213. Memorandum From the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Warnke) to President Carter1


  • Moscow SALT Discussions

As indicated by our reporting cables,2 the Soviet response to our SALT package, while reiterating established Soviet positions, was not discouraging. Of possible significance is the fact that neither Foreign Minister Gromyko nor, in later private conversations, First Deputy Foreign Minister Korniyenko, objected to our suggested statement on lack [Page 878] of capability to deploy more than twenty long-range cruise missiles per heavy bomber for the period of the Protocol, with later decisions to be dependent upon Soviet force structure developments, including air defense.

While Gromyko stressed that we should not consider that their acceptance of our new types proposals is “in our pocket,” he also stressed that they are willing to negotiate on all of the other remaining issues and are not putting their proposals on a “take it or leave it” basis.

It is also worth noting that in neither the formal sessions nor the private talks did any of the Soviet officials refer to MAP or to our position on non-circumvention.

On Protocol duration, Gromyko perhaps was signalling that the Soviets could accept three years from date of signature, or even our June 30, 1981 date, once signature is imminent. He clearly is concerned that setting an expiration date now may let us drag our feet on completing the negotiations.

When Ambassador Toon and I met alone with Gromyko, the discussion related exclusively to the Mid-East, apart from my handing him your letter to Chairman Brezhnev.3 We were told on Wednesday evening that Brezhnev was not in Moscow, but was “a long way away” and that I should give the letter to Gromyko. We were told that he would return on Monday, September 11, but he returned on Saturday, September 9 to meet with Senator Kennedy.

Other comments of some interest came out of my private discussions with Deputy Foreign Minister Korniyenko about our SALT package. I clarified with him that our proposals on restrictions on modernization and modification of existing ICBMs would not apply to the exempted ICBMs. The only constraint we are proposing on an exempted ICBM is that it should be light and be tested and deployed with no more than ten reentry vehicles. On new submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the only constraint would be a limit of fourteen reentry vehicles. If there is no limit on the number of new types of SLBMs, then obviously any existing SLBMs could be modified in any respect and could be fitted out with fourteen reentry vehicles.

In response to Korniyenko’s questions, I explained that the freeze on fractionation of existing ICBMs would be by type and that accordingly, only SS–18s could have ten reentry vehicles, with SS–19s limited to six, and SS–17s limited to four.

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With regard to Backfire, he inquired whether my presentation represented a hardening of our position. I replied only that this was a matter of considerable personal concern to you and that you would endeavor to resolve it. He repeated Gromyko’s contention that all Soviet statements on Backfire range had been consistent and asked where we saw any inconsistencies. I pointed out that the earlier Brezhnev letter,4 although it contained the same figure on range as presented to you by Gromyko in May, did so in the context of a profile including some supersonic flight, whereas the profile presented by Gromyko purported to be for a completely subsonic mission. Korniyenko said he would look into this but that in any event the Backfire was not a strategic bomber.

The overall tone of the meetings and discussions was pleasant and non-polemic. Korniyenko, whom I believe to be particularly informed on, and particularly important to, SALT, was less dour and acerbic than usual. Within the limitations of his resources, he could almost have been called affable. Gromyko, although he did not read your letter to Brezhnev while Ambassador Toon and I were there, expressed his appreciation of it and extended his best regards to you and Secretary Vance.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harold Brown Papers, Box 11, Harold Brown–Private File–SALT, 1978. Top Secret; Sensitive. Copies were sent to Mondale, Vance, Brown, and Brzezinski.
  2. Warnke met with Soviet officials September 7–8. Telegram 21551 from Moscow, September 8, contains a report of Warnke’s meeting that day with Gromyko. Vance commented on Warnke’s second meeting with Gromyko in telegram Secto 11007 from USUN, September 8. Both are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 56, SALT: Chronology: 7/11/78–9/8/78.
  3. In this letter, September 2, Carter suggested renewing their direct exchange of correspondence and stated that “the proposals which Ambassador Warnke bears reflect our serious effort to work out mutually-acceptable solutions to the handful of problems that stand in the way of a final agreement.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Outside the System, Box 69, USSR: Brezhnev-Carter Correspondence, 1–12/78) The letter is scheduled to be printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, Vol. VI, Soviet Union.
  4. Document 153.