96. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) and Jan Lodal of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • Status of SALT Negotiations

You are familiar with the principal SALT Issues which are continuing to divide the two sides in Geneva:

MIRV verification

—Cruise missiles

—Mobile ICBMs

—Inclusion of Backfire in the aggregate

By way of review, we have outlined below where we stand on each of the principal issues and how we might come out in each case. We have also included a brief discussion on several other issues on which the two sides differ; while these “other issues” may not represent major points of dispute, there are a disturbingly large number of such issues, and in combination they could represent a difficult negotiating obstacle.

Principal Issues

MIRV Verification—The recent May/Shchukin exchanges on MIRV verification indicate that the Soviets may have some negotiating flexibility regarding our MIRV counting rules. While the Soviet formal response has been to reject our counting rules on the ground that National Technical Means (NTM) alone is adequate to verify the provisions of the agreement, Shchukin on April 4 informally asked May whether it would make any difference if MIRVed ICBMs were deployed in certain “fields” or “complexes” and unMIRVed ICBMs in other “fields”. Shchukin further pursued the issue of “fields” by asking May what effect designation and deployment by “fields” would have on the US draft provision to count as MIRVed any missile that has been flight-tested one or more times with a MIRV system.2

Although the May/Shchukin exchanges may be misleading, they seem to indicate that the Soviet objections to our MIRV counting rules [Page 416] center on the treatment of the SS–18. The Soviets apparently believe that counting SS–18s by “fields” would be a possible approach to removing their objections if the US modified its definition of a MIRVed missile to avoid counting as MIRVed the single RV version of the SS–18. While informal discussion of the remaining US counting rules has been limited, Shchukin has repeatedly indicated that he felt that the “SLBM MIRV problem would be easier.”

The Verification Panel Working Group is currently reassessing the US position on MIRV verification in light of the May/Shchukin exchanges. It is probably still too early to consider modifying our counting rules, since it appears that further discussions with Shchukin may reveal more of the Soviet position on MIRV verification. However, we may ultimately wish to consider exempting the SS–18 from our definition of a MIRVed system, or dropping the definition altogether, in exchange for Soviet agreement to deploy MIRVed SS–18s in designated complexes. In any event, once the Soviet position has become clearer, the US MIRV verification provisions should probably be carefully reassessed in a VP meeting following Alex’s return.

Cruise Missiles—To this point, there has been no movement on this issue, either formally or informally, although both sides probably have some negotiating room. For example, the Soviet proposal to ban air-to-surface missiles on all aircraft other than bombers3 reflects the Soviet concern over the ambiguity in the Aide-Mémoire on strategic delivery vehicles launched from non-bomber aircraft. A US fallback position that we have not exercised would extend the ASM provisions of the agreement to cover ASMs launched from all aircraft, not just from bombers. However, we would count ASMs on aircraft other than bombers, not ban them as the Soviets have proposed.

To try to smoke out the Soviet position on the cruise missile issue, we are presently considering in the VPWG some movement on this issue before Alex comes home. We might start with a proposal to count all cruise missiles of greater than intercontinental range (about 5500 km).

This is a step toward the fallback position in NSDM 2854 to count all cruise missiles of range greater than 3000 km. Negotiating from a range limit of 5500 km could improve the prospects for eventual agreement at 3000 km, and could signal a general tone of flexibility which [Page 417] might break loose some other issues that have been delaying the progress of the drafting groups.

Mobile Missiles—It is not clear from the discussions in Geneva how this issue will be resolved. The Soviets have in essence proposed a ban on air mobile ICBMs. The US has rejected this proposal, indicating that it is inconsistent with the Vladivostok understanding.

There are several approaches the US might take on this issue:

—Continue to reject the Soviet proposal to ban air-mobile ICBMs and stick with the Vladivostok understanding that both air- and land-mobile ICBMs should be permitted and counted.

—Explore with the Soviets a combined ban on deployment of air- and land-mobile ICBMs, possibly extending the deployment ban to include ballistic missiles on surface ships.

