62. Backchannel Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to the Chief of the Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (Johnson)1

WH40808. This does not answer all questions in SALT 31,2 since messages crossed. FYIHAK plans to be out of town from Saturday noon through all of next week—end FYI.

From: Secretary Kissinger

Please send following to Alex Johnson in Geneva.

[Page 239]

My discussions with Brezhnev were inconclusive. He indicated that Soviets did not envisage conclusion of a permanent agreement this year and proposed extension until 1980 of Interim Agreement. In that context, he suggested that there could be agreement of identical duration on levels of MIRVed missiles for both sides, i.e. he no longer insisted on percentage approach of last October. He was not however prepared to consider any specification of permitted categories of MIRVed missiles, nor any subceilings within the agreed levels. He was not prepared to talk about verification problems, though he indicated some readiness to consider them. By way of illustration Brezhnev talked of 1000 MIRVed missiles (both ICBMs and SLBMs) for each side. I explained at some length our problem with any arrangement that did not have a limit on ICBM MIRVs, noting their advantage in throwweight, and numbers and size of MIRV RVs. I also pointed out that simple numerical agreement is unsatisfactory since we would have to count any silo and submarine tube capable of holding MIRV-tested missile as in fact representing MIRVed missile.

Thus while Soviets have apparently dropped their percentage approach of last October, you can see we are a long way from home. It was agreed that I would have further exchanges with Dobrynin after my return from Mexico.

Please keep this message exclusively to yourself.

Warm regards. End of message to Johnson.3

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1973/74, SALT, Geneva. Secret.
  2. In backchannel message SALT 31 to Kissinger, March 28, 1039Z, Johnson requested that the U.S. delegation stay in Geneva if instructions were issued to them soon. (Ibid.)
  3. In backchannel message SALT 32 to Scowcroft, March 29, 0857Z, Johnson expressed appreciation for the summary of Kissinger’s talks with Brezhnev. Johnson stated that it was clear from Kissinger’s message that no activity would take place in Geneva for several weeks and therefore he would return to Washington. (Ibid.)