32. Minutes of Review Group Meeting1

    • Review of U.S. Strategic Posture
  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • Arthur Hartman
    • Philip Farley
    • Donald McHenry
  • Defense
    • David Packard
    • Richard Ware
    • Ivan Selin
  • CIA
    • R. Jack Smith
  • JCS
    • LTG F. T. Unger
  • OEP
    • Haakon Lindjord
  • USIA
    • Henry Loomis
  • ACDA
    • Gerard Smith
  • BOB
    • James Schlesinger
  • Treasury
    • Anthony Jurich
  • NSC Staff
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
    • Laurence Lynn
    • Morton Halperin
    • Winston Lord


The Review Group went page by page through the revised summary paper of NSSM 3 distributed May 262 and agreed to a large number of drafting changes. These were to be incorporated in the paper by the NSC Staff and redistributed to Review Group members for their approval before forwarding to the NSC for its consideration. It was [Page 98] agreed that this NSSM 3 on strategic forces and NSSM 28 on SALT 3 would be considered closely and consecutively in coming weeks. The NSC will devote more time to these two subjects than the usual two-hour sessions. There was general consensus that doctrinal decisions on how we should shape our strategic forces will heavily influence and guide our positions on SALT. However, strategic force decisions will not represent inflexible theology for SALT positions, particularly with regard to possible developments once arms talks are underway.

After some informal discussion at the outset of the meeting, it was agreed that on Page 74 of the summary paper there would be a notation that this study does not take into account civil defense measures which will be the subject of a separate NSSM.5

Kissinger said that the Packard Committee did a massive job on this subject, as thorough a review as he had seen. He believed that this subject and SALT should be looked at together, with strategic force posture decisions being the theoretical basis for SALT preparations. He has talked to the President, who agreed that the NSC would need more time to discuss these two subjects than the usual two-hour sessions. Kissinger asked the group, beginning with Secretary Packard, what the NSC could reasonably be asked to make judgments on. This would affect the preparation of the summary report since the principals could not be expected to read all the supporting documents.

Packard said that the subject could be approached in two ways. The NSC could be asked to recommend one of the various strategic forces listed, deciding whether there should be any change in present programs and what direction to take with regard to the specific alternatives proposed. A second approach, which he favored, was to address basic questions as well as specific recommendations. These could be looked at in terms of the revised paper before the group. The President and the NSC could focus on some of the broader issues. For example, one fundamental question is how we assess Soviet strategic objectives.

Jurich noted that budgetary constraints must be considered also. Kissinger said that this aspect was covered in the basic papers, and Packard stated that the various strategic alternatives were costed out. [Page 99] However, the budgetary aspects could not really be addressed until general purpose forces were considered. The latter were more important in terms of the budget than strategic forces. Thus, there is some budgetary flexibility for strategic forces; one could opt for more expensive ones while lowering GPF expenses, without changing the overall budget level. Schlesinger suggested that this point be noted in the paper. Strategic forces represent the tail of the budgetary dog, a three to four billion dollar swing in expenses.

Kissinger then asked G. Smith what his agency’s requirements were. G. Smith generally endorsed the Packard approach to the problem. He believed that we need general guidance on whether current policies are sensible or whether different emphases are needed. However, he did not want decisions on NSSM 3 to foreclose options for NSSM 28. For example, on page 9, there was Steering Group agreement that we can and should deploy damage-limiting defenses against small or accidental attacks. He hoped that such governmental doctrine would not rule out possible SALT options under NSSM 28. Selin said that the Steering Group didn’t really address the question of no ballistic missile defense versus a small one; this was covered under the Safeguard decision. The Steering Group had instead concentrated on a small versus a large defensive deployment.

