34. Minutes of a Meeting of the Verification Panel1


  • SALT


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • William Porter
  • Seymour Weiss
  • Boris Klosson
  • John Ausland
  • Defense
  • William Clements
  • Robert C. Hill
  • Archie Wood
  • Paul Nitze
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
  • Lt. Gen. Edward L. Rowny
  • CIA
  • William Colby
  • Carl Duckett
  • ACDA
  • Fred Ikle
  • Charles Zemach
  • NSC
  • Brig. Gen. Brent Scowcroft
  • Philip Odeen
  • William Hyland
  • Peter Zimmerman
  • Jeanne W. Davis

[1 paragraph (3 lines) not declassified]

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to SALT II.]

Mr. Kissinger: From my talks with Brezhnev 2 I have no idea that they will forego MIRVs. I thought there was a slight chance that they might forego them on their heavies. But if they are testing, there is no chance. Where does that leave our proposal?

Adm. Moorer: You mean the Provisional Agreement?3

Mr. Kissinger: Both.

Mr. Clements: On the Provisional, that was essentially a State Department position.

Mr. Kissinger: But we tabled it. They don’t know all the nuances. They are suffering from the illusion that that was a US Government position.

Mr. Porter: We were trying to get it forward as a matter of record. We had no illusions about it.

[Page 103]

Mr. Kissinger: Brezhnev thinks the Provisional Agreement was so disadvantageous to them that it was an insult to his intelligence. Some of our people apparently feel the same way about it so far as we are concerned. Either way, it won’t be accepted. So where are we?

Mr. Porter: With no qualitative-quantitative equation.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Nitze) What do you think?

Mr. Nitze: If the problem is a domestic one, we can demonstrate that we have made a serious effort to negotiate a MIRV ban.

Mr. Kissinger: I’m not saying we’re through with that position. I think it would be a mistake to leave a position before we get a formal answer from them.

Dr. Ikle: I’m not clear what we would gain by leaving it.

Mr. Kissinger: We have two problems. First, in the negotiation, we should proceed for a while on our present position. Two things will happen: (1) there will be so many tests that the Provisional Agreement will no longer be meaningful whether they reject it or not; and (2) they will have put something forward on the Permanent Agreement.

Adm. Moorer: So isn’t the next move up to them?

Mr. Porter: They may just leave us hanging.

Mr. Kissinger: They will make a counter-proposal. Do we agree we have no real reason to leave the present agreement we tabled in early June or late May?

Adm. Moorer: You mean equal aggregates with freedom to mix with sublimits for MLBMs?

Mr. Kissinger: Plus the provision on MIRVing.

Adm. Moorer: Even if they reject it, we should stick with it.

Mr. Kissinger: The factual basis on MIRVs has changed with the new tests. But it hasn’t changed on equal aggregates. The Provisional Agreement conceded them an advantage in throw-weight if they did not MIRV their land-based missiles. [1 line not declassified]

Dr. Ikle: Perhaps we could take an alternate verification approach. Our testing approach will be no longer valid by next fall. We may want to indicate as much.

Mr. Kissinger: Do you assume it will be invalid by next fall?

Mr. Duckett: By a year from today, if they continue their present program.

Mr. Kissinger: Suppose they came in in October and accepted the Provisional Agreement?

Mr. Duckett: We would likely still be safe in October. [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Weiss: With the one qualification that we know the least about [less than 1 line not declassified]

[Page 104]

Mr. Duckett: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Weiss: How many tests they need to satisfy themselves on [less than 1 line not declassified] depends on what they want to achieve and our ability to observe them.

Mr. Odeen: That’s a statistical rather than a doctrinal matter.

Mr. Kissinger: I just don’t want to be driven by the negotiation. Two things are certain: (1) the number of tests will outrun our proposal, and (2) the Soviets will reject the Provisional Agreement. If they accept, we will reach the point where we will have to add a deployment ban on the 17s and 18s. We couldn’t live with a Provisional Agreement which permits deployment. If they should accept by October 1 and it were signed by October 30, we might hold Tom (Moorer) down. But he’s figured out how to use SALT to increase his weapons.

Adm. Moorer: My problems now are with Symington, not SALT.

Mr. Kissinger: Unless the Soviets accept quickly, the number of tests will reach a point that requires a deployment ban on the 17s and 18s. This would be meaningful only if the 17 or 18 required silo modification before it could be installed. If no modification is required, we can’t live with the Provisional Agreement.

Mr. Clements: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Nitze: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Duckett: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Nitze: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [6 lines not declassified]

Mr. Weiss: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [4 lines not declassified]

Mr. Nitze: Do you have no worries about the 19?

