81. Minutes of a Meeting of the National Security Council1


  • Mid East Status, SALT


  • The President
  • Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger
  • Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger
  • Director of Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Fred Ikle
  • Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General David C. Jones
  • Director of Central Intelligence William E. Colby


  • State
  • Deputy Secretary Robert Ingersoll
  • Defense
  • Deputy Secretary William Clements
  • CIA
  • Mr. Carl Duckett
  • White House
  • Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant to the President
  • Lt Gen Brent Scowcroft
  • NSC
  • Jan M. Lodal

[Omitted here is discussion of the Middle East.]


President Ford: Perhaps we should move to SALT. Alex, could you give us a rundown on the negotiations in Geneva so far?

Ambassador Johnson: First, I would like to say the instructions I received are the best I have ever had since I have been in my job.2 They were excellent, and with them I believe I have laid a base for any direction we might go.

[Page 350]

Compared with previous sessions, the Soviets definitely tried to give the impression of more flexibility than they have shown in the past. I am not sure how much of this is atmospherics—the man with whom I deal is obviously under instructions—or how much was his personal action. I don’t believe the substance of what they said was as important as the fact that they were trying to show flexibility. Much of what they said was old wine in new bottles, but there were some changes in their position.

FBS constituted the rubric for all else they said. They made more speeches on FBS and stressed it more than anything else. In the past, they had hoped to convince us to withdraw all our FBS. They now seem to want only our agreement in principle to withdraw.

Secretary Kissinger: Alex hopes to make a deal giving them only principles

Ambassador Johnson: They are not willing to settle just for principles! They said they thought they had laid the basis for settling this issue over the time period through 1985. Their basic approach was to insist on compensation for what we don’t withdraw. If they don’t get withdrawal, they say they are entitled to more forces as compensation.

They put considerable emphasis on carrying forward the Interim Agreement numbers, first through 1977, and then on through 1985. On aggregates, my instructions were to discuss aggregates, throw weight, MIRVs, with the final aggregate level to be reached by reductions to a common lower level. The Soviets accepted the idea that there should be a limit or limits on overall aggregates—whether “limit” is singular or plural is significant—and they accepted the principle of reductions, unlike in their previous position which was that reductions should be subsequent. But, they were very hedged concerning the specifics of reductions.

On MIRVs, they proposed that an equal proportion on each side should be MIRVed. On throw weight, they demonstrated no enthusiasm as a measure of strategic capability. But, if it were considered, they insisted that we also consider bombers and our FBS, including carrier aircraft, at their maximum payload capability. Thus, their position on throw weight remained quite far out. I was not authorized, nor did I discuss, how we might take account of bombers.

Previously, they had pressed for banning the B–1 and Trident. They have now moved to a proposal to limit the deployment rates and numbers of B–1 and Trident—controlling the pace and magnitude of the program.

President Ford: They are basically talking about the scheduling of the program——

Ambassador Johnson: The scheduling and the magnitude of the deployment. They said this would apply to their systems, but never gave an answer to what systems.

[Page 351]

On aggregates and FBS, they insisted on compensation for our FBS and for third countries. They previously referred to NATO, but now referred to third countries, raising China. In the past, they referred to British and French submarines, but now they implied they included the Chinese submarines also.

President Ford: Were they referring to Chinese submarines, or their land-based missiles also?

Ambassador Johnson: They referred specifically to Chinese submarines, but seemed to include their ICBMs. They claimed they needed an allowance to deal with China.

In addition, they have stressed that account needs to be taken of “geographic” factors. This embraces the differences on their side of submarines getting out to sea—having to go through narrow channels.

In summary, they showed some flexibility and made some interesting departures. But they gave no new proposals; no breakthrough.

President Ford: They offered no counter-proposals?

Ambassador Johnson: No counter-proposals, except on B–1 and Trident, where they offered some specifics. They seemed interested in talking. They seemed interested in getting an agreement, but they maintained a forward position—a hard position.

President Ford: Do any of the rest of you have questions for Alex?

Secretary Schlesinger: Are they willing to have 50 percent of the submarines, but don’t care how the other 50 percent are divided between NATO and the U.S.?

Ambassador Johnson: No.

Secretary Schlesinger: What do they mean by compensation?

Ambassador Johnson: The same thing as they meant in their 1972 Moscow statements—greater numbers.

President Ford: Thank you, Alex.

I know the Verification Panel has been considering four options. Henry, would you like to present them to us now?

