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


  • SALT

The Special Coordination Committee (SCC) met on August 30 to discuss the current SALT negotiating situation. The discussion focused on alternative ways of repackaging our current position. At Tab A is a summary of conclusions from the meeting.2

The next SALT meeting will be an NSC meeting (set for Tuesday, September 6, 9 a.m.) at which time you will determine the position that we will take in the next round of top level meetings. We anticipate that the Soviets will agree to our proposal to cancel the Vienna meeting so that the next top level meetings will take place on September 22–23 when Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko comes to Washington. The agenda for the NSC meeting will consist of the following topics:

1. General SALT approach and alternatives to our current position;

2. The cruise missile definition;

3. Soviet heavy bomber variants;

4. Backfire; and

5. The ABM Treaty Review.

General SALT Approach and Alternatives to Our Current Position

You will recall that our current SALT position calls for: (1) an aggregate of 2160 by October 1979; (2) a MIRV level of 1200; (3) a MIRVed MLBM limit of 190 in the three-year Protocol; (4) an ALCM-carrying heavy bomber limit of 250, also in the Protocol; and (5) other Protocol testing/deployment limits on SLCMs and GLCMs, mobile ICBMs, and new types of ICBMs. This position, which we put to the Soviets in May, was a significant departure from our March proposal with its focus on constraints on ICBM modernization including a limit of 150 MLBMs and 550 MIRVed ICBMs.

The discussion at the August 30 SCC meeting focused on alternative ways of repackaging our current position with the objective of making that position more palatable to the Soviets while at the same time retaining our basic objectives (restraining the Soviet ICBM program while resisting unacceptably restrictive limits on ALCM-carrying [Page 748] heavy bombers). The two alternative packages that emerged from the meeting as being of principal interest (labeled 1 and 3B since they came from a large selection) are shown in the table on the next page.

Package 1 responds to the argument that the Soviets cannot politically accept a MIRVed MLBM sublimit and instead proposes a limit of 700 MIRVed ICBMs. This limit is well below the 800 MIRVed ICBMs the Soviets were projected to have under the current position and the 920 they would have with no MIRVed ICBM sublimits at all.

Package 3B couples MIRVed ICBMs and ALCM-carrying heavy bombers in a sublimit designed to cosmetically meet some of the Soviet concerns about unconstrained numbers of ALCM-carrying heavy bombers. A range of 750–800 is given in the table pending an analysis of the military and programmatic impact of 750 vice 800 (which should be available at the time of the NSC meeting).3

Current Position Package 1 Package 3B
MLBMs and ICBMs 190 MIRVed MLBMs 700 MIRVed ICBMs
750–800 for sum of MIRVed ICBMs and ALCM-carrying heavy bombers
Heavy Bombers and ALCMs 250 ALCM-carrying heavy bombers 250 ALCM-carrying heavy bombers
MIRVs 1200 MIRV ceiling 1200 MIRV ceiling 1200 MIRV ceiling (but ALCM’s not counted under it)

The basic issues which you will have to decide at the meeting are:

1. Acceptability of Packages 1 and 3B. Would the alternative Packages 1 and 3B safeguard basic US interests as expressed in the current US position? This raises the issue of the “precedential” character of the 3B linkage between ALCM-carrying heavy bombers and MIRVed ICBMs. Harold Brown is concerned that such an approach could inhibit future US efforts to reduce Soviet ICBMs. Others, myself included, view this as a purely cosmetic linkage that provides the Soviets with a politically palatable means of accepting the basic US approach to these issues.

2. 1985 Versus the Protocol. Should we propose that the MIRVed ICBM and ALCM limits be included in the 1985 portion of the Treaty or [Page 749] in the Protocol?4 None of these limits would have any significant impact if they were only for the period of the Protocol (for example, we will have essentially zero ALCM-carrying heavy bombers by the end of the Protocol period). We have generally been evaluating these limits in terms of their long-term impact. In addition, we would not want to see the ALCM issue reopened in the follow-on negotiations if a settlement acceptable through 1985 could be obtained. Furthermore, inclusion of ALCMs in the 1985 portion of the Treaty would also meet the Soviet position and encourage their acceptance of the MIRVed ICBM limits which we are proposing. If these issues were moved to the 1985 portion of the Treaty, the issues that would be covered in the Protocol would be SLCMs, GLCMs, limits on new types of ICBMs, and mobile ICBMs.5

