118. Message From Secretary of State Kissinger to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1

Hakto 4. Subject: Evening Session on SALT.

1. We began the second session with Brezhnev this evening, and I proceeded along the lines I had indicated in my previous report.2

2. First, I asked some more questions about Brezhnev’s assurance on the Backfire range to determine what flight profile they had used and what they would estimate the range to be in all high altitude mode at subsonic speed. This drew only a repeat by General Kozlov of the “official” Brezhnev guarantee that the aircraft had a “maximum operational” radius of 2200–2400 KM.

3. I then proceeded to sum up the points of agreement and differences in our two positions. I noted that on ALCMs we both had the same approach: to count as MIRVed, and to ban above 2500 KM, and ban on other aircraft above 600 KM. I said we could not accept their counting of the B–1 as equal to 3 MIRVed vehicles. This brought a lame rejoinder from Gromyko that the reason was that the B–1 was supersonic and could reach the target earlier than the B–52, but this was not pressed seriously.

4. On sea based cruise missiles I noted we agreed on submarines but not on surface ship cruise missiles between 600 KM and 2500 KM. I then said that we were surprised by their interpretation of the ban on intercontinental land based cruise missiles, which led to a long confused debate. Gromyko first claimed that they assumed all along that all land based cruise missiles over 600 KM would be banned, and that was implicit in their proposal. I knocked this down, but it was finally left that they would consider the question again: either to return to the original interpretation, leaving all land based missiles up to intercontinental range free, or banning only those above 2500 KM.

5. I noted the similarity in range between their claim of 2200–2400 KM for the Backfire and our proposal for SLCMs on surface ships up to 2500 KM, and I as well contrasted our willingness to include SLCMs as strategic weapons in SALT and their resistance on Backfire. I suggested [Page 557] a separate five year agreement in which they would not deploy more than 275 Backfire in the period up to the end of 1982, and we would not deploy more than 25 surface ships with cruise missiles for the five year period. I said this was a conditional proposal subject to agreement as all outstanding issues.

6. In this context I proposed that we also reduce from 2400 to 2300 by 1980. This last point caused some consternation. Brezhnev said that he could not revise Vladivostok, and both Gromyko and Brezhnev repeated that Backfire was not strategic. After considerable discussion on the Soviet side Brezhnev said he did not reject our ideas out of hand, but proposed a recess until 12 noon tomorrow, which I assume means he will hold a Politburo meeting in the morning.

7. My strategy tomorrow will be to listen to whatever they produce, assuming they continue to reject any numerical limit on Backfire. I will concentrate mainly on the cruise missiles and try to draw Brezhnev out further on any assurances about Backfire. Incidentally, Dobrynin “guaranteed” that the Politburo would never agree to count Backfire, because it has been sold as a peripheral attack system.

8. Unless there is an unexpected break in the Soviet position, which is not entirely ruled out, all I can do is narrow the differences to the point that they can be considered again in Washington. Basically, we may leave here with a reasonable cruise missiles package plus some assurances on Backfire’s range and other indicators. If so, we can evaluate what such an overall agreement would look like in Washington.

9. In this light I really see no reason to go to a pure version of Option III, nor do I see deferral as a real option unless the Soviets get desperate.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Trip Briefing Books and Cables of Henry Kissinger, Box 28, Kissinger Trip File, January 20–25, 1976–Moscow, Brussels, Madrid, TOHAK (1)–(3). Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The memorandum of conversation of this meeting, which was held in Brezhnev’s Kremlin office from 5:02 to 6:30 p.m., is Document 251 in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XVI, Soviet Union, August 1974–December 1976.
  2. Document 117.