249. Memorandum From Roger Molander, James Thomson, and Fritz Ermath of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • SCC Meeting on SALT/TNF—June 6, 1980

The principal purpose of this meeting is to review current US policy on SALT II ratification and the US/Allied position regarding negotiations on Long-Range Theater Nuclear Forces (LRTNF) in the light of the current SALT II/III situation and Soviet efforts to split the NATO Alliance on the TNF issue. As we understand the outcome of the May 23 Foreign Policy breakfast, the motivation for this review is the likelihood of substantive discussions of SALT/LRTNF issues at the upcoming Venice Summit.2 This meeting will also provide an opportunity for Secretary Muskie to engage in a focused discussion with the other SCC Principals on SALT II/III/LRTNF.

If time permits, the meeting could also address the “SALT and M–X” and “SALT I/II monitoring” issues that we were directed to include on the agenda. However, at the working level, no agency sees any need for the SCC to address these issues. Background papers on all of these matters have been prepared (Tabs B–F) and are referenced in the discussion below. A rough agenda for the meeting is at Tab A. The remainder of this memo follows the agenda.

Handling SALT II/III/LRTNF Pending SALT II Ratification (Agenda Item 1)

This is the main agenda item. Since the weeks immediately following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, our position on SALT II ratification has remained essentially unchanged. It was originally articulated in the President’s letter to Senator Byrd3 as an interest in seeing SALT restored to the Senate calendar whenever the “legislative and other measures required to respond to the (Afghanistan) crisis . . . have been addressed” and later simplified to the posture that we would seek [Page 981] ratification as soon as it is politically feasible. In light of current political realities, this position in effect says that any push for SALT II ratification could not occur prior to the November elections. SALT’s linkage to Afghanistan (and that of other arms control negotiations) has always been stated as an indirect matter of inability to obtain domestic political support for ratification rather than as an Administration response to Soviet behavior directly. The Administration has consistently stated that arms control should go forward on its own merits and not be linked to Soviet behavior. It is a fair question to ask—as Secretary Muskie has—whether this remains our policy. This situation also raises a number of issues involving SALT II, SALT III, and LRTNF arms control which are summarized in the interagency paper at Tab B. We strongly recommend that you take the time to read that paper, the highlights of which are summarized below.

A major question with respect to the decision on pushing for SALT II ratification is whether the domestic political support necessary to effect ratification can be established if the Soviets remain in Afghanistan. While the Administration has not linked its continued support for SALT ratification to Soviet actions in Afghanistan, practical political realities have led to the current delay and would continue to play in post-November 4 decision-making on the ratification issue. Assuming no significant change in the Soviet posture in Afghanistan, the critical question is whether the Western response to the Afghanistan crisis is seen as effective in safeguarding Western security interests—thus, permitting us to go ahead on another matter which is clearly in our national security interest on its own merits. As you know, Secretary Muskie and others are skeptical at this point as to whether we will be able to garner the necessary political support. At the same time, we must keep in mind that we will undoubtedly face a changed political situation after November 4 (in what direction remains to be seen), in particular, after the strong focus on national security issues which will clearly be a seminal part of the 1980 Presidential campaign. In any case, renewed efforts to achieve ratification will generate increased political pressures to show what US policies since Afghanistan have achieved, to chart our future policies in the US-Soviet competition, and to commit the Administration to new defense spending.

In anticipation that we are likely to want to go ahead with “SALT” as soon as possible after the November 4 elections, the paper at Tab B outlines three possible scenarios. These are:

Scenario 1: Crash Effort. Immediate post-election consultations with the Senate leadership and the Soviets with the objective of ratifying the SALT II Treaty in the spring of 1981 with no changes (except probably for an adjustment in the dismantling schedule).

Scenario 2: Crash Effort Delayed by Protocol Problem. Basically the same as the first scenario except that new negotiations with the Soviets [Page 982] would be required based on the presumption that the Soviets would insist on reopening the Protocol expiration date issue.

Scenario 3: Major Delay, Possibly Including New Negotiations. One side or both sides insist on reopening negotiations on a number of SALT II issues—which the two sides undertake in the context of a more formal SALT II standstill (in anticipation of lengthy negotiations).

As discussed in the paper at Tab B, the first of these scenarios is substantively the most attractive since it would capture the accomplishments of SALT II and permit early negotiations on SALT III/TNFif the necessary political support can be fostered. So that we can continue to sustain Allied support for TNF negotiations in SALT III and, therefore, for TNF modernization, this is the scenario we should tell our Allies we are aiming for.

The second scenario, while possible in principle, opens a highly contentious issue and could easily result in protracted negotiations—and over time drift into the third scenario of a major delay.