Secretary Kissinger: At the last meeting, we went through basic approaches and issues—aggregates, throw weight, MIRVs, balancing advantages, and reductions.3 In the meantime, we have put these approaches into packages to illustrate the concepts. We have come up with four major options, and have put them on some charts. (Chart shown for each option as it is discussed—see attachment.)4

[Page 352]

The first option is more or less the JCS option. It provides for equal aggregates—initially at 2500 and reduced to 2000 by 1985. My view is that we would have to reach the final level sometime before then, by 1983. We can’t wait until the agreement is about to lapse to make the final reductions. We need some time to assess where we are before the agreement lapses. I don’t know how much it should be—one year, or six months, but some time before 1985—the negotiators can work out the specific time. The final level would be at 2000. We would of course be delighted to have it at an even lower level.

There would be a sublimit on modern large missiles of 300. There would be no limits on throw weight or MIRVs. These could be added, but the basic option is intended to remain simple. It is based on the premise that equality in aggregate numbers of central systems is the most visible and easily perceived measure of essential equivalence. Equality in the number of central systems has been an essential element of the U.S. approach to SALT since mid-1970.

The option stresses conceptual simplicity by its proposal of exact symmetry across a limited number of provisions, and its lack of MIRV and throw weight constraints and their potential verification problems.

The Soviets would have to reduce about 600 from their projected force of 2600, probably eliminating about 100 MIRVed ICBMs, 400 unMIRVed ICBMs, and 100 older heavy bombers. The U.S. would have to eliminate 54 Titan ICBMs, and 250 older bombers—B–52s. I think it is fair to say that these are systems we are planning to phase out anyway. But whether or not we plan to phase them out anyway, they are probably the units we would take out.

The MIRVing would be up to each country. The Soviets could MIRV all their ICBMs, including their 300 heavy missiles, unless we put in a specific restraint against this.

The main advantage of this approach is simplicity. The disadvantage is that it gives us no handle on qualitative improvements.

We would face a difficulty in the negotiations, because the Soviets would have to conclude that we were on to something, rightly or wrongly. There would be a hiatus while they studied what was happening. Alex, don’t you believe that if we drop MIRVs it would produce a careful study on their part?

Ambassador Johnson: Yes. For two years we have argued about MIRVs.

Secretary Kissinger: For two years, and they finally agreed, and now we would be saying we were no longer interested. This is no argument against this option, however, but it would produce a hiatus.

Director Colby: You might add a ban on SS–18 MIRVs, plus a ban on SLBM MIRVs such as they have hinted at.

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Secretary Kissinger: They won’t accept a ban on SLBM MIRVs under any circumstances.

Ambassador Johnson: They won’t accept it.

Deputy Secretary Clements: It is not necessarily bad to make them question what we are doing.

Secretary Kissinger: It is not necessarily bad, but I was just pointing out that the consequence of this proposal would be to produce a long analysis on their part. We should ask ourselves the question: What if they conclude we are trying for some kind of break-out in MIRVs? What would be their response? I don’t know, but I suspect there would be some response.

Director Colby: [2 lines not declassified]

President Ford: [1 line not declassified]

Director Colby: [2½ lines not declassified]

Director Ikle: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Director Colby: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Secretary Kissinger: We have always assumed that once a missile is tested to operational status with MIRVs, we would have to presume any deployment of it was MIRVed. Any deployment of the SS–17 or the SS–19, given their present state of testing, we would have to assume was MIRVed. They would have to convert the silos to deploy them, and we would count all the converted silos as MIRVed.

Director Colby: One of the provisions in the collateral constraints would be no other changes in the silos—no hardening, for example.

Secretary Kissinger: Any silo once converted would be counted as containing a MIRVed missile.

Director Colby: They might say they were not converting them.

President Ford: You are saying that as soon as construction begins, we would have to count it as a MIRV?

Secretary Kissinger: As soon as they made the silo capable of accepting a 17 or 19, we would count it as MIRVed.

President Ford: If they allege they are not doing it for MIRVs, we could not accept that.

Director Colby: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: [2 lines not declassified]

Director Colby: [1½ lines not declassified]

Secretary Schlesinger: [2 lines not declassified]

Director Colby: [2½ lines not declassified]

Director Ikle: There would be further constraints required for SLBMs.

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Ambassador Johnson: We should remember that they also have an interest in verifying us. They have brought this up in the talks.

Director Colby: They would have to agree to this extensive list of collateral constraints.

