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


  • Letter from Fred Ikle on SALT

Fred Ikle has written you (Tab A)2 to recommend that you publicly explain your basic objectives and approach on SALT. Ikle feels that the “public is entitled to know authentically what our position is, rather than having to glean it from leaks and innuendo.” In his view, public disclosure would strengthen our position in the negotiations; forestall unfair distortions of your position; and ensure that the Soviets are blamed if the stalemate continues.

Ikle recommends that a modified “February proposal” with emphasis on early reductions be chosen as the basis for this public exposition. He feels that “all your advisors could readily agree” on this approach. (As you know, this is not the case.) Specifically, he recommends that your public explanation include the following points:

—Your position would permit a new SALT agreement to be signed quickly and resolves all issues except for Backfire and intermediate range sea-based cruise missiles which would be deferred to follow-on negotiations.

—You are proposing that the aggregate ceiling on strategic delivery vehicles be lowered to 2000 within three to four years. (At present 2150 is the lowest number under consideration in the interagency forum.)

—The U.S. is working to overcome MIRV verification problems, but no measures have yet been found to permit adequate verification of certain cruise missile limits. (This is an overstated view which would tend to undermine any cruise missile limits.)

—You are proposing follow-on negotiations in “gray-area” systems to avoid a dangerous imbalance in regional nuclear forces. (This proposal was implicit in Ikle’s recent speech in Los Angeles.)3

These are familiar Ikle views; the only new twist is his recommendation that you publicly present the details of the SALT position fa [Page 640] vored by Ikle. I can think of few things which would be more damaging to our ability to reach a SALT agreement with the Soviet Union than to go public with our negotiating position.

Fred Ikle’s memorandum requires no specific action and has been forwarded for your information only.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Subject File, Box 21, SALT (34)–(42), [Feb. 1976–Jan. 1977]. Secret. Sent for information. Ford initialed the memorandum.
  2. Iklé’s letter, dated September 1, is attached but not printed.
  3. In his speech to the Town Hall of California on August 31, Iklé contended that the Soviet deployment of a new MIRVed missile in Eastern Europe altered the strategic balance in Europe and jeopardized a future strategic arms limitation agreement. (“U.S. Aide Accuses Soviet on New Missile,” The New York Times, September 1, 1976, p. 2)