170. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Summary Report for Your Information and Reaction of the Special Coordinating Committee Meeting, June 7, 1977


  • 3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m., White House Situation Room


  • SALT


  • State
  • Secretary Cyrus Vance
  • Leslie Gelb
  • Defense
  • Secretary Harold Brown
  • General George S. Brown (JCS)
  • Lt. Gen. Edward Rowny (JCS)
  • Walter Slocombe
  • CIA
  • Admiral Stanfield Turner
  • Dr. Robert Bowie
  • Raymond McCrory
  • ACDA
  • Paul Warnke
  • Spurgeon Keeny
  • NSC
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • David Aaron
  • William G. Hyland
  • Dr. Victor Utgoff
  • Dr. Roger Molander
[Page 725]


Secretary Vance summarized the outcome of his meeting with Gromyko in Geneva and his view of where we stood on the major issues.2 He said we had achieved an adequate framework for negotiations. He highlighted the major unresolved issues as: (a) Cruise missiles; (b) Limits on Soviet heavy missiles; (c) How to handle the Backfire question; and (d) The problem of reducing both the aggregate level of 2400 and the MIRV level of 1320. On the question of whether we should maintain our current positions or introduce modifications, all of the participants agreed that we should adhere to our current substantive position, leaving it to the Soviets to make the next move. However, it was also agreed that the Working Group would need to undertake various tasks to clarify and elaborate our position.

I. The Treaty Through 1985

The SCC agreed that our position is that by October 1979 there should be a reduction in the 2400 aggregate by 10% (to 2160) and a reduction in the 1320 MIRV level down to about 1200. The Soviets might compromise on the aggregate at 2200 (from their current position of 2250) but would probably resist, at least in the immediate future, reduction in the MIRV level.

It was agreed by all participants that we should adhere to our current position, and that Secretary Vance in his discussions with Dobrynin should explore: (1) why the Soviets are resisting a reduction in the MIRV level (since it would impact on the US first); (2) the Soviet rationale for proposing a reduction to 2250; (3) the Soviet rationale for proposing “after 1980” as the effective date for reductions.

It was agreed that we should continue to reject Soviet proposals to include in the long-term treaty a limitation on heavy bomber ALCMs and to count each such bomber in the 1320 ceiling on MIRVed launchers. We will maintain our position that this was a subject for the Protocol. (As discussed below.)

II. The Three Year Protocol (US and Soviet positions are summarized in the attached table)3

Cruise Missiles:

Dr. Brzezinski raised the question of whether the Soviets fully understood the linkage between our proposed 250 limit on ALCM-carrying heavy bombers and a ceiling of 250 on Backfire. Secretary Vance and Paul Warnke both said that they believed this was under [Page 726] stood but it was agreed that the position should be specifically reconfirmed with the Russians.

On sea-launched and ground-launched cruise missiles, Dr. Brzezinski asked specifically whether the Russians understood the intricacies of our position, especially on our testing of the Tomahawk missile from aircraft up to 2500 km. Secretary Vance said that he had carefully read this position into the record in Geneva but could not be sure that the Soviets fully understood it at that time. It was agreed that the best course would be to clarify our position and that Paul Warnke would undertake to do this with Dobrynin.

Dr. Brzezinski asked to what degree the Allies understood our position and the discussion that followed suggested that they did not. It was agreed we should have another round of discussions with the Allies which Paul Warnke would take care of on his way back from the Indian Ocean discussions in Moscow in late June.

Secretary Brown noted that he will be discussing cruise missiles with the Allies at the NPG in Ottawa this week. He said we would have to follow a careful line between not encouraging the Allies on cruise missiles, and not looking like we are holding back or suggesting that the cruise missile system would not be useful to the Allies.

Soviet Heavy Missiles

Secretary Vance noted that this was an extremely important aspect of our position and that we should not recede from our proposal to limit the number of MLBMs to 190. But he added that the Soviets were very strongly resisting this limitation on grounds that the question of limitations on heavy missiles had been agreed in the Vladivostok Accords.

In light of the Soviet opposition, there was a discussion of whether the same objective of limiting the buildup of Soviet ICBM counterforce could be achieved by freezing SS–17 and SS–19 silo conversion. It was agreed that we should maintain our position on limits of SS–18 silos to 190, but that the Working Group should undertake an analysis of limits on SS–17s and SS–19s as a possible alternative position.

