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


Wednesday, February 11, 1976

2:30 p.m.

The Cabinet Room

I. Purpose

To review the options that might constitute a reply to the last Soviet offer made by Brezhnev in Moscow.

II. Background, Participants & Press Plan

A. Background: The following are the common elements in our position as they stand now, following Secretary Kissinger’s discussion with Brezhnev:

1. Air Launched Cruise Missiles Above 600 km in Range:

The Soviets agree that:

—ALCMs can only be deployed on heavy bombers that are included in the aggregate of 2400 and, therefore, banned on other aircraft;

—are completely banned over 2500 km in range; and

—that each heavy bomber equipped with air launched cruise missiles of a range between 600 and 2500 km will count as the same as a MIRVed missile, and therefore counted in the 1320 ceiling agreed at Vladivostok.

Additionally, the Soviets proposed, and we rejected, that the B–1, if equipped with ALCMs, would count as three MIRVed vehicles.

2. Submarine Launched Cruise Missiles:

—Our positions coincide on banning any cruise missile over 600 km in range from deployment on submarines.

3. Cruise Missiles Over 600 km on Surface Ships:

—The Soviets propose that cruise missiles with a range over 600 km be banned from deployment on surface ships.

—We made two proposals: (1) that each surface ship equipped with any cruise missiles over 600 km in range count as a MIRVed vehicle; and (2) that the US be permitted to deploy 25 surface ships, in a separate limit that also includes 275 Backfire bombers.

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4. Land Based Cruise Missiles

At Helsinki we had agreed that cruise missiles of intercontinental range would be banned:

—In our last proposal, however, we proposed that the range be reduced to 2500 km (to coincide with other range limits), and all land based cruise missiles above that range would be banned from deployment.

—This led the Soviets to claim that all along they had meant that all land based cruise missiles with a range over 600 km would be banned; and they confirmed this in a formal proposal.

5. Backfire:

The Soviets, of course, have opposed including Backfire in SALT:

—In this last round Brezhnev presented official performance data to support his claim that it was a heavy bomber; he claimed that the maximum operational range of the Backfire with a minimal payload, flying both subsonically and supersonically, was 2200 km radius—as opposed to our current estimate of about 4000 km in radius.

—He also proposed that as part of the SALT record he would include a formal pledge not to give the Backfire an intercontinental capability.

We made two proposals concerning Backfire in Moscow:

(1) that all Backfire produced after the effective date of the agreement (October, 1977) would be counted in the 2400 aggregate; and

(2) that Backfire would be subject to a separate limit (of no more than 275) for five years through 1982.

Both proposals were rejected by Brezhnev.

6. Reductions:

As part of the modified Option III proposal presented to Brezhnev, in which there would be a 275 upper ceiling for five years on Backfire, we also proposed a reduction from 2400 to 2300 by 1980.

Brezhnev countered that he would agree to reductions to 2300 or “even larger,” if we accepted his position on cruise missiles (i.e., ban them over 600 km on surface ships and on land).

Options for a Counterproposal

The Verification Panel has gone through several sets of Options to define the basic approaches, which you might adopt as the framework for a reply to Brezhnev. The three approaches are:

I. To set numerical limits on Backfire;

II. To exclude Backfire, in return for reductions of heavy ICBMs;

III. To defer both Backfire and sea and land based cruise missiles for an interim period.

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Option I:

The rationale for this option is that Backfire must be counted either in the 2400 aggregate or in a separate limit.

Optional I. A.—is essentially the old modified IV, which was our opening position in Moscow.

Option I. B.

This is a rough approximation of old Option III:

—Backfire would be in a separate category, and limited to 250; the US would be free to build up to 250 surface ships and/or submarines with SLCMs over 600 km.

—Other cruise missiles, land based, would be limited to 2500 km.

—A reduction to 2150 by 1980.

Option II: Backfire Excluded from Reductions

The basic idea is to allow the Backfire to go free outside of SALT, but to propose a significant Soviet concession in the form of reductions of heavy ICBMs.

—In other respects the proposal would be the same as Option I. A, that is ALCMs and surface ship SLCMs between 600–2500 km, as MIRVs, submarine launched cruise missiles over 600 km banned, and land based permitted up to 2500 km.

—The Soviets would agree to reduce to 2150 by 1980, and in the process would reduce 100–200 of their older heavy missiles, the SS–9. (Note: the latest NIE estimates that by mid-1977, the Soviets would have about 160 SS–9s and 248 other SS–9 silos either already converted, or in the process of conversion to SS–18 type silos; thus a maximum reduction probably would be about 160; a more plausible number might be about 75–100, which would constitute about 30–40 percent of the total reduction of 240 required to get to the 2150 level.)

Option III: A Modified Deferral

The basic idea of this option is to defer the remaining issues on cruise missiles and Backfire for a defined period, say through 1980, but to exchange commitments about constraining each side during the interim.

—The US, for its part, would pledge that land and sea based cruise missiles would be tested only up to 2500 in range, and our development program would not be accelerated, which would mean these cruise missiles would not be deployed in this period.

—The Soviets would pledge not to accelerate Backfire deployments beyond an agreed schedule.

—The Vladivostok agreement would be signed, including counting ALCMs as MIRVed vehicles, in order to clinch the other unsettled points—MIRV verification.

The No SALT Environment

You asked for a contingency budget that might be considered if SALT failed. The paper being prepared by the Defense Department is [Page 589] still not quite finished with interagency clearance, but the main outlines are emerging:

In the near term we would have three general courses of action, depending in part on the Soviet posture:

1. Maintain our present budget for FY 77 on the ground that it already includes a 20 percent growth in strategic force spending for modernization, under the option that the Soviets will show come restraint even without an agreement.

2. Gradually increase strategic spending starting with an amendment in the budget request of about $800 million, to provide a basis for force expansion aiming at equivalence over a period of 5 years; continuation of such a program over 5 years would require up to $7.6 billion for Defense and $400 million for ERDA; (Alternative 1 in paper at Tab B.)

3. Accelerate strategic force modernization starting with a supplemental to the FY 76/77 budget of about $320 million and a $2.1 billion increase in the FY 1977 budget; continuation of such a program would over the next five years if necessary require $19.6 billion for Defense and $3.3 (Alternate 2 in the draft study at Tab B) billion for ERDA.

In the gradual build up, the bulk of the spending would be for a full [less than 1 line not declassified] production, including the [less than 1 line not declassified] acceleration of the new [less than 1 line not declassified] ICBM operational capability to 1983, instead of 1985, and acceleration of the ALCM and SLCM program to earlier operational capabilities.

Under the rapid build up, the same programs would be adopted, plus increased Trident production, acceleration of B–1, acceleration of the Trident II missile operational capability to 1983.

If the US chose under either build up to add improvement of conventional forces, it is estimated that a program might cost an additional $10.3 billion over five years.

(Note: None of the options include major spending for air defense.)

B. Participants: List at Tab C.

[Omitted here is section III, “Talking Points.”]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC Meetings File, Box 2. Top Secret; Sensitive. Tabs A–C, which contain charts of SALT Options, a “No-SALT Contingency Budget,” and a list of participants, are attached but not printed.