84. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The President
  • The Secretary of State
  • Henry Kissinger
  • Royal B. Allison
  • Gerard Smith


  • SALT

I asked the President if I could advise Semenov on Friday2 about the general situation regarding a limited approach. The President wants such a move deferred until after the first of July because of the Cambodian situation. He seemed to have no doubt in his mind that we should go for a limited agreement. I stressed that an agreement was by no means a sure thing and that if any budgetary factors were injected into the picture, our bargaining power would be lessened, and asked him to instruct me not to allow budgetary matters to affect the negotiations. He did so in strong terms saying that the budgetary situation was another matter and should not influence our judgment about SALT.

I raised the question of whether or not we should shoot for something “substantial” to come out of Vienna and although this was not [Page 290] ruled out, the general attitude sparked by Bill Rogers was not favorable to anything that looked like an agreement in principle.

I pointed out that if we were actually to negotiate a full treaty, a very optimistic schedule would be by year’s end. The President has in mind accomplishing something, if possible, before December because that is the budget crunch time. The Secretary wondered if we couldn’t get the Soviets to table a limited proposal at the same time we did. I told him we could try to, but questioned whether it would be better for us if the Soviets table a proposal or whether the negotiation was based on our proposal.

The President gave me a letter expressing complete confidence and satisfaction in the way the negotiations had been handled.3

Kissinger opined there was not much difference between the agencies about the nature of a limited agreement. He felt that we should have it in detail a week from Monday.4 I said that we could keep the talks going until then but that if we didn’t have anything by the 15th of July, I thought that the possibility of holding the talks together was slim.

I mentioned the question of a political approach on the accident question and showed the President the language of Soviet transmission in the fall of 1968 to Rostow.5 The President seemed quite intrigued and authorized me to pursue the matter to find out what Semenov had in mind.

There was some talk about the date of the Safeguard vote and the President seems clear that a negative vote on Safeguard would be very bad for SALT and that any straw about an ABM agreement would be grasped by the ABM opponents. The Secretary wondered if the ABM question could not be left for the last in the negotiations. I pointed out that this was the one area in which there seemed to be common ground.

I pointed out the time-consuming process that would be required to get agreement on ABM radar and the President agreed and said that that is the heart of the problem.

I pointed out that the Soviets had proposed recessing and resuming in Helsinki in November or December. I thought that a more reasonable tempo would be a two months recess during the summer but [Page 291] pointed out that the Administration will have a difficult decision as to whether or not to try to get something substantial out of the Vienna round or merely a bland communiqué with an agreement to resume talks later on.

My hunch is that unless the Soviets bite hard on our limited proposal, we will spend say several weeks talking to them about it and then agree to suspend about July 21 and resume in Helsinki sometime after the first of September.

I said that although we are in the dark still about a number of aspects of Soviet thinking, I felt it safe to say that they are serious about trying to get an agreement.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 383, ACDA Files: FRC 383–97–0010, Director’s Files, Smith Files, Smith/Farley Chronological Records, Box 1, SALT, Progress Reports with White House Officials, March–August 1970. Top Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Smith. The meeting was held in the White House. The memorandum of conversation is marked Part II; Part I was not found. On June 24 Kissinger sent Nixon a briefing memorandum for the meeting. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 878, SALT, SALT talks (Vienna), Vol. X, June 13–30, 1970)
  2. June 26. The “I” refers to Smith.
  3. The letter is attached to Kissinger’s briefing memorandum of June 24.
  4. June 29.
  5. In a message handed to Secretary of State Rusk on October 2, 1968, the Soviet Government suggested some general principles and objectives for the limitation and reduction of strategic armaments, including: “There could also be registered an agreement of the two sides, along with implementation of measures to limit and reduce strategic armaments, to study the question of taking steps to rule out the accidental appearance of conflict-fraught situations involving the use of strategic armaments.” For the full text of the Soviet message, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XI, Arms Control and Disarmament, Document 287.