111. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1


  • CIA Views on the Implications for Soviet Policy of the Current SALT Impasse

Director Colby has sent you a memorandum (Tab A)2 describing the CIA’s views of the impact of the current SALT impasse on the Soviet policy toward SALT. The memo covers détente, the Soviet leadership, the future of SALT, and includes the following principal points:

—The Soviets have probably been disappointed with lack of recent benefits from détente and are becoming apprehensive about the strength of the U.S. commitment to détente.

—Although changes in leadership at the Party Congress are possible, the most likely outcome is that Brezhnev will maintain his present position well into 1976.

—On SALT, the Soviets feel as if the U.S. has not responded with concessions comparable to those which the Soviets made in agreeing to drop forward-based systems (FBS) and count all missiles tested with MIRVs as MIRVed when deployed.

Brezhnev evidently has decided that while another arms control agreement is desirable, it is not essential.

—In view of U.S. election year uncertainties, the Soviets may find it prudent to proceed cautiously during the coming months and are prepared to wait, if necessary, until 1977 to conclude a new agreement.

—However, failure to conclude a new SALT agreement in 1976 would probably dampen Soviet enthusiasm for détente.

—A new agreement could be difficult to negotiate in 1977 since the Soviet leadership will probably be in transition and lack the flexibility to make the concessions necessary to achieve a new agreement.

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The CIA assessment concludes with the admonition that the breakdown of SALT could undermine the recent efforts at confidence building between the two sides and have an adverse impact on the prospects for positive long-run change in the Soviet system.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Subject File, Box 20, SALT (22)–(33). Secret. A stamped notation reads: “The President has seen,” and the memorandum bears Ford’s initials.
  2. Attached but not printed are a memorandum from Colby, December 5, on “The Implications for Soviet Policy of the SALT II Impasse,” and a covering memorandum from Colby to the President noting: “I asked my analysts to take a look at how SALT II will fit into broader Soviet policy in 1976 and thereafter, taking into account the Party Congress and leadership changes. They conclude that there are strong factors of continuity behind the present Soviet approach to both SALT and détente, but with a chance of some hardening in the medium-term future.”