175. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance and the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Warnke) to President Carter1


  • SALT

This memorandum (1) assesses what we can expect from the Soviets at our next meeting; (2) addresses what we believe should be our minimum goals; and (3) presents the case for going beyond the minimum to try to break the current deadlock on the major outstanding issues.


The heart of the matter for the Soviets is that the new Administration has changed the framework and terms of reference which they had been negotiating for over two years. They argue predictably that they have made important concessions since Vladivostok while we have pressed them for even more. While they overstate their case and exaggerate what had been agreed to, they have a point. Our March proposal went well beyond past negotiations in an effort to achieve a more far-reaching arms control agreement. The Soviets proved unready to match this vision.

For SALT II, we believe that we must continue to make the first moves. If we do not, we must accept the high probability that the next meeting will end in further deadlock and US-Soviet relations will deteriorate.

Minimum Goals

First, we should seek announced agreement to lower the ceiling on central strategic systems from 2400 to 2160 or 2220 (following your guidance on the bomber variants). This would cement your first goal of further reductions in nuclear arms. We should recognize that a definitive settlement which lowers the ceiling on MIRVs from 1320 to 1200 will depend on some resolution of the MIRV–ALCMed bomber issue (discussed below).

Second, we should jointly and publicly reaffirm the ABM Treaty, subject only to minor perfecting modifications. This is the centerpiece [Page 743] of strategic stability, the one real arms control agreement between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. No senior official in your Administration is proposing a major change in this Treaty at this time. Some judge that our silence on this issue will gain us leverage in SALT. We believe this judgment is without foundation. Whatever maneuvers we might adopt, the Soviets know that this Treaty is fully as important to us as to them, and instead of gaining leverage, it could provoke a hardening in the Soviet stance. Moreover, if other points cannot be agreed on, it is all the more necessary to use the opportunity to reaffirm the ABM Treaty. Such an approach would cap a successful meeting with Gromyko and cushion an unsuccessful one.

Third, all of the above but especially the reaffirmation of the ABM Treaty is essential to lay the groundwork for announcing the extension of the Interim Agreement. Your guidance on parallel, unilateral statements is workable with the Soviets. But its acceptability to Congress, in our assessment, will depend heavily on the progress made in the SALT negotiations. If we can demonstrate to Congress that progress has been made and that agreement can be expected in a reasonable period of time, the opposition to informal extension will be manageable. If we cannot, any extension of the Interim Agreement will be seriously questioned and opposed in Congress. Even achievement of the very modest minimum goals set forth here would leave Congressional support for informal extension in doubt.

Dealing with the Major Issues

Whether or not we achieve these minimum objectives, we will still face major issues that need to be resolved to move toward eventual agreement. These are how to manage Soviet insistence on counting B–52s with ALCMs in the MIRV total and achieving some constraints on Soviet MIRVed ICBMs. In our view we should try to lay the groundwork for settling these questions by fielding some alternatives in advance of our meeting with Gromyko.

In our judgment, the new analytical papers and the discussion in the SCC lead to only one conclusion: that the strategic military differences between our current position on these issues and almost all of the alternatives receiving serious deliberation are not significant. We are talking about 50 to 100 Soviet MIRVed ICBMs one way or the other, or MLBM sublimits versus MIRVed ICBM sublimits, or combined sublimits on MLBMs and ALCMs. They would have only marginal effects on our programs through 1985 and practically no effect for the three-year period of the Protocol. They vary primarily in their possible acceptability to the Soviets.

The following two packages seem to us to offer a basis for dealing with the Soviets on these issues.

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Package 1

• 2160/1200 aggregates

• 750 MIRVed ICBMs

• 250 ALCMed heavy bombers

Package 3B

• 2160/1200 aggregates

• 750 sublimit on combined total MIRVed ICBMs and ALCMed heavy bombers

We have no problem with Package 1, so long as it is presented in conjunction with Package 3B. The Soviets may well look at Package 1 as a step back from our current position. Our current position would allow them 50 more MIRVed ICBMs than would be allowed under Package 1.

