130. Minutes of a Meeting of the National Security Council1


  • SALT


  • The President
  • The Vice President
  • Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General George S. Brown
  • Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Dr. Fred Ikle
  • Director of Central Intelligence George Bush
  • Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Brent Scowcroft


  • White House
  • Mr. Richard Cheney, Assistant to the President
  • Mr. William G. Hyland, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • State
  • Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • Defense
  • Deputy Secretary William Clements
  • CIA
  • Mr. Carl Duckett (who departed after presenting the intelligence briefing at the opening of the meeting)
  • NSC Staff
  • Colonel Richard T. Boverie

President: I think it is important that we give some reply to Brezhnev before their Party Congress. If we have no specific counter proposal, I think we ought to give him a total negative or the general direction in which we will proceed.

Henry has made some headway in his last several meetings with Brezhnev. There are still some areas of difference. There have been one or more Verification Panel meetings which have explored the options and looked over the options paper.2

[Page 591]

I want to reiterate that I think it is in the best interest of this country to achieve a SALT II agreement. I intend to push to the extent possible to get a good one. But if a deadlock occurs, we will have to make a 180 degree change in our course. By 180 degrees I mean we can stand still; or go to Option 2, which would be the least of my efforts; or go to Option 3, which would be my preference.

The options I am referring to now are Don’s options for a SALT contingency budget.

Rumsfeld: You must have got a copy of the SALT Contingency Plan out of channels. It is still being worked on at the working level and is not yet agreed on.3

President: Option 1 says we would stand still. I would not do that. Option 2 says we would have a moderate program. This is the least I would do. Option 3 is the one I think would be necessary.

I will wait for the final version of the paper.

I want to reassert that a SALT agreement is in the best interests of this country! It is possible to do this. I reassert this with emphasis

George [Bush], do you have something for us?

Director Bush: We have analyzed the Backfire bomber. The Soviet data do not alter the CIA’s present estimate that it has the capability of intercontinental operations.

Mr. Duckett: [Note: Copies of the charts used by Mr. Duckett are at Tab A.]4 At the top of the chart you will see three sets of flight conditions per Soviet claims. The question is do they match our estimates for the Backfire? For the first case, they volunteered that most of the flight is subsonic, and that some is supersonic. It was said the operational radius is 2200 kilometers. However, they did not say how much of the flight was supersonic, or how much payload was carried in this profile.

President: How does its payload compare with the B–52?

General Brown: The B–52 payload is around 50,000 lbs.

Mr. Duckett: The Backfire carries 20,000 pounds in bombs. Its payload is 25,000 pounds when it carries external weapons.

The US estimate for the Backfire ranges from 1,000 kilometers to 3,500 kilometers at the extremes, depending on the length of supersonic dash.

We could reduce the uncertainties in our estimate if we had more data. If we want more data, we could ask the Soviets for it. However, we do not think this will solve the problem about Backfire’s ability to strike US targets.

[Page 592]

The operational range includes a 10 percent fuel reserve.

The Soviets also say that the maximum technical range is 5,000 kilometers. Our estimates are that the maximum range is between 2,100 kilometers and 7,300 kilometers.

Therefore, we cannot tell what the Soviet figures represent.

The third case is ridiculous—it represents a profile no one would fly.

We asked the Soviets how far it could fly at 15,000 meters altitude but this is the wrong altitude for the Backfire. It was the wrong question to ask. We believe it has no capability of sustained flight at 15,000 meters.

Kissinger: The major problem was that I raised the question while General Kozlov was with Brezhnev. They had made no serious study of the question. The problem was that Kozlov didn’t want to deviate from what Brezhnev said. Therefore, it was not a carefully considered statement. It was not a thoughtful reply.

Mr. Duckett: On the other board you see our study of Backfire flight profiles. It shows that our estimate of the Backfire radius is greater than 5000 kilometers. Also it shows that we have seen the aircraft actually fly to a radius of 2775 kilometers. I agree with Secretary Kissinger that the Soviet estimate was off the top of their head.

With some additional data, we could generate some high confidence estimate. We would like to know from the Soviets the maximum gross take-off weight, maximum fuel load, internal bomb payload, and cruise lift-to-drag ratio. But this does not change our judgment that the Backfire has an intercontinental capability.

President: Your estimate is that the maximum radius is 5,125 kilometers?