G. Smith repeated that he did not wish NSSM 3 decisions to rule out the possibility of dropping the ABM, which the Secretary of State had intimated might be considered. Kissinger said that he understood G. Smith’s concern, but that we should be clear on the various components of the President’s ABM decision. There were essentially three reasons for Safeguard, only one of which was directly related to Soviet positions. G. Smith interjected that he hoped there would be no decision by the US now that under no circumstances would we accept a zero ABM level. Kissinger responded that neither would there be a US decision now that if the Soviets freeze their ABM deployment, we would agree to forego any deployment on our part. He thought that a US decision would tend to be in the opposite direction. G. Smith wished only to keep this subject open. Kissinger repeated that we should keep in mind the different purposes of Safeguard as we consider SALT and alternative ways of dealing with the Soviets. He said that nothing decided with regard to NSSM 3 should be used as theology in developing our SALT positions. On the other hand, he did not wish to say that no decisions would be taken on our strategic force posture. The decisions on doctrinal issues taken in response to NSSM 3 should guide the decisions taken on NSSM 28, without establishing a firm, unchangeable line.

G. Smith said that this point was a valid one. Nevertheless he would like to think that nothing in this paper purports to limit Presidential options when NSSM 28 is considered, that in effect a zero ABM [Page 100] level cannot be considered because of prior decisions on NSSM 3. Farley pointed out that discussion on page 15, especially option 3, reflected recognition that a zero ABM level is a possible outcome that should not be foreclosed.6 He agreed that doctrinal decisions on NSSM 3 could seriously constrain NSSM 28 options.

Kissinger said that for example, if the President decides, with regard to NSSM 3, not to limit MIRV testing before SALT discussions, we would not then go back on this decision when discussing NSSM 28. G. Smith said that he understood that the decisions on NSSM 3 would shape some decisions on NSSM 28 options. Packard suggested that the government try to reconcile the two subjects as it moved ahead. Kissinger declared that we could not deal with strategic force postures as if arms control were a completely different subject. The President should be aware of the interrelationship as he looks at NSSM 3. In any event G. Smith would be present at discussion on both issues.

G. Smith recalled BNSP papers in previous years where a single clause set theology and the government was boxed in by language ten years after it was written. Packard suggested that it was a matter of common sense, and Kissinger assured the group that the President would be aware of the longer term significance of all decisions.

G. Smith again expressed his concern that the language in the paper (which he himself also had agreed to) could have a long life expectancy. Farley noted that the language confirmed that we will deploy Safeguard, while Selin repeated that the Steering Group never really addressed this question. Kissinger said that he could not reopen the ABM decision. Secretary Packard had addressed this question in great detail in March, and it could not be reopened on its merits as part of this present review. He understood that G. Smith was not attempting to do this but rather was worried that the paper’s language could handicap our proposing a zero ABM level in the SALT discussions. He added that he thought the President (for whom he was reluctant to speak unless he were sure) would probably not decide upon a zero ABM level, i.e., giving up the anti-Chinese aspect, on the basis of Soviet actions alone. However, he might well be inclined to drop the anti-Soviet components in response to Russian moves. Packard added that [Page 101] a lower level of ABM launchers would not make much difference to the Soviets. Selin agreed that the Safeguard system as approved should not concern the Soviets, whether 200 or 500 launchers, but that G. Smith was worried about the principle of an anti-Chinese deployment. Packard believed that we should maintain the principle for the SALT talks that we be prepared to consider anything that would improve our position as negotiations develop. He believed that G. Smith should have faith that a reasonable approach would be followed during the talks in order to get the objectives that everyone wanted. The problem here concerns our opening position, which should be consistent with NSSM 3 decisions. Kissinger noted that the paper does not specifically rule out any SALT options. Unger added that he did not believe that anything in the summary or the basic paper should constrain G. Smith with regard to arms control discussions. He believed that both subjects should be considered closely at the NSC level.

G. Smith said that he was satisfied if the interpretation that Packard had just outlined was accepted.

The group then went through the paper page by page and agreed on drafting changes. The NSC staff was to incorporate these and shortly get out a revised version to Review Group members for their concurrence.

Kissinger noted that the paper reflected two views concerning how conservative we should be in carrying out US strategic purposes (II A 1).7 We could be very conservative in our planning and decisions, leaving no doubt about our strategic posture; or we could be restrained in our actions so as not to generate Soviet over-reaction. He noted the danger of using the word “sufficiency” in a liturgical way, as if it were perfectly self-evident. Rather it should be used in contrast with other options. It would be a major accomplishment if this group could reach agreement on what constitutes “sufficiency”.

