32. Memorandum From William Hyland of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Your Meeting with Dobrynin: (1) MBFR, and (2) SALT

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT II.]


The best tactic in response to the Soviet paper of July 272 is to claim that we agree on the importance of MIRVs but it is up to the Soviets to make a specific proposal, while we present them with some of the problems—verification, light versus heavy missiles, whether to include SLBMs, and how to establish any limit on the numbers. This opens up the proposal already discussed last year and in Zavidovo of excluding heavy missiles from MIRVing.

The paper also makes the further point that if MIRVs are treated equally on both sides, other SALT aspects—numbers and throw weight—should also be treated equally. Alternatively, if MIRV arrangements can be made to offset the Soviet advantage in numbers and throw weight, we might accept some inequalities.

The paper also rebuts FBS points. While we could ignore this, it is probably a better tactic in this first post-summit communication to take a fairly rigid position.

[Page 97]

The main points for you to underscore with Dobrynin are:

—That the Soviets apparently are asking for major advantages in numbers, major advantages in throw weight, and then claiming pure symmetry in MIRV, while making MIRV limits conditional on a US concession on FBS. This is not surprising, but is scarcely consistent with early or rapid progress.

—Until we have a good idea what is achievable in MIRV limits, we cannot resolve the question of levels, or almost any other aspect of SALT. It will make a decisive difference whether we are to coexist in a world of full MIRVing or in a strategic atmosphere of limitations.

—For the first time we are both prepared to discuss MIRV/MRV; we have already made numerous suggestions, and the Soviets simply have to be more precise.

Tab B

United States Paper3

We agree with the Soviet communication of July 27 on strategic arms limitation that on the basis of the principles signed in Washington we can begin a thorough discussion of the outstanding issues that remain to be resolved in order to meet the goal of a permanent agreement in 1974. The Soviet side suggests that the main questions are the inclusion of all weapons systems capable of striking the other side’s territory, the establishment of levels for strategic offensive arms, and the question of multiple warheads.

The US believes that the problem of limiting multiple warheads will determine the answers to the main questions of a permanent agreement. There seem to be two alternatives: (1) if MIRV/MRV limits are to be completely identical for both sides, then there would also have to be full equality in the aggregate number of central strategic systems, and perhaps in the overall throw weight of ICBMs as well; (2) if a MIRV/MRV limit could be achieved that would offset the Soviet advantage in numbers and ICBM throw weight, the US could consider an agreement that permitted some inequality in numbers, along the lines discussed in Zavidovo. The Soviet approach—limiting numbers of MIRV for ICBM and SLBMs—involves the following considerations.

First, as discussed in Zavidovo between the General Secretary and Dr. Kissinger, determining the deployment of MIRV/MRV by national technical means is extremely difficult. Therefore, if there would be a [Page 98] limit on the number of MIRV/MRVs it should be established by category of weapons, i.e., light or heavy ICBMs, or a particular type of SLBM or submarine.

Second, the Soviet approach raises the question of what level to limit MIRV/MRVs. Since the US views of this question have been elaborated in Geneva it would be useful if the USSR would spell out more precisely in this channel what is meant by an obligation to equip only a certain part of ICBMs and SLBMs with multiple warheads.

Third, there is the question of adequate verification by national technical means. As applied to MIRV limitation, it has been the view of the US that reliable verification would involve a limitation on the kinds of MIRV/MRV that could be tested.

Concerning nuclear delivery systems other than ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers, the general approach of non-circumvention as proposed by the US would be equitable for both sides. To go beyond this approach would raise a number of major issues concerning regional military balances and alliance relationships. On the issue of compensation for US forward bases, the US position is that the USSR already has offsetting strategic advantages in the greater throw weight of its ICBMs, and, depending on how the MIRV/MRV issue is resolved, in the number of the warheads its MIRVs can carry as well.

In sum, progress could now be made if the Soviet side made a specific proposal concerning MIRV/MRV and the level of central systems. Such a proposal could be given, first of all, in the confidential channel, and there could be further exchanges prior to the resumption of talks in Geneva. Above all, we need to determine in this channel whether there is common ground for resolving the question of MIRV/MRV.

Tab C

Soviet Paper4

The main directions of the negotiations on limitation of strategic offensive arms were comprehensively discussed during L.I. Brezhnev’s visit this summer to the United States. As a result of these negotiations “Basic Principles of negotiations on the further limitation of strategic offensive arms” were adopted, which constitute a good basis for fruitful search of mutually acceptable decisions.

It follows from this document that the two sides have reached an understanding that the principle of equal security and inadmissibility [Page 99] of unilateral advantages is the cornerstone principle, on the basis which negotiations should be conducted. The Soviet Union proceeds just from this in its study of the questions of limitation of strategic offensive arms.

In conformity with such an objective approach, subject to limitation should be all types of strategic offensive arms capable of hitting targets on the territory of the other side, including nuclear means of forward bases, with due account of the specifics of geographic situation of the sides and of availability of nuclear weapons in third countries. Evidently with such a comprehensive approach it would be possible to set just levels of limitation of strategic offensive arms.5

As for the question of limitation of multiple warheads6 of the strategic missiles it is, naturally, one of the component parts of the problem and should also be solved on the basis of principle of equal security and inadmissibility of unilateral advantages, which should be complied with. Proposals of the US side to that effect are, of course, not in conformity with this principle.7

Within the framework of solution of the main questions of limitation of strategic offensive arms, including the means of forward bases, it would be possible to consider limitations concerning multiple warheads, for example, by taking an obligation to equip with such warheads only a certain part of ICBMs and SLBMs.8

It is considered useful in Moscow to discuss in confidential channel the present situation in the negotiations on limitation of strategic offensive arms. And concrete ways should be mapped out on which to concentrate attention in exchange of views in confidential channel and in the negotiations in Geneva with the aim of expediting the process of working out a permanent agreement on limitation of strategic offensive arms.

While setting forth some considerations we expect that the US side will inform us of its views on the above questions and will express its opinion as to directions in which the efforts of the two sides should be concentrated in the first place in order to carry into life the planned goal.9

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Geopolitical File, Box 214, Soviet Union, Dobrynin, Background Papers, September 1972–December 1973. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent for action. Tab A, a paper for Dobrynin on MBFR, is attached but not printed.
  2. Tab C, printed below.
  3. Top Secret. A handwritten note reads: “Sent to Soviet Embassy August 10, 1973.”
  4. No classification marking.
  5. Kissinger underlined most of the sentence.
  6. Kissinger underlined “multiple warheads.”
  7. Kissinger underlined and highlighted the last sentence of the paragraph.
  8. Kissinger underlined the first part of the sentence and underlined and highlighted the text beginning with “taking an obligation.”
  9. Kissinger highlighted this paragraph.