88. Backchannel Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to the Chief of the Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (Smith)1

The President has asked that I share the following information with you on an exclusively personal basis. No one beyond the President and myself and now you is aware of this information and the President has given strict instructions that it remain that way for the time being.

The Soviets have, through Ambassador Dobrynin, indicated to the President on a strictly personal basis that they would be prepared, at Vienna, to have an NCA/ABM agreement coupled with a broad agreement on the prevention of accidental or “provocative” nuclear war (along the lines of the June 30 session).2 The Soviets have reported that it would be difficult to go beyond these two agreements at Vienna.

The President, on a most urgent and personal basis, would appreciate having your reaction to this Soviet proposal before he decides on new instructions.

I repeat again that the President has directed that this information be held strictly to yourself, and President and me. It is not to be shared with the delegation. He has authorized me to inform Alex Johnson, in his capacity as Acting Secretary of State, on the same basis, of the Soviet proposal and I plan to do so Saturday, July 4, during a meeting which Alex will attend here in San Clemente.

Best regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1971 SALT. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. On July 3 Lord sent Kissinger a draft of this message dictated by Haig. In his covering memorandum Lord stated: “The attached draft gives Smith very few details but Al indicated that you did not feel this was necessary.” Lord also reminded Kissinger that Alexis Johnson knew about the subject of the message. Kissinger made numerous revisions.
  2. In telegram USDEL SALT 200, July 3, Smith reported Semenov’s proposal during the June 30 session on third country provocation. (Ibid.) Regarding Dobrynin’s proposal, see Document 89.