247. Memorandum From Roger Molander of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron)1


  • Keeping SALT Alive

Based on the President’s letter to Senator Byrd,2 we have been providing press guidance consistent with the objective of keeping the SALT process alive, i.e., maintaining the option of the Senate taking up the SALT II Treaty at a future date. In this context, two issues have been raised:

—Will we and the Soviets continue to informally adhere to the provisions of the SALT I Interim Agreement?

—If there is a prolonged delay in Senate action on the SALT II Treaty, what actions might the Soviets take with respect to strategic systems covered by the Treaty which would make the ratification issue moot?

On the first issue, the press guidance has been that we intend to continue to informally adhere to the terms of the IA (so long as the Soviets also do so) and, furthermore, that we have no reason to believe that the Soviets will not similarly comport themselves—although we have not explicitly addressed this issue with them. You may recall that the announcement of the informal extension of the IA indicated that we were taking this action “while the SALT II negotiations are being completed.” This implied that the signing of the SALT II agreement would eliminate the need for continued informal adherence to the IA. However, since the Soviets were not willing to agree to a SALT II “standstill,” we decided to take the position that we would continue to informally adhere to the IA pending information on what the Soviets’ position on this question would be. At the fall 1979 SCC session, the Soviets did provide data relating to dismantling and new deployments as required under the provisions of the IA. The next time we will get concrete information on whether this continues to be their position will be at the SCC session beginning in mid-March.

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Since informal Soviet adherence to the provisions of the IA requires dismantling of older SSBNs as new SSBNs are deployed (to meet the 950 SLBM and 62 SSBN limits), we have a military as well as diplomatic interest in their continuing to adhere to this agreement.

With respect to the Soviets’ actions which might undercut the SALT II Treaty, the following are near-term possibilities:

—Testing more than one new type of ICBM;

—Initiation of conversion of ICBM launchers to MIRVs above the 820;

—Testing or simulating more than 10 RVs on the SS–18; and

—Encryption of a nature which impedes verification.

You will note that either of the last two actions could take place tomorrow.

One would expect/hope that the Soviets would continue to adhere to the IA and not take any actions inconsistent with the SALT II Treaty. However, we should be prepared to deal with contrary actions and their implications.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Box 2, NSC Meeting: #26 Held 1/2/80, 1/80. Confidential. Sent for information. Copies were sent to Cutler and Jasper Welch of the NSC Staff.
  2. Document 246.