Secretary Schlesinger: [2 lines not declassified]

Director Colby: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Secretary Kissinger: [3 lines not declassified]

Director Colby: [1½ lines not declassified]

Secretary Schlesinger: [3 lines not declassified]

Secretary Kissinger: [1½ lines not declassified]

Director Colby: [3 lines not declassified]

President Ford: [1 line not declassified]

Director Colby: [less than 1 line not declassified]

President Ford: [1½ lines not declassified]

Director Colby: [2 lines not declassified]

Secretary Schlesinger: [9½ lines not declassified]

Director Colby: [1 line not declassified]

Director Ikle: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Mr. Duckett: [3 lines not declassified]

Secretary Kissinger: [1½ lines not declassified]

Mr. Duckett: [1½ lines not declassified]

Secretary Schlesinger: [4½ lines not declassified]

Secretary Kissinger: In the past it has always been said that they have to modify the silos to deploy MIRVs.

Director Colby: With the collateral constraints.

Secretary Kissinger: These collateral constraints have not been presented to the Verification Panel. We have seen pictures which have shown that they have to change the silos. Once they have made a change, we would have to count the silo as containing a MIRV. But we have been given innumerable briefings that they have to change the silos.

President Ford: Is this something that has gotten greater emphasis from the CIA recently?

Director Colby: No, but I believe the complexity of the verification problem is a factor in choosing among the options.

Director Ikle: [1½ lines not declassified]

Secretary Kissinger: [1 line not declassified]

Ambassador Johnson: The problem is that these collateral constraints have not been scrubbed down.

Deputy Secretary Clements: Isn’t the point here that there would be risks?

[Page 355]

Director Colby: When we last made an estimate about six months ago, we said we would be able to tell the numbers to about plus or minus 100.5

President Ford: Plus or minus 100 17s and 19s in 17 and 19 holes? Or in any other holes?

Secretary Schlesinger: I must share Henry’s observation concerning the importance of this. Bill seems to be saying that unless we can negotiate very complicated collateral constraints, we can’t detect MIRVing or count the number deployed.

Director Colby: That is correct without the constraints.

President Ford: But with them you could count with a margin of 100 or so?

Director Colby: Yes. If we said they had 1000, the real number might be 1100.

Secretary Kissinger: Bill is talking negotiability here. What it comes down to is what we can let them change in the silos. We have to scrub down these constraints. We have to consider do we want exceptions for some modification, such as 45 days as Jim mentioned. We need to do some more technical work in the Verification Panel on this.

President Ford: In any event, won’t this problem be the same in any option?

Director Colby: Not in Option 1—there are no MIRV limits.

Director Ikle: You still need collaterals to count launchers.

Director Colby: Only for mobiles.

Secretary Kissinger: We would have to define what constituted impermissible digging up. For hardening, there would be a gray area. We need more technical work.

Secretary Schlesinger: Some of the difference in MIRVing permitted in Option C might be lost in the verification noise.

Ambassador Johnson: They have shown an interest in verifiability on both sides.

President Ford: They have mentioned collateral constraints?

Ambassador Johnson: They haven’t discussed that specifically, but they have seemed sufficiently interested in problems associated with verifying MIRVs. I think they would be interested in discussing them.

President Ford: We need to find out ourselves what we want first.

Secretary Kissinger: We need a list of what we would need if we wanted MIRV limits.

[Page 356]

Ambassador Johnson: My line has been that we would see what kind of an agreement that we wanted first, before we got into the details of verification.

Director Ikle: But the kind of agreement you want is affected by the verification problems, so this is something of a chicken and egg problem.

Secretary Kissinger: I am worried—we have gotten into a tremendous argument about MIRVs while discussing an option with no MIRV limits! (Laughter) Mr. President, in the NSC, the behavior follows a very high standard, compared to the Verification Panel! (Laughter)

Going on to the second option, it also provides equal aggregates at 2500 initially reduced to 2000. There would be equal missile throw weight at 8 million pounds for each side, reducing to 6 million pounds by 1985, although these figures are arbitrary, set to suit us, or they could be changed to fit the negotiating situation. The basic theory is that each side would be at an equal level, but enough lower to force the Soviets down. There would be a sublimit of 4 million pounds on MIRV throw weight.

As discussed at the last meeting, this type of agreement would have very little impact on our MIRV programs. We could deploy a fully MIRVed SLBM force of 736 missiles and 550 MIRV Minuteman for a total of nearly 1300 MIRV missiles. It would affect primarily our future MIRV force. We could not deploy additional heavy MIRVs, or go beyond what we now have programmed. In contrast, the Soviets would have to dismantle their entire MLBM force. They could deploy only about 400 MIRVed SS–17s and 19s. They could add an additional 500 light ICBMs or SLBMs, but could not get above about 900 MIRV launchers. We would have a better than two to one advantage in RVs under this option. We would also have a substantial advantage in bomber payload.

