140. Memorandum From the Acting Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Lehman) to President Ford1


  • SALT

Following the NSC meeting of last week,2 Dr. Iklé and I believe it useful to summarize our recommendations to you regarding SALT.

1. We believe another initiative on SALT should now be taken at your level.

2. We believe the February offer3 or its modified form are the only options of those discussed that offer a realistic chance of concluding an equitable agreement this year.

3. It is of the highest importance that the SALT II outcome be verifiable and that it be symmetrical in its treatment of gray-area systems. Negotiations to limit these gray area systems should begin as soon as a SALT II agreement is concluded, addressing squarely the issue of intermediate bombers and intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles.

We are concerned about the verification problems that would be raised by any further concessions to the Russian position on cruise missiles.

Most of those cruise missile limits are essentially unverifiable. Already we have proposed range limitations which we do not really know how to verify. But at least at medium ranges like 2500 km, the military significance of cheating is less severe, and the verification problem posed by existing Soviet cruise missiles is less acute. At the ranges proposed by the Soviets, however, cheating could offer significant military advantages.

Moreover, large numbers of the existing Soviet cruise missiles, particularly their sea-based cruise missiles, have capabilities substantially in excess of 600 kilometers if they choose to modify them through unobservable changes in the guidance or payload of currently deployed Soviet missiles. We could not—in all honesty—tell the American people that we could hold the Soviets to these cruise missile limits through national technical means.

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Our verification capabilities may in fact decline, rather than improve, in the future, because of new Soviet concealment measures. The Soviets have put us on notice in Geneva that they do not consider that the SALT agreement places any restrictions on telemetry transmission, including encryption. Telemetry is a [less than 1 line not declassified] of what information we do have about Soviet cruise missile capabilities, and the adoption of such practices for cruise missiles would make an already bad situation worse.

Our present position is a fair and defensible one, fair to the Soviets and defensible to the American people. Everything that was discussed at Vladivostok has been settled. The Soviet concerns which are to be deferred—SLCMs and land-based cruise missiles—were not mentioned in the Vladivostok aide-mémoire.4 We might make our February position more satisfactory to the Soviets by dropping any interim limits on these deferred systems, addressing them instead in immediate follow-on negotiations with a fixed deadline. But we should not make major changes or further concessions in our position.

If the Russians are serious about SALT, they have been given a proposal which is fair, which handles the major systems, and which does not prejudice the position of either side in future discussion of “gray” area systems. It is the product of repeated efforts on our part to satisfy Soviet concerns. We cannot make progress in SALT now unless the Soviets move.

John Lehman
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 21, SALT, Chronological. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. See Document 139.
  3. See Document 132.
  4. Document 91.