Mr. Duckett: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Nitze: Then they have three missiles.

Mr. Kissinger: [3 lines not declassified]

Adm. Moorer: They have a Los Alamos-Livermore operation going.

Mr. Kissinger: You think they will pick one and not both?

Adm. Moorer: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: Assuming the Provisional Agreement won’t work, what is our SALT position going to be? What will we be trying to achieve?

[Page 105]

Mr. Nitze: Equality in reality and in appearance. Some increase in strategic stability between the two countries to diminish the chances of a first strike.

Mr. Kissinger: How does this apply to MIRVs?

Mr. Nitze: We need to make a real try to reduce throw-weight or we have to improve the survivability of our own forces.

Mr. Clements: And there have to be reductions over time.

Mr. Kissinger: In a MIRVed world, reductions make you more vulnerable.

Mr. Clements: I’m talking about staged reductions over time.

Mr. Weiss: We want equal vulnerability.

Mr. Kissinger: That puts a premium on the first strike. What is our position on MIRVs? Let’s assume they propose equal MIRV vehicles.

Mr. Nitze: That would be disadvantageous. They have more yield.

Mr. Weiss: We have to find a way to bring the numbers or the throw-weight down.

Mr. Clements: You’re saying equal aggregates.

Mr. Nitze: What if they say 1000 missiles; that’s no good.

Adm. Moorer: We could always come back to equal aggregates with freedom to mix.

Mr. Kissinger: That is our position; no one is contesting it. The question is what is our response to their proposal. In a year they can deploy MIRVs and we will have to face the question of how we handle it. We can’t abolish it unless we use deployment restrictions on the 17, 18 and 19.

Mr. Clements: We gave you a paper putting equality at [number not declassified] each in anticipation that they would do this.

Mr. Kissinger: But we will already have [number not declassified] by the end of the year. If we’re talking about equal land-based missiles at [number not declassified] we would have to tear some down and they could build up. [7 lines not declassified]

Mr. Duckett: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Adm. Moorer: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Clements: [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: Then we would have to count them. We would count all the 9 holes plus the difference in the 11 holes.

Mr. Clements: Yes. If we start with [less than 1 line not declassified] where we’d end.

[Page 106]

Mr. Kissinger: We might end with a number that’s equal. What is the implication for us? Suppose the 9 holes don’t have to be modified. [less than 1 line not declassified] would give 1800 plus 2600 warheads for them and 1500 for us. [less than 1 line not declassified] You now have equal numbers but what the hell else?

Adm. Moorer: Our current force structure was decided some time ago. [less than 1 line not declassified] The question is what we should trade off to get them down. We have our bombers and our technical superiority.

Mr. Kissinger: I keep hearing about our technical superiority. We haven’t developed a new missile for 15 years and they have three new ones. Where is our technical superiority?

Adm. Moorer: We could make a much more accurate missile to compensate for their yield.

Mr. Kissinger: How? [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Duckett: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: What is our largest?

Adm. Moorer: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Clements: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Adm. Moorer: Maybe we’d better get busy on a fast program of new MLBMs.

Mr. Kissinger: We don’t know what that implies. There’s a new air-to-surface missile, but there are too many people afraid of losing the B–1.

Mr. Clements: Let’s not get sidetracked.

Mr. Weiss: We would have to look at our situation. If we couldn’t get a satisfactory resolution of the problem, we might have to go back to that.

Mr. Kissinger: This is great stuff. But what do we do without an agreement? I have no sense that Congress is prepared to appropriate a helluva lot of money for a new program. In our last negotiation, without the ABM we would have had nothing. In the Interim Agreement we didn’t give up anything we were going to do anyhow. Now we see them MIRVing. The scientific community will say this is crap—that we can kill them five times already. Even if Minuteman is vulnerable, we can kill them four times with Poseidon and our bombers.

Mr. Weiss: We should look at the range of alternatives that are domestically feasible.

Mr. Kissinger: You mean restoring the ABM?

Mr. Weiss: Yes. This could also have an impact on the negotiation. There is the question of the national mood. We have to consider [Page 107] whether we would want an agreement that was inadequate just because without an agreement we would be worse off.

Mr. Kissinger: We need some analysis of (1) a reasonable SALT position, and (2) any pressures we could bring to bear—threats or trade-offs. We don’t have many except for the fear that we might kick off an arms race. I’ve been trying to get this problem addressed since June. If the Soviets continue their present activities, what is a realistic SALT position? Even if the Soviets should accept rapidly, we can’t go with the Provisional Agreement without silo modification. My talks with Brezhnev indicated they would never look at the Provisional Agreement. We can play it a little longer. I don’t like to presume that we know they will turn it down. What would be a reasonable position? Our suggestion for equal numbers of MIRVed missiles in March or April was based on the assumption that heavy missiles would not be MIRVed. It was not based on the assumption that they would have freedom to mix light and medium missiles. On that basis, the SS–11 follow-on might be much larger. From my judgment of the way their minds work, it would make sense that each new warhead would be as big as the SS–11.