Mr. Duckett: Yes, with an 8,125 pound payload.

President: With no supersonic dash?

Mr. Duckett: No supersonic dash.

President: Therefore your figures would indicate the Backfire has a range of 5,400 to 5,500 nautical miles.

Clements: You have actually tracked the Backfire?

Mr. Duckett: Their radar has, and we have some telemetry. We have some late data which may make the numbers slightly smaller, 100 kilometers, but this doesn’t solve the problem.

General Brown: Do you have an assessment of the new photos? Do you have greater confidence in your estimate for the engine?

Mr. Duckett: Yes. We now believe they are using the older engine. Also, Bill Hyland saw the nomenclature in Moscow. Therefore they are not using the best engine at this time.

[Page 593]

President: If they fly that profile, is it militarily desirable?

General Brown: The typical flight profile is the one in the center, where as the aircraft climbs it burns off fuel.

President: Would they fly 5100 kilometers in that pattern one way, without a dash, to attack a military objective?

General Brown: Yes, against the US, since we have minimum air defenses.

Kissinger: What would they hit?

General Brown: Airfields, industrial areas of a city, and targets such as that.

Director Bush: We have a chart on possible bases. Carl (Duckett) can explain it.

Mr. Duckett: They have two airfields being equipped with Backfire. With a 5000 nautical mile capability, they could cover all of the US on a one way mission.

Director Bush: Cuba would not be a suitable recovery location for the aircraft.

Mr. Duckett: I believe it would be more likely that they would go back to northern Canada, or even ditch at sea near ships.

If the Soviets go to Arctic basing, then even 4,000 nautical miles covers most of the US. They have some poor facilities there, some good. One thing we would want is an assurance that the Soviets would not use Arctic basing.

President: Are those bases not usable in normal course for use against China?

General Brown: There would be no reason for them to use those bases.

Mr. Duckett: I doubt they plan to refurbish these two bases.

General Scowcroft: For your payload calculations, did you load the Backfire the same way you loaded it for the megatonnage chart?

Mr. Duckett: Yes. The maximum loading was 20,000 pounds, which depends upon the amount of space in the aircraft. The 8100 pounds is a conventional load.

President: Henry?

Kissinger: We have had a number of Verification Panel meetings in the spirit of harmony. (Laughter)

We have gone through a number of options on some conceptual basis. The first option is that we would count Backfire. The second option would exclude Backfire from strict limits. The third would defer a permanent solution of the Backfire and cruise missile issues for various periods of time.

[Page 594]

In assessing these options, we have to consider several things. We have to know what its intrinsic merit is. We have to consider the negotiating history—if we introduce an option which has already been rejected, this has significance. We also have to consider the consequences of where we would be without an agreement.

In Option I we would count the Backfire. Option I A is the old modified Option 4. That is, we would go back to the Soviets with exactly the same proposal as we started in Moscow.

I have a note which says the Chiefs even want to add reductions to Option I A.

General Brown: I know nothing about that.

Kissinger: I have a note here which says that’s what the Chiefs want.5 Where did this come from?

Mr. Hyland: General Rowny called the NSC staff.

General Brown: What we have said is that we agree with the principle of reductions.

Kissinger: Option I A is the old Option IV. Option I B is in effect the old Option III. You have to assess whether, in terms of negotiating history, this is right. If you assess that they will make an agreement under any conditions, that is one matter. But we will have gone from IV to III and then back to IV.

I agree with Option 4 on its merits, but this would certainly cause us negotiating problems.

Now Option IB. My recollection is that what happened in Moscow, Mr. President, is that I did not use all of the authority you gave me. Our position was the Soviets would have 275 Backfire and we would have 25 surface-ship SLCM platforms by 1982. This would give us the high breakout potential with our cruise missiles.

SLCM’s on submarines would be banned above 600 km.

Option I B is a toughening of our last position in Moscow. It reduces the Backfire limit, removes the submarine SLCM limit, and reduces the aggregate to 2150. From a negotiating standpoint, this is Option III, minus certain features. Our counterproposal would be worse than what they have already rejected. This doesn’t mean they would not cave.

Therefore, Option IA and IB put limits on the Backfire. In IA, Backfire is counted in the 2400 aggregate. IB is a toughened version of the old Option III, which the Soviets have already rejected.