The basic issue this option poses, as Jim pointed out last time, is not just the ceiling it sets on Soviet forces, but that it brings about a redesign of their force. They would change their force to be much more like ours—not an exact mirror image, but the same in concept—smaller missiles, lighter warheads, more bombers and submarines. This would provide an increase in stability. It would be the most difficult to negotiate. A variant of this has already been rejected. They may turn around, but it would represent the most intrusive effects on their program.

I said that if we presented them Option A, they would need some months to study it. If we gave them Option B, they could accept it only by a massive bureaucratic rearrangement. It would take years to nego [Page 357] tiate and require a long educational process to convince them of its advantages.

President Ford: In the meantime, they would proceed with their programs.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, they will not stop because we have put forth a proposition they previously rejected.

President Ford: The longer they proceed, the harder it becomes for them to reverse course.

Secretary Kissinger: From the point of view of stability, the end result of the option, a first strike would be most difficult. But we would change next to nothing, while the Soviets would have to redesign their force. They would either have to deploy so many less missiles that the difference in numbers would be worrisome to them, or redesign their missiles to make them smaller.

President Ford: In the meantime, we could increase the size of our own missiles with the R&D we are doing—

Secretary Kissinger: We could continue our own program with no interruption. Our own missiles are not as threatening to stability as the Soviet missiles. The Soviets would have to decrease their land-based missile force, moving to numbers which would not be a plausible threat, or develop a new smaller missile.

With this approach, we will be turned down flat. I think Alex will agree. We would have to be prepared to go the long route. There could be no fallback from this approach. We would have to develop a plausible breakout for 1977 to make them worry about what we would do if they don’t stop their program. There is not a chance of doing something with this option before 1977.

Secretary Schlesinger: I think Henry has put the case very clearly. This is the toughest option for them. The U.S. force has been structured to be consistent with arms control after MIRVs. The Soviet force has not. If we were successful with this option, it would provide a degree of stability not attained with other options, particularly with Option A. The question is whether you want a relatively quick agreement, or whether you want to push for more arms control.

President Ford: If you were the Secretary of Defense in the Soviet Union, would you buy this option?

Secretary Schlesinger: Yes.

President Ford: Dave, would you?

General Jones: I think so. I would have to look at it long and hard—

President Ford: Even though you would have to change your programs which had been designed for the last ten years?

General Jones: If I were looking for a stable world, I would be inclined to accept it, but if I were going for an advantage, perhaps not.

[Page 358]

President Ford: How could a military person or a Secretary of Defense, after promoting large throw weight for all these years, shift gears so quickly?

Secretary Schlesinger: The same way we abandoned our ABM. We should remember that it will cost them $35 to $40 billion just to replace the SS–9 with the SS–18. It has been in the ground ten years and will have to be replaced. They have a cost incentive not to do it.

There are two objectives that members of the Soviet Ministry of Defense may have. In the past, they have shown little interest in bilateral stability.

Ambassador Johnson: They have never accepted the theory. The Soviet military believes that bigger is better.

Secretary Kissinger: There are three factors behind that. First, the Soviets, rightly or wrongly, feel they are behind. They are driven by fear of our superiority. Second, they may not have the technical capability to do what we can do with smaller missiles.

Deputy Secretary Clements: That is right.

Secretary Kissinger: The issue is their size potential when coupled with technology such as ours.

Secretary Schlesinger: Which they will have by 1985.

Secretary Kissinger: I am not saying it won’t happen. Third, there are considerations of instability, affecting the viability of our land-based systems. Fourth, the Soviets’ interest in stability depends on the threat they perceive to their own force.

What Dave said can be considered as a fair statement only if the Soviets believe that failure to agree would get us into increased throw weight missiles which threaten their land-based force. If we go this route, we will have to start new missiles that threaten their land-based force. And, I am not talking about just jazzing up Minuteman. We could do that within this option. We would have to start something which we could not build with the option. With an abstract view of stability, we will not get it. Our vulnerability does not worry them.

President Ford: They give up what we see on the chart, but we give up nothing.

Secretary Schlesinger: Well, we give up something—

President Ford: What?

Secretary Schlesinger: At 4 million pounds, our MIRV throw weight is less than we are planning with our Trident force. And we have other programs.

We should also remember that in replacing their SS–9, they have to spend quite a bit of money. We have our MX program, which we could not deploy. We have said we will match them in the absence of a rea [Page 359] sonable agreement. This option would have the greatest arms control payoff, if it were successful. We should remember that their new missiles, which they will be deploying by 1975, by our own standards are in violation of the SALT I agreement. We said that any missile heavier than the SS–11 would be a “heavy” missile. With these new missiles, even with no 7s and 8s, they will have 12 million pounds of throw weight, which is potentially destabilizing. There will be a threat to Minuteman and to our other forces from their large RVs. We are concerned about the megatonnage also.

