105. Minutes of a Meeting of the National Security Council1

President Ford: It’s been a long day. We had a long Cabinet Meeting2 and have been running a little behind ever since.

We are getting to a point where we have to make some basic decisions on where we are going in these negotiations. This is precipitated by the visit of Gromyko tomorrow. If we are going to make headway, we have to have some new answers. As you know, I think it is in the national interests to get a SALT II agreement—I mean the right kind—but a SALT II agreement is in the country’s interest. If we don’t get it in 1975, the political environment will make it hard in 1976, in the turmoil of the political campaign.

[Page 466]

I want us to be as forthcoming as possible. We have to take a fresh look, and have a frank, forthcoming discussion.

I would expect that I will not make any decisions here. I want the Verification Panel to take up these issues after I’ve asked some questions and heard some other comments, and in a day or two give me a solid position that is negotiable so that I can talk to Gromyko not tomorrow, but on what the Verification Panel has done—later after we have had this discussion and the Verification Panel has met.

I heard there was a quite free discussion in the Verification Panel with no resolution of the issues.3 We have got to do better than that.

Bill, could you as usual let us know where things stand? I then want Henry to summarize the issues and have Jim give his views.

[Omitted here is Helms’s briefing.]

Mr Duckett: Mr. President, I might say that earlier, we have seen as many as 260 silos under construction at one time, which is about what this assumes. So it is not unprecedented.

Secretary Schlesinger: I will be surprised to see more than 250 a year or 1000 by 1980, which is what your chart4 shows.

President Ford: Henry?

Secretary Kissinger: Mr. President, I would like to sum up the issues and review what requires your decision. First, commenting on what was referred to by Bill, there are pressures on the Soviet leaders, and I thought I would give you my perception of the Soviet leaders. Brezhnev has been in power for 10 years and is reaching the end of his career. With him will go the entire age group that has such a morbid fear of war, based on their World War II experience. This group has caved in crises with a speed that their successors will not inevitably show. Brezhnev may retire at the upcoming Party Congress, but whether he retires at the Party Congress or stays on for a bit longer, he is near the end of his career.

A third factor is that after Brezhnev leaves we will face two or three years of uncertainty. Nobody will be in a position to make decisions—major decisions will just not be doable for two or three years.

In the US détente is often described as a one-way street. But the proponents of détente could make the opposite case. On credit, his credits were cut off by an Administrative government decision. It is now illegal to give credit beyond a total which is trivial at least in comparison with what the Western Europeans are giving. They did not get [Page 467] MFN. They have witnessed a surge of anti-Soviet sentiment in the US which has swamped the peace movement. This has been unprecedented in recent years and was not seen even in the cold war. Some of the benefits they have received can not be ascribed to Soviet policy. The situations in Portugal, Greece, and Turkey have been exploited by the Soviets but were not created by them. If they were to draw a balance sheet, they would not have too much to count.

I believe the next two or three months will be decisive. Brezhnev has some latitude but if it goes beyond what he thinks is tolerable, he will have to start reversing his position two or three months before the Party Congress. Thus, in the next two months, we will discover the limits beyond on which he can not go.

Brezhnev would like to come to the Party Congress with a successful American Summit behind him, including a SALT agreement and a Threshold Test Ban Treaty. This would help him to claim that détente has been irreversible. This would also be of some help to us, limiting what they could do in the Mid-East and places such as Berlin. Thus, what happens to SALT is quite significant to the entire future course of our relations with the Soviets. The major decisions will be made in the next two months. My feeling is that he believes he has made major concessions on SALT. On the other hand, the US has not made significant concessions recently, at least since you have been President. They have agreed to equal aggregates; they have dropped FBS, which they had insisted upon for six years. Likewise, although it’s less important, they dropped their distance on Trident and B–1 limits. And they have accepted our counting rules on verification. This may be because their situation was less reasonable to begin with than ours, but we have not made great concessions.