There is a second category of options which excludes Backfire from strict SALT limitations. It includes assurances against Backfire up [Page 595] grading and includes additional collateral constraints. This would reduce the aggregate to 2150 by 1980. We would count heavy bombers and surface ship platforms under the aggregate and the MIRV sub-ceiling. It would ban submarine SLCMs above 600 km.

In return, the aggregate would be reduced from 2400 to 2150. The Soviets would have to dismantle a significant percentage of their heavy throw weight missiles. In the working group, 200 heavy missiles were discussed, but this is an empty possibility; the Soviets would never do this. Some figure might be possible.

In terms of negotiability, I doubt that the Soviets would accept this, but they would have to study it seriously. It would not be interpreted as an attempt to drive them to the wall.

President Ford: Does this mean they would reduce their SS–9’s?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, and the overall totals.

If we say we count land-based cruise missiles above 600 km, we can have them, although something else would have to come out. And this is an American decision. [to Vice President Rockefeller]: This takes care of Edward (presumably Edward Teller).6

The end result is that we could have land-based cruise missiles up to 2500 km, but counted in one form or another. A 2150 aggregate brings pressure on the total number.

George’s concern is that Option IIA would have some upper ceiling on the Backfire—so that they could not have, for example, 1000. I don’t think we can get the Soviets to write this into an agreement. But maybe there could be a letter from Brezhnev to you, Mr. President, saying that they plan on having X number of bombers. They can then have some force—not specified in the treaty—and we can have our assurances.

There was another option within Option II, but it has been dropped. It was a State Department option and was highly negotiable. But we should not have it if it is not supported by the military and supported only by the State Department.

The third major option is deferral. I have tried this three times and it has always been rejected. But it was never linked with a cruise missile settlement.

We could defer SLCM and land-based cruise missile deployment. How we would do this depends on your decision.

We could ask the Soviets not to increase the rate of Backfire production. We would not deploy cruise missiles—except on bombers— [Page 596] beyond 600 km through an agreed date. From the standpoint of the Soviets, the later the date the better. For the US, the sooner the better.

We would be free to test cruise missiles through a certain range. The Soviets could continue Backfire production.

There is basic agreement on what this option does. It would codify what has been done. For an interim period, it defers the Backfire and some cruise missile limits.

President Ford: Would it ban cruise missiles over 600 km on heavy bombers?

Secretary Kissinger: No. It would permit cruise missiles with ranges from 600 to 2500 km on heavy bombers, but these bombers would count in the 1320 sub-ceiling.

This is the basic deferral option.

To sum up—considering the impact on the Soviets:

I believe that Option I would result in a prolonged deadlock at a minimum. A last minute yield is possible, but I don’t believe this will happen.

Option II would get us into the negotiation. Option III is a good fallback position. But we could also do Option III immediately—it is your choice, Mr. President.

President Ford: How much different is Option II from that which was done in Moscow?

Secretary Kissinger: It is significantly different. We never described to them where they should take their reductions. If we specify their heavy throw weight missiles, it is an unprecedented new step. Also, the Soviets would have to back off from the 600 km cruise missile limitation.

But Backfire would be free for the Soviets, except for an unclassified letter from Brezhnev on assurances, which we would ask them for since there would be restrictions on cruise missile ranges.

My judgment is that they would turn down Option II, but that they must study it carefully, and then would come back with something.

Vice President Rockefeller: I am concerned about cruise missiles at longer distances. The Soviets are developing three different SLBMs. Why should we interrupt cruise missile applications for land or submarines. This is such a new thing; we really do not know what its potential is, and we should keep our options open in cruise missiles.

Brent Scowcroft: In Option II, 2500 kilometers is the upper limit.

Vice President Rockefeller: This is why I am concerned. The Soviets have three new missiles on submarines and five new missiles on land. The only thing going for us is our cruise missile with excellent guidance accuracy.

[Page 597]

Secretary Kissinger: We have the Trident and the MX.

Bill Hyland: And the B–1.

Brent Scowcroft: And two new Trident missiles.

General Brown: Both sides have sea-based ballistic missiles. There is no reason to replace them with cruise missiles. They can’t defend against the ballistic missile, but they can defend against the cruise missile.

The cruise missile can be used to protect the sea lines of communication and perhaps have an ASW role. However there is no reason for them simply to lie off the beach for attacks against the Soviets. We are not warhead limited.