The third scenario could result from either US or Soviet interest in “changing” the current agreement. We might take this approach if we thought that the current SALT II Treaty had too much of a political stigma associated with it to be ratified, and that a “new” SALT Treaty could garner support from Senators who had damned SALT II, as is, but were prepared to support a modified Treaty. There is, however, the very real danger (drawing on the SALT II experience) that a new Treaty could not be put together in a short period of time—mainly because the complex of TNF issues would probably have to be addressed—and the accomplishments of SALT II effectively lost, along with the President’s hope for major accomplishments in nuclear arms control during his period in office.

Perhaps the most sobering aspect of seeking a significant revised Treaty is coming to grips with the LRTNF arms control issue—where, at least to date, neither side has put forward even a framework for an agreement (i.e., systems to be covered), to say nothing of the details, that is remotely likely to be acceptable to the other side.

Turning to the specific agenda questions (Tab A), it would appear in light of the above discussion, that there is no reason to change either our current general approach to the SALT II/III/LRTNF problem or our publicly articulated policy on SALT II ratification. Turning to the last page of the paper at Tab A, we suggest that you handle Agenda Item 1 by confirming that all agree with conclusions stated there. In terms of anticipating our likely posture after the November 4 elections, the President may wish to “tilt” now toward a preference for early SALT II ratification, although any such decision would have to be restricted to his closest advisors. Clearly, the final decision on our approach could not be made until after November 4; however, an early tilt could provide rough guidance to our approach to the Allies on the TNF issue.

[Page 983]

In looking to post-November 4 decision-making, we need to keep in mind that the environment for ratification then could be no better than it is today, and possibly even worse. This argues strongly for maintaining the current posture on SALT II since it would permit the President to move comfortably after November 4 to a position in consonance with a political environment hostile to SALT.

The paper that was provided to the UK, FRG, and France as a basis for discussion at the Economic Summit is at Tab C. It provides a candid appraisal of the problems we face in SALT and LRTNF arms control, and you may wish to skim over it for the SCC meeting.

SALT and TNF: Opportunities for Soviet Wedge-Driving in NATO (Agenda Item 2)

Since we can anticipate continued Soviet effort to divide the Alliance over TNF and SALT, it is desirable to examine possible Soviet strategies and US/Allied responses (paper at Tab D). Examples of Soviet tactics cited in the paper include conditioning TNF arms control negotiations on halting the LRTNF program (the current Soviet position) or SALT II ratification (which they are beginning to play up); proposing a mutual freeze on LRTNF production/deployment; and a threat to deploy more LRTNF systems. The paper emphasizes bolstering the current Allied position through clear and unambiguous US commitment to TNF modernization as well as reinforcing our willingness to engage in preliminary discussion on TNF arms control. More detailed tactical responses to various Soviet initiatives are provided in the paper.

In terms of the specific agenda questions (Item 2), you will want to confirm that there is no reason to change our current approach. However, we may encounter some tricky problems with our Allies if the Soviets drop their preconditions for preliminary discussions on LRTNF arms control. Despite possible Senate objections about negotiations while SALT II is unratified, we would have to undertake the negotiations or face deep suspicions in Europe. The divergence of views between the sides on the systems to be included in such negotiations would become acutely apparent immediately. Early Allied pressures to abandon the NATO position, to include possibly “taking into account” British and French SLBM systems, would be likely.

You may also want to raise the question of Schmidt’s visit to Moscow; specifically: How stern should we be with him concerning his “moratorium” proposal?4 What do we want him to tell the Soviets?

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SALT and M–X (Agenda Item 3)

Everyone at the working level was surprised at the request to have “SALT and M–X” as an agenda item for this meeting. As a consequence, we have listed this subject as an optional topic on the Agenda at Tab A. While there have been some evolutionary changes in the M–X design, an ad hoc interagency monitoring group has continued to review these changes with an eye to ensuring that the number of M–X launchers would be adequately verifiable—and that we would find a Soviet mirror imaging of the M–X system acceptable. This approach and the other aspects of SALT and M–X are summarized in the paper at Tab E. We suggest that you simply refer to the paper to see if any of the SCC Principals want to discuss the matter at the meeting.

Monitoring Compliance with the SALT Treaties (Agenda Item 4)

This item also probably does not need to be discussed at the meeting. As described in the paper at Tab F, the Intelligence Community is monitoring Soviet compliance with the provisions of the SALT II Treaty as if the agreement were in effect. The only possible topic which might warrant discussion is Soviet telemetry encryption, in particular, as regards the new NE–4 SLBM. We may wish to mention to the Soviets at an opportune time in the next few months that we have taken note of the encryption on the tests of the new SLBM and reemphasize our concerns on this general issue.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Box 21, SCC Meeting: #319, held 6/6/80, 6/80. Secret. Sent for information. A stamped note on the memorandum indicates Brzezinski saw it. All Tabs are attached but not printed.
  2. Reference is to the Economic Summit of industrialized nations in Venice June 22–23.
  3. See Document 246.
  4. Schmidt had called for a 3-year moratorium on NATO deployment of new missiles.