175. Conversation Between President Nixon and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Nixon: And the other thing is, my view is this: that we now have information that the SS–9 is MIRV warhead.2 [unclear] I mean, MIRV in our sense.

Kissinger: Yeah.

Nixon: Well, that’s what we—

Kissinger: That we would be their [unclear].

Nixon: This is at best—intelligence people all agree, isn’t that—

Kissinger: Yes.

Nixon: That’s what [unclear] all along.

Kissinger: That’s what—remember—I told you in May ’69 about [unclear exchange].

Nixon: [unclear] talking about the MIRV footprints. [unclear] But now what you’re saying is that this is independent, [unclear] what we think is an independent. Is that the point?

Kissinger: An independent target capability is—it depends on the release time and space.

Nixon: [unclear] six.

Kissinger: Well, no. They have three.

Nixon: Three?

Kissinger: The six they think they may be able to get [unclear].

Nixon: Now the other point that I make is this—

Kissinger: What they have [unclear] directed to vary the release time of those three things.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And that gives them an independent capability.

Nixon: Right.

Kissinger: Because defending as well as [unclear exchange].

Nixon: Now, is it your view that this whole [unclear]—that’s why they’re slowing down their SS–9. [unclear]

[Page 710]

Kissinger: Well, that could be one reason, but the primary reason, I think, is that they’re building a new silo, which I told you about over the weekend.

Nixon: Yes, [unclear]. Does that have to do with MIRV?

Kissinger: Well, we don’t know what it has to do with. It might be an entirely new missile, a new warhead.

Nixon: Yeah, yeah.

Kissinger: But you can’t mention that. That’s very secret.

Nixon: Yeah, I know. Okay. But what are we—on this MIRV thing—

Kissinger: On the MIRV slowdown—on the SS–9 slowdown—I would say it might mean that they have the [unclear]. It might mean that they’re putting on new warheads. And, if the evidence is very ambiguous—

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: And, if I were [unclear exchange].

Nixon: Take a quick look at the substance as you prepare [unclear].

Kissinger: [unclear] You’re getting by too [unclear].

Nixon: Yeah, and spoil it. I don’t want to say too much. The other thing about the arms control thing, I think the logic you should take there is that we have developed our own position with regard to—well first, without going into anything about ABMs, where they are—just say that we believe that there can be no meaningful arms control without the control of both offensive and defensive missiles.

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: That’s what we are—that is our objective. And, the arms—we’ve got to deal with the arms control allegation that will be presented in our position in Vienna in March.3

Kissinger: Right.

Nixon: How’s that sound to you?

Kissinger: [unclear] You can say we are reviewing our position. Not from the point—well, they’ve—in the light of what has gone on before at the negotiations. But, I would say there has to be a link between offensive and defensive weapons. And remember that the threat comes from the offensive weapons that are now deployed. I would hit that hard. That’s what the danger is.

Nixon: I know.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of Conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, Oval Office, Conversation 450–11. No classification marking. The editor transcribed the portion of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. The transcript is part of a larger conversation that occurred from 10:49 to 11:03 a.m.
  2. See Document 159.
  3. The fourth round of SALT talks was scheduled to begin in Vienna in March.