54. Minutes of a Meeting of the Verification Panel1


  • SALT


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • Kenneth Rush
  • U. Alexis Johnson*
  • Seymour Weiss
  • Frank Perez
  • Boris Klosson*
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • DOD
  • James Schlesinger
  • William Clements
  • Dr. Fred Wikner
  • Paul Nitze*
  • *Member, SALT Delegation
  • JCS
  • Admiral Thomas H. Moorer
  • Lt. Gen. Edward Rowny*
  • CIA
  • William Colby
  • Carl Duckett
  • ACDA
  • Dr. Fred Ikle
  • Charles Zemach
  • Ralph Earle, II*
  • NSC Staff
  • Maj. Gen. Brent Scowcroft
  • Jan Lodal
  • David Aaron
  • Peter Zimmerman
  • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

—in the initial phase of the resumed SALT talks our delegation will explore various concepts without getting into a discussion of specific numbers;

—a NSDM along these lines would be drafted and reviewed by the principals today, and Secretary Kissinger would discuss it with the President tomorrow.

[Omitted here are Duckett’s briefing and discussion of it.]

Secretary Kissinger: A lot of work has been done since the last meeting.2 The delegation leaves tomorrow. (to Amb. Johnson) After this meeting maybe you and Paul (Nitze) and Jim (Schlesinger) and I might get together. The problem now is what sort of instructions to give the delegation. In the absence of another NSC meeting and since [Page 201] the President has not had a chance to look at the options, and because we are considering some startling new stuff, our present inclination is not to table any numbers. We could begin with a general exploration of some concepts—MIRV throw-weight, essential equivalence, and the like. After we have some Soviet response we will have a better sense of what is in the ball-park.

Amb. Johnson: I have no problem with that approach in my initial presentation. But I think it is unlikely that we will get any response from them until we table some numbers.

Secretary Kissinger: I’m trying to avoid an immediate brawl on numbers without having some concepts worked out.

Amb. Johnson: I agree it will be a big job to get the concepts across.

Secretary Kissinger: We need a definition of MIRV throw-weight, and the nature of a MIRVed missile has to be explored. (to Nitze) Paul, was that a personal copy of the paper on what might be said?3

Mr. Nitze: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: (to Amb. Johnson) Do you approve of that approach?

Amb. Johnson: Yes, but it depends on what our instructions are.

Secretary Kissinger: As a way of getting into the issues I think it has possibilities. We’re not in a position without another NSC or the President’s focussing on the problem to come down hard on a set of numbers. The President hasn’t analyzed the latest OSD option.4 This will be very difficult for the Soviets to absorb. Reduced non-MIRVed missiles are a big gulp. I ran the idea of MIRV throw-weight past Gromyko and it took them three weeks to understand it. Now they understand it, but they don’t like it. They’re having a helluva time. They understand the issues less than we do. As I understand it many of the concepts we have developed can work at various numerical levels. Rather than engage in a brawl at this stage on numbers, have them raise FBS, etc., we could in the first phase explore concepts. As you know, I expect to be in Moscow in the second half of March. If SALT is on the agenda, I would expect Alex (Johnson) to come too.

Mr. Clements: I agree. Are you implying that reductions would be a part of the concept?

[Page 202]

Secretary Kissinger: I have no problem with reductions as part of the concept. We are talking about reductions over a ten-year period. We could begin implementing one part, and explore reductions later.

Sec. Schlesinger: We can develop the concept of phasing to maintain stability.

Amb. Johnson: If we can talk about the concept of achieving equal MIRV throw-weight and reductions, we can work this for a couple of weeks.

Secretary Kissinger: By that time we will have had another NSC meeting and we get some feel for the degree of urgency the Soviets feel. Then, as we did in SALT I, we might give them three variations of how it might look and tell them we are willing to talk about any of the three. That way they won’t have to come down hard on one US position. I have talked to Gromyko both in Geneva and here. They’re having trouble getting a consensus in their government. They want SALT because they see détente falling apart, with MFN and Solzhenitsyn. They’re having trouble with their military. We haven’t heard a word from our military since they figured out how SALT could get them a bigger military establishment. It’s the best legitimization of Trident they have. (Senator) Symington has told me they don’t know how many SALT agreements we can afford.

