19. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Richardson) and the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Smith) to Secretary of State Rogers 1


Discussion of ABMs this morning2 got no further than system options and strategic rationales. The most important issues affecting our foreign relations were not touched. These are the relationship to prospective SALT negotiations and consultation with allies.3 In particular, the following three points emerging from your briefing session yesterday still ought to be covered:

The President’s decision on the ABM program, and the public rationale, should make clear that implementation of the program is subject to modification depending on the outcome of negotiations with the Soviets. This is essential if our negotiator is to have latitude for meaningful SALT negotiations.4
The President should state at the time of the ABM announcement that the Administration now believes that it will be in a position to commence SALT talks in June, assuming that the international political climate is propitious at that time. (In this connection it should be noted that the time of the announcement proposed by DOD (March 18) is the date for the opening of the ENDC in Geneva.5 If the announcement can be made prior to March 18, and tied to some indication of movement toward SALT, it would help mitigate adverse reactions from ENDC members.)
There should be sufficient time prior to any public announcement of the decision to inform and consult with our allies, and inform the USSR, along the lines suggested in yesterday’s briefing memorandum.6 (The President’s statement at the March 4 news conference that he planned to make and announce a decision the first part of next week would seem to make genuine consultation impractical.)7

Even if the rationale for the modified ABM system is weighted more toward the Chinese threat, it would still be necessary to consider these points. However, we wish to point out, that too heavy an emphasis on the Chinese threat may make it more difficult for the US to modify the program in the light of SALT negotiations.

Accordingly, we recommend that you arrange with the President for further discussion, either in the NSC or more informally, so that these essential matters can be taken account of in the President’s final decision on substance and timing.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Entry No. 5000, S/S–NSC Meeting Files, 1969–70: Lot 71 D 175, Box 3, NSC Meeting, March 5, 1969. Secret. Apparently drafted on March 5. Cleared by Johnson.
  2. See Document 16.
  3. In a memorandum to Rogers following the NSC meeting of March 5, Hillenbrand also recommended full allied consultations. ABM deployments, he argued, had “a substantial impact on the political and security interests of the major NATO governments,” including their “perception of U.S. strategy and the reliability of the strategic deterrent, of U.S. policy and prospects for East-West agreements in the disarmament field, and of the problems with which each government will be confronted domestically in reacting to announcements of such import.” Rogers wrote “I agree” on the memorandum, which was forwarded to Kissinger the following day. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 843, ABMMIRV, ABM Memoranda)
  4. Richardson added a handwritten comment following this paragraph that reads: “This needs to be thought through in re Chicom threat.”
  5. The Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee reconvened in Geneva on March 18 after a 7–month recess.
  6. See footnote 4, Document 14.
  7. President Nixon held a news conference the evening of March 4 after his return from Europe. See Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 179–194.