210. Editorial Note

President Nixon met with the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) on May 5, in advance of his trip to Moscow, where he was expected to sign accords with Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev limiting strategic arms. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room of the White House and was attended by Nixon, PFIAB members Admiral George W. Anderson, Jr., Dr. William O. Baker, Gordon Gray, Franklin B. Lincoln, Jr., Dr. Franklin D. Murphy, Frank Pace, Jr., Nelson A. Rockefeller, Dr. Edward Teller, and Gerard P. Burke, and Thomas Latimer of the National Security Council Staff. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)

Following introductory remarks by Nixon, Anderson stated, “The members hoped to be able to discuss certain matters that might be helpful to the President in preparing for his forthcoming trip to Moscow. The Board has followed closely the developments in Soviet weaponry as a result of the President’s specific charge upon it three years ago to monitor and assess the Soviet capabilities in this field. [Anderson] said that the members were impressed with the continuing, across-the-board growth of Soviet forces in intercontinental ballistic missiles, in submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), in various defensive weapons, and, most recently, in the emphasis that the Soviets are placing on improving their command and control system. This emphasis is illustrated by their efforts in hardening command and control facilities, in creating redundant communications, and in conducting live exercises of the system which involve direct participation by the top leaders of the Soviet Union.”

Other PFIAB members discussed the quality of United States intelligence on Soviet capabilities, including overhead reconnaissance, signals intelligence, human clandestine intelligence, and economic intelligence. Teller then “briefed the President on certain calculations he had made regarding comparative US-USSR nuclear capabilities in the 1975 timeframe. These projections raise the question as to whether, by 1975 and certainly no later than 1980, the U.S. will have the numbers and kinds of weapons sufficient to prevent nuclear blackmail by the Soviet Union. Dr. Teller said that there are certain measures which, in his view, can be adopted to preclude economically this eventuality in the short term. The U.S. should, first of all, renounce its intentions to conduct a ‘first strike,’ while at the same time we should assure the Soviets of the inevitability of our nuclear retaliation. We should abandon the counterforce doctrine that characterizes our present Single Integrated Operations Plan planning, in favor of a strategy centering on destruction of Russian cities. As interim steps, we can redeploy our [Page 944] SLBM force to make it safer and we can disperse our nuclear weapons in Europe differently so that they will be less vulnerable. Dr. Teller also believes that the U.S. should begin to engage in a more open dialogue with our North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies in regard to limited nuclear warfare in their territory and that the American people should be informed of the dangers of the growing Soviet strategic threat and advised to plan for civil defense against the threat.”

President Nixon concluded the meeting by commenting upon the need for American leaders “to maintain their moral strength and courage in the face of the corrosive attitudes which seem to be pervading many segments of our culture.” He “noted that the real strength of America inevitably resides in the average citizen; whether this strength, in turn, becomes greater or lesser is dependent to a critical degree on the ability and willingness of leaders of our society in discharging the moral obligations which have been placed upon their shoulders. The President expressed the hope that the members of the Board, who have such a unique vantage point from which to view the external threats of the United States, will seek in their daily contacts to remind American leaders in all walks of life of the enormous responsibilities they carry, especially in impressing youth on the need to preserve the nation’s strength and moral fiber.” (Memorandum for the President’s File; ibid., White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Box 88, Memoranda for the President, Beginning April 30, 1972)