92. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to Vice President Rockefeller1


  • Minutes of National Security Council Meeting on SALT, January 29, 1975

I have enclosed for your information the minutes of the National Security Council meeting on SALT held last week (Tab A).2 The highlights of the discussion are as follows:

—Director Colby summarized the strategic programs of the Soviet Union and the strategic implications of the Vladivostok agreement.3 He concluded that the Vladivostok agreement, when implemented, would remove the worry that the Soviet Union might achieve numerical advantage in strategic launchers and delivery vehicles. During the next ten years, Soviet attention is expected to turn increasingly to qualitative competition with the US. Although this competition implies a vigorous Soviet R&D program, Director Colby does not foresee technological advances which would sharply alter the strategic balance in favor of the USSR.

—Secretary Kissinger reviewed the major issues related to the Vladivostok agreement. His key points were:

• On the general question of verifying the MIRV limits of the Vladivostok agreement, the US should initially take a flexible, exploratory approach in which we describe a number of problems which we believe could arise. We would not submit a formal list of rules for counting MIRVed missiles, but would instead try to draw out the Soviets before putting together an overall MIRV verification package.

• Regarding cruise missiles, there is apparently some legitimate ground for confusion on these systems from the negotiating record at Vladivostok. The Soviets will claim that the Vladivostok agreement requires that each air-to-surface missile with a range over 600 km carried on a bomber will be counted in the total of 2400 strategic delivery vehicles permitted each side; we understood that the limit on air-to-surface missiles applied only to ballistic missiles, not to cruise missiles. Since the US has a strong interest in deploying long-range air-launched [Page 405] cruise missiles to improve bomber penetration, we should begin our discussion with the Soviets on this issue by stating that it is the US understanding that the 600 km limitation on air-to-surface missiles applies only to ballistic missiles.

• Another problem concerns whether the new Soviet bomber, Backfire, should be considered a “heavy” bomber and counted within the 2400 limit. It is about 2/3; the size of our B–1, but has the identical range/payload characteristics of the Bison bomber, which we have always considered a heavy bomber. The US should propose counting the Backfire as a heavy bomber, although the Soviets are certain to resist strongly this position. Initial Backfire deployments have been with naval units, and our intelligence indicates that it is primarily intended for peripheral missions against China and Europe rather than for intercontinental missions against the US.

—There was a long discussion of the MIRV verification issue; general agreement was reached that the US should take a flexible approach, but that we should start by describing four MIRV verification problems and the US views on how these problems might be resolved. The US views should be that:

• Any missile of a type flight tested as a MIRVed missile should be counted as MIRVed when deployed, even if a single warhead version of the missile has also been developed.

• All ICBM launchers of a type modified for the purpose of permitting the deployment of MIRVed missiles should be counted as MIRVed.

• All SLBM launchers on a submarine should be counted as MIRVed if any SLBM launchers on submarines of the same class are MIRVed.

ICBM and SLBM launchers once counted as MIRVed should always count as MIRVed unless dismantled, destroyed or converted to unMIRVed launchers under mutually agreed procedures.

—Secretary Schlesinger thought that we would not be able to obtain Soviet agreement to count SLBMs by submarine class; he was also doubtful that the Soviets would agree to count Backfire as a “heavy” bomber, although on both issues he felt that we should initially be hard-nosed. Secretary Schlesinger also stated that we need to obtain agreement on a definition of a “heavy” missile and that we might also want to seek agreement on the definition of a “medium” ICBM; such agreements might form the basis for eventual limits on missile throw weight.

—Secretary Kissinger emphasized that, while the broad outlines of a new agreement were reached at Vladivostok, the major outstanding issues could be contentious and will require careful negotiating in the months ahead.

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—The President indicated that he felt that we were making headway in understanding the issues, and that our goal in the SALT negotiations at Geneva should be to obtain a new ten-year SALT agreement that could be signed when Brezhnev arrives this summer.

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files, Box 9, NSC Meeting, 1/29/75, SALT. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Not attached, but minutes of the January 29 NSC meeting, which was held from 4:39 to 6:19 p.m., are ibid., National Security Adviser, NSC Meetings File, Box 1.
  3. See Document 91.