112. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • SALT Verification Panel Meeting, Friday, December 19, 19752

The purpose of this meeting is to continue the discussion of options for dealing with the Backfire and cruise missile issues.

At the last Verification Panel meeting,3 there was general agreement that the U.S. could agree to include heavy bombers equipped with long-range ALCMs in the 1320 MIRV limit and ban SLCMs above 600 km on submarines. This agreement was reflected in the Options paper which followed (Tab D)4 where most of the options included these limitations. However, as you are aware, DOD tied these concessions on cruise missiles to counting Backfire in the 2400 aggregate and continued to insist that only nuclear-armed cruise missiles should be limited. This position was given further emphasis by the memo which the Chiefs sent to Rumsfeld (Tab E) in which they took a strong stand against an agreement which included substantive cruise missile limits but which did not count Backfire in the aggregate.

The impact of no agreement on Soviet force levels and the alternative approaches which we could take at this stage of the negotiations are discussed below.

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Impact of No Agreement

The new NIE on Soviet strategic forces (NIE 11–3/8–75)5 contained two force projections for the case of no new SALT agreement. One of these (Force 2) assumed that both sides, after the lapse of the Interim Agreement, continues to support the SALT negotiating process and that U.S.-Soviet relations do not deteriorate significantly. The other (Force 4) assumed that U.S.-Soviet relations deteriorate drastically. This force represents the highest level of deployment effort and technological achievement which we believe is possible for the Soviets and is highly unlikely. In the table below, the 1980 Soviet force levels under these last two force projections are compared with the Best Estimate (Force 1) for Soviet force levels under a new SALT agreement based on the Vladivostok accords.

Force 1 Force 2 Force 4
ICBM Silos 1,398 1,398 1,510
SLBMs 916 958 958
Mobile ICBMs 60 100
MIRVed Missiles 958 1,098 1,462
Backfires6 110 110 120
Heavy ICBMs 254 254 340
New Heavy Bombers 5 5 15

The differences in these projected forces become striking by 1985, although any force projections ten years into the future are extremely difficult to support.

Alternative Approaches

At this stage, there are four basic approaches which we could take to dealing with the Backfire and cruise missile issues. These approaches, which were reflected in the five options considered in the Options paper (the table on the next page summarizes four of the options),7 are as follows:

Deferral (e.g., Option A). We could defer the Backfire and cruise missile issues to a later negotiation and attempt to wrap up the other issues at this time. DOD prefers this option since they are ready to fall off on Backfire if there are no limits on cruise missiles. However, this [Page 498] option should only be considered as a fallback in the event we can find no solution to Backfire and cruise missiles and the two sides agree on the need to complete some agreement next year. It should not be a U.S. going-in position since if it fails, SALT TWO will probably fail along with it.

Moderate Cruise Missile and Backfire Limits (e.g., Option B). We could propose that this agreement include moderate limits on Backfire and cruise missiles with the understanding that both of these issues would be fair game for SALT THREE. The limits on Backfire might consist of simple assurances while cruise missiles could be banned above some unrestrictive range (e.g., 2500 km for ALCMs and 2000–3000 km for SLCMs). Option B is of this nature and adds the additional limit of counting heavy bombers equipped with long-range ALCMs in the 1320 MIRV limit. This option may be acceptable to DOD since it essentially defers the Backfire and SLCM issues, even though the ALCM limits are more substantive.

A Tough Initial Position (e.g., Option E). We could hang tough at or near our current position and wait for the Soviets to make a substantive move on either Backfire or cruise missiles. This is the current DOD preference if we do not go for deferral. Option E represents such a position with substantive cruise missile limits balanced by a demand that Backfire be counted in the aggregate. It is significant in this option that DOD can agree to significant cruise missile limits, even though they make the political judgment that this is only acceptable with strict limits on Backfire.

A Forthcoming U.S. Position (e.g., Options C and D). At this time, we could make a major step to accommodate Soviet concerns and agree to impose substantive cruise missile limits and drop the idea of numerical limits on the Backfire force. Since there is now general agreement that the U.S. could accept substantive cruise missile limits in this agreement, the major issue under such an approach is the political acceptability of assurances and collateral constraints on Backfire as opposed to numerical limitations. A major factor in this regard is whether the collateral constraints include strict Backfire tanker limitations; with such limitations, it can legitimately be argued that Backfire will be restricted to one-way missions against the U.S. and thus, be of the same character as U.S. forward-based aircraft.

The latter approach is the most promising for achieving an agreement next year. However, to follow such an approach, DOD must be persuaded to drop their insistence on strict numerical limits on Backfire.

Conduct of the Meeting

Carl Duckett will be prepared to review the latest intelligence on Soviet strategic systems of which the new SLBM tests are the most sig [Page 499] nificant. You should avoid a lengthy discussion on the new intelligence and go quickly to a discussion of the options. CIA has prepared a table8 describing the options covered in the Options paper with the following modifications:

ACDA has, in its option (C), replaced counting ALCM-carrying heavy bombers in the 1320 MIRV limit with a limit of 300 on such bombers.

—A new option has been added at the request of ACDA; it is essentially an amalgam of the option given to the Soviets in September and their Option C.

Brent Scowcroft9
  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files, Box 6, NSC Meetings, SALT, 12/19/1975. Top Secret; Sensitive. Scowcroft did not initial the memorandum. The memorandum was in the briefing material for Kissinger for the Verification Panel meeting of December 19.
  2. Draft minutes of the meeting are ibid., Box 23, Meeting Minutes–Verification Panel, Notes (4).
  3. Minutes of the meeting have not been found; notes of the meeting prepared by the ACDA representative are ibid., Box 6, Verification Panel Meeting, 12/19/75–SALT (2).
  4. Tabs A–E are attached but not printed. Tab E, JCSM–425–75, is dated December 5; the others are undated.
  5. NIE 11–3/8–75, “Soviet Forces for Intercontinental Conflict Through the Mid-1980s,” November 17, is in Central Intelligence Agency, NIC Files, Job 80M01012A. The NIE is scheduled to be printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XXXV, National Security Policy, 1973–1976.
  6. Not counted in SALT TWO forces under the assumptions used. [Footnote is in the original.]
  7. The table was not attached.
  8. CIA’s table was not attached.
  9. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.