3. Tactics. In the event we decide to take the initiative and “modify” our current position, how should we present this to the Soviets? The two basic alternatives are: (1) to present both Packages 1 and 3B to the Soviets and let them take their choice or (2) to present Package 1 first and reserve Package 3B as a fallback. Harold Brown is likely to favor starting with Package 1. Paul Warnke and Cy Vance see Package 3B as our best hope for an agreement but see no problems in offering both alternatives to the Soviets.6

Cruise Missile Definition

You are familiar with the cruise missile definition issue which is basically a question of whether the cruise missile limits in the agreement should apply to all “armed” cruise missiles or only to “nuclear-armed” cruise missiles.7 Cy Vance and Paul Warnke feel very strongly that the limits should apply to all armed cruise missiles and have submitted a reclama (Tab B)8 to your decision (page 2 of Tab C)9 on this issue. At the NSC meeting, you should ask Harold Brown to give the opposite case on this issue.

Bomber Variants

Your approval of the decision minutes of the August 18 SCC meeting (Tab C) endorsed a recommendation that we fall off on counting the Soviet heavy bomber variants (Bear, ASW, and reconnais [Page 750] sance aircraft and Bison tankers) if the Soviets accept our proposal for a 2160 aggregate.

The JCS may ask for reconsideration of this decision at the meeting. Although some of these variants can probably be converted to heavy bombers in a few weeks, there is virtually no possibility that the Soviets will accept reductions in the 2400 if we insist that any of these variants count. In fact, they are unlikely ever to agree to count these variants since they are clearly not heavy bombers.


We will want to reconfirm our willingness to accept appropriate Soviet assurances on the Backfire issue. The Soviets owe us a response on this issue.10

ABM Treaty Review

The ABM Treaty Review is scheduled to take place this fall after the regular session of the SALT Standing Consultative Commission. The decision memo at Tab C indicated that you would decide on the scope and content of the Review after the Vienna meetings which have now been cancelled. Cy Vance would like to see a joint US-Soviet statement reaffirming the ABM Treaty11 issued in the near future (prior to the Review). There is some question as to whether this is necessary or prudent in the light of the continued uncertainty about SALT Two.

Approved Decisions

For your information, we have compiled a list of the approved decisions on the principal SALT issues. These are shown in the tables at Tab D.12 However, one of these issues, the disposition of the 120 SS–19 type launchers at Derazhnya and Pervomaysk (p. 1, Tab D) which currently contain SS–11s, may have to be reopened if the Package 1 or Package 3B limits are included in the 1985 portion of the Treaty. For example, if the Soviets accept a 700 or 750 limit on MIRVed ICBMs through 1985, then we might exempt the 120 launchers at Derazhnya and Pervomaysk provided they are not modified in any way. However, if the only MIRV constraint through 1985 is a 1200 limit on MIRVed ICBMs and SLBMs, then there is no reason for us to offer to exempt these launchers.13

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 55, SALT: Chronology: 8/9–31/77. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Not attached; the Summary of Conclusions of the meeting, August 30, is ibid.
  3. Not found.
  4. Carter wrote “yes” in the margin next to this sentence.
  5. Carter wrote “ok” in the margin next to this sentence.
  6. Carter wrote “Simple 1200/2200 limit?” in the margin at the end of this paragraph.
  7. Carter wrote a “?” in the margin next to this sentence.
  8. Tab B is not attached, but is attached as Tab H to a memorandum from Brzezinski to Carter, undated, which was attached to a September 5 memorandum from Brzezinski to Carter. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 55, SALT: Chronology: 8/9–31/77)
  9. Tab C is printed as Document 174.
  10. Carter underlined “The Soviets owe us a response.”
  11. Carter underlined “joint US-Soviet statement reaffirming the ABM Treaty” and wrote “ok” in the margin next to it.
  12. Not attached.
  13. Carter highlighted this last sentence and wrote “better” in the margin next to it.