17. Memorandum From Philip Odeen and Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security (Kissinger)1


  • SALT Developments

This memo provides a wrap-up on where we stand in SALT, both in Geneva and in the Verification Panel Working Group. Briefly,

The negotiations are unfolding slowly. The Soviets are stressing FBS but have raised MIRV (on which they may be aiming for an interim deal) and are pressing for more specifics on our position on aggregate levels.

—There has been no formal mention of the SCC; the Soviets seem to be downplaying it. The VPWG has developed draft instructions for the Delegation, and we will shortly send you a memo on the decisions required on SCC issues.

—We have tasked the bureaucracy with additional work. The key papers are on alternative aggregate levels and MIRV. They will be ready for a Verification Panel meeting tentatively scheduled for April 18, but we may want to consider sending further instructions to the Delegation sooner.2

These points are elaborated below.

The Negotiations

There have been only minor changes in the Soviet positions on specific substantial issues. Both sides are pushing for further elaboration of the other side’s positions. The Delegations are at loggerheads over the FBS issue although the Soviets have shown a willingness to discuss other subjects (e.g., levels, MIRVs) while the FBS pot stews.

The Soviets have expressed concern that the U.S. position is “unchanged” from the first round, and they claim to have the instructions they need to move ahead rapidly once accord is reached on broad outlines of an agreement. The question of when a new agreement can be reached (and an implied sense of urgency) has been voiced by several members of the Soviet Delegation.

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Basically, the Soviet Delegation seems to be stuck with instructions that make it essential to include FBS in any permanent deal. This means that as a procedural matter, the talks are deadlocked on this issue. However, the Soviets have not pressed their concept of turning the Interim Agreement into a permanent one by adding on such items as FBS. Instead, Semenov has indicated that they may have in mind something of an interim nature that would be billed as contributing to a permanent agreement.

This may be the basis for Soviet Delegation’s expressions of urgency in moving forward (in which they must have the Summit in mind). The only real candidate for such an interim step is MIRV and possibly some “framework” May 20-type agreement on FBS and equal aggregates. This is, in part, speculation but it would explain why the Soviets are stressing urgency while taking a maximum position on FBS and why Semenov, without solving the deadlock over FBS and composition of equal aggregate limits, is willing to go into the question of limiting MIRV.

The highlights on specific topics are as follows.

Central Systems Aggregate: In accordance with NSDM 206,3 the U.S. Delegation has focused on equal aggregate limits on central systems, equal ICBMs and equal ICBM throw weight. The Soviets have not commented directly on the U.S. position but have taken the tactic of pressing for specifics about our proposed ceiling on central systems. They have expressed disappointment that the U.S. Delegation has stuck to general principles and “philosophy” and not put forth concrete proposals.

FBS: The Soviets have said our emphasis on central systems is one sided and imply that there was an understanding in reaching the SALT agreements of last May that FBS would be considered in SALT Two. As expected, the Soviets are pressing hard on this issue and there has been some slight modification in their position which is as follows:

—Withdraw to national territory by an agreed date nuclear armed aircraft and missiles from third countries which are capable of striking the other side and liquidation by an agreed date of corresponding bases in third countries. Shchukin claims that the Soviets are showing flexibility by calling for withdrawal by an agreed date rather than immediately.

Withdrawal of SSBNs beyond striking range of each side and liquidation of SSBN bases in third countries by an agreed date. The Soviets have linked these two proposals for the first time. Nonetheless, they argue the case for liquidation of SSBN bases on the grounds that this in effect gives us operational advantage equivalent to a numerical advantage.

—Aircraft carriers should be withdrawn to agreed lines and there should be agreed limits on the number of aircraft carriers and the number of [Page 65] nuclear capable aircraft aboard such carriers for both sides. On its face, this is toughening of their position on carrier-based aircraft but it also suggests that what the Soviets really hope to get is some limit on carrier-based aircraft in the Mediterranean.

The Soviets have made no mention of compensation for FBS. In fact, they have suggested that land-based FBS and carrier aircraft should be included in the composition of strategic aviation systems to be limited.

The U.S. Delegation has continued to insist that central systems be addressed on a priority basis. (Privately Grenevsky has been pressing to find out what has to be accomplished on central systems before the U.S. will address FBS.) However, Johnson has now proposed that he “counterattack” on FBS taking the line that the Soviets have an advantage in non-central systems. We are opposing this on the tactical grounds that it will open the door negotiating over FBS.

Reductions: The Soviets have remained vague about reductions. They formally have taken the line that we first need to set the levels of strategic systems (including FBS) and in this connection there could be reductions or minor increases, but that bilateral reductions would be considered subsequent to achieving a further SALT agreement. Informally, Shchukin has expressed doubt about any substantial reductions because military prestige would stand in the way; symbolic reductions he said are a possibility. The Delegation draws the conclusion (to which we agree) that the Soviet Delegation is setting the stage for U.S. reductions only—in all likelihood FBS—in the next stage of agreement.

