234. U.S. Oral Message to the Soviet Leadership1

The US side has reviewed the recent communication from the Soviet side on issues which remain to be resolved in the SALT negotiations.2 We concur in the assessment that the substantial progress made at the December meeting between the Foreign Ministers now makes it possible to proceed to complete without delay the preparation of the final agreement.

I. First, regarding the issues which were listed in the agreed category:

[Page 931]

Cruise Missile Definition

The United States has indicated that it is willing to modify its position on the cruise missile definition issue to include both conventionally-armed and nuclear-armed cruise missiles under the Treaty limitations on cruise missiles on heavy bombers and aircraft other than heavy bombers. In addition, for some time, we have agreed that the limitations on ground-launched and sea-launched cruise missiles in the Protocol would apply to all armed cruise missiles. In each case, this agreement is without prejudice with respect to the issue of whether conventionally-armed and nuclear-armed cruise missiles will be subject to the same limitations in any future agreements. We believe that the language recently proposed by the US Delegation in Geneva meets the concerns of both sides on this issue and is fully consistent with the agreement between the Foreign Ministers that there would be separate cruise missile definitions in the Treaty and the Protocol.

Backfire (TU–22M)

Our understanding on this is that the Soviet side will provide us, at the time of signature of the Treaty, a unilateral statement on the Backfire bomber. The statement would be the one you gave to us informally in Moscow in October, which reads as follows:

“The Soviet side informs the US side that the Soviet TU–22M aircraft, called Backfire in the United States, is a medium-range bomber and that the Soviet side does not intend to give this airplane the capability of operating at intercontinental distances. In this connection, the Soviet side states that it will not increase the radius of action of this aircraft in such a way as to enable it to strike targets on the territory of the United States.

“The Soviet side does not intend to give it such capability in any other manner, including by in-flight refueling.

“At the same time, the Soviet side states that it will not increase the production rate of this airplane as compared to the present rate.”

As we have informed you, the President will make a unilateral statement at that time.

In light of the importance of this issue to the United States and to the ratification of the Treaty by the US Senate, we will state that the Backfire production rate will not exceed 30 aircraft per year for the period of the Treaty. The United States welcomes the willingness of the Soviet Union to confirm at the highest level at the time of signature of the Treaty the understanding of the US side that the current Backfire production rate will not be increased, and that that production rate does not exceed 30 per year. We believe these formulations are appropriate to the commitment that the Soviet side has made with respect to this aircraft, and we expect the Soviet side to make it clear that it will not contradict this figure.

Dismantling and Destruction

[Page 932]

We agree that reduction of the aggregate number of strategic delivery vehicles from 2400 to 2250 will be carried out within 12 months starting from December 30, 1980. It is understood that dismantling and destruction of these surplus systems will continue throughout the period until completion on December 31, 1981, and that Article XI, Paragraph 3 of the Treaty will be made to correspond to this understanding. The US is prepared to drop its proposals for an explicit reductions schedule and the requirement that all systems be rendered observably inoperable by June 30, 1980.

ICBM Fractionation

We agree that the number of warheads on existing types of ICBMs should be limited to the maximum number with which each type has been tested or deployed prior to November 1, 1978; and that the maximum number of warheads on the new type permitted under the Treaty will be ten. We agree further that the maximum number of warheads on ASBMs would be ten also. In addition, with respect to SLBMs, the limit on warheads will be 14.


The US side confirms that there is mutual agreement on the language of the Common Understanding to Paragraph 3 of Article XV of the draft treaty dealing with the issue of telemetry, and that this agreement is based upon the mutual understanding that telemetric information is relevant to verification.

II. Concerning the other issues listed in your oral message:

Protocol Expiration

The US side accepts the proposal of the Soviet side with respect to the date of December 31, 1981, for expiration of the Protocol.

Unarmed Pilotless Vehicles

The US side continues to believe that the issue of unarmed pilotless vehicles and their relationship to the agreed limitation on cruise missiles is best dealt with by a type rule which requires that these two classes of vehicles will have externally observable distinguishing design features. The US side does not find justified or practical and cannot accept a limitation on the number of unarmed pilotless vehicles. However, in an effort to meet the concerns of the Soviet side on this issue, the US is prepared to accept a ban on the conversion of unarmed pilotless vehicles to cruise missiles and, conversely, a ban on the conversion of cruise missiles to unarmed pilotless vehicles.

ALCM Number Average

We agree that the number of ALCMs capable of a range over 600 kilometers on heavy bombers be limited under the Treaty to an average [Page 933] of 28. We regard your step on this matter as a positive contribution toward a final agreement. The US side suggests that the respective Delegations be instructed immediately to draft appropriate language reflecting this agreement.

ALCM Numbers on Heavy Bombers

The US side is prepared to accept the Soviet proposal that the exchange of statements on the deployment of no more than 20 cruise missiles on existing heavy bombers cover all B–52 and B–1 bombers and all Myasishchev and TU–95 heavy bombers which might be deployed during the period of the Treaty. In this context, the US cannot make a statement that it does not plan to deploy more than 20 cruise missiles on any aircraft during the period of the Treaty.

MIRVed Cruise Missiles

With respect to the testing and deployment of multiple independently targetable warhead cruise missiles, the US reaffirms its willingness to meet Soviet concerns on this issue by agreeing to: (1) a ban on the testing and deployment of all such cruise missiles with a range in excess of 600 kilometers for the period of the Protocol and (2) a ban on the deployment of such cruise missiles with a range in excess of 600 kilometers on aircraft for the period of the Treaty. The US believes that its willingness to undertake these commitments constitutes an adequate means of resolving this issue for the purpose of this agreement.

ICBM New Types Definition

The US side notes that the two sides are in agreement that only one new type of ICBM will be permitted on each side for the period of the Treaty. The US has proposed in Geneva that, in the context of modernization of existing types of ICBMs and subject to the agreed ceilings on launch weight and throw weight, some changes be permitted in those missile parameters included in the definition of new types of ICBMs. We are prepared to pursue this matter further. Specifically, the US has proposed that increases or decreases of up to 5 percent be permitted in these parameters. This is an essential ingredient in the US position for limiting new types of ICBMs.

The US side cannot accept a decrease of 20 percent as has been proposed by the Soviet side. To permit changes of this magnitude in the key parameters for existing types of ICBMs would undercut and negate the effectiveness of the agreed provisions regarding new types of ICBMs. The US reaffirms its position that permitting decreases up to 5 percent in the new types definition is fully adequate to meet the modernization needs of both sides for existing types of missiles. To emphasize this point, the US calls attention to the broad spectrum of new missile designs that would be permitted if the Soviet Union were permitted to [Page 934] test and deploy ostensibly modified versions of the SS–17, SS–18 and SS–19 missiles with decreases in the relevant parameters of up to 20 percent.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 56, SALT: Chronology: 1/16/79–2/79. Secret. Tarnoff sent a copy of the message to Brzezinski under a covering memorandum of February 2 that reads: “The attached, for your personal use, is a copy of the final version of our oral message which the Secretary passed to Dobrynin today.” The positions contained therein were incorporated from the Summary of Conclusions of a January 23 SCC meeting, which Brzezinski sent to Carter under a covering memorandum dated January 25, and on which Carter initialed his approval. The Summary of Conclusions of the January 23 SCC meeting is ibid.
  2. See Document 233 and footnote 2 thereto.