Ambassador Johnson: Do they have more megatonnage if you include our bombers?

Secretary Schlesinger: Yes. I believe it is on the order of two to one.

President Ford: What about the next option?

Secretary Kissinger: The next two options are more or less the same. They are both variants of the compensating asymmetries approach, which is consistent with our past negotiating history and the planned programs of the two sides. The initial U.S. aggregate would be at 2250 and the Soviets at 2500, reducing to 2000 and 2200 by 1985. We would receive compensation by MIRV limits of 1300 missiles for us versus 1050 for the Soviets. Thus, we would have more MIRV missiles, but they would have more total launchers. There would also be a limit on heavy delivery systems—heavy bombers and heavy missiles—initially at 500, reducing to 250 by 1985, and no increase in the number of MLBM launchers.

This option is based on the premise that equivalence can more readily be achieved by balancing existing asymmetries than by removing them. The Soviets could claim they got some compensation for FBS, and we could claim an advantage in technology. Under this option, we would deploy essentially our presently planned program and we could introduce a new Minuteman IV missile. The Soviets would deploy their projected force of 600 MIRVed 17s and 19s and 400 MIRVed SLBMs. It would put a cap on the Soviet MIRV force. We would retain a large advantage in numbers of weapons to counter the Soviet advantage in missile throw weight. We could increase our missile throw weight by deploying the Minuteman IV.

This option is similar to that which we pursued earlier this year whereby the Soviets would have been permitted to retain their Interim Agreement numerical advantage until 1980 in exchange for a U.S. advantage in MIRVed launchers. Thus, it fits best into the negotiating history. This is no argument for it, but it provides the most continuity.

Ambassador Johnson: It is consistent with what we have been discussing with them in the past.

Secretary Kissinger: The main argument against this option has been that the unequal aggregates would lead to a perception of U.S. in [Page 360] feriority. What you would have to judge, Mr. President, is whether 200 older unMIRVed Soviet missiles would give them an advantage when compared to our advantage in MIRVed missiles. But this is how we would claim equivalence. A further point is that if the present agreement ends, we would likely accept an inequality in the numbers anyway, as a fact, if not as an agreement.

In summary, the main advantages of the offsetting asymmetries approach are that it may be more negotiable than equal aggregates since it reflects the differences in the baseline force levels for the two sides; it gives the U.S. a MIRV launcher number advantage; it levels off Soviet programs well below the 1985 projections; and it would ban MIRVs on heavy missiles and reduce their number, resulting in a ceiling on throw weight.

The disadvantages are that unequal aggregates might mean that some would perceive a U.S. inferiority. It does not directly constrain throw weight, the MLBM MIRV ban might be difficult to negotiate, and the verification would require the collateral constraints which we just discussed earlier.

One way to solve the perceptions problem—

President Ford: Let me ask as we go through these options—A, B, C, and D—what is the difference in funding for DOD?

Secretary Schlesinger: The funding would rise as you go to the right on the chart.

Secretary Kissinger: Why?

Secretary Schlesinger: A and B provide more constraints.

Secretary Kissinger: A provides no constraints on MIRVs. There would be a MIRV buildup.

Secretary Schlesinger: You are quite right. A, C, and D would be more costly. B precludes any new systems.

President Ford: B would be least costly, but least likely to be negotiable—

Secretary Schlesinger: Yes.

Director Ikle: In comparing C versus D, D would contain a limit on throw weight. You would save costs in D compared to C.

Secretary Kissinger: A would be the most costly.

Secretary Schlesinger: Under C and D, larger missiles would be permitted also.

Ambassador Johnson: If we could get B only if they saw us building a larger force, wouldn’t it cost more dollars to get there?

Secretary Kissinger: B would have the paradoxical consequence that we could get it only with a larger missile and a buildup. Short of a massive buildup, I don’t see how the Soviets could accept it.

[Page 361]

We have talked about going to 2500, and the argument has been made that we could reach that level cheaply.

Secretary Schlesinger: We could keep B–52s and Polaris.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. But if the Interim Agreement lapses, the Soviets can keep their SS–11s and dig new holes for their new missiles. We could also keep older systems, but in a breakout race, they could go faster. At 2500, the price would be small. But beyond 2500, their price would not go up much, only the operating costs of the SS–11 force—but we would have to get entirely new programs.

Secretary Schlesinger: I beg to differ with you on that, Henry.

Deputy Secretary Clements: Henry, that’s not right.

Secretary Schlesinger: The difference in costs is only the cost of the silos. The rest is the same.

Secretary Kissinger: They have to pay for new silos in either case.

