56. Letter From President Nixon to Senator Henry Jackson1

Dear Senator Jackson:

Your letter of January 29, 1974, concerning the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks,2 was a welcome contribution to my thinking as we resumed the SALT negotiations in Geneva.

In reaching my decisions on our approach to these negotiations, I have instructed the U.S. Delegation to give particular attention to three elements: (1) numerical levels of the forces on both sides, taking account of throw weight; (2) a program of phased mutual reductions in the level of strategic armaments; and, (3) the need for qualitative as well as quantitative controls over the continued competition in strategic arms.

Like yourself, I am particularly hopeful that strategic equivalence can be achieved at reduced levels of forces on both sides. As you know, the SALT Basic Principles which I signed with General Secretary Brezhnev last June3 pledge both sides to “continue active negotiations in order to work out a permanent agreement on more complete measures on the limitation of strategic offensive arms, as well as their subsequent reduction.”

However, until clear strategic equivalence is achieved on a permanent basis, I am committed to maintaining the existing U.S. margin of qualitative superiority in strategic weaponry. Further, we cannot ignore the determined efforts of the Soviet Union to match and even surpass the U.S. in the qualitative aspects of weaponry—such as MIRV. To do so would pose a grave risk to our security and to the stability of the strategic balance.

I am, therefore, moving on two fronts. As you know, I have included additional funds in my Fiscal 1975 Budget to initiate research and development on a number of new strategic program options. If the [Page 210] momentum of Soviet qualitative developments continues unchecked, it will be essential that the United States exercise some of these options and undertake new deployments. At the same time, we shall make a determined effort—through negotiations with the Soviet Union—to forestall the need for another such round in the qualitative arms race.

I was gratified by your pledge of continued Congressional support for our defense program, particularly our strategic forces, and I hope you will urge your colleagues to support our initiatives in the new budget. As you know, only by maintaining a vigorous defense program can we provide the best environment for a successful outcome for SALT—one that insures that our security will remain undiminished.

With continued good wishes,


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 891, SALT, SALT TWO–I–Geneva, January 1974. No classification marking. In a covering March 5 memorandum recommending that the President sign the letter to Jackson, which the President saw, Kissinger summarized Jackson’s letter and made the following observations: 1) Jackson’s proposed reductions to 1,760 strategic launchers would be one-sided and unacceptable to the Soviets, requiring them to reduce more than twice as many of their existing launchers as the United States; 2) a reductions-only program “places no real restraint” on new Soviet programs, especially their MIRV capacity; 3) Jackson’s threat of a new series of U.S. strategic programs if the Soviets did not respond to his proposed reductions would probably cause SALT to collapse. (Ibid.)
  2. Document 50.
  3. See Document 30.