I would like now to turn to the specific issues—Backfire, cruise missiles, and throw weight—the definition of heavy missiles. These issues have to be decided in relation to the situation in the Soviet Union on the one hand, and in relation to the situation we would face with no agreement. For example, Backfire would be subject to no limits at all without an agreement. Looking at these charts, we would have to see if we can match the numbers of the Soviet buildup and at what costs.

Second Tape

Turning now to the specific issues. Backfire is perhaps the most baffling. It is clear that it has an intercontinental capability at least on one-way missions. There is also no question but that if we count the one-way missions, we would have to consider our FBS. When I stopped at Mildenhall a short while back, the local commander bragged to me about how every plane he had could make it to Moscow! (Laughter)

General Brown: I brought a map to show you where they are assigned to go.

[Page 468]

Secretary Kissinger: No, he didn’t say they were assigned to Moscow; he was speaking of their capability.

The capability of the Backfire is clearly enough to permit it to attack the US, but our FBS can also reach the Soviet Union. The dilemma is that if we don’t count the Backfire, we have a political problem within the US. If we do count it we have a negotiating problem with the Soviets.

It is highly improbable that Brezhnev presented the Backfire for inclusion in the 2400 when he gave our Vladivostok position to the Politburo. For him to say he would have to get rid of the Backfire or 400 other units would cause him a massive problem. This is reinforced by his position in Helsinki, where he made a passionate assertion that the Backfire was not a strategic bomber.

Secretary Schlesinger: My assessment is about what Henry described—with regard to the difficulty of negotiating Backfire into the 2400 ceiling.

Secretary Kissinger: In the Verification Panel we have discussed a number of alternatives. At first, we thought if it could perhaps be placed in the southern USSR, perhaps we could leave it out. Or if they were to visibly [There is a gap in the original.] other aircraft with it, or agree not to provide it tankers. We might use these as indicators of its capability. This is a vulnerable approach, but it is one way to handle it.

President Ford: Could we monitor this, Bill?

Mr Colby: Fairly well.

President Ford: We have that kind of capability?

Mr. Colby: Yes here are the capabilities (shows chart on verification confidence of Backfire collateral constraint).

Secretary Kissinger: Another idea was to count 100 Backfire and the FB–111s outside the agreement. This a little phoney because we have the FB–111s anyway. Furthermore, the result was an overall total of 2500. After the 100, you would have to count any additional Backfire. In my view, this only modifies the problem—I doubt if they would accept it.

President Ford: It would be hard to sell here after we got the 2400 and were told it was too high anyhow.

Secretary Kissinger: The practical effect would be to raise the ceiling to 2500.

A third approach would be to take the Soviets at their word that Backfire was not strategic. We would balance Backfire off versus certain types of US cruise missiles. There would be a trade off between cruise missiles and Backfires in a follow-on negotiation.

President Ford: They would be in addition to the 2400?

[Page 469]

Secretary Kissinger: You would say that Backfire is not a strategic bomber, and trade it off versus some tactical aircraft armament. You would have an agreement, for example X number of 100s of Backfires and we would have Y platforms for tactical cruise missiles. I will talk about how to do this—whether to count platforms or conventional cruise missiles—later.

Backfire is the issue with which I have the greatest intellectual problem. We would either have to count its deployment, let them have 100, or move it to a follow-on negotiation, taking Backfire and cruise missiles out, using cruise missiles as pressure to get some kind of ceiling on Backfire.

On cruise missiles, there are a host of problems. There is the type of cruise missile, the range, whether to count or ban, and the platforms on which they are permitted.

I think it is important to keep in mind what the Soviets have heard on cruise missiles. We cannot radically change our scheme of proposals—we cannot come up with something they have never seen. This would guarantee a six week study in Moscow while they check for all the hookers in it. I don’t believe their system is prepared to handle this. What they have heard is on ALCMs 3000 km and on SLCMs 1500 km. On land-based, we have accepted 5500 km, which is something of an absurdity. Why the Soviets want it, I don’t know.