Hartman suggested that it would be helpful for the Secretaries to have a summary of what our present posture looks like in terms of [Page 102] programs as the paper discusses maintaining our present course. Selin suggested, and Packard agreed, that certain tables now in the back up sections could be affixed to the summary paper. Packard shared Kissinger’s concern about using the word sufficiency, and thought that attention should be given to its definition. Unger noted that the basic paper contained 18 force structures with their costs. The tables indicate an order of magnitude for these forces rather than laying out sufficient details for selection of one of them. In these tables one could identify current forces and the objective requirements of the JCS, i.e., what they recommend as a target 18 months from now.

Lynn pointed out that paragraph 3 on pages 8 and 9 does attempt to define “sufficiency” and wondered whether this definition was adequate to distinguish the approach from other strategies.8

Kissinger said that he never understood the second point on page 9, i.e., maintaining the capability to cause at least as many deaths and industrial damage to the USSR as they could cause us in a nuclear war. Unger suggested that this point could be clarified by adding a fifth criterion in this section, “have the capability to insure relatively favorable outcomes if deterrence fails”. In response to Kissinger’s question as to what “relatively favorable” means, Unger stated that the number of deaths and industrial damage were not the only criteria in defining the outcome of a nuclear exchange. Other factors such as residual forces are also crucial, and that is why he believed a fifth point here was required.

Schlesinger did not believe that the Steering Group had agreed to this point 2 on page 9, and Kissinger wondered whether it was a meaningful statement in any event. Farley said that the Steering Group did agree we would not want a situation where the Soviets could cause significantly more damage than we, but it had not agreed to include this point as part of a definition of “sufficiency”. It was a little imprudent to enshrine sufficiency and make these conditions theological sine qua nons. Kissinger asked G. Smith what effect this would have on his responsibilities, and the latter replied that he did not wish to enshrine war-fighting capability as part of sufficiency.

[Page 103]

Lynn felt that this was a fundamental issue—are we going to make meaningful statements about structuring our strategic forces? Kissinger added that we must decide whether we want such statements and whether those under consideration were meaningful.

Packard declared that in the discussions concerning criteria for our strategic forces, the Joint Chiefs still maintained a divergent view to the effect that they wished to have more emphasis on “relatively favorable outcome” along the lines of Unger’s suggested addition. The Steering Group decided, after some discussion, that rather than laying out too complex criteria, it was preferable to stick to numbers of deaths and industrial damage and that other criteria would not make much difference. Packard suggested that, if the Review Group agreed, perhaps the views of the Joint Chiefs on this point could be inserted.

When Unger suggested that this might be put on page 1, Selin responded that the first page laid out what is desirable, while later discussion in the paper centered on what is possible.9 Our present analysis of nuclear exchanges indicated that sometimes we inflict more damage on the Soviet Union, sometimes the damage is about the same. He said that this analysis included weapons damage as well as fatalities. Kissinger suggested that if there were disagreement, both views should be presented fairly in the paper. Selin repeated that it was not a question of what we would like to do but whether we can assure our doing it, and Farley added: for a tolerable price.

Selin noted that point 2 on page 9 centered upon damage limitation for smaller nuclear exchanges, not those involving 80–100 million deaths. Kissinger wondered whether we could insure relatively favorable outcomes at lower levels of exchange, and Selin responded that relatively similar light defenses could result in unbalanced outcomes. Unger said that estimating outcomes depends on how one programs the computers. Annex J of the study treats deaths only, while Annex B is preferable because it includes other factors.

Jurich said that the word “sufficiency” will always be seen in a political context. For the Soviets we will interpret it as parity, while for the American people it could mean superiority. The NSC will call sufficiency whatever it decides upon with regard to strategic forces.

Packard suggested that the group return to a discussion of purposes on page 1; sufficiency would be those forces that can accomplish these purposes. Selin interjected that the paper shows that there is disagreement over which forces can do this.

[Page 104]

Kissinger said that the President had asked to be spared agreed papers. It would be more useful to let the NSC talk about general disagreements rather than much energy being spent on reaching agreements.