Both alternatives would result in only minor differences in overall strategic capabilities and in the potential threat to our Minuteman force. Neither would significantly ease the long-term problem of ICBM survivability. Either would, however, begin to move toward reductions in MIRVed ICBMs that would lessen the threat to Minuteman. This would be a valuable precedent for SALT Three. Both would protect essential US programs and would provide a reasonable base for SALT Three. Each reflects diminished emphasis in Washington on Soviet MLBMs and increasing focus on the possible capability of the potentially much larger force of SS–17’s and 19’s and their future replacement. (A sheet explaining the net effects on the US and the Soviet Union for Package 3B is attached.)

We would propose to put the two alternatives to Dobrynin as soon as possible. We would tell him that we plan to table them with Gromyko in addition to our current proposal on the following terms:

—We have made our best effort to find alternative solutions that meet their concerns and ours and these represent the best we can do. If neither of them is acceptable to the Soviets, then it will be clearly up to them to make a similar effort to find and propose solutions.

—Both these proposals treat MIRVed ICBMs without singling out MLBMs.

—We believe that Package 3B substantially meets the principal Soviet concerns on the treatment of bombers with ALCMs and MLBMs.

—Package 3B establishes a systematic relationship between the MIRV aggregate and bombers with ALCMs by linking the latter with MIRVed ICBMs. This goes far towards satisfying the strategic relationship implied in the Soviet proposal to count bombers with ALCMs within the MIRV aggregate.

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—Package 1 sets a specific 250 ceiling on ALCMed heavy bombers while 3B does not.

—In addition, we could say that if the Soviet Union will accept this solution to the problem, including the rest of our position on cruise missiles, we would agree that the restraints would apply to all armed cruise missiles.

Our basic aim in this approach is to convince the Soviets that we mean business: that we have done our best to find reasonable and fair solutions that balance our concerns; and that we have gone as far as we can. We think there is enough prospect of a workable Soviet response to try this approach.

You should be aware, however, that Gromyko still might respond that we have not sufficiently met two key Soviet concerns: their insistence on counting ALCMed bombers in the MIRVed total and putting restrictions on ALCMed bombers in the Treaty, rather than the Protocol. We would propose to deal with this contingency in a separate memorandum to you prior to the Gromyko visit.

From our perspective, our overriding objective should be stability in US-Soviet relations. The stability represented by a SALT II agreement is as important to arms control as the content of the likely agreement itself. This done, we can move quickly to begin negotiating the deeper limitations you and we envision for SALT III.


Washington, undated.


• 2160/1200 Aggregates

• 750 Sublimit on combined total of MIRVed ICBMs and ALCMed Heavy Bombers

[Page 746]
Illustrative Force Structures (MIRVed systems only):
United States Mid-1980 Mid-1985 (a)
MM III 550 464
Poseidon C3 496 496
Trident C4 48 240
MIRV Total 1094 1200
ALCMed B–52s 0 286 (allowed)
ALCMed B–52s plus MIRVed ICBMs 550 750

(a) Assumes US retires only enough MM III to allow for 240 Trident under 1200 limit; US could retire more MM III to allow all 349 B–52s to have ALCMs.

Soviet Union (b) 1980 1985
SS–17 32 0
SS–18 308 (b) 308
SS–19 410 442
SS–NX–18 192 (b) 208 (c)
New SLBM 40 240 (c)
MIRV Total 982 1198

(b) Assumes Soviets do not deploy ALCMs on heavy bombers.

(c) Includes 54 silos on which conversion is not complete.

(d) Assumes Soviets accelerate SLBM deployment rates.

Net Effect on US

—286 ALCMed B–52s allowed with no additional cost under 750 sublimit (we would have to reduce to 464 MM III by 1985 in any case to accommodate 240 Trident SLBMs under 1200 MIRV ceiling).

—Putting ALCMs on all 349 B–52s would cost US additional 63 MM III, although overall US capabilities increase compared to case in which all MM III are retained because Trident II and ALCMed B–52s have more capability than MM III.

Net Effect on SU

—Loses 170 MIRVed ICBMs; forced to emphasize MIRVed SLBMs with their lower throw-weight.

—Deterred from deploying ALCMs on heavy bombers because would have to further reduce MIRVed SS–19s.

—Still can reach 1200 MIRV ceiling by 1985 if Delta-III SSBN program extended and/or new SSBN/SLBM deployments accelerated (e.g., if 208 [vs. 176] SS–NX–18s and 240 [vs. 220] new SLBMs deployed).2

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 52, SALT: 7–9/77. Secret.
  2. Brackets in the original.