219. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron) to President Carter1


  • SALT

Cy Vance met with Gromyko today (cables at Tabs A, B, and C)2 and received the following new proposals:

—The concept of averaging for ALCMs on heavy bombers is acceptable provided: (1) the average limit is 25 ALCMs per carrier, (vice our proposal for 35); (2) multiple independently targetable warhead ALCMs are banned in the Treaty, (vice our proposed statement of intentions); (3) there is a limit of 10 RVs per ICBM for current ICBMs as well as the exempted ICBM, (vice the previously agreed freeze on fractionation for existing ICBMs).

—That we consider in SALT III the issue of limiting SLBM depressed trajectory tests on the grounds that this was just one part of the larger problem of reducing the risk of surprise attacks—which we did not have the time to deal with in SALT II.

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—That, in the context of the agreement to prenotify all multiple missile tests, a multiple missile test should be defined as any test in which two missiles are in flight at the same time, (vice their earlier proposal for a definition based on launch within 10 minutes and our position of launch within 60 minutes).

—That all heavy mobile missiles, i.e. mobile ICBMs, SLBMs, and air-to-surface ballistic missiles, be banned (as we had proposed).

The Soviets have rejected our positions on all other outstanding issues (see Tab C) and, in particular, have made no changes on the critically important cruise missile definition and telemetry encryption issues. You will also note they have rejected our proposed Backfire statement with no substantive counterproposal. Thus, the major question is whether to respond to the new Soviet proposals in the absence of movements on their part on the cruise missile definition and telemetry encryption issues.

I have discussed these issues with Harold who in turn has discussed them with Davey Jones. Our views on these issues are as follows:

Prenotification of ICBM Flight Tests: Cy should accept the Soviet proposal on the definition of a multiple ICBM test and drop our insistence on prenotification for all single test launches from operational sites.

ALCM Numbers/ICBM Fractionation: Cy should offer the agreed fallback of an average of 30 ALCMs per heavy bomber. He should strongly reject the Soviet proposal to substitute a 10 RV fractionation limit for the previously agreed fractionation freeze for current ICBMs.

Ban on Multiple Warhead ALCMs: Substantively we can accept this limit in the Treaty rather than a unilateral U.S. statement. It has no impact on planned programs. However, it does have the problem of creating a precedent for follow-on negotiations and could create more ratification difficulties. The JCS are prepared to be reasonable on this issue (probably because it would reduce their fears of an unmanned bomber program). We need your decision on whether to offer this concession and when.

Depressed Trajectories: We all believe that we can accept Cy’s recommendation to drop the depressed trajectory proposal in return for a reference to dealing with this and other such issues in the SALT III Principles. However, it is essentially the only proposal we have that we can withdraw. Thus we may not want to concede on this point until and unless the Soviets drop some of their other demands.

As noted above, we face a critical tactical question whether to be responsive on the above issues when the Soviets have not as yet been forthcoming on the cruise missile definition and telemetry encryption [Page 902] issues. Our recommendation is to indicate generally to the Soviets that we are prepared to be constructive on “MIRVed” cruise missiles and Depressed Trajectories (subject to your decision) if the Soviets are forthcoming on the cruise missile definition and telemetry encryption issues; but, until they do so, not specifically agree to the Soviet proposals.

We will need your decision on these issues this evening.

Your Decision

That Cy be authorized to take the positions outlined above on the ALCM numbers, ICBM fractionation and ICBM test prenotification issues.

Whether to agree to ban multiple warhead ALCMs through 1985 and drop our proposed ban on depressed trajectory SLBM tests and adjust the SALT III Principles but only if the Soviets meet our concerns on the cruise missile definition and telemetry encryption issues.3

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 53, SALT: 10–11/78. Top Secret.
  2. Tab A was telegram 25514 from Moscow, October 22; Tab B was telegram Secto 12109 from Moscow, October 22; and Tab C was telegram Secto 12111 from Moscow, October 22. All attached but not printed. Vance was in Moscow October 21–24 to discuss SALT with Brezhnev and Gromyko.
  3. According to a handwritten note, Carter approved both recommendations by phone on October 22. Vance was notified in telegram WH81382, October 23. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 56, SALT: Chronology: 10/23/78–1/15/79)