Secretary Schlesinger: We would have to pay for a new silo and they don’t. The rest is the same.

Secretary Kissinger: My point is, though, that they have already paid for the SS–17 and 19. It is in their program.

Secretary Schlesinger: We could add silos and retain Minuteman IIs.

Secretary Kissinger: But we have no program to do this.

President Ford: We have the missiles?

Secretary Schlesinger: We will have 500 Minuteman II.

Secretary Kissinger: The point is that the Soviets have already budgeted for their new missiles. Beyond 2500, we have to get into real money. This has to be assessed in terms of what we can get from Congress.

Director Ikle: We have never considered agreements which go beyond 2500.

Secretary Kissinger: I know that—I am talking about the breakout potential.

President Ford: Going back, from a budgetary point of view, Option A would call for a program for greater throw weight.

Deputy Secretary Clements: Our plan does not have to be driven by bigger missiles.

President Ford: But by a bigger bang perhaps.

Deputy Secretary Clements: We could increase the Minuteman III yield with no other changes. On a cost effective basis, this is the best thing we could do.

President Ford: Maybe on a cost effective basis, but how much would it cost in dollars?

[Page 362]

Secretary Schlesinger: It would cost about $2 billion to get 2500, or $4 billion a year to go to 3000.

President Ford: B would be the least expensive, the most difficult to obtain, but the most expensive if we failed.

Secretary Kissinger: It would be the least expensive after we have it. On the way to getting it, we would have to increase our budget.

Secretary Schlesinger: That is what we are doing anyway.

President Ford: And C and D would cost about the same as we are now spending.

Secretary Kissinger: It would probably come down somewhat.

Director Ikle: D would come down, but C has to throw weight limit.

President Ford: Under D we would not need a bigger missile?

Secretary Schlesinger: Option D has a 7 million pound throw weight limit. If we raised our throw weight to 7 million pounds, we would have to invest in Minuteman IV. Unless the Soviets agree to restricting their program, we will have to put money in R&D and it will cost money to retain equivalence.

Secretary Kissinger: If we feel we have to match throw weight, we could go either route—bigger missiles or increasing yield.

Deputy Secretary Clements: With no ceiling at all, it would be expensive.

President Ford: The question is, can we get Soviet agreement to one of these approaches—

Secretary Schlesinger: You can mix up the provisions of the various approaches.

Director Ikle: Mr. President, there are two gut issues here. The first is whether we simply shift the competition from one area to another. In Option A, the competition would be shifted from numbers to yield, accuracy, and so forth. The second issue is whether we will let throw weight increase, starting a new competition, getting larger missiles, and driving up force levels. Throw weight limits, even if not so low as in Option B, could cut out this competition, at least in the next generation. In SALT I we had no MIRV limits, and we are now seeing a MIRV competition. In the next agreement, we should avoid a throw weight competition. Hence, we need throw weight limits such as in Option D, even if not as low as in D.

Secretary Schlesinger: I agree.

Director Ikle: Another alternative is to go to even somewhat lower levels—perhaps 200 lower than those in Option D (shows chart). For the Soviets, they would have 200 less medium missiles. Other reductions would be similar. Stretched over a ten-year period, this could be [Page 363] achieved. A larger reduction would further détente. With controls on throw weight, it would save dollars and be politically attractive.

We do not want the Soviets to increase in the 1975–1985 period, but to reduce. Increased accuracy and weapon yield will drive capabilities up. Thus, unless there is a substantial reduction in numbers, there will be a net increase overall.

Hence, I think a worthwhile goal would be 2000 on their side and 1800 on our side. If we can’t get it, we can always increase the numbers later. I am not sure the Russians would be opposed over a ten-year period to lower numbers.

Under Option C, they would deploy 12 MIRVs for each single warhead missile reduced. Under Option D, they would deploy only 3 MIRVs for each single warhead missile reduced.

Secretary Kissinger: How do you get those numbers?

Director Ikle: Under C, they would reduce 84 unMIRVed missiles and deploy 1000 MIRVed missiles, for a ratio of about 12 to 1. Under D, they would reduce 284 unMIRVed missiles and deploy 950 MIRVed missiles, for a ratio of about 3 to 1. Their MIRVed missile program would be a costly expansion. Therefore, they may agree to the lower numbers.

Secretary Schlesinger: For the Soviets to replace their ICBMs alone will cost them $35 billion. They would be giving up one hell of a cost liability. Their military people will not include the cost liability in their analyses. But their political people will see the importance.

Secretary Kissinger: There are several elements in D which could also be put in C. The essential difference is not the throw weight limit—that could be added to either C or D. It is the concept of equal rights. This would avoid the perception of inequality. Each side would have the right to pick either a larger total or a larger number of MIRVs, as in the ABM treaty. They could pick either 2200 total and 1050 MIRVs, or 2000 total and 1300 MIRVs.

