198. Summary of Conclusions of a National Security Council Meeting1


  • SALT


  • White House
  • The President
  • Vice President Mondale
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • David Aaron
  • NSC
  • Reginald Bartholomew
  • ACDA
  • Paul C. Warnke
  • State
  • Cyrus Vance
  • Defense
  • Harold Brown
  • Charles Duncan, Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • JCS
  • General David Jones, Acting Chairman


The NSC met to consider the SALT positions to be pursued by Secretary Vance in the April 20–22, 1978 Moscow meetings and reached the following conclusions approved by the President.

1. Backfire

We should continue firmly to convey to the Soviets our concerns about Backfire and stress that it is the most difficult and important issue from the ratification perspective. The issue cannot be settled in Moscow or Geneva, but will have to be resolved between the President and Chairman Brezhnev.

The Soviets should be informed that we are prepared to compromise on our earlier proposal for a formal exchange of statements on Backfire. We should tell the Soviets that: we can accept a Soviet statement, with an oral US statement that we are signing the SALT agreement in reliance on the assurances in the Soviet statement and that we regard these as essential to the obligations assumed under the agree [Page 823] ment; that we will transmit the Soviet statement to Congress with the SALT agreement, and with a statement repeating our oral statement; and that the Soviets should expect Congress to ratify on the same basis that we would be signing SALT.

Our need for reassurances on the following points should be made clear to the Soviets in Moscow without seeking to negotiate them: production rate, no increase in range/payload capability, no refueling operations and refueling probes, no training for intercontinental missions including deployment at Arctic bases associated with intercontinental missions, the problem of Backfire replacement of current medium bombers, and a clarification of their definition of operational range.

2. Non-Circumvention

Paul Warnke will informally broach the fallback (“. . . through any other state or states, or in any other manner.”) before the Moscow trip, indicating that we would be prepared to offer this compromise formally in Moscow only if the Soviets indicate beforehand they will officially accept it.

Any Soviet effort to establish a restrictive interpretation of this provision should be rejected.

3. Duration of Protocol/Completion of Dismantling

The following compromise should be advanced in Moscow: Extend the Protocol to December 31, 1980, maintain the January 1, 1980 date for initiation of dismantling, but allow 12 months for completion.

4. Principles for SALT Three

We can replace the numerical reduction goals in our current proposal (1800–2000 SNDV aggregate and 1000–1100 MIRV launcher aggregate) with the formula “significant reductions.”

The Soviets should be informed that the President intends to raise the question of numerical reduction goals in the SALT III Principles with Chairman Brezhnev.

5. Overall Aggregate and MIRV Launcher Aggregate

We should advance the proposal in Moscow that if the Soviets will accept a MIRV launcher aggregate of 1200, we can accept an overall aggregate of 2200.

6. Modernization of ICBMs

A definition of new types of ICBMs with the following elements should be tabled in Geneva as soon as possible and pursued in the Moscow meetings:

General characteristics: no change in number of stages, overall missile length, largest missile diameter, launch weight, throw weight.

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Propulsion stages: no change in propellant type (liquid or solid), initial stage weight, total stage impulse.

Post-boost vehicles: no change in propellant type, initial weight, capability to provide additional velocity to their reenty vehicle or vehicles and penetration aids.

Total number of RVs: no increase in the maximum number of RVs above the maximum number flight tested on that type of ICBM as of the baseline date.

Variations of up to five percent in the quantitative measures would be permitted.

During the Moscow meetings, we should initially press the Soviets to drop their position on the single RV ICBM exception in the Protocol. If the Soviets hold to this position, we should propose to the Soviets that the new types definition apply to the period of the agreement to 1985 and that each side be permitted one new ICBM (MIRVed or unMIRVed) exception for the period of the agreement to 1985.

In this connection, we should propose two alternatives in Moscow on the treatment of SLBMs: a) either there would be no limits on SLBM modernization or new types for the period of the agreement to 1985; b) or the limits on and the definition of new types of ICBMs would be extended to SLBMs with each side permitted one new SLBM—Trident II and Typhoon—for the period of the agreement to 1985 (Trident I as well as SS–NX–18 would be considered existing SLBMs).

Zbigniew Brzezinski
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Box 1 NSC Meetings. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room. The President wrote “OK, JC” on the first page. No minutes of the meeting have been found. On April 13, Brzezinski forwarded the Summary of Conclusions to the following: Mondale, Vance, Harold Brown, Warnke, George Brown, and Turner. Brzezinski’s covering memorandum reads: “This will constitute the instructions on SALT for the meetings in Moscow next week. Concerning the modernization of ICBMs: in seeking a limit on increases in the number of RVs flight tested, we should also seek to ban testing of RVs lighter than those previously flight tested on a given ICBM.” (Ibid.)