Bombers: The Soviets have simplified and toughened their stand on bombers. There should be agreed limits (as opposed to a freeze) on strategic bombers and there should be a ban on equipping strategic bombers with nuclear weapons including air-to-surface missiles (ASMs). Shchukin has explained that this concept of a ban on nuclear weapons is the Soviet response to the U.S. linking limits on bomber armaments to limits on air defense.

MIRV: After prodding by the U.S. side, the Soviets (Semenov) raised MIRV privately with Ambassador Johnson. He requested that the U.S. Delegation “clarify the attitude of the U.S. in reference to limitations on the numbers of ICBMs and SLBMs which would be MIRVed.” Semenov added that the Soviet Delegation is talking about “searching” for ways of setting limits on qualitative developments; setting such limits is not in the competence of the Delegations, but rather a matter for higher authorities. Johnson ducked any direct comment on Semenov’s question but has reported that he would welcome any suggestions or instructions Washington may have.

Further Instructions for the U.S. Delegation

The key question is whether we want to give the Delegation further guidance at this time on the question of levels and MIRV. The draft NSDM we [Page 66] prepared before your vacation (attached) would provide guidance on these points.4 It instructs the Delegation to:

—Indicate that the current U.S. level would be appropriate for an aggregate limit on central systems, and if the Soviets raise the possibility of a lower level, they should be invited to make a suggestion.

—Suggest that MIRV limits be confined to ICBMs.

—Make clear that the U.S. cannot accept an outcome for SALT that permits a Soviet advantage in numbers and throw weight and equality in MIRVs.

NSDM 206 directs that the U.S. Delegation seek instructions on the MIRV issue after three to four weeks of talks. We have tentatively scheduled a Verification Panel meeting for the week of April 16 which could consider whether we want to put forward U.S. views on MIRVs and which could also discuss further the question of the level of equal aggregates. The Delegation can continue to pursue the line it is now taking pressing the concept of equivalence, equality in aggregates and ICBMs, and survivability as well as focusing on contradictions in the Soviet position.

However, if we wait another three weeks before giving the Delegation any additional guidance there is some risk that we may turn off Soviet willingness to address levels and MIRV as well as FBS.

We believe it would be useful if we could meet with you later this week to review both substantive and tactical issues in the negotiations prior to your departure for California. We will provide a background memo addressing the basic issues and alternative directions we could go in SALT in preparation for such a meeting and for your study while you are in California.

SALT Work Program

We have the SALT Verification Panel Working Group addressing a number of outstanding issues.

—The MIRV options paper is being revised to incorporate an ICBM MIRV freeze proposal and to resolve several detailed issues regarding collateral constraints. The objective is to have fully staffed-out proposals for the eventuality that we would wish to put forward a concrete proposal.

—A paper on alternative aggregate levels is being prepared which will relate these levels to our ongoing programs and force options over time. It will present the pros and cons of alternative levels so as to provide a vehicle for settling in our preferences.

These papers are to be completed in time for the VP meeting the week of April 16.

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In addition, we are also completing work on the following items:

—Bomber payload and throw weight

—U.S. leverage in SALT

—Soviet problems in carrying out a first strike on Minuteman

—Cost implications of land mobile ICBMs

—Soviet motivations in the strategic weapons program

FBS options

FBS political implications

We will provide you analytical summaries of these papers as appropriate.

Standing Consultative Committee

We have completed work on two papers which provide the basis for further instructions to the Delegation on the SCC—one on the substantive issues of notification, replacement and dismantling, and another on administrative planning and SCC procedures.

We will shortly provide you with a memo on the issues that need to be decided so that the SCC can begin work. In this connection, the Soviets have not raised the SCC in Geneva. The only comment, made informally by the Soviet Commissioner General Ustinov, that he did not see much work for the SCC beyond basic regulations for SCC procedures. We, of course, have a substantial interest in getting into the substantive questions of notification, replacement and dismantling particularly as it affects Soviet actions under the Interim Agreement.


That you make available some time soon to discuss SALT.

Schedule a meeting this week.

Schedule it in California.5


  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 888, SALT, SALT TWO–I–(Geneva), November 21, 1972–March 1973. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. The Verification Panel met on April 25; minutes are ibid., NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–108, Verification Panel Minutes, Originals, 3–15–72 to 6–4–74 [3 of 5]. Papers on alternative aggregate levels and MIRV options are ibid., Box H–015, Verification Panel Meeting, SALT, 4/25/73.
  3. Document 16.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. Kissinger initialed his approval of this option.