Secretary Schlesinger: I think this approach is fine. We want to explore the question of essential equivalence. (to Amb. Johnson) You may want to use that throw-weight chart.5 You can do a hard sell on the concept of stability which could lead you into the case for mutual reductions.

Amb. Johnson: Let me have the chart.

Secretary Kissinger: So we will avoid numbers in the first phase. Can you keep the delegation together on this?

Mr. Johnson: That’s no problem. But we shouldn’t raise our expectations too high that the Soviets will respond to concepts and principles.

Secretary Kissinger: But we should get some of these considerations into their decision-making.

Mr. Johnson: I agree.

Secretary Kissinger: We need to have some discussion of MIRV throw-weight and get some definition of the problem.

[Page 203]

Mr. Johnson: Very much so. I’d like to know whether we have a consensus here on definition.

Mr. Schlesinger: There are differences but the range is so small that anything the Soviets might accept would be acceptable here.

Mr. Johnson: We need to distinguish between MRVs and MIRVs.

Mr. Duckett: You’re talking about a number which is nothing more than a gross cut. Any definition is okay if you take into account the uncertainties.

Dr. Ikle: SLBM throw-weight is harder because it depends on the range.

Dr. Wikner: You can use demonstrated throw-weight—at whatever range you pick.

Secretary Kissinger: If you do it on the maximum then fire it at shorter range, won’t you get distortion?

Mr. Schlesinger: Any reasonable definition reduces the discrepancies.

Mr. Johnson: The difference is whether you talk about normalized or demonstrated throw-weight.

Mr. Schlesinger: Either one is satisfactory. We should decide on which is better for us.

Secretary Kissinger: Should we let them raise the issue?

Mr. Nitze: It would be helpful if we could present a definition. On the SLBMs we should use demonstrated throw-weight.

Secretary Kissinger: What is that?

Mr. Nitze: The maximum throw-weight demonstrated at any range.

(Secretary Kissinger left the room)

Mr. Clements: You mean at the closest range, you have the highest throw-weight.

Mr. Nitze: That’s why our throw-weight is so high. You have low throw-weight at maximum range, high at short range.

Mr. Johnson: Some people have raised a question about paragraph 4. (reading from paper)6 “Under this definition, throw-weight will be taken as the maximum that has been demonstrated on any test or training flight of the missile except that it shall not be less than the maximum capability calculated at a range of re-entry vehicles of 10,000 kilometers from launch point to a single impact point, discounting the effects of the earth’s rotation.” This will be very hard to explain. Is there any problem in taking it out?

[Page 204]

Dr. Ikle: I have no problem with it.

(Secretary Kissinger returned)

Mr. Johnson: Then let’s take it out. How much emphasis do we want to place on ICBM MIRVs? They are the most destabilizing.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. Let them raise SLBMs. No matter what approach we take, whether we wind up with a total aggregate or ICBMs, if there is a total aggregate there will have to be a side agreement on ICBMs or you have no agreement at all. If you agree on a total and they use it all in ICBMs before they have their SLBM ready . . .

Dr. Ikle: Shouldn’t the expression of principles also go into some of the verification problems?

Mr. Johnson: Yes.

Dr. Ikle: Also slowing down new generations of missiles.

Mr. Johnson: Do we want that or not?

Mr. Clements: That’s a whole new issue.

Mr. Schlesinger: (to Dr. Ikle) What do you mean by new generations?

Dr. Ikle: What can be developed in years to come.

Mr. Schlesinger: That cuts off our program.

Dr. Ikle: But they can do it faster than we can.

Secretary Kissinger: If the concept is accepted, the issue would be raised. At the present time this would complicate things beyond what the system can stand.

Mr. Schlesinger: The instability of MIRVs has to be tied to throw-weight. A heavily MIRVed –16 is better than a lightly MIRVed –18. On that non-rotating earth point, we have to hold on that. They’re firing west and we are firing east. That’s a significant penalty for us. We should check this out before we drop the point.

Mr. Johnson: Okay.

Mr. Schlesinger: We can’t drop the point until we see the concept.

Secretary Kissinger: What would they be firing west? ICBMs?

Mr. Duckett: Their test firing is west.