President Ford: Would each side have to designate which course it chose?

Secretary Kissinger: You would probably want it designated at the beginning.

Director Ikle: With, perhaps, a review every five years.

Secretary Kissinger: There might be a right to change, as in the ABM treaty. In that treaty, it is reviewed every five years, and each side can change once. I haven’t analyzed the effect of such a provision in this case.

Mr. Duckett: Off the cuff, I would say you could allow them to switch to more MIRVs, but not the other way around.

[Page 364]

Secretary Schlesinger: If the Russians have the same verification standards we do, they could not accept either C or D. If they have to assume that any silo which could accept a MIRV missile contained MIRVs, they would have to assume we have 1000 MIRVed ICBMs.

Secretary Kissinger: That is theoretically true, but they have never raised that problem with us.

Director Ikle: Mr. President, I would like to make one more point supporting lower levels. It would reduce the importance of the verification problems. If they took out 200 more SS–11s, that would mean they would have only 250 SS–11s left. It would be only these we would have to worry about, which would be no big problem.

Director Colby: That would be to our margin of error.

Director Ikle: If there were further reductions after 1985, we might end up with no verification problem.

President Ford: Could it be possible that both sides would make the same choice?

Secretary Kissinger: No. But if the Soviets did choose 2000 missiles and 1300 MIRVs, that would be a very interesting decision. It would represent a drastic cut in their program.

Ambassador Johnson: They will always choose the higher aggregates. They want a perception of a higher aggregate—

Secretary Schlesinger: Exactly the reason why we want equal aggregates.

Secretary Kissinger: I think they want the perception of the higher aggregates more for their own internal bureaucracy rather than for third countries.

President Ford: We want the perception plus our own extra capability

Secretary Schlesinger: I was just talking to Yamanaka on this—the Japanese Minister of Defense. He asked me why we accepted an unequal agreement in 1972. I answered him that we had a technological advantage. But this is to point out that the perception is there in third parties. The Japanese are perhaps stronger than others, but Don can tell you that there is a problem of appearance in Europe. The agreement is perceived as unequal.

Ambassador Johnson: I briefed the NAC just yesterday on our approach, and got a very good reaction.6

Secretary Schlesinger: But our present position is generally tougher than these options.

[Page 365]

Ambassador Johnson: No, I wouldn’t say so. It leaves open the question of equal aggregates. I told the NAC that we had to look at aggregate numbers, throw weight, and MIRV launchers, and that equivalence is the sum of all taken together. This is essentially the approach taken in C and D. It is the sum which is of interest.

Secretary Schlesinger: If we had Option D, I would recommend to you, Mr. President, that we choose 2200 aggregates for the perception, rather than more MIRVs. So both sides would be equal even under Option D.

Secretary Kissinger: If the President accepted your advice—(laughter)

President Ford: If you picked 2200, what would that mean to our present MIRV program?

Secretary Schlesinger: We would have to slow it down.

Secretary Kissinger: If we went to 1000 MIRV missiles, we would have to stop now. 1300 would accommodate our present program.

President Ford: Under either B or D, we could still increase our yield—

Ambassador Johnson: One thing we might consider is a reduction in RVs. The Soviets have emphasized this.

Secretary Schlesinger: If they agree to limits on throw weight, we could reduce our RVs. We have too many on Poseidon and Minuteman.

Ambassador Johnson: Too many on Minuteman?

Secretary Schlesinger: We don’t need three. We could go to two. We have a one-megaton warhead under development.

Deputy Secretary Clements: That is the other side of the coin—

Secretary Kissinger: They would appreciate a few more concessions like that! (Laughter)

Secretary Schlesinger: That is precisely the point. The Soviets, by ignoring throw weight, are increasing instability.

General Jones: There is one more consideration. It is easier to go from Option B to Option C or from Option B to Option D, as the negotiations move on, than it is the other way around. The key is equal aggregates. Once we concede our willingness to accept unequal aggregates, it would be hard to go back on it. As to whether we are perceived as equal to the Soviets, it depends on how seriously you take our new programs—air-mobile ICBM, the seven-MIRV missiles we are working on, and so forth. But we have unequal aggregates in Europe, with a qualitative advantage, and in Europe they ignore qualitative factors.

President Ford: Our allies?

[Page 366]

General Jones: Yes. Our allies count numbers of tanks and so forth, with no consideration of quality. Whether or not they would accept equal aggregates depends on how seriously they take these other programs. But we can move off it later, if it comes up as non-negotiable.