Hartman suggested, and the withdrew his suggestion, that the phrase “under the weight of strategic military superiority” be dropped from the opening sentence of the paper.10 Unger noted that the JCS had a series of recommended changes to the report. It was agreed that the substantive changes would be taken up in the course of discussion while the stylistic ones would be given to Lynn who would have the responsibility of reflecting all drafting changes in the paper. The paper would then be recirculated to the Review Group members for their concurrence before submission to agency principals.

There was some discussion of paragraph 3 on page 211 with G. Smith pointing out that presumably we already practice “restraint” in making strategic force decisions, and Farley noting that references to research and development as hedging measures had been dropped.

Kissinger thought, and the group agreed, that it would be useful to add a reference to research and development as a hedge in this paragraph. Packard agreed that language could be inserted here, but commented that perhaps some would opt for retraints in our decisions even to the point of not wanting R&D.

Halperin believed that paragraphs 2 and 3 on page 2 represented two extremes, with almost everyone somewhere in the middle, and that they therefore did not give the President a real choice. Lynn mentioned Safeguard, and Halperin wondered under which optional view this decision would fall. Packard thought that these paragraphs set up a logical general range, and Kissinger added that the President could only choose a general tendency and could not make precise decisions.

Kissinger then turned to the question of assessing Soviet strategic objectives (II A 2). There were two schools identified. The first is that the Soviets look at the strategic situation and characterize our position in the same manner as we do, and are therefore looking for rough parity. The second school suggests that the Soviets are engaged in a deliberate attempt to achieve superiority. He asked whether these were the only two choices. J. Smith said that these represented broad statements of Soviet objectives and established general parameters. Selin [Page 105] believed that our decisions should be keyed more to Soviet reactions to our moves rather than the definition of Soviet strategic objectives. In response to Kissinger’s question, Selin said that if we were convinced that the Soviets were after superiority, we would have no choice but to match them. Kissinger wondered whether the Soviet positions might just be reactions to our initiatives. J. Smith said this was conceivable, and that the question of defensive reactions had been left out. He nevertheless thought the paper staked out an adequate approach.

In reply to Kissinger’s query, Sonnenfeldt said that we just don’t know Soviet purposes. We are more geared to our evaluation of threats than they are geared to their evaluation of threats.

In continuing discussion of likely Soviet reactions to US strategic initiatives (II A 2b) on page 3, Kissinger outlined the paper’s two alternatives. The Soviets would move to offset any attempts by the US to produce an unfavorable shift in the balance of power against them; or such initiatives on our part might induce the Soviets to seek détente. He did not believe that these two views were strictly inconsistent; the Soviets might do both simultaneously. Détente could happen either way, whether or not the Soviets attempted to match us. The operational question was whether it were true that the Soviets would always match what we are trying to achieve or whether they might stick to assured destruction at some point.

J. Smith believed that the latter was possible. In response to Kissinger’s question, he said that he thought that their programs were sensitive to our own. He thought that the discussion under b on page 3 showed too much symmetry. Most people would agree that the Soviets would react to any attempt on our part to seek clearcut superiority or a first strike capability. The second point, whether the Soviets would be induced to move toward détente, is more of a tactical question. He believed that it was much less likely that they would seek détente in the face of a build up on our part. Kissinger concluded that most agreed that the Soviets would match efforts by us.

Sonnenfeldt wondered, in light of this discussion, what had happened to the recently held view that the Soviets want an agreement to freeze the present strategic situation so as to be in a less disadvantageous position than they foresee in the coming four to five years because of our MIRVs and other programs. He said that this was the rationale for SALT last year. Selin pointed out that this section of the paper was treating attempts at clearcut superiority, not ambiguous nuances which might not produce a Soviet response. In response to Kissinger’s query whether MIRVs were ambiguous, Selin said they were. On the one hand, they could be considered a threat to the Soviet retaliatory force, while on the other hand they could be construed as our deployment against their ABM system.

[Page 106]

Kissinger suggested that the real question was whether or not the Soviets would match us, not whether they would seek détente in the face of a US build up. J. Smith noted that the Soviets were inferior strategically for a long period, but when they face gross inferiority, they act. Kissinger added that he wished to avoid presenting MIRV as an ambiguous program; this might be true, but it would not appear so to the principals. J. Smith believed that the Soviets would react to compensate (though not necessarily match) unfavorable shifts, and that history supports this thesis. Kissinger suggested therefore that there was no possibility of achieving superiority, since the other side would always offset our efforts. J. Smith corrected this statement to say that they always will try to match us. This is a far cry from previous years when we enjoyed some superiority.