Secretary Kissinger: Their demonstrated throw-weight is lower because we’re firing east on tests?

Mr. Johnson: To whose advantage?

Mr. Duckett: Theirs.

Mr. Clements: The earth will continue to rotate. We have to include this point.

Dr. Ikle: What should we say about the –17 and additional collateral constraints on verification?

[Page 205]

Mr. Johnson: I wouldn’t talk to specific missiles at this stage. We can talk about the principles we might want to apply to specific missiles. On verification, we can talk about fitting missiles into existing holes.

Secretary Kissinger: You can talk about specific missiles if you don’t talk about numbers. You could say there is a gray area with the –17.

Mr. Johnson: I would welcome the ability to talk about specifics.

Secretary Kissinger: I have no problem with that but I don’t want to get locked to specific numbers. If we can get the theory accepted, I understand the community here can live with various levels.

Mr. Johnson: Very good.

Mr. Colby: Collateral constraints cause a lot of agony on their side.

Mr. Duckett: Security-wise, we can say we are aware of two medium-sized missiles flown from silos—one new and one –17.

Mr. Johnson: There are two concepts: the block approach and collateral constraints.

Secretary Kissinger: The trouble with the block approach is that they may apply it to every hole. That has some utility as long as it is tied to reductions.

Mr. Schlesinger: No, it must be tied to MIRV throw-weight.

Secretary Kissinger: With regard to the –18 and –19, if we can ban or limit deployment of the missiles we can be reasonably confident that we can get at the MIRV problem.

Mr. Nitze: As long as we take the position that any silo from which a missile has been tested in a MIRV mode would be assumed to have a MIRVed missile deployed.

Secretary Kissinger: Oh, yes. I misunderstood what you meant by the block approach. That leaves open the –16 and the –11 holes.

Dr. Wikner: The Russians don’t know the difference between Minuteman II and III in the silos.

Secretary Kissinger: I’m trying to think how to move forward. Suppose Alex Johnson, Hal Sonnenfeldt, Jan Lodal and Fred Ikle draft a NSDM this afternoon. Then Jim (Schlesinger) and Tom (Moorer) can look at it. I’ll be in Key Biscayne tonight and can talk to the President tomorrow morning. As long as it is general, I think the President will agree to whatever we agree on. If we talk about numbers, probably not.

Mr. Johnson: I can make my Tuesday speech very broad, as long as I get instructions by the Thursday meeting.7

[Page 206]

Secretary Kissinger: There are two ways to go about it. We can draft it here and send it to you for your comments, or we can draft it today and look at it. Everyone will get a look at it today and I’ll talk to the President tomorrow. Is that reasonable?

Mr. Schlesinger: Fine.

Secretary Kissinger: We’re agreed on the basic concepts. This verification work has been very useful.

Mr. Schlesinger: If we shift the emphasis from the individual components of the force to the overall stability of the force structure, this will lead in the direction of a higher proportion of the force being in SLBMs. They can have more launchers with less throw-weight or fewer launchers.

Mr. Johnson: This will be a very long process.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–108, Verification Panel Minutes, Originals, 3–15–72 to 6–4–74 [4 of 5]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Nodis; Codeword. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See Document 51.
  3. The paper has not been further identified.
  4. The OSD option was Variant B–2, which called for equal MIRV throw-weight at 4.8 million pounds and a deep reduction from 2,500 to 1,700 in central delivery systems, i.e. land-based missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and bombers. (Memorandum from Lord to Rush, February 9; National Archives, RG 59, Policy Planning Staff (S/P), Lot File 77D112, Box 345, Director’s Files (Winston Lord), Feb. 1974)
  5. The chart was not attached but was apparently the OSD Variant B–2 chart attached as tab A to the memorandum from Lord to Rush, February 9. The chart provides “illustrative MIRV forces after reductions” for the United States and Soviet Union as well as “forces following reductions.” (Ibid.)
  6. Apparent reference to the paper referred to in footnote 3 above, which has not been further identified.
  7. The session of the SALT II negotiations began in Geneva on Tuesday, February 19. Johnson’s opening statement was transmitted in telegram 1030 from USDEL SALT TWO Geneva, February 19. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number])