23. National Security Decision Memorandum 2131


  • The Secretary of State
  • The Acting Secretary of Defense
  • The Acting Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
  • Chairman, U.S. SALT Delegation


  • Instructions for SALT Talks

The President has approved the following instructions for the U.S. Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks beginning on May 4, 1973 in Geneva.

1. The overall U.S. objective continues to be a permanent agreement limiting strategic offensive arms which provides a high degree of equivalency in central strategic systems—ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers.

2. The U.S. Delegation should emphasize again that such a permanent agreement must incorporate equal aggregate limits on the number of ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers. The Delegation should take the position that the U.S. would be prepared to accept an equal level for both sides of 2,350. There would be appropriate provisions to permit the substitution of SLBMs and heavy bombers for ICBMs and for each other. In this context the United States would be prepared to consider:

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a. qualitative limitations on strategic offensive ballistic missile forces;

b. prohibiting the development, testing and deployment of air-to-surface missiles with a maximum range greater than 3,000 kilometers;

c. measures to assure that the agreement would not be circumvented through deployment of non-central systems;

d. the Soviet proposal to ban the development, testing and deployment of:

—cruise missiles of intercontinental range;

—strategic ballistic missiles on water-borne vehicles other than submarines;

—strategic ballistic missiles on airborne platforms;

—fixed or mobile devices for launching ballistic missiles, which could be emplaced on the seabed or ocean floor or in the subsoil thereof, including the territorial sea and internal waters;

e. a program for achieving a reduced level of strategic forces.

3. At a meeting subsequent to outlining this position on a permanent agreement, the U.S. Delegation should state that the United States is prepared to move ahead promptly to conclude a provisional agreement freezing ICBM MIRVs to accompany the Interim Agreement. This provisional agreement would prohibit the development, testing, production, and deployment of new and modified MIRV/MRV systems for ICBMs. Deployment of other ICBM MIRV/MRV systems would be limited to those operational and under conversion as of July 1, 1973, and confidence testing of such ICBM MIRV/MRV systems would be permitted.

In presenting this proposal, the U.S. Delegation should emphasize the importance of controlling MIRVs on ICBMs promptly in order to preserve the survivability of deterrent forces, enhance strategic stability and reduce the risk of nuclear war. The provisional agreement on MIRVs would remain in force until supplanted by a permanent agreement. In this connection the Delegation should make clear that the provisions of a permanent agreement regarding MIRV could be modified to reflect the degree of permanent equivalence achieved in the overall levels of strategic forces.

4. In elaborating on this proposal, the U.S. Delegation should present the following basic provisions and collateral constraints:

—The development, flight testing, production and deployment of new or modified ICBM MRV/MIRV systems (either dispensing mechanisms or RVs) is prohibited. New ICBM MRV/MIRV systems are defined as those ICBM MRV/MIRV systems which had not been flight tested as of January 1, 1973.

—The deployment of other ICBM MIRV/MRV systems is limited to numbers operational or under construction/conversion as of July 1, 1973.

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—The flight testing of ICBM MRV/MIRVs is limited to confidence testing of the MRV/MIRV systems currently deployed and only in association with missiles with which they have been flight tested previously.

—The development, flight testing, production and deployment of endoatmospheric penetration aids and new or modified dispensing mechanisms for exoatmospheric decoys is prohibited.

—The development, flight testing, production and deployment of maneuvering re-entry vehicles for ICBMs is prohibited.

5. On the question of restraint, the U.S. should put forth the view that restraints should support specific agreements limiting strategic offensive arms, and should be aimed at developments which threaten the survivability of the deterrent forces of the other side. It is not possible to deal with the restraints question in specific terms until the terms of a possible concrete agreement become clear.

6. On the question of throw weight, the Delegation should take the position that in the context of adequate controls on MIRV a ceiling on further increases in ICBM throw weight would be acceptable. (Such a proposal would be pursued in the context of paragraph 2a above).

The President has asked me to emphasize once again the importance of avoiding leaks on this subject.

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–208, National Security Decision Memoranda, NSDM 201–NSDM 250, Originals. Top Secret; Sensitive. Copies were sent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of Central Intelligence.