Vice President Rockefeller: You say that we would have no objection to limiting them for submarines. But that means they would get something for nothing. Five to ten years from now our present plans could be obsolete and we may want to do this—but there would be a 600 km limit on cruise missiles.

The Soviets have leapfrogged us in naval force structure. We must be in a position to leapfrog them with cruise missiles.

General Brown: The only way they could guard against the ballistic missile is if the ABM Treaty fell apart.

Dr. Ikle: Theatre uses are more important for cruise missiles.

Vice President Rockefeller: If you are not going to use them, they shouldn’t worry.

President Ford: This is like our argument with them on the Backfire.

Secretary Kissinger: If we counted every cruise missile, we would have over a thousand missiles. Then we would bust the 2150 total strategic level, considering naval and regional uses.

If we count ships with 600 to 2500 km missiles as MIRVs, we could use them against the Soviet Union, but the in-theatre forces would be free. Fifty ships still doesn’t hurt the MIRV total very much.

There have been lots of press arguments about this, but the fact as we know it from the SIOP is that we don’t need all those MIRV warheads except if the ABM Treaty is abrogated. We would be better off in many cases with single warhead missiles.

If we count these on a one for one basis, we would very rapidly be in bad trouble with the 2150 or the 2400 level.

Secretary Clements: Mr. Vice President, during the ten-year period while we are developing our technology, we can move forward in the state of the art. For periods greater than ten years, we don’t know where we will be going. Within the timeframe, with a 2500 km range, and with the platforms, we can develop the needed technology.

[Page 598]

Vice President Rockefeller: But we would be limited at long ranges.

Secretary Clements: Not at the end of the treaty time.

Secretary Kissinger: This would be no problem with the deferral option since we are talking about roughly 1982.

President Ford: And we would have a clearer picture of the situation at that time.

Secretary Kissinger: If we want to go to deferral, we are better off getting at it by one more substantive proposal, then using deferral as a fallback. I do not believe the Soviets would accept Option II, but they would give it a serious response. The Soviets would not go along with Option I in my view.

Vice President Rockefeller: We should get a clearer idea about the use of non-nuclear missiles for any range.

Secretary Kissinger: There are two problems.

The reason many want to surface the nuclear/non nuclear problem is that they are convinced they will be given away in the last period of the negotiations. If we have a disciplined government, you would establish the range principle now. You would then table the conventional definition in Geneva and handle it on the technical level. If the Soviets balk, we could always say that SALT never has handled conventional weapons.

If we permit an enormous disparity between what is permitted in conventional and nuclear missiles, it will be a tremendous domestic problem. If we say that it applies only to nuclear armed missiles, the verification problem would be totally unmanageable.

Vice President Rockefeller: This would be only for ten years. It could be covered in a new agreement.

Secretary Kissinger: The way to handle it—I would prefer a four or five-year interim agreement on deferral, with less strict standards. If we have an eight to ten-year agreement, then we must think carefully about the definitional problem because the Soviets can have them then.

President Ford: Henry, what you are saying is that rather than surface the distinction at the outset, let’s settle the range matter first, and then we can move at the technical level on the other?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. We could simply act stupid. We could say that SALT never addressed conventional weapons at any time. We could do this in Geneva, rather than spring it on Brezhnev and make him answer to the Politburo. If we do it my way, he then would have a commitment to something he has agreed to.

Secretary Clements: Was this raised at Vladivostok?

Secretary Kissinger: No, and neither were cruise missiles.

[Page 599]

Dr. Ikle: Option III helps with verification issues versus Option II. Cruise missiles of 600 km are hard to verify. Option III gives us the time to understand the verification problem.

President Ford: Is a five-year period better than a two-year period to defend?

Dr. Ikle: We could use four years, that is 1980, since that is the approximate time for IOC of the cruise missile.

Secretary Kissinger: The problem Brezhnev has is that he must say he got something of his proposal. That’s why 600 km is significant.

Secretary Rumsfeld: I would like to walk through some of these things.

First, I think we should clear up the outstanding issues of both sides in the SCC. We will be criticized if we don’t try to do this before having a new agreement.

Second, there are a number of smaller questions around that can get big later on. The reason the armed/nuclear armed definition is important is not that we might be “raped” as Henry stated, but because it makes a difference. As long as we can understand what we want to do here about the nuclear definition, that is fine. I won’t argue the tactics, but the substance is important.

