233. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • SALT

Set forth below is an assessment of the Soviet oral message on SALT prepared by Cy’s, Harold’s and my principal assistants on SALT (Les Gelb, Walt Slocombe and David Aaron). It does not represent our views but provides a useful basis for discussion and decision. The items below follow the order of the Soviet oral note.2

Cruise Missile Definition

Les Gelb said that Cy’s position is to agree with the Soviet proposal that there be a single definition of cruise missile covering nuclear and conventional for both the treaty and the protocol. One argument in favor of that decision is that it would make it easier to turn back the Soviet proposal to include unarmed pilotless vehicles in SALT.

On the other side, you might recall that the principal JCS objection to the “all armed” cruise missile definition for ALCMs was that it would set a precedent for how GLCMs and SLCMs will be handled following the expiration of the protocol. You stressed to them your determination not to accept the establishment of such a precedent. Going along with the Soviet position that there should be a single definition of cruise missile which includes both conventional and nuclear and covers ALCMs, SLCMs and GLCMs would create in the treaty a strong presumption that by definition conventional GLCMs and SLCMs would be limited in following negotiations. Moreover, it is not a question of closing a verification loophole—which was the principal reason you decided to close the option to have conventionally armed ALCMs on other than heavy bombers. It is perfectly feasible to have separate definitions for the protocol and the treaty without any verification risk. Such language has been tabled in Geneva by the U.S.


The staff recommends that “approximately” should be removed from the assurance we are given on the number of aircraft the Soviets [Page 928] produce annually.3 Otherwise, the number might actually prove to be 34. Also, the question was raised as to what precisely Gromyko had said to Secretary Vance, and it was suggested that we satisfy ourselves that the formula Gromyko used with Cy is fully satisfactory if Brezhnev uses it with you.

Dismantling and Destruction

So far as it goes, the Soviet proposal as contained in the oral note appears acceptable. However, it is pointed out that we have also asked that dismantling would be carried out at a “steady rate” and that all of the systems to be dismantled be functionally inoperable within six months. In this connection, we are prepared to relax our standards as to what can be considered functionally inoperable. It is not clear, therefore, whether the Soviet proposal in the oral note includes these concepts.

Ballistic Missile Fractionation

The staff recommends that the Soviet proposal on fractionation be accepted. However, an additional point needs to be added, at least in Geneva. There must be an agreed date by which new and old ICBMs are defined and tests of increased numbers of RVs on old ICBMs are no longer permitted (e.g., the date of signature, April 15, 1979, or some specific alternative).

Telemetry Encryption

Assuming that the Soviet Union does not take issue with our unilateral examples which would accompany the common understanding, the Soviet proposal coincides with our position and is acceptable. Ralph Earle should proceed to provide our unilateral examples in Geneva. We must recognize that this issue is a subject of intense interest in the Senate4 and we may well face a reservation which would significantly toughen our interpretation of this common understanding. For this reason, you may wish to dwell on this issue and its importance at some length in your conversations with Brezhnev.

[Page 929]

Protocol Expiration

The date of expiration for the protocol of December 31, 1981 is recommended as acceptable.

Pilotless Vehicles

The Soviet proposal to include unarmed pilotless vehicles as though they were armed cruise missiles is not considered acceptable. The limit of 250 would be inadequate for our purposes. We already have more than 150 such vehicles in storage (and possibly more). There are plans to develop 3300 radar harassment vehicles which might be limited by such an agreement. The subsonic cruise armed decoy (SCAD) which we put on the B–52 does not have more than 600 km range.

We have proposed to the Soviets that any such pilotless vehicles be functionally distinguishable from armed cruise missiles. We could go beyond this to pick up a portion of the Soviet proposal and prohibit the “conversion of such vehicles into weapon delivery cruise missiles.” This would be a somewhat cosmetic limitation but might help satisfy any real Soviet concerns. David points out that the Soviet proposal may belie a Soviet program to produce pilotless vehicles which are indistinguishable from cruise missiles. This is why they may prefer a limit and do not like our approach. Thus, we have a positive interest in Soviet agreement to the functionally distinguishable definition of pilotless vehicles.

ALCM Averaging

Obviously 28 is better than 27. However, the staff has some concern about the Soviet formulation: “. . . the number of long range cruise missiles on one bomber be limited under the treaty on the average . . . to 28.” (italics ours) The issue is whether the term “one bomber” might vitiate the concept of an average. Normal English would have simply used the term “bombers.” We should make clear to the Soviets (as we have in Geneva) that the average applies to all bombers armed with cruise missiles so that we can average B–52’s carrying 12 missiles against cruise missile carriers carrying 50 or more.

MIRV Cruise Missiles

We should be prepared to accept the Soviet proposal to prohibit the development, testing and deployment of MIRV cruise missiles for the duration of the treaty. However, it is suggested that we limit this prohibition to MIRV nuclear cruise missiles, thus safeguarding the possibility of developing conventional “smart” cruise missiles and establishing the useful precedent of distinguishing between conventional and nuclear cruise missile limitations.

[Page 930]

New Types of ICBMs

It is recommended that we not accept the Soviet proposal since it would permit a new ICBM to be developed. In this connection, the delegation in Geneva has been authorized to relax somewhat our definition of a new ICBM (to coincide with our verification capability). This bargaining material has not yet been used and should be employed so as to encourage the Soviets to accept our plus or minus 5 percent definition.

It is also important to note that we have not yet resolved another definitional question—when a new ICBM should be considered to be developed. The Soviets say only after it is deployed, leaving open the possibility of the development of many missiles while reserving their deployment for after the period of the treaty. We have insisted that a missile be considered developed after 20 tests. This too is an important technical loophole that needs to be closed by the agreement.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 56, SALT: Chronology: 1/16/79–2/79. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Both Carter and Brzezinski initialed the memorandum.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. The section in the Soviet oral note on Backfire reads: “In connection with the wish expressed on behalf of President Carter, the Soviet side is willing to repeat at the signature of the Treaty at the highest level what was said to the Secretary of State in Geneva regarding our attitude to the U.S. data on the present rate of production of that airplane. If the U.S. side considers it necessary to publicly state that according to its knowledge such rate is [approximately] 30 aircraft annually, no denials will be made in that case on our part.” The brackets are in the original.
  4. Carter underlined “intense.”
  5. At the end of the memorandum, Brzezinski wrote, “Subject to your guidance, we will either hold an SCC—or perhaps an NSC with you (and with the JCS & ACDA also).”