Mr. Duckett: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: We will know about the weight in 30 days. Let’s ask the Working Group to look at the problem: (1) What is a MIRV position we can take in this world? (2) What pressures can we bring on the negotiation in terms of defense programs? (3) Assuming we can’t permit a MIRV freeze, what is there left to talk about? I can’t get excited about equal aggregates. [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Clements: DOD agrees, but we would seek agreement on some program of reductions. Our goal must be to bring about some program of reductions.

Mr. Kissinger: My goal is to understand what the hell we are talking about. Reductions may be great but if they were all in submarines, for example, you would have the damnedest most vulnerable world you’ve ever seen.

Mr. Weiss: There are two aspects to this: the strategic implications and the political implications. These could be very significant. We have already told the U.S. public and our allies that because of a qualitative asymmetry, we would be able to accept a quantitative asymmetry.

Mr. Kissinger: But we have no program to achieve it. We have nothing to modernize or to slow down as a result of the Provisional Agreement.

Mr. Weiss: We can’t expect a deep degree of sophistication from our allies. We told them we were qualitatively superior. We can’t now say that that doesn’t make any difference.

[Page 108]

Mr. Kissinger: I agree. That’s why we need to assess the new events and design a new proposal. We can have fake equality with equal numbers, but each of their vehicles carries more and has more yield than ours. If we can conclude a meaningful reduction program, fine.

Adm. Moorer: We’re dealing with two areas: our military application and our political posture. When we discussed SALT I with Congress and the public, we were attacked on the ground that the Soviets were allowed to do something that we were not allowed to do. Even though we weren’t planning to do it, they thought we should be allowed to. The purpose of our entire disarmament effort was to give the American people a feeling that some effort was being made to stop the eternal escalation. Our force structure was predestined in the 1960s. The best idea was to have a ceiling on delivery vehicles. If theirs were better than ours, we could improve ours. You can’t reduce throw-weight without reducing delivery vehicles.

Mr. Kissinger: So you would drop all MIRV restrictions, go to equal aggregates with freedom to mix, maybe reductions—never mind MIRV superiority as long as we have the right to become a mirror image of the Soviet force?

Adm. Moorer: Unless you have another answer to the problem of leverage.

Mr. Kissinger: Our leverage is zero.

Adm. Moorer: Then we had better come home.

Mr. Kissinger: What is our best position, leaving aside the question of leverage? They may want to keep going for other reasons—maybe economic reasons, maybe other aspects of détente.

Mr. Clements: But we should put some limitations on MIRVs.

Mr. Kissinger: Tom (Moorer) says we shouldn’t have qualitative restrictions. We should have equal numbers as a prelude to reductions. If we want to redesign our forces, we can. That gives up on MIRV limitations. It may create an illusory feeling that accommodation is best. It will be difficult to redesign our forces, but it may be the best we can do. Then SALT II would only be a continuation of SALT I.

Adm. Moorer: We have to get out of the idea that the Soviets have more numbers. That doesn’t count throw-weight.

Mr. Kissinger: They’ll soon have three times as many warheads.

Adm. Moorer: The warheads are about the same. The difference is in yield.

Dr. Ikle: The sea-based situation is still open. We could do something on sea-based missiles.

Mr. Clements: There is another alternative—our bomber force is better. Our cruise missile is being seriously developed. We have all kinds of things.

[Page 109]

Mr. Kissinger: But I am confident that that cruise missile won’t come into the force until the B–1 is built. Any more than I expect to see the Trident missile until the Trident submarine is built.

Mr. Clements: Let’s not get sidetracked. The technological gap is in our favor.

Mr. Kissinger: What technological gap?

Mr. Clements: We have the ability to develop a highly accurate mode.

Mr. Kissinger: Suppose we both try to meet the gap of the other. [3 lines not declassified]

Adm. Moorer: There’s been too much zeroing in on the vulnerability of Minuteman. We still have our submarines and our bombers.

Mr. Kissinger: Then why are you so worried about equal aggregates? We have it if we count our bombers.

Adm. Moorer: The right key is freedom to mix.

Mr. Clements: [2 lines not declassified]

Mr. Kissinger: [1 line not declassified] The fact that we have zero CEP is compensated for by the yield. This puts an unbelievable premium on the first strike. Both sides could wipe out the other’s land-based missiles in the first strike. There would be an enormous gap between the first and second strike. That’s equality but not stability.