Mr. President, you told Brezhnev in Helsinki that we had some flexibility on these ranges—we could reduce somewhat on air launch cruise missiles and sea launch cruise missiles, but you didn’t nail down a specific number. That is what they have heard and what they have rejected. The rationale is that we would be permitted 11,000 ALCMs on heavy bombers alone. We would wind up with a SALT agreement with 8,000 warheads limited and more than the number limited on cruise missiles. Second, they have said there would be a vast expenditure on cruise missiles to match our program, and one reason they wanted the agreement was to show that there could be a reduction of costs and budgets.

Submarine launch cruise missiles and other sea-based launched cruise missiles were not issues at Vladivostok. We talked only about submarine launched ballistic missiles. Thus, we are well within range of the Vladivostok agreement. Thus, the question is can we reach an agreed position on an air launched cruise missile range that reaches our military requirements and a SLCM range that breaks the deadlock.

The second issue is whether to count cruise missiles above the agreed range or to ban them and the third issue is whether to confine the limits to nuclear armed cruise missiles, or all cruise missiles. If we take the position to count all missiles above the range, and we permit all conventional cruise missiles, verification becomes impossible.

[Page 470]

Mr. Colby: Right.

Secretary Kissinger: Everything can be tested as a conventional missile.

Mr. Johnson: You also have the problem of surface to surface. There are no limits on surface to surface cruise missiles less than intercontinental range.

Secretary Kissinger: Up to now, our permission [position] has been that cruise missiles are permitted on heavy bombers, but banned on other airplanes, and are permitted on ships and submarines below the agreed range. If we wish to keep open the possibility of deployment on other airplanes, we will have to use Backfire as a tradeoff, or we could use the conventional-nuclear distinction to trade. I have great concerns about covering nuclear only—it leaves an open loophole and makes verification impossible. We could trade Backfire versus the tactical platforms. Or we could take out the SLCMs and use them versus the Backfires. The trouble is, this is quite different from what they have heard, and they might consider it a retrogression.

On the heavy ICBM, the Soviets have moved toward us by proposing to limit the launchway. We have insisted on throw weight, I believe position is essentially correct and we should stick with it. In any event, it is premature to discuss it here today.

Ambassador Johnson: I think that’s right.

Secretary Kissinger: They ought to accept it. It’s hard to justify why we need a throw weight greater than that of the SS–19.

Third Tape

Ambassador Johnson: There is the related question of a ceiling on the 18.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, but I consider these subsidiary issues. There are other issues, such as the date at which the reductions to 2400 must be complete. They have proposed 12 months, and we have proposed the effective date. This can be worked out by providing a few months leeway. But these issues of the importance of cruise missiles and Backfire.

In the Verification Panel we tried to develop a series of options for you. But it became clear that it would be better to expose you to the nature of the problems and give you a chance to get any other ideas. We can write in the numbers after you have made your decision on the general issues.

President Ford: Thank you very much—

Ambassador Johnson: There’s the problem of mobiles—

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. Mobiles is one other issue. In SALT I, we made a unilateral statement that mobiles could not be deployed, and as [Page 471] the Soviets have now accepted our position, we have had increasing second thoughts. My impression is they thought they were moving toward us. This is especially illustrated in that they did not include air mobiles, which they have every reason to believe we would be more capable of deploying. If we decided to go for land mobiles, I do not believe the negotiations would break down. But there are verification problems, plus the problem of Congressional funding.

President Ford: The biggest problem is selling Congress on the location. Everybody wants it in somebody else’s backyard. If you put it in a remote area, it is wilderness or national park. I don’t think we can sell them.

Secretary Kissinger: In my judgment, the Backfire and cruise missile issues could break the negotiations. The effective date and the mobiles can be settled. Do you agree Alex?

Ambassador Johnson: Yes.

President Ford: It would be interesting if you could find a way to do it and not be disclosed to take a poll of the members of the Congress as whether they would prefer to ban the mobiles for both the US and the Soviets, or to remove the ban with the possibility that we would have to deploy some mobiles. I predict there would be 10 to 1 or more against it. This is based on politics, and has nothing to do with security. But politically, that’s just the fact of it.