President Ford: Your point is that to move from D to B is harder than from B to D.

General Jones: Yes. In both C and D we agree that we don’t need equal aggregates.

Deputy Secretary Clements: It is harder to move to the left than to the right on the chart. You can start with A, fill in the MIRV limits and throw weight limits as you come up to the right. But you should start with equal aggregates which is simple and understandable.

Director Colby: These options are meant to represent the end of the negotiations, not the beginning.

Secretary Schlesinger: You want to be fairly tough in the beginning. If you have a few minutes, I do have a few more points—

President Ford: I do have my economic advisors who have been waiting for thirty minutes—

Secretary Schlesinger: I have one chart which lays out the basic tradeoffs you will have to make that I worked out as I was going to bed.

President Ford: How long will it take?

Secretary Schlesinger: Only about ten minutes.

President Ford: Let’s do it.

Counselor Rumsfeld: You keep chart materials in your bedroom? (Laughter)

Secretary Schlesinger: (Talking to chart—see attachment)7—You have two basic objectives in SALT—arms balance and arms stability. If you want to emphasize arms balance, you have to go for equal aggregates. If you want to emphasize arms stability, you need control over throw weight, yields, as well as numbers. In 1972, we achieved both arms stability and arms balance. U.S. technology offset grosser Soviet numerical advantages, and we had bombers.

On stability, the Soviets had cruder forces and poorer accuracy. The U.S. had smaller yield and throw weight and uncertain accuracy.

But by 1985, we face a different situation. The U.S. advantage in MIRVs disappears. We face the inequality of Interim Agreement numbers, and bombers are outside the agreement. On arms stability, the Soviets are increasing their throw weight and MIRVing their forces. There will be greater Soviet sophistication in accuracy.

[Page 367]

One possible solution emphasizing arms balance is to move toward equal aggregates and adjust our forces, increasing their throw weight or changing their basing, going to land or air-mobile as necessary. The alternative is to go for arms stability in 1985. To do this, you need control over throw weight, yield, and numbers.

The relative difficulty of the two approaches is as follows. Going for arms balance is conceptually easy. It is easier to understand and quicker to negotiate than going for stability. But there is greater future risk in cost. Going for stability would be more difficult to negotiate. The Soviets don’t understand stability arguments. They have always talked strength. Bilateral stability is beyond their grasp, or they pretend that it is beyond their grasp. It would be a time consuming process to get them to agree.

Secretary Kissinger: I agree with the chart as a way of posing issues. I would only add that I see only one way to get to the last point—to have a plausible program we would have to race them. In taking the road we would have to go to get it, we would have to enhance instabilities in the short run, in order to convince them of the importance of stability. The question is how long we could sustain the race. We could sustain it, if we could get Congress to approve it.

President Ford: If we have the will—

Secretary Kissinger: We have to have a plausible program and rapid deployments.

Secretary Schlesinger: I am not trying to advocate one approach or the other—

Secretary Kissinger: I just raise this as an issue.

Secretary Schlesinger: If you want a relatively quick agreement, Option B is unattractive. If you want an agreement in 1975, you don’t put stress on arms stability; you have to stress arms balance.

President Ford: I think this is a good chart—could I have a copy of it? But you have to put on the alternative we would face with nothing. You can’t put Congress on the chart very easily—

Secretary Schlesinger: On the question of equal aggregates, it is politically and diplomatically crucial. Perhaps, it is the most critical feature. We can live with an increase in instability, but it would be difficult not to come up to their level.

President Ford: Thank you very much. I would only hope we could get Congress to agree.

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files, Box 9, SALT. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room. In preparation for this NSC meeting, Kissinger convened the Verification Panel on October 17. According to minutes of the meeting, Kissinger opened by stating that they were “about where we were two weeks ago” and he wanted to have the meeting before the NSC meeting “to be sure there were no nuances that have escaped us that might arise tomorrow.” After listing the various options, Kissinger stated that it was his “personal view is that if we go to asymmetries, we should do so in the form of equal deployment rights.” (Ibid., Box 23, Meeting Minutes–Verification Panel (Originals), October 1974–January 1975)
  2. Document 75. Johnson’s summary and analysis of the SALT session is in telegram 111 from USDEL SALT TWO Geneva, October 15. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number])
  3. See Document 76.
  4. Not attached. Tables representing each option were in the President’s briefing materials for the meeting and are printed as attachments to Document 80.
  5. Possibly a refernce to NIE 11–8–73, “Soviet Forces for Intercontinental Attack,” January 25, 1974. (Central Intelligence Agency, FOIA Electronic Reading Room)
  6. No further record of his briefing has been found.
  7. Not attached.