150. Memorandum From Senator Henry M. Jackson to President Carter1


Summary Comment

In what follows I have tried to review those SALT issues that will determine the success of your administration in realizing its goal of reducing dependence on the resort to nuclear destruction while providing for the security of our country and its allies.

A sound SALT agreement could be an important element in your efforts to achieve this goal; an unsound agreement could impair those efforts and make that goal more remote.

It is essential to remember that not all negotiable agreements are in our interest; that some agreements may be worse than none; that the failure to obtain an agreement now does not necessarily foreclose the possibility of doing so in the future; and that an unsound agreement now could make it difficult or impossible to obtain a sound one later.

The previous administration often forgot these obvious truths. Too often it persuaded itself that its choice had narrowed to a risky agreement on Soviet terms or no agreement at all. Too often it lost sight of the goals that a sound SALT agreement could promote; often agreement itself became its goal.2

The previous administration helped to create a climate of urgency that made it difficult to think carefully about these complex issues. Cliches about the spiraling “arms race” have obscured the fact that we have been spending and doing less while the Soviets were spending and doing more. Despite a general impression to the contrary, the U.S. strategic budget actually peaked in the 1950’s and declined from then [Page 656] until FY 1976.3 Indeed, from FY 1961 to FY 1976 the U.S. strategic budget declined at an average annual rate, in constant dollars, of eight percent—while the Soviet strategic budget increased rapidly after 1964.

In form the SALT negotiations have been and remain bi-lateral. In substance they have come increasingly to affect our allies, particularly NATO.4 They affect the triangular balance among the United States, the Soviet Union and China. Success at SALT now requires intense consultations with our allies; more thorough study of our common defense requirements and the ways in which those requirements are affected by SALT; and concern for its impact on our, and the Soviet, relationship with China.

Originally SALT was intended to deal with the strategic nuclear forces of the Soviet Union and the United States. Increasingly it has come to affect the potential development of conventional defense forces and theater nuclear deployments. The negotiations have now evolved in such a way as to put at risk the most promising new approaches to the conventional defense of Europe. We can and should resist the hasty conclusion of a treaty that would permit the threat to NATO to grow graver than it now is while limiting our freedom to protect against that threat.5

On an interim basis it may be possible to achieve a limited follow-on to the SALT I agreement that would neither worsen our security or that of our allies nor impede your long term efforts to achieve the goals you have set for the administration. But even this modest short-term goal will require great skill and patience and determination. I fear that you will get little help from a bureaucracy that has become increasingly committed to an improvident search for easy solutions to hard problems.

Both in this memorandum and elsewhere I have discussed the issue of serious reductions of strategic forces. I believe that carefully negotiated reductions, if they do not require the sacrifice of essential security interests, could do much to promote our goals. This is a complex subject and one that requires elaboration, perhaps in a follow-on to this memorandum.

I believe that the Congress will support you in your effort to take the time that is necessary to avoid hasty decisions or truncated negotiations against deadlines that work to the advantage of the Soviet Union. I am confident that you will get our strong support for a long-term ef [Page 657] fort to design defense and negotiating policies that stand a fair chance of realizing your goals.

I believe that this memorandum approaches these issues in a deliberate and thoughtful manner. It is the product of a careful review by me and some hard work by my staff. Much of what I have had to say is in conflict with much of the advice that you will receive from executive departments which, even now, are largely following the path of the previous administration. I welcome the further opportunity to elaborate these ideas and to continue to provide an essential perspective that I am persuaded you ought to have.

[Omitted here are the memorandum on SALT and a table of contents for the four sections: “The Criteria for a Sound SALT Agreement, SALT Agreement Criteria and the Soviet Position, Near-term Follow-on to the SALT I Interim Agreement,” and “Negotiating Tactics.”]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 52, SALT, 1–2/77. No classification marking. Jackson sent the memorandum to President Carter as an enclosure to a February 15 memorandum, in which he wrote: “In accordance with our discussion at the White House breakfast on Friday, February 4, I am enclosing a memorandum to you on SALT, together with a summary comment.” Carter handwrote on the covering memorandum that copies were to be sent to Vance, Brown, and Brzezinski for their comment. On February 17, Carter sent Jackson a brief handwritten note that reads: “Your SALT memorandum is excellent, and of great help to me. I will stay in touch with you concerning future developments—Thank you!” (Ibid.) Carter and Jackson had breakfast together the morning of February 4. (Ibid., Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) No record of the discussion was found.
  2. In the margin an unknown hand (presumably Brown) wrote, “The nukes are in the Balance not agreements.”
  3. The same hand underlined “strategic budget actually peaked in the 1950’s” and wrote an illegible comment in the margin.
  4. The same hand highlighted this sentence and wrote “agree” in the margin.
  5. The same hand wrote “overstated” in the margin next to the last sentence of this paragraph.