presented April 30)


Initial ceiling of 1710 ICBMs and SLBMs.

ICBM launchers destroyed at rate of 100 a year over 7 years.

After January 1, 1978 the aggregate total ceiling would be 1000.

MRV/MIRVs would not be limited.

Similar ABM limits as in Option C.

MR/IRBMs reduced at rate of 40 per year for 7 years down to agreed ceiling on January 1, 1978.

Background on Specific Soviet Positions

Tactical Aircraft

  • —They argue that any reasonable definition of “strategic offensive weapons” must include those systems capable of reaching the national territory of either side;
  • —their proposal is that such systems be withdrawn to geographical limits, returned home or destroyed;
  • —in several private conversations the Soviets tested our reaction to an “understanding”:
    understanding not to augment;
    finding “common ground” on assumption that US aircraft would remain under US control and overall US-Soviet balance would be preserved;
    consideration of trade off of IR/MRBMs and forward based aircraft;
  • —On May 26 Semyonov offered to withdraw this proposal on the condition that the Soviets receive “compensation” in other strategic offensive systems;
  • —compensation has not been precisely defined, but Semyonov privately made it clear that this would be a bonus in the form of number of ICBMs or SLBMs;
  • —we have rejected principle of compensation in such terms.

Aggregates and Mixes

The formal Soviet proposal is that “equal levels” (aggregate) should be established for the combined total of ICBMs, SLBMs (nuclear [Page 280] powered only), and “strategic” bombers (undefined); within this total there would be complete freedom to interchange one system for another:

  • —The Soviets have indicated no numbers; Semyonov has said agreement on numbers should await agreement to the composition of the aggregate;
  • —in private the Soviets were critical of our use of 2200 as an illustration of their proposal, implication being that this is much too high; they indicated they were thinking of numbers “considerably lower” than those used by Secretary Laird; in a conversation on May 27, one Soviet used 2000 as a hypothetical illustration;
  • —all Soviets have insisted that strategic bombers be included in totals (defined as B–52, B–58, and FB–111 from US);
  • —General Gryzlov states, however, that bombers should be limited to numerical ceiling (presumably equal for both sides) rather than present level (Soviets may consider this a “reduction”);
  • —in defending 3-way freedom to mix, one Soviet suggested we should accept it if as we proposed there was a limit of 250 on SS–9s and limit on size of new missiles.

Qualitative Limits

The Soviet basic provision permits all modifications to existing systems; relocation, replacement, retrofitting:

  • —in private, however, the Soviets have hinted at receptivity to some special controls on SS–9s: Shchukin hinted to Nitze that he understood our concern about large missiles and thought agreement on this might be worked out on limiting size (we propose 70cm, in order to exclude new SS–9s);
  • —Kishilov told Garthoff that specific limitations could be discussed, e.g., SS–9s within context of offensive limits;
  • —as noted above, the Soviets have hinted that our proposal to limit SS–9s to specific number (250) was not ruled out.


No restrictions in the Soviet proposals, but we propose complete ban:

  • —there has not been much discussion; they claim there is no difference between permitting mobiles than in transferring land-based to sea-based platforms, would, in effect, make retaliatory capabilities more stable;
  • —they claim mobiles are so cumbersome and slow that verification is a simple matter of frequency of observations;
  • —they seem to recognize validity of argument permitting mobile MR/IRBMs to undermine limit on ICBMs because of verification difficulties.

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From the outset they have argued these systems are excluded by the Soviet definition that strategic offensive must be able to hit national territory:

  • —in private they have acknowledged question of relevance to verifying ICBM limits;
  • —they have also acknowledged in private US point that SS–11s are deployed in MR and IRBM sites but must be counted as ICBMs;
  • —as noted above, they have made some attempt to link our dropping MR/IRBM restraints and their “understanding” over our forward-based aircraft.


Semyonov claimed that the Soviet “basic provisions” include reductions, but has not explained how:

  • —one Soviet said that reductions could be accomplished by destruction of forward-based aircraft, and by establishing a ceiling for offensive aggregate.