G. Smith wondered who supported the view in the second paragraph under b on page 3 that the Soviets would react to major US build ups by seeking détente. Halperin suggested some clarifying language to help this section of the paper. He believed that the first question, on which there was general consensus, is whether the Soviets would react to prevent our attaining a first strike capability. More difficult questions included whether they would react to offset totally improvements in our programs short of those aiming for a first strike capability. Kissinger suggested, and there was agreement, that language along these lines would be more precise.

G. Smith again asked who believed that the Soviets would react to US build ups with a search for détente. Lynn replied that the evidence was not conclusive that this would not be their response if they were economically pressed. In the face of a determined effort on our part, they might decide to forego matching us temporarily and seek a relaxation in relations. Packard summarized by saying that the Soviets would react to our attempts at a first strike capability, but they might not react to US moves concerning deterrence and damage limitation.

Halperin noted that his formulation attempted to reflect this, and it was agreed that this type of presentation would be useful.

Farley believed that the first paragraph under b on page 3 referred to Soviet military reaction, while the second paragraph concerned political response. He said that State believed that in the face of major US arms initiatives, the Soviets would not only react militarily but would also generally harden their political attitudes. Kissinger said that the real disagreement centered on the political reaction rather than the hardware reaction. Ware thought that the economic situation might be one of the factors determining the Soviet political response. Kissinger said that he had seen strong arguments on both sides, i.e., that the Soviets were more conciliatory when scared or more conciliatory when they were not scared. Sonnenfeldt said that this was really an unknown [Page 107] problem and that history provided examples for each view. For example, many major Soviet weapons decisions were taken during 1955 and 1958–9, periods of relative détente.

Kissinger noted the group’s agreement that in this section the Soviet military response would be rewritten while possible alternative political reactions would be stated.

In considering Allied interests (II A 3),12 Unger suggested language which would indicate that our commitments impose additional requirements on US strategic forces, and Packard concurred in this suggestion.

Kissinger wondered which European countries would be scared if we increased our strategic capabilities, which was one view suggested by the paper. G. Smith said that there would be a negative reaction, more distaste than fear, in the United Kingdom if the US substantially increased its strategic capabilities. Loomis pointed out the difference between more realistic governmental opinion and public opinion which is more apt to be worried by an arms build up. Kissinger received the impression from European leaders that their publics would be amazed if they heard that we were not vastly superior to the Soviet Union. There would probably be a different reaction between letting European publics continue to think we are superior and attempting to increase our forces if they knew we were not superior. G. Smith believed that public opinion was aware of the concept of sufficiency, and that in an era of negotiations new decisions to increase our forces would incur public disapproval. Kissinger thought it depended on the public’s view of the strategic situation.

J. Smith believed that the paper’s statement on this question was a somewhat simplistic view of a highly complex problem. Europeans would be relieved if we had strategic superiority, but they prefer not to see arms build ups. Thus, they want to have both détente and superiority. Selin suggested treating this problem in concrete terms, e.g., what would be the British reaction to our building 300 new Minuteman silos. Kissinger agreed with G. Smith that this might present problems in the UK, but wondered where else in Europe this was the case. Sonnenfeldt opined that we were dealing with extremes. The Europeans would be worried either about marked US inferiority or a determination by the US to go for superiority. He thought that in between these extremes there would be relatively little sensitivity to programs like MIRVs or new Minutemen. Kissinger noted that the discussion [Page 108] refers to strategic improvements rather than superiority. G. Smith suggested Italy as another country which could have a negative reaction. Kissinger repeated that a key factor was what the Europeans think of the USUSSR strategic situation. Loomis felt that the public distinguishes between defensive systems, like the ABM, and offensive ones, like 300 more Minuteman silos. This was true of public opinion throughout Europe; G. Smith added Canada. Farley believed that major initiatives by us in the arms race would create European concern. Packard thought that much would depend on how our programs were presented. For example, Europeans would welcome steps needed to deter war in Europe.