President Ford (to Secretary Kissinger): In your approach we would freeze the range, then solve the technical differences on the definition at Geneva.

Secretary Rumsfeld: The reason I raised it is because it makes a difference.

My third point has to do with the range of cruise missiles. Range is complicated. If one changes the warhead and increases the range, we have a problem.

Fourth, you have to consider non-circumvention and non-transfer. These are important.

Our goal should be long-term arms limitation—not confrontation. Therefore I believe it is important to have simplicity, symmetry, and higher verification, not less.

The problem with Option II on Backfire, if not counted in the aggregate, is that we would have no definition of a heavy bomber. It would be like the heavy missile problem. We would have problems in SALT III. You should take the long view—don’t do something in SALT II that makes SALT III difficult.

I also want to point out that if we reduce the aggregate further and Backfire goes free, Backfire’s importance grows.

Vice President Rockefeller: What are your specific points? What are your specific proposals?

[Page 600]

Secretary Rumsfeld: I have been here one hour and ten minutes and have not spoken a word. I am coming to my specific points.

In weighing the three options, we have to consider the balance for SALT and détente.

First, we could do something which would leave the U.S. weak. Second, we could accept an agreement which we could not easily verify and we could expect reaction. Third, we could be stiff and unyielding. Fourth, we could be doing something now, for example, letting the Backfire go free, which would cause us problems in going for SALT III.

On Option IA, we are including 150 variants which were not offered earlier. This gives us a way to get back into negotiation.

For Option IB, we would be rolling back from a smaller number of SLCM platforms to a larger number, so that we would have symmetry. This would be an advantage of the option.

Option II is appealing if we can get them to reduce 200 heavy missiles.

Secretary Kissinger: We can’t get them to reduce 200 heavy missiles.

Secretary Rumsfeld: I have been patient so far. But it is a marginal option even if they reduce by 200 heavy missiles because of SALT III—that is, there would be no heavy bomber definition. And we could expect them to reduce a smaller number than 200 missiles.

Therefore, deferral is in my view the best option. It is the most honest. We would say that there are gray area systems which we cannot solve now, and that it shouldn’t surprise us that we can’t get them in.

Deferral would permit us to codify Vladivostok. Space and sea-bed weapons would be banned. Mobile missiles would not be banned but would be counted. Intercontinental cruise missiles would be banned at 5500 kilometers.

It may also be possible to get the MIRV verification rule by throwing in the ALCM limit at 2500 kilometers and counting the platforms in the 1320 sub-ceiling.

Secretary Kissinger: The only way deferral can work is by using numbers the Soviets have already seen. There is a chance deferral would work as a fallback position—if there were a 600 km limit, and no deployment.

There is a chance of deferral working as a fallback position—if there is a 600 kilometer limit, no deployment for 3–4–5–X years. And we could continue R&D. There is a chance of its working.

There is no chance of permitting 5500 kilometer land-based missiles, but we will have none by 1981 anyway.

[Page 601]

Secretary Rumsfeld: What about the cruise missile limit?

Secretary Kissinger: ALCMs would be permitted at 2500 kilometers; all others would be 600 kilometers until 1980 or 81.

President Ford: And what about research and development?

Secretary Kissinger: R&D and testing could continue.

Mr. Hyland: The working group had proposed that in the interim period, there would be restraint on testing of SLCMs and land-based cruise missiles beyond, for example 2500 kilometers, and on development. This would possibly include not deploying SLCMs and land-based cruise missiles above 600 kilometers.

Secretary Kissinger: The come on is the deployment limit. But this is phoney, since there will be no deployment anyway.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Therefore there is a question on timing. Under this option, would it be a 10 year treaty?

Secretary Kissinger: No. It would be 8 years, since it would start in 1977, on Vladivostok, MIRV counting, ALCMs on bombers, and throw-weight. All others—cruise missiles and Backfire—would be for an interim period through around 1980 or 1981.

We would not deploy SLCMs and land-based cruise missiles above 600 kilometers. With the Soviets we would have assurance that the Backfire production rate would not be greater than the present rate. This interim period would expire at the precise moment of our maximum break-out capability for cruise missiles.

For the Soviets, 2 years is not realistic. My view is that it is better to go to 1980 or 81.