(Note: This latter statement if taken together with other statements about “equal level” could mean we must reduce bombers to get under 2000 aggregate; at the same time, the Soviets might ask for reduction of SLBM to their level; this might explain their rejection of our calculation of an overall total of 2200 (ICBMs, SLBMs and bombers) in trying to illustrate their three-way aggregate; they may envisage picking the lower ceiling for systems, where we outnumber them, e.g. about 300 SLBMs, 300 bombers, plus 1400 missiles=2000.)


The formal position is to ban the production of multiple warheads and their deployment:

  • —the Soviet explanation, as well as their attack on our position, is confusing;
  • —they acknowledge there is no way to monitor production;
  • —they reject on-site inspection because it would be ineffective; warheads could be put on missiles as soon as inspectors depart;
  • —they argue that in refusing to stop production we want to stockpile MIRVs, while stopping further Soviet testing;
  • —recently they have made it clear they have little interest in a MIRV ban; Pleshakov (the Minister of Radio Technology) argues that a production ban would be a “gentlemen’s agreement;” a ban on testing would be of little value, since both sides had done enough to deploy multiple warheads; the difference between MIRV and MRV was not sufficient to make a distinction; deployment of MIRV/MRV would [Page 282] make ABM systems or an ABM agreement of little significance; lack of agreement on MIRVs would not alter present situation, however, since each side has about same technology, and relative situation remains unchanged;
  • another Soviet said that the US had developed and flight tested MIRV but Soviets had not; US could produce and deploy;
  • —same official said that in limited agreement, he did not believe there could be MIRV limitations;
  • —Soviets have also indicated in private that our pressing time issue created difficulty in the way of an agreement.


On April 27 the Soviets said that limitation to NCA level was possible:

  • —their position has been that numbers and other details (e.g. radar limitations) could be settled later;
  • —the Soviet “basic provisions,” by definition, rule out consideration of SAMs, which they contend have only “theoretical,” or marginal ABM capability;
  • —radar questions have not been discussed at length; but controls indicated for BMEWs and PARs;
  • —at one point the Soviets hinted that agreement on ABMs alone was possible but now have backed off of this idea;
  • —on two occasions the Soviets have indicated concern that agreement on NCA level was tied to our packages, and that if offensive mix was changed, we would want level of ABM changed; we have not denied this was possible;
  • —one Soviet official claimed that they had intended originally to propose zero level.

(Note: Much less discussion has occurred on the defensive category, but will begin fairly soon.)

Comprehensive and Limited Agreement

The trend of Soviet argumentation in private is running more and more in favor of limited agreement:

  • —this is roughly defined as ABM agreement (presumably NCA level) plus limits on “central” offensive systems: ICBMs, SLBMs, and “strategic bombers;”
  • —one Soviet official said that such a limited arrangement would have to be conditional on understanding on some limit on our forward-based aircraft (presumably the “compensation” idea);
  • —the Soviets have supported need for early agreement by references to increasing urgency; underlined by “grave” doubts about SALT;
  • —at one point (May 22) Semyonov and Kishilov expressed “serious concern” over the situation at Vienna, stressing that “time drawing short;” Moscow supposedly had “serious reservations;” General Ogarkov, who returned to Moscow, would tell Marshal Grechko and even “higher level” officials that the US was standing firm on “unacceptable positions;”
  • —both Soviets emphasized urgent need for two sides to seek lines of possible agreement;
  • —more recently, the Soviets have relaxed somewhat;
  • —they said they would wait for Washington to review its position;
  • —on June 2 Dobrynin told Rogers the Soviets were trying to sort out our proposals, and determine whether to focus on a broad approach or on items for an “initial, limited agreement.”

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 877, SALT, SALT talks (Vienna), Vol. IX, May 10–June 12, 1970. Secret. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates Kissinger saw it.
  2. Reference is to Laird’s statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
  3. No record of this conversation has been found.