40. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt and David Aaron of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • SALT New Soviet Proposals

Soviets have tabled draft permanent SALT agreement at Geneva. It calls for:

—Limiting multiple reentry vehicles to “an agreed portion of the total number” of ICBMs and SLBMs permitted under the agreement;

—Limiting ICBMs and SLBMs to the numbers each side has on signing the agreement;

—Limiting strategic bombers to agreed levels and barring all nuclear air to surface missiles;

—Banning a “new generation” of SLBM submarines.

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On other issues FBS, other strategic systems, etc., the Soviet position is unchanged. (See attached summary cable.)2

New Wrinkles

The Soviet proposal closely parallels the line you have received in your discussions with Dobrynin with two exceptions.3

—First, though the language is ambiguous, the MIRV/MRV proposal appears to aim for equal percentages of MIRVed ICBMs/SLBMs—thus giving the Soviets an advantage. The proposal makes no distinction as to categories of missiles—the light or heavy—let alone among types of such missiles (e.g., SS–X–17 or SS–X–19). Nor does it include any flight test limits. As a result it is not at all verifiable. But the real significance is that they have taken the step of tabling a MIRV proposal which though highly self serving, is not completely outrageous and does improve the prospects of a constructive discussion of MIRV limits.

—Second, by stipulating a limit on the number of ICBM/SLBM, the proposal opens up the possibility that the Soviets want to be able to build new ICBM silos as replacements for other systems. This will further degrade verification of any MIRV/MRV deployment limits, as well as numerical limits on ICBMs, limits on the size of ICBM silos and sublimits on MLBMs.

Significance of Proposal

The main significance of the proposal is that we can now begin to deal concretely with specific aspects of the Soviet position without making any further commitments on FBS. Thus there has been a change in the Soviet de facto position that they could not deal with specifics of other aspects of SALT until we made some move on FBS. Their position on FBS is as hard as ever but they may have dropped FBS as a pre-condition by putting it in the context of a complete draft agreement.

Next Steps

Alex’s instructions, in the event of a Soviet proposal, have been to try and draw the Soviet delegation out as far as possible but not to comment without instructions. This position should be reaffirmed by cable and should hold the Delegation for a few weeks. (Semenov has said he will take at least two weeks to go through the Soviet proposal.)

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You may also want to consider in light of your schedule when Alex should be brought home for a review of our position. The alternatives are before you depart for China on the 26th of this month or early in November. In the meantime we will have the Verification Panel Working Group analyzing alternatives to our present position.

As soon as we have the full text of the proposal we will give you a more considered assessment of it.


That Alex Johnson be instructed to seek clarification of the ambiguities in the Soviet proposal but refrain from indicating a U.S. reaction pending further instructions.4

That Alex be told to expect to return at least briefly for a review of the negotiations.

Before your China trip5

In early November

Other, let’s discuss

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 890, SALT, SALT TWO–I–Geneva, Sept. 1973. Secret; Outside the System. Sent for urgent action. A note on the memorandum by Scowcroft indicates Kissinger saw it.
  2. A copy of telegram 5358 from USDEL SALT TWO Geneva, dated October 9, is attached but not printed.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 38.
  4. Kissinger did not indicate his approval or disapproval of this recommendation.
  5. Kissinger initialed his approval of this option.