Secretary Rumsfeld: I believe we should use a target date shorter rather than longer so that we can get along on resolving the issues. For example we could use October 1977, when SALT I expires.

President Ford: But SALT II is a follow-on from SALT I. And if we have deferral, it could go for two to four years.

Secretary Kissinger: I’ve raised deferral with the Soviets three times and they have rejected it every time.

President Ford: But this is a version they have not seen.

Secretary Kissinger: This will be a comedown for them, but it won’t present a political crisis if we propose it.

Director Bush: Is there any way to get additional data on the Backfire?

Secretary Kissinger: We can’t go to the Soviets for data to formulate our position. We could say we will let Backfire go free if they give us data to confirm its role. Therefore we could have Option II.

Dr. Ikle: In Option III, if we don’t accelerate, they don’t accelerate.

[Page 602]

Secretary Rumsfeld: The ALCM is part of the central systems, and we would be dealing with central systems. We could set aside the grey areas right?

Secretary Kissinger: For Option III, a one to two year interim period won’t work.

President Ford: It is better for us to have a three to four year period for cruise missile testing. We won’t know much more in one to two years.

Secretary Clements: We are starting to fly them now.

President Ford: And we will know more in three to four years. And we will be better off at four years for break-out.

Dr. Ikle: We want to avoid legitimizing Backfire deployment while making cruise missiles illegitimate.

President Ford: If we agree on a Backfire production rate and we proceed with research and development on cruise missiles then in three years if there are no negotiations we are in a better position to go ahead with cruise missiles than they are with the Backfire.

Secretary Kissinger: That is why the damn thing may not work. They will buy a 600 kilometer limit on cruise missiles but they would not go for an eight year period without the limit. Too little is known.

Dr. Ikle: Does this mean we should settle the limits?

Secretary Kissinger: Only on deployments for X number of years. But we have to accept the 600 kilometer limit. We would be able to deploy up to the 600 kilometer limit. Brezhnev can tell the Politburo it got something.

The advantage for us would be our break-out position. There would be no verification problem.

Vice President Rockefeller: Would test ranges be unlimited?

Secretary Kissinger: Test ranges would be unlimited or at 2500 kilometers.

President Ford: Would Option II or III be okay from a military standpoint?

General Brown: No. The Chiefs view is that we should give up as little cruise missile capability as we can. It is one point of our leverage on the Soviets. We propose that the Backfire be counted, but recognize that this may not be possible. We could slide to deferral. But deferral should be stated positively like Don (Rumsfeld) stated it, not negatively as is shown on the chart.

Deferral would be a good position for us in this country. It formalizes Vladivostok, which we applauded. Vladivostok was simple, gave us symmetry, and provided equivalent balance for the U.S. But after a year and a half it is still not codified.

[Page 603]

President Ford: I would be concerned if there were no agreement and no codification of Vladivostok. There is a 50/50 chance there will be no deal.

General Brown: Before you left for Vladivostok, you were told you couldn’t get certain things. But you came home with what you were told you couldn’t get.

Secretary Kissinger: That is not true.

General Brown: I remember it explicitly.

President Ford: From the military view if you freeze the SS–18 and reduce the SS–9s, is this a significant gain?

General Brown: Yes. But if the Backfire runs free they can make up the difference easily with the Backfire. If they reduce their heavy missiles by 200, this would be significant. But in my judgment, they won’t buy it.

Secretary Kissinger: Before Vladivostok, we said equal aggregates and equal MIRVs, or unequal aggregates and unequal MIRVs.

President Ford: (To Secretary Kissinger) How do you recommend proceeding with one or the other option or should one option be followed by the other.

Secretary Kissinger: We should treat the options separately, or have one as a fallback. If we go with Option II we can probably get a letter from Brezhnev saying they would have no more than 450 Backfires. And they would go down by 250 systems from Vladivostok.

Or we can go with Option III. This might work but it would be better if we first went with Option II and then go to Option III if the other fails. But we could do Option III first and then Option II.

There are a lot of advantages in Option III. It is simpler. But if we go from III to II, it would be difficult. We may not be able to get II if III fails. But we might be able to get III if II fails.

President Ford: Could we give them the option of one or the other?