Adm. Moorer: We don’t want inequality.

Mr. Nitze: That would be the result of not going forward with improving accuracy in the small missiles.

Mr. Kissinger: Who’s stopping that? When have we stopped accuracy development?

Mr. Clements: We haven’t. We are marching ahead.

Adm. Moorer: We have improved our capability [1 line not declassified] We were bleeding and dying to get ABM by a 51/50 vote. We should get the highest capability system.

Mr. Kissinger: No question. But we have a negotiation coming up. In no proposal I am aware of is there any limitation on accuracy.

Mr. Nitze: We’re all agreed that if it is within the parameters of the negotiation to achieve improvements in strategic stability, we should. But have we got the trade-offs?

Mr. Kissinger: What would we want to get strategic stability?

Mr. Nitze: We would want a provisional MIRV ban, but that’s not negotiable. I don’t see the types of measures that would be negotiable which would reduce our problem of survivability.

Mr. Weiss: There’s another possibility—land mobiles.

Mr. Nitze: But it’s the absence of limitations, not the limitations. We shouldn’t cut off the possibility of mobiles.

[Page 110]

Mr. Kissinger: We have one concrete problem. The negotiation opens in September and our negotiator needs instructions. Our proposal will either be irrelevant or rejected. We need a goddamned proposal.

Dr. Ikle: Can’t that wait until November?

Mr. Kissinger: Knowing the men at this table, we will have to start now. I agree we should stick with our present position when we reconvene; we should make no new proposal but wait for the Soviets to reject our present proposal.

Mr. Porter: But we should work on it publicly when they reject it.

Mr. Kissinger: Certainly. But some time in the fall we will have to withdraw the Provisional Agreement if the Soviets have not already rejected it because we would no longer be able to live with it.

Mr. Nitze: We could live with it. We have said that no one can deploy a system that was tested after January 1973. These were all tested after that time.

Mr. Kissinger: We could live with it only if the silos have to be modified. Sometime in the fall, if they want to make a serious effort, they will table something. At that point we need to know what we want. That’s why I want to start work now. If we go for MIRV limitations, what do we want? Could the Working Group address this rapidly? Should we give up MIRV limitations; go for equal aggregates? Also, FBS is on the agenda. I’m not in favor of including FBS beyond the noncircumvention approach we have discussed. Do we want MIRV limitations and, if so, what are they to be? If not, can we get equal aggregates without it? What about a program of reductions? We will get from Duckett as quickly as possible some judgment as to the modifications of the silos that would be required. [2 lines not declassified] The negotiation begins on September 24. Our instructions to Alex (Johnson) on September 24 will be to stick with our present position and that it is up to the Soviets to respond. That gives us four or six weeks—maybe to Christmas.

Mr. Porter: If the Soviets come back with a negative, what will we do in the meantime?

Mr. Kissinger: That’s why I want to get a position. I have no preconceived notion as to what it should be. I have more questions than answers. If we don’t want an agreement, we can talk it to death.

Mr. Hyland: Aren’t you excluding some of your options by waiting? If we want to stop the SS–X–18, you’ll be giving them an opportunity to conduct more tests.

Mr. Kissinger: We have until September. Maybe we will want to make an immediate counter-proposal. We should clarify our own thinking.

[Page 111]

Mr. Hyland: The longer you wait, the longer they can test and the fewer your options.

Mr. Kissinger: All I’m trying for is what we think a reasonable proposal might be. The tendency is to go on fighting the goddamned problem. We are in a negotiation. I do not want to be driven by the other side’s position, not to mention the Congressional pressure.

Mr. Clements: The question is what they’re doing mechanically as well as in the negotiation. They have an on-going program with no intention of changing it.

Mr. Kissinger: If our overwhelming desire is to stop it, what would we pay to stop it? If, beyond six or seven tests, our options are gone, we have to look at the deployment option if we want to restrain a MIRV buildup. If the MIRV buildup can’t be restrained, we should look at aggregates. We should also look at the alternatives of not having a MIRV agreement. We could have a world with inequality of warheads, development and aggregates. Some of our people are saying we have enough to kill the Russians so it doesn’t matter. I’m trying to get it looked at. Let’s aim for a Verification Panel meeting to look at our basic strategic choices about mid-September. [1 line not declassified]

Mr. Duckett: Yes.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–108, Verification Panel Minutes, Originals, 3/15/72–6/4/74 [3 of 5]. Top Secret; Codeword. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See Document 24.
  3. Reference is to the U.S. proposal for a provisional agreement to freeze MIRVs on ICBMs tabled at Geneva on May 11; see Document 28 and footnote 3 thereto.