Ambassador Johnson: I might point out that our position in Geneva is to count, we have never proposed a ban.

Secretary Kissinger: I agree with Defense that fixed systems will by the end of the period become vulnerable. If the Soviets keep most of their force in fixed systems as they have it now, they will be extraordinarily vulnerable.

President Ford: Put it the other way—suppose we remove the ban. Which is more difficult—for us to detect theirs, or they ours?

Secretary Schlesinger: To detect and destroy?

President Ford: You have to detect them before you destroy them—

Secretary Schlesinger: They will know our location, but it will be harder for them to destroy them than our fixed land based force.

President Ford: They have a much larger land mass—it would be much harder to detect them.

Secretary Schlesinger: I don’t believe that is so. This is because once they are deployed, there will be a pattern of deployment which we will be able to detect. We will be able to determine the number and location. In addition, if they draw down 6000 or 7000 pounds of throw weight and replace it with 1000 pounds on mobiles, we are better off strategically.

[Page 472]

Secretary Kissinger: The first problem is to monitor the number deployed.

Mr. Colby: We believe we can count within a percent of error. If they put 200 out, we could catch them within 100.

Secretary Kissinger: Is that the same if they deploy 500?

Mr. Colby: It would still be about 100.

Secretary Schlesinger: Mobiles would represent hedges for both sides. Letting both sides deploy them would increase stability in the 1985 time period.

President Ford: It would be interesting to take a cross section of Congress. I bet they would be 10 to 1 against it.

Secretary Kissinger: Mr. President, I believe this one is your call—it is not a negotiating problem. It is really your decision on the US program.

President Ford: Have they taken any position Alex?

Ambassador Johnson: No, they have avoided discussing it. Their position implicitly accepts them.

Secretary Kissinger: In Geneva, Gromyko, last May, proposed to ban land mobiles.5 He thought this was a concern to the US.

Ambassador Johnson: They have avoided discussing it in Geneva.

Secretary Schlesinger: Mr. President, I agree there is presently a predilection against land mobiles in the Congress. But if we worked on the stability argument, I believe we could turn them around.

President Ford: I can remember, when most of you were not around—you were too young then! (Laughter) I have just learned to use that argument!—The Air Force, in about 1956, brought up a model train. They were going to run mobile ICBM on the train, all over the US. They said this was the best way to do it, and they brought it to the House Armed Services Committee.

General Brown: We even built the system and carried out field trials

President Ford: On the Committee, everyone said, they are fine, but just don’t run them in North Carolina or Michigan! You’re an optimist if you think you can sell this.

Secretary Schlesinger: We would not try to sell a train mobile—I can promise we would not run it through Chicago! But in the West, we have significant amounts of federal lands that are unoccupied. West of Salt Lake, and some in Idaho. The Soviets would require for the construction of a land mobile force a much higher percent of their force. I [Page 473] don’t see what we gain by banning them, and we retain some improvement in stability if we keep them.

Mr. Clements: I agree. I should add that we are in the early design stages, and we have lots of ways to deploy them. We may think of new ways. We should retain this option if we can.

President Ford: Let’s drop this for now. I will have to think about how to experiment to find out what the Congressional reaction might be.

Mr. Clements: I’m sure you are right.

Dr. Ikle: The decision is different on the R&D program.

General Brown: Our current concept is quite different from the trains—it uses unoccupied land.

President Ford: You would be surprised how many coyotes have to be preserved! (Laughter) It’s a totally different world—

General Brown: Well I would bow to your judgment on that.

President Ford: How far along are the systems?

General Brown: We are completing the concept studies.

President Ford: Would this be a variation of the Minuteman—the same type of missile?

General Brown: They would be laid out in a geometric pattern and the missile would move, perhaps on warning—with 20 minutes warning it could move to the shelters, which are hard enough that they could not destroy them.

President Ford: How much separation is there—five miles?

General Brown: No, more like two or three miles.

Secretary Schlesinger: If we ban them, the fellows who criticize the lack of ban will also criticize the ban as reducing stability.

