168. Memorandum From Roger Molander and Victor Utgoff of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • US Position in SALT

On the basis of the outcome of the Geneva discussions between Secretary Vance and Foreign Minister Gromyko (outlined in the table at Tab A),2 there appear to be two issues on which the sides are in serious disagreement:

ALCMs, where the Soviets are continuing to insist that ALCMs should be covered in the 1985 agreement and that heavy bombers equipped with 600–2500 km ALCMs should be counted in the MIRV total; and

MLBMs, where the Soviets have strongly rejected our “proposal” for a sublimit of 190 MIRVed MLBMs in the interim protocol.

In addition, it is also important to note that the Soviets may not be correctly interpreting our ambiguous proposal for interim testing and deployment limits on SLCMs and GLCMs; i.e., they may believe we have proposed a ban on testing and deployment of SLCMs and GLCMs with a range in excess of 600 km or that our proposal would preclude testing of the Tomahawk cruise missile (our SLCM/GLCM) from aircraft.

Beyond these issues, the remaining issues do not appear unresolvable:

Aggregate. The sides are not far apart and a compromise on this issue appears readily achievable.

MIRV Level. The Soviets are either indifferent to reductions or have a preference for 1320.

New ICBMs. The Soviet willingness to ban the testing of “new types of ICBMs” may not extend to new versions of existing ICBMs, which we would prefer. Our “thoughts” on this issue have been ambiguous but biased toward only covering new types of ICBMs, since our Moscow proposal made a distinction between “new ICBMs” and modified versions of existing ICBMs.

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Backfire. The Soviets apparently view our proposed collateral constraints (with the exception of the ban on using bases above 60° N. latitude) as less restrictive than the assurances they have offered—in which case they should be willing to include such constraints in a unilateral statement (which would appear to be an acceptable procedure for assuring such constraints). Although they will continue to resist specifying a numerical limit on Backfire, they may give us the 1985 production figure or indicate that they will not increase the current production rate (which is more constraining than a 250 limit for three years).

Possible Next Steps

Before setting forth an explicit position in the formal SALT negotiations (as opposed to our “thinking out loud” posture), we may wish to take advantage of the progress that was made in Geneva to make an effort to resolve the two remaining difficult issues (ALCMs and MLBMs) identified above. In this context, a proposal which seeks to forge a compromise between the Soviet interest in limiting ALCMs in the 1985 agreement and our interest in MLBM limits could be of interest. Specifically, we could offer to include in the 1985 agreement the following limitations:

—Heavy bombers equipped with 600–2500 km ALCMs and MIRVed MLBMs would be limited to an aggregate total not to exceed 190 (or 200).

—However, the limit on no new MLBMs would be retained so that the US would continue to forego the right to MLBMs.

If we propose these limitations, the Soviets’ current unilateral advantage in MLBMs would be reduced to simply a freedom-to-mix from MLBMs to heavy bombers with long-range ALCMs that we would not have. In fact, we might want the Soviets to have this slight advantage since trading in MIRVed MLBMs for ALCM-carrying heavy bombers would be a move toward more stabilizing systems.

Finally, while the 190 figure is less than our proposal for 250 ALCM-carrying heavy bombers, 190 such aircraft would provide a major ALCM force (nearly 4000 ALCMs at 20 per B–52) and a good compromise on the Vladivostok “air-to-surface missiles” disagreement.

In addition to considering a move such as that outlined above, it is clear that we should make our SLCM/GLCM position clear to the Soviets so that their offer to accept our “out loud thoughts” on SLCMs and GLCMs does not disappear when the sides put forth differing interpretations of these “thoughts.”

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File. Box 52, SALT: 5–6/77. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information.
  2. Not attached; not found.