123. Message From the White House Situation Room to Secretary of State Kissinger1

Tohak 23/WH60095. The following message was received from Rumsfeld:

1. Brent, please pass to Kissinger and Clements if President feels advisable.

2. Received SecDef 212037Z Jan 76, cable of Scowcroft’s memo to President which sets forth a progress report on SecState’s meeting with Brezhnev on 21 Jan 76.2 General Brown and I have studied the cable and we have these thoughts.

3. Cable states that Brezhnev accepted U.S. proposal to ban ALCMs with range over 2500 KM; we assume that means on heavy bombers, in view of the ranges discussed in the NSC. However, banning all ALCMs above 2500 KM is not a big give for the U.S.

4. Brezhnev’s statement that the Soviet MIRV verification concession is linked organically to all outstanding problems sounds entirely new. In VP and NSC meetings we recall Soviet position has been described as a link between MIRV verification and counting rules and the cruise missiles.

5. The Soviet statement on Backfire radius at 2200 kilometers to 2400 kilometers differs so substantially from the U.S. community estimate at about 2600 nautical miles (or 4100 kilometers) that it appears to be a factual subject meriting further technical study and discussion.

6. We recommend against moving toward an agreement which would count each individual missile on heavy bombers as Brezhnev has proposed. That would be like counting every bomb on B–52’s.

7. Counting B–1’s as three MIRVs when B–1 and B–52 payloads are so close, and when the U.S. is pressing the MIRV limit, would be inadvisable. In addition, it could prove to be an unwise precedent.

8. Brezhnev’s proposal to ban surface ship launched cruise missiles with ranges over 600 KM is new. Although specific plans for over 600 KM are not developed, we suggest the 2500 KM figure we have discussed in the NSC, to protect an anti-shipping option in the next [Page 576] decades. If we do move to a lower number, the U.S. should get something for it, in that this is new technology in which we are well ahead.

9. Brezhnev’s claim that the previous agreement to ban land-based cruise missiles of intercontinental range was meant to ban all cruise missiles at shorter ranges is new to us, his proposal to ban all land-based cruise missiles over 600 KM would again limit a new technology in which the U.S. has a substantial lead. We recommend sticking to 2500 kilometer range.

10. On the point in paragraph 8, you should be aware that during the NPG meeting here in Hamburg, Europeans, led by FRG MOD Leber, expressed concern on this subject. They see the cruise missile as a counter to IRBM and MRBM threats in NATO Europe, and urge U.S. to protect the cruise missile at ranges necessary for the European theater, which is estimated to be 2500 KM.

11. As to the idea of pursuing the approach of putting Backfire and surface ship cruise missiles in a separate category for a five-year period (1977 to 1982), it is not clear from the cable what surface ship cruise missile range he is considering. We recommend the 2500 KM figure discussed in paragraph eight above.

12. The idea of linking Backfire and surface SLCM is appropriate but, of course, acceptability depends on the specific numbers and what else is in the package.

13. SecState indicated he is thinking of starting at 250 Backfires. The slippery slope problem we have discussed suggests that the outside limit would be 300 Backfires at the 2400 total of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles, or 400 Backfires at the 2300 reduced limit.

14. SecState indicated intention to outline a limit of about 24 ships with 10–15 launchers each. Present preliminary Navy program suggests acceptable limit of 50 ships with 10 launchers each. Range requirements for surface ships are discussed in paragraph eleven above, and for land-based cruise missiles in paragraphs nine and ten.

15. In view of factual differences outstanding regarding Backfire capabilities, the new elements which have been raised in Moscow, and the fact that time is not pressing on the U.S. side, our feeling is that SecState could politely say that he wishes to discuss these new ideas personally with the President and come home, with the understanding that he would get back to the Soviets in the weeks ahead. The next best approach would be to pursue Option One modified. I also suggest that, if he is to return home as suggested, we all exercise great care in any backgrounding of the press. The news should be the fact that you—the President—take these matters seriously and that you are proceeding in a measured, careful manner, as you are, and, that discussion will continue in an orderly way. Warm regards.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East Discussions, Box 1, USSR Memcons and Reports, January 21–23, 1976, Kissinger Moscow Trip (3). Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only; Via Black Patch. Deliver immediately upon receipt.
  2. See Document 117.