President Ford: Am I correct that you even considered the concept of ballistic missiles in the Great Lakes?

Secretary Schlesinger: Yes, and you know the only Great Lake we control completely? It is Lake Michigan! (Laughter)

Ambassador Johnson: Now, we have agreed not to do that on your instructions.

President Ford: I would like to get out the newspaper stories when that rumor first broke

Secretary Schlesinger: At RAND, I tried to persuade the Air Force on Great Lakes basing, but since it involved water, they thought of it as a Navy mission and wouldn’t touch it

President Ford: I’m sorry, but I think you’ve got a massive problem.

Secretary Schlesinger: (Talking to charts) On Backfire, we agree that it was designed for peripheral missions. All our studies agree that [Page 474] it was optimized that way. The difference between what Brezhnev claimed and us might have been a different mission profile—more supersonic flight or more low altitude flight. We fly high altitude nonsupersonic to give it the range to cover all the US.

The biggest problem on Backfire is political—how it will be viewed on the Hill. But we don’t want an impossible negotiating position. So I believe one approach might be to set a numerical limit of 200, or conceivably 250.

President Ford: Do they have that many now?

Director Colby: They have only 60 or 70.

Secretary Schlesinger: This would allow criticism on the grounds that it escapes the 2400. We would also try to get estimates on performance factors—engines, and fuel factors—which we have looked at. We don’t like putting collateral constraints into the agreement, but we would stress these as indicators.

In the context of this proposal, we believe they should agree to stop discussing FBS. These would be confined to discussion of alliance oriented systems. They have the capability to hit us with Backfire, but we don’t count it, so they should not talk about our FBS which are by and large designed for other missions.

President Ford: In Helsinki, they never talked about FBS.6

Secretary Kissinger: They agreed not to raise it for this discussion. But they reserve the right to raise it in the next negotiations. I believe Brezhnev needs to be able to say this for political reasons. They did this in SALT I to put it off.

President Ford: It never really came up in Helsinki.

Secretary Kissinger: No, it is not an issue now.

Secretary Schlesinger: They have a tendency to bring it up. But these systems are alliance oriented—they are appropriate for MBFR negotiations along with our Allies. As we make concessions on Backfire, this would be useful to obtain.

Turning to the SLCM area. We think of Backfire as having the capability to reach the US. For SLCMs, we intended these for sub-SIOP options. The Soviets talk of them as being used against the Soviet Union. Therefore, we should be willing to indicate our intention not to use them in that manner. Both sides see the capability of the other, but do not look at the intention. Thus, one option would be to permit both sides to have no more than 100 nuclear-armed SLCMs of greater than 300 km range.

[Page 475]

Secretary Kissinger: The 100 greater than 300 km range could be of any range?

Secretary Schlesinger: We would be prepared to keep it below 1500 km range.

Secretary Kissinger: But there would be no limit on conventionally-armed SLCMs of any range?

Secretary Schlesinger: Yes.

President Ford: Henry, would you ask that first question again—I didn’t quite understand it—

Secretary Kissinger: I was questioning the limit beyond which the 100 permitted would not be permitted to go. Jim replied that 1500 km would be the upper limit. In other words, each side would be permitted 100 nuclear-armed cruise missiles in the range of 300 to 1500 km. Both sides would state they were not intended to attack the other, even though they had the capability to do so.

Secretary Schlesinger: The Soviets have been concerned about an opened-ended SLCM program. This approach would limit the numbers, and it would also pick up the Soviet SSN–3 which has a range of about 400 km. They set their range of 600 km to catch our systems but leave theirs out, so we have moved it down to 300 km to catch some of their systems. These would count if they are nuclear armed.

Secretary Kissinger: How many do they have?

Secretary Schlesinger: [2 lines not declassified]

Our cruise missile technology is far, far ahead of theirs with regard to accuracy. For the next decade, we will be alone in the ability to deploy our Tercom very accurate guidance systems. They can accurately hit ships with their radar guidance.

President Ford: At 400 km, these are principally for ship-to-ship attacks?