Kissinger suggested that it would be useful to have a paragraph in the paper on European reactions, put in terms of their perception of strategic problems. Halperin suggested that the paper’s statements were not inconsistent unless one assumed a single European opinion; there are widely different views to be reflected.

Packard said that Europeans both want détente and are worried about deterring conventional attack. Loomis believed that Europeans were always worried about increasing the chances of war, and they would be unhappy if they assumed we were taking steps which would have this effect. Selin again suggested looking at this problem in terms of specific decisions, while Hartman stressed the importance of the rationale for our actions with regard to the US public. Kissinger again noted the importance of European perceptions concerning our programs. There would be different reactions to a situation in which we were ahead and sought to increase our lead, or behind and sought to catch up, or in a situation where Europeans were not clear about the strategic relationship.

Kissinger noted a JCS suggestion concerning nuclear assurances for our allies (II A 4)13 and wondered about the status of such assurances. Farley thought that testimony during Senate hearings had walked us back somewhat from assurances under the NPT. Halperin said that this Administration had not made a policy of assurances along the lines of those of the previous Administration. Kissinger thought that we needed a NSSM concerning our assurances to non-nuclear countries against nuclear attacks or threats. Farley noted that our Allied commitments do not distinguish between nuclear and conventional attacks. Schlesinger believed that there was one type of general [Page 109] assurance given to our allies, and another type to non-allied countries. Halperin noted our reaffirmation of assurances in the United Nations, and Farley pointed out that this was through the Security Council only. Kissinger suggested to Unger that he consult with his principals; he did not believe the language recommended by the JCS was strictly accurate. Halperin agreed with General Unger that the original text of the paper on this point was not accurate either. Kissinger believed that the legal situation does not take us beyond the UN Charter except with regard to our allies.

J. Smith suggested deletion of the last paragraph under 4 on page 4 which said that the issue of nuclear assurances was outside the scope of this study.

Kissinger then took up military issues in designing our strategic posture (II B),14 beginning with what kinds of attacks we must deter. Selin noted that the three general views on page 5 concerning this question were mistakenly set up as mutually exclusive. He suggested that the paper say that beyond assured destruction, there were other additional criteria to be used in evaluating the US strategic posture.

Kissinger said that the discussion on page 5 indicated that the Soviets would either launch a general nuclear attack or none at all. Selin replied that they are not apt to make a discriminating attack. In response, Kissinger wondered how one rationally could make a decision to kill 80 million people. To blow up the Hoover Dam might not be rational either, but it was not less rational than an all out attack. Selin and Unger noted that this doctrine of massive preemption by the Soviets reflected CIA’s view.

J. Smith stated that a discriminating attack was the least likely contingency—one could not believe that the Soviets would launch a few nuclear ICBMs against the US. Kissinger probed this view, suggesting the possible use of a few missiles in a Berlin crisis.15 Packard said this example underlined the need for an ABM system. Selin said that the issue is Soviet first use, and Lynn suggested the example of their hitting soft strategic targets and nothing else. Selin and Schlesinger stressed the unlikelihood of this; Lynn noted that he was the only one in the Steering Group supporting this possibility. [Page 110] Sonnenfeldt recalled that during the U–2 crisis Khrushchev threatened the selective use of nuclear weapons. J. Smith noted that we did not place much credence in this threat at the time.

Kissinger summarized the paper’s view as being that if the Soviets launch a nuclear attack, it will be a general one, not a limited one. J. Smith said that studies indicate that Soviet strategic doctrine allows only for all out nuclear use and not limited attack. This could change, of course, but there were no indications that the Soviets seriously considered limited attack as part of their military doctrine. Packard said that he could envisage a scenario where we would not wish to fire all our missiles in five minutes, and he suggested that this was a good reason to have effective command and control. J. Smith noted this was useful at least for accidents. Kissinger wondered whether if we make limited use of nuclear weapons, the Soviets would make an all out response. J. Smith believed this was correct, for once nuclear weapons start landing, the response is likely to be irrational. Selin said that the Soviets would hope to hit our command and control and our cities, and thus avoid a suicide of 80 million lives. It would paralyze our response without hitting our weapons. Lynn suggested that the destruction of our command and control would make a spasmodic reaction more likely than if they chose to coerce us through destroying military weapons.