Secretary Kissinger: No. We did that once in the ABM negotiations; we gave them three options, but they picked the wrong one and we rejected it. (Laughter)

Secretary Rumsfeld: We could have a statement that if they go beyond certain limits they will have circumvented the treaty. They could give us a Backfire production rate, or some limit, and we could say that we would make some overt act if they exceeded these limits, such as deploying cruise missiles in Europe. However, this causes a problem because we might want to deploy missiles like that anyway and not depend upon what they do on the Backfire.

I like the deferral option. It is honest and in the interest of long-term arms limitation. I believe it is negotiable. We don’t mix the [Page 604] threat on grey area systems. However we may need to discuss this with our allies since they have an interest in the Backfire and cruise missiles.

President Ford: We don’t want to bring in problems of allies.

Secretary Rumsfeld: They will bring in the problems.

Dr. Ikle: The simplicity of Option III is a significant advantage over Option II. And it gives us time to resolve the verification problem.

President Ford: I would like to see the refined material on the assumptions of what we would do if there were a deadlock. (Note: This presumably refers to the SALT contingency plan.)

General Scowcroft: It is being reviewed now by the principals. This is still a working group paper.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Here is a later draft.7 It is going to the principals. It shows that we would need from one to twenty billion dollars over a five-year period. It uses a building block approach and has a variety of levels of activity. In the event of a Soviet breakout, it calls for another $10 billion in non-strategic forces. Therefore, the plan ranges from one to thirty billion dollars.

President Ford: My own visceral reaction is that if there is no SALT, their plans are not such that they would have to do more. For us, I will not stand still.

General Scowcroft: The air defense system is not in the earlier package.

General Brown: It is part of this package.

Secretary Kissinger: Nothing prohibits us from building an air defense. If we are so worried by Backfire, we should do this regardless. It is independent of an agreement.

General Brown: I agree.

Secretary Clements: We will take care of it.

General Brown: The air defense today would not be the same as in earlier years.

President Ford: I was going to say I want no more BOMARC.

General Brown: We would have AWACS plus interceptors currently in the program. In times of tension we would bring in the interceptors. It would be far more effective than the old system.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Before we close, Mr. President—you asked George if there are military objections to Option 2.

The real objections are not military, but objections from an arms control standpoint. We have to try to deal with the effect on SALT III, and this makes the definition of bombers important.

[Page 605]

The throw weight buffs, such as Nitze, would applaud it if we reduced their heavy missiles.

General Brown: If we get enough of their heavy missiles.

Secretary Kissinger: Option II was the DOD option.

Secretary Rumsfeld: I am not ashamed of it. We have attempted to get as many different options as we can which are realistic. But that doesn’t mean I can’t analyze them. Even if we got all 200 missiles, there would be no throw weight definition for heavy bombers. The problem gets worse downstream.

Secretary Kissinger: The dividing line would be that any upgrading of Backfire equals a heavy bomber.

I have no preference between Option II versus III.

General Scowcroft: But Option II permits us to bring the 2400 level down.

Secretary Rumsfeld: Option III does that also.

Secretary Kissinger: But you won’t get it in Option III. Deferral will keep us still at the 2400 figure.

General Brown: Some would argue that if Backfire runs free, we have broken Vladivostok.

President Ford: Thanks.

Secretary Kissinger: If we choose Option 3, we don’t want to define the systems as grey area systems, since that would then bring in FBS. We should put it as unsettled issues, for later negotiation, before we panic Europe.

President Ford: If nothing out of this NSC meeting shows up in the newspaper, it will be an all time record for my time in office. It will be of major significance if nothing is leaked out. If it does, I’ll throw up my hands and say that’s it. The first god-damned newspaper story on this, I will say it ends the prospects for a SALT agreement.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC Meetings File, Box 2. Top Secret; Sensitive. All brackets are in the original. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room.
  2. See Document 126. Another Verification Panel meeting was held on February 10 at which the restructuring of the SALT options was discussed. Handwritten draft minutes are in the Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files, Box 22, Meeting Minutes, Verification Panel (Drafts), January–February 1976. Papers and briefing memoranda prepared for the meeting are ibid., Box 6, Verification Panel Meeting, February 10, 1976.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. Not attached.
  5. Not further identified.
  6. See footnote 6, Document 116.
  7. The draft of the SALT contingency plan, not attached, is in the Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files, Box 11, NSC Meeting, 2/11/76–SALT(1).