Secretary Schlesinger: Yes. We picked the 300 km limit to include theirs.

Mr. Duckett: [2 lines not declassified]

Secretary Schlesinger: They could hit New York if they got within 350 km.

General Brown: Why would we have an upper limit on the range?

Secretary Schlesinger: As Henry has said, our position has been 1500 km

Secretary Kissinger: If you had to count everything above 300 km, they wouldn’t care about the range so much.

Secretary Schlesinger: They have 300 SS–N–3s that they wouldn’t want to count.

[Page 476]

Secretary Kissinger: But they would have to get rid of 200 under your procedure.

Secretary Schlesinger: They don’t have a hundred that are nuclear armed—only the 28 are nuclear armed.

Secretary Kissinger: One thing for sure is that Gromyko will not be able to understand all this

Secretary Schlesinger: Turning to the ALCM—these will be necessary to insure bomber penetration. We don’t accept the rationale the Soviets presented to Henry for their position, that we would have 11,000 cruise missiles.

Secretary Kissinger: They got it out of Aviation Week! (Laughter)

Secretary Schlesinger: We don’t accept it. Our heavy bomber payload to some extent offsets their missile payload. They can use their throw weight as it suits their interests, and we should retain the right to use our bomber payload as it suits our interests. As a result of their choice, they could have more smaller yield weapons or fewer greater yield weapons.

If necessary, we could also limit the number of bombers carrying ALCMs to something like 300.

Secretary Kissinger: Coupled with a 2500 km limit?

Secretary Schlesinger: Our analysts keep coming up with 3,000 km. But if necessary, to sweeten it, we could squeeze it to 2500 km.

One controversial issue has been the definition of a cruise missile. We are tremendously excited about the possibilities for conventional cruise missiles.

President Ford: Surface-to-surface?

Secretary Schlesinger: Any kind in a conventional role. For example, in the Black Sea, this could put much of their assets at risks. Either in the form of missiles or RPVs, this is one of the most exciting new systems.

Against the background of Vladivostok, in the discussion there you talked about limits on ballistic missiles; they, apparently in translation, said missiles or including cruise missiles. The Aide-Mémoire7 just said missiles. If we wind up with a definition which excludes conventional deployment, this will put substantial limits on us and be something of an embarrassment, since we will have yield [wheeled] 180 degrees from Vladivostok.

Secretary Kissinger: Why is this off our position in Vladivostok?

[Page 477]

Secretary Schlesinger: Because we said we were prepared to count ballistic missiles on aircraft greater than 600 km range, but did not wish to ban cruise missiles greater than 600 km.

Secretary Kissinger: It was never that clearly stated.

Secretary Schlesinger: Concerning verification, the cruise missile verification problem is inherently unsolvable. In any event, we will have little verification. Thus, we do not wish to constrain our new conventional forces. We feel strongly about their potential. This does not have to be done in the form of a definition, which has raised much controversy. Somewhere else than in the definition it could be stated that the constraints in the agreement do not apply to other than strategic arms.

(Referring to chart) These are some of the systems we have—the Firebee, which has been in operation for several years. The conventional SLCM, which now has a 3700 km range, which would have to be brought down somewhat. A tactical version of the [omission in original] which has a 1700 mile range. We do not want to abandon this type of weapon. (This section should be filled in with the help of Wade’s chart.)

This is an area in which we cannot go to Congress and say we have high confidence in verification. Giving up conventional missiles only slightly improves our verification, but is a major disadvantage. We think the definition should cover only nuclear armed.

Secretary Kissinger: Cruise missiles of any range on any platform would be unlimited as long as they have a conventional warhead?

Secretary Schlesinger: Yes.

Director Ikle: Wouldn’t the range of the conventional ones be lower?

Secretary Schlesinger: Yes.

Director Ikle: This leaves the alternative of cutting off the range. We would still have the verification problem, but less blatant.