Because the Soviets have not been pressing their proposal to ban air-mobile ICMBs, the US Delegation has not discussed the issue of banning air-mobile ICBMs in the broader context of limits on other types of mobile ICBMs or strategic aircraft and their armament. You may wish to approach the Soviets directly on this issue through your own channels to see if they are interested in a combined ban on both air and land-mobile systems.

Inclusion of Backfire—Although the two sides are far apart on whether Backfire should be considered a current “heavy bomber,” the US bargaining position on this issue is sound: the Backfire is at least as good an intercontinental bomber as the Bison. In addition, we have a good deal of negotiating room on this issue. Although the US has proposed that the Backfire be considered a current heavy bomber, the NSDM anticipates an eventual US fallback to an understanding whereby Backfire would not be counted as long as the Soviets do not deploy a companion tanker force, train in an intercontinental delivery mode, etc. However, there is no reason yet to consider such a fallback position, and the Delegation should continue to press the Soviets on including the Backfire in the 2400 aggregate based upon its capabilities with being comparable with those of the Bison.

Other Issues

Although there are a good many “other issues” on which the two sides differ, we consider the following to be the most important remaining issues:

Non-Transfer—The Soviets in their draft text5 have proposed a non-transfer provision which would ban the transfer of strategic offensive arms, including components, technical descriptions, and blue [Page 418] prints. They have also proposed an additional commitment not to assist in the development of strategic offensive arms for other states.

Although our current draft6 contains no provisions on non-transfer, it will probably be very difficult to avoid a non-transfer provision of some kind in the new agreement. However, we should obviously try to obtain as non-restrictive a non-transfer provision as possible. We are currently studying this issue in an effort to determine what type of non-transfer provision might be acceptable under our current commitments.

Increases in Silo Dimensions—To remove the ambiguity of the Interim Agreement language regarding permitted increases in silo dimensions, the US draft agreement explicitly states that the permitted increase in ICBM launcher size (15%) “shall be limited to one dimension, either length or diameter.”

In Geneva, the Soviets have responded that their understanding always has been that the Interim Agreement permits a 10–15% increase in both silo length and diameter. However, they have indicated that if the US wishes to propose that the new agreement limit silo dimension increases to one dimension only, they would consider such a proposal. Consistent with your understanding of the negotiations on this issue at the Summit, Alex will be rebutting Semenov shortly on the Soviet understanding of the IA restrictions on increases in silo dimensions. At the same time, Alex will propose that the sum of the percentage increases in the original length and diameter of the silos be limited to 15%.

Heavy ICBM Definitions—The US has proposed that the SS–19 be the upper limit in both volume and throw weight for “non-heavy” ICBMs. Predictably, the Soviets have maintained that the IA language on permitted increases in silo launcher dimensions is adequate to define heavy ICBM launchers, and that there is no need for a separate heavy ICBM definition. There has been no movement on this issue, either formally or informally, since the negotiations began on the draft agreements.

Other Systems—The Soviets have proposed banning the development, testing, and deployment of intercontinental cruise missiles (ICCMs), missiles on seabeds, and ballistic missiles on surface ships. Although the US draft treaty is presently mute on these “other systems,” we can probably make some movement on individual systems by proposing to:

—Count ICCMs, which is in effect the step we are proposing on the general cruise missile issue.

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—Consider limiting ballistic missiles on surface ships as part of an overall approach to the general mobile missile issue.

—Ban missiles on seabeds at an appropriate time in the negotiations for bargaining leverage on other issues.


As you know, Alex Johnson will be returning home in approximately two weeks. While Alex is in Washington, you will probably want to have a VP and an NSC meeting to see where we stand and to consider making some move on the current SALT issues discussed above. Finally, you should consider soon attempting to break loose some of the deadlocks in your channels.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Subject File, Box 19, SALT (10)–(21). Secret; Sensitive.
  2. A summary of the post-meeting discussions between May and Shchukin are in telegram 125 from USDEL SALT TWO Geneva, April 4. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number])
  3. The telegrams from the U.S. Delegation reporting on the numerous Soviet proposals on cruise missiles, mobile missiles, and other topics discussed in this memorandum are in Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Subject File, Box 22, SALT, State Department Telegrams, EXDIS to SecState; and National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number].
  4. Document 93.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 94.
  6. See footnote 5, Document 94.