There was some further discussion of the language in this section. It was agreed both to delete the reference to Soviet military tradition, and to make clear that the discussion was referring to nuclear attacks only.

The group then discussed damage-limiting (II B 2). Kissinger suggested that beyond a certain level of casualties, it did not make much difference whether more destruction and death occur on one side or the other (2nd para., page 6). No one really believes that we have “won” if we lose 90 million people and they lose 110 million people.

Lynn suggested that in the 90–120 million persons range there was rough equivalence, but that one should consider wide differences, such as between 80 and 150 million people. Schlesinger said that it was the Steering Group’s judgment that this was one criterion for damage-limiting capabilities. Lynn believed the President would want this problem discussed. Kissinger wondered if we would be influenced by the prospect of the Soviets inflicting more damage upon us at mutually high fatality levels, and Lynn thought that perhaps we would be influenced in this situation. Kissinger thought that a mythology of relative deaths had grown up which was no longer relevant. Lynn replied that this was true in the context of assured destruction fatalities but not at lower death levels. Kissinger said that the question was therefore whether the ratio of fatalities would make a difference below certain levels. Halperin commented that the paper (3rd para. on page 6) [Page 111] states that you cannot keep our damage levels down in any event. Lynn said that this view in the paper said we should care about relative damage and casualties. Kissinger said that the necessity was to get our fatalities down to their levels so that they would not believe they could inflict significantly greater damage. Lynn and Selin declared that we now have rough parity in terms of damage and casualties, unless a thick ABM system is deployed. Kissinger repeated his view that beyond a certain level the casualty ratio makes no difference. Damage-limitation might be worth the effort for 10 million lives versus five-million lives, but the statement in the paper loses meaning beyond a certain point. Lynn said that we are in a position now to balance off fatalities and we would not wish to see the Soviets, through defensive deployment, cut into this balance even though we still maintained assured destruction. Halperin summarized that the paper’s statement on this subject was meaningful only if casualty ratios above the 25–30% assured destruction level were meaningful.

Kissinger asked whether it was worth noting that we cannot get fatalities below a certain level. Selin confirmed that view. On intelligence grounds we are sure that the Soviets would respond to our initiatives, and on technical grounds it is easy for them to do this.

Unger suggested that the heading about controlling our forces in nuclear war (II B 3 on page 6) be made broader in terms of assuring a relatively advantageous outcome. Packard recommended a general observation be made in this section about the desirability of a favorable outcome which overrides other considerations in a nuclear war.

The group then discussed Section III, results of the analysis of the NSSM 3 study.

G. Smith wondered whether the JCS suggestion was designed to recommend more damage-limiting and war-fighting capabilities than we have at present or to better state present policy. Unger replied that the JCS were seeking a balance in the paper (including JSOP forces), without choosing a particular structure. Packard noted that the JCS wanted more damage-limiting capabilities even in present forces. In assessing outcomes of nuclear exchanges, they would utilize other criteria than fatalities alone, such as military targets. They were seeking how to deploy present forces with a different emphasis, but this did not necessarily mean needing more than present capabilities. Unger summarized the JCS position as wanting “present forces appropriately modified”.

G. Smith thought it was more a question of strategy than force structure. During 7–8 years of an assured destruction strategy, the Chiefs wanted more war-fighting and damage-limiting capabilities; this would have resulted in greater forces. They were never for a pure assured destruction strategy. He wondered whether the JCS believed that the strategy of the past few years should be changed. Unger [Page 112] responded that it was rather a question of assessing our posture in light of the increasing threat of the last five years and projections for future years. Selin stated that this year’s JSOP objectives were closer than ever to the recommendations of the Secretary of Defense; the differences were in such areas as relative advantage and degree of conservatism in planning. The large strategic differences between the Chiefs and the Secretary have almost completely disappeared. Packard noted that there were no real OSDJCS problems with strategic forces. The principal issues concerned general purpose forces.

Kissinger raised the question of protecting our allies against attack, and Sonnenfeldt