Secretary Schlesinger: We can play around with it, but the Soviets have proposed an agreement that bans ALCMs greater than 600 km on all aircraft other than heavy bombers. But there has been no indication, Alex, that we should accept that—

President Ford: As I understand, we submitted in the Budget for FY 76 both an Air Force and a Navy cruise missile program. The House Appropriations Subcommittee knocked the funds off the Air Force program, leaving only the Navy program. I don’t know why we went with one Navy and one Air Force program—

Secretary Schlesinger: We didn’t want to change our program before Vladivostok. It was the imagery before Vladivostok.

[Page 478]

General Brown: Also, the Air Force was ahead in engines, but the Navy ahead in guidance. (This may be backwards.)

Deputy Secretary Clements: We have always planned to bring them together. When we get further along, we will bring them together to make one program.

President Ford: It is awfully naive to think that two programs, which started out as one for the Navy and one for the Air Force, will end up as one program common for both Services—you are not that naive

Secretary Kissinger: When will these become operational?

Secretary Schlesinger: In 1980.

Secretary Kissinger: Let me see if I understand your position—nuclear-armed cruise missiles would be permitted on heavy bombers up to 2500 km, and we would count above that range.

Secretary Schlesinger: I don’t care whether we count or ban.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, then ban as a way to verify the limit. But would conventional cruise missiles be unlimited, or subject to the 2500 km limit?

Secretary Schlesinger: They have a higher weight than the nuclear ones, so there would be none with range greater than 2500 km.

Secretary Kissinger: So you would be prepared to ban them above that range.

Secretary Schlesinger: I would prefer 3,000 km, but we could go to 2500.

Secretary Kissinger: But your position is that any other ALCMs on any aircraft, would be permitted if conventionally armed. Nuclear armed would be permitted only on heavy bombers, with a range of 2500 km or less. There would be no testing of any ALCM greater than 2500 km range and no nuclear-armed ALCM on any aircraft except heavy bombers—I’m just looking for the specific handles we have here—

Secretary Schlesinger: I’m not sure I’m prepared to go that far—I’m not sure Al Haig would not want to have cruise missiles nuclear armed for his mission in SHAPE.

Secretary Kissinger: If we hang nuclear armed cruise missiles on our FBS, this would cause major problems.

Secretary Schlesinger: Land-based cruise missiles in Europe would be allowed in any case.

Secretary Kissinger: This is an anomaly.

Secretary Schlesinger: It is somewhat nutty.

Secretary Kissinger: It’s not clear why they proposed it.

Secretary Schlesinger: But I think your basic point is well taken.

[Page 479]

Secretary Kissinger: We might get away by saying that conventionally-armed cruise missiles are not counted. But I see no chance of permitting nuclear armed on our FBS.

Deputy Secretary Clements: You’re right.

Secretary Schlesinger: I hadn’t thought that through, so I have no complete answer. But we feel strongly that the conventionally-armed cruise missiles will be a major weapon of the next decade.

Director Ikle: Would it be acceptable if we set a 3,000 km limit for all of them? (I am not sure I have this right.)

Secretary Kissinger: We should stick to the numbers we’ve used in the past—2500 km.

It would be much better if we could have the same limit for both conventional and nuclear SLCMs, and the same limit for both conventional and nuclear ALCMs.

Secretary Schlesinger: We hope to develop a small nuclear-powered ship which would have the conventional punch of a carrier by using cruise missiles at a much smaller cost. This is one of the reasons why we get excited about cruise missiles in the conventional role.

Ambassador Johnson: What about the surface-to-surface cruise missiles below 5500 km?

Secretary Schlesinger: I am happy to let them ride free—

Secretary Kissinger: The cruise missile field is shot through with problems. Have they raised the cruise missile definition in Geneva?

Ambassador Johnson: No.

Secretary Kissinger: It might not be a problem. It has not been raised in any other channels.

How set are you on 300 km?

Secretary Schlesinger: It puts some pressure on the Soviets. We may have to back off to 500 or 600 km. The disadvantage is that we would lose the SS–N–3.

Director Ikle: What advantage is there to these cruise missiles if you are limited to 1500 km?

Secretary Schlesinger: They would be helpful for sub-SIOP options.