Ban on New ICBMs

There was a discussion of whether we understood our own position on banning the testing of new ICBMs in sufficient detail. Secretary Brown asked, for example, whether a change in only the “front end” of the missile would constitute a new ICBM. It was agreed that the Working Group should prepare a paper on the alternative definitions for new ICBMs. It was also agreed that once this paper was completed and a US position firmly established, this whole subject could be taken up by the SALT Delegation in Geneva.

[Page 727]

Ban on the Deployment of Mobile ICBMs

In order to help verify a ban on mobile ICBM deployment in light of the difficulties posed by the Soviet SS–20 IRBM, it was suggested that we should include a ban on mobile ICBM production—which the Soviets have indicated they could accept. [1½ lines not declassified] The SCC agreed to add this to a formal presentation of our position.

The participants also agreed that we should continue to press the Soviets to suggest satisfactory arrangements for verification, and that this issue should be pursued by the SALT Delegation in Geneva (even though no one knew what might be done in this regard). Paul Warnke noted that his counterpart Semenov would not enter into such a discussion unless instructed to do so by Moscow; therefore, Dobrynin should be asked that Moscow provide appropriate instructions to their Delegation in Geneva.


On the Backfire issue, Secretary Vance said that he believed the ball was definitely in the Soviet court—that Gromyko had said he understood our positions and would think about them and specifically that he understood our concern about tankers, about training activities, and about a ceiling on the total number. On the question of how the Soviets would formalize their position on the Backfire, Secretary Vance said that what the Soviets had in mind was a unilateral statement outside the SALT framework. It was agreed that we should press the Soviets for specific language so that we would obtain a better appreciation of just what they are willing to do.

III. Principles for SALT THREE

On the question of how specific we should be in stating the principles for SALT THREE, it was agreed we should propose specific numbers for the aggregate and MIRV level—i.e., reductions to a level not greater than 1800–2000 for the aggregate, and 1000–1100 for the MIRV level. It was agreed that the Working Group should now develop specific language for the proposed principles. The issue of whether the statement of principles should be only those on which both sides could agree or whether each side would put in certain unilateral statements was left for later SCC consideration.

IV. On Negotiating Strategy

There was agreement that we should, in general, sit tight for now and let the Soviets come to us. In particular we would listen to what Dobrynin might have to say on SALT in a meeting scheduled for next week. There was also an agreement that it would not be a wise tactic to press the Soviets to put their position into writing. Secretary Vance [Page 728] noted that he would meet twice with Gromyko, first between the 1st and 10th of September and then later in September in the US.

V. Other Issues

Soviet Silo Concealment

It was agreed that possible concealment practices by the Soviets at ICBM sites, if widespread, would be contrary to the spirit of the present agreement and not a precedent that we would like to see established for the next agreement.

It was agreed that this issue should be pressed with the Soviets, both as part of the SALT TWO negotiations and by the SALT Standing Consultative Commission.


It was agreed that the Working Group should analyze possible approaches and work up language to prepare for Paul Warnke’s consultation with our Allies.

MIRV Verification

The Soviets have indicated that they can accept our MIRV counting rules if the 120 SS–19 type launchers at Derazhnya and Pervomaysk (which we believe currently contain SS–11s) are made an exception to those rules. Paul Warnke proposes that we ask the Soviets to provide us with a description of any arrangements that they could undertake to satisfy us that these silos, which are also used for the MIRVed SS–19, are not in fact converted to SS–19s. He believes that we can undertake such a discussion without prejudice to our final decision on whether to grant an exception for these 120 silos. Secretary Brown and General Brown believe it would prejudice such a decision. They see an exception for these 120 silos as a significant US concession which might be made part of a package deal to limit Soviet MLBMs to 190.

In light of the disagreement at the meeting, the President’s guidance will be sought.4 In considering this issue it should be noted that, while virtually everyone is resigned to at some time making a concession on these 120 launchers, there is very little chance that the Soviets could undertake any arrangements (short of on-site inspection) [1 line not declassified]

  1. Source: Department of State, RG 59, Files of Secretary of State Vance, 1977–1980, Lot File 84D241, Box 10, Vance EXDIS Mem-cons. Top Secret; Exdis. Carter initialed the memorandum.
  2. See Document 167.
  3. Not attached.
  4. Brzezinski sent Carter an undated memorandum explaining this disagreement and asking for his decision. Carter approved an option that reads: “Do not make any overtures to the Soviet on this issue at this time pending review of this issue in the context of the overall progress of the negotiations.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 53, SALT, 5–6/77)