231. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance to the White House1

Secto 15025. Dept pass SecDef for Secretary Brown. Subject: Dec. 23 Afternoon Session With Gromyko.

1. In sum, I believe we got our positions on the key issues: the Backfire production figure set up for final confirmation at the summit, telemetry encryption and, in effect, ICBM fractionation. In addition, it looks like the multiple warhead cruise missile and the Protocol issues will be settled satisfactorily to us. We also got our position on 10 RVs on ASBMs. In my view, it is the Soviets who will have to fall back essentially on the other questions.

2. We need to consider why the Soviets were basically responsive on the major issues and so difficult on other issues (unarmed cruise [Page 923] missiles and their notion of a de facto limit of 20 ALCMs/heavy bomber). It may be that they were seeking to delay completion in order to have their summit with us come after the China summit.2 Or, it may be they were trying to build up leverage on the ALCM issues. In either case, they did not want to appear obstructive on the major issues. Following summarizes my review of the list of outstanding issues.

3. RPVs. I said that in the time available we could not provide precise data on numbers and other details of RPVs, but it was clear the number was large on both sides, and they were used for many purposes. I added this was 12th hour issue, and we could not accept their approach, but should use a type rule. Gromyko said Soviet position remains valid, and he had nothing to add, but suggested the question be referred to the delegations.

4. ALCMs on B–52s. We added phrase “or any existing B–1 heavy bombers” to the draft letter presented earlier.

Full text, as revised, is:

Begin text. The U.S. side informs the Soviet side that during the term of the Treaty the maximum number of cruise missiles capable of a range in excess of 600 KM for which the United States of America will equip any B–52 heavy bomber or any existing B–1 heavy bomber for one operational mission is 20. End text.

Gromyko asked whether the U.S. could in addition envision making a statement at signing, similar to what he claimed to have been told earlier, to the effect that we do not plan to “develop” more than 20 ALCMs on any type of aircraft during Treaty period. When I replied that earlier statements had referred to “deployment,” he said the difference does not matter. Gromyko said Soviet side will look at new U.S. words. I said that we would consider this request for a no-plan-to-deploy statement.

5. Cruise missile definition. Kornienko agreed that there could be separate definitions, in Protocol for GL/SLCMs, in Treaty for ALCMs, but they would have to be identical in their terms. I did not think this an appropriate context in which to make the non-precedent statement.

6. Telemetry. I referred to the fact that we had discussed this issue both yesterday and this morning with Gromyko. Gromyko said that while he had no doubts about the formula, it was a technical issue and formal approval would have to come from Moscow. There was no further discussion of the July 29 example, which I had covered per instructions in my morning meeting.

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7. ALCM numbers average. We noted the Soviet position of 27, U.S. of 28. Gromyko said this difference was so slight that the public would be amused if it were published.

8. Protocol duration. We each reiterated our positions but Gromyko, in his only flexibility of the afternoon, said that if the Treaty entered into force by March 31, 1979, the Soviets would be prepared to agree that the Protocol would last for only two years and 9 months. I stressed that we could give no commitment on the date of the ratification.

9. Fractionation. Gromyko agreed that, subject of course to settlement of ALCM issues, there would be a freeze on RVs on existing ICBMs, a limit of 10 on the exempt ICBMs and maximum of 10 on ASBMs, and 14 on SLBMs.

10. MW/CM. The Soviets devoted an inordinate amount of time to this. Gromyko rejected disposing of this issue by putting the MW/CM provisions all in the Protocol. He insisted that the ban continue as to ALCMs after the Protocol expired, and that both the Protocol and Treaty provisions should include a ban on testing as well as deployment. Soviets argued that MIRV ALCM ban included a ban on multiple warhead ALCM testing repeat testing through 1985. We repudiated that statement and stood firmly on our position as expressed yesterday.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 56, SALT: Chronology: 10/23/78–1/15/79. Secret; Nodis; Cherokee. The telegram was sent to Plains as telegram WH81695, December 24, 00311Z; Carter wrote his initial on the first page. (Ibid.)
  2. On the copy sent to Plains, Carter underlined most of this sentence. (Ibid.) After U.S. recognition of the People’s Republic of China on December 15, PRC Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping visited the United States January 29–February 5, 1979, and U.S. officials anticipated an invitation to Carter to visit China.