Secretary Kissinger: Why do you want 100 nuclear-armed cruise missiles between the lower limit at 1500 km? You propose a lower limit of 300 km above which only 100 would be permitted. Why?

Secretary Schlesinger: For the sub-SIOP options—

Secretary Kissinger: Why would you use cruise missiles for this?

Secretary Schlesinger: [1½ lines not declassified]

Secretary Kissinger: Why couldn’t you use Polaris?

[Page 480]

Secretary Schlesinger: Better accuracy with the cruise missiles.

General Brown: Also, low yield and only one warhead on one weapon.

Secretary Schlesinger: This would allow us to exercise limited nuclear options without exposing our bases. We have more than enough warheads for the SIOP.

So in summary, on Backfire, we have sweetened it considerably from the Soviet position—

Secretary Kissinger: (Laughing) I was just looking at Alex who has to negotiate it with the Soviets—it probably doesn’t look too sweet to him

Secretary Schlesinger: We agree we will lose this ultimately. We believe we should reserve this as part of a package to get a better agreement on cruise missiles.

Secretary Kissinger: But you don’t want Backfire in a separate cruise missile tradeoff?

Secretary Schlesinger: No—although Fred’s idea is not a bad one.

On cruise missiles, we want the conventional option, since you can’t verify in any event.

Director Colby: [2 lines not declassified]

President Ford: Which one of these would you trade off if I chose to become more flexible on mobiles?

Secretary Schlesinger: You should not have to pay a price to get the position we want on mobiles.

President Ford: You have to pay a price with me! (Laughter) You have to negotiate with me, also, on that! I don’t believe you’ll get Congress to approve it—

Director Colby: The decision on the system is down stream. We are only talking now about the ban—we don’t have to say now we are going to deploy it.

Secretary Schlesinger: I believe the hedge is worth it. I see no great advantage in banning mobiles.

Secretary Kissinger: May I make a procedural suggestion? Jim and I could meet, perhaps Friday morning.8 It might be possible to construct something for the Soviets to consider seriously. We could then get a counter-proposal and have a serious negotiation underway. But rather than do it here at the table, I think we have enough elements, if we put in some sweeteners, we might be able to handle the conventionally armed cruise missiles, and might be able to develop a package [Page 481] which I believe could be negotiable. We could then come back on Saturday morning to you—

President Ford: I won’t be back in town until Monday evening.

Secretary Kissinger: Gromyko will be here until the middle of next week. You can’t negotiate with him anyway. We can just get his position from him.

President Ford: On Monday night, I could meet with you Henry, or with the NSC. We could then tell Gromyko before he goes back.

Director Ikle: Mr. President, you might consider a separate agreement on cruise missiles and Backfires—

Secretary Kissinger: There’s no chance of that working out.

Director Ikle: This would remove the less verifiable elements from the rest of the agreement and may allow us to get a better result for focusing on the relation of SLCMs and Backfires.

President Ford: I think we have gotten the basic ideas. It would be helpful, Jim, if you could have a verification meeting with Henry and I’ll get with Henry when I return.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT II.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC Meetings File, Box 2. Top Secret; Sensitive. This is apparently a transcript of a tape of the meeting. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting took place in the Cabinet Room from 3:46 to 5:35 p.m., and the following people attended: President Ford, Rockefeller, Kissinger, Sisco, U. Alexis Johnson, Schlesinger, Clements, Duckett, Colby, Brown, Ikle, Rumsfeld, Scowcroft, and Lodal. (Ibid., Staff Secretary’s File, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. The Cabinet meeting was from 11:02 a.m. to 12:58 p.m. (Ibid.)
  3. The only record found of the September 10 Verification Panel meeting are two-page handwritten notes. (Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files, Box 22, Meeting Minutes, Verification Panel–Notes (3)).
  4. This chart and all others mentioned were not attached and have not been found.
  5. See Documents 66 and 67.
  6. See Document 102.
  7. Document 91.
  8. No record of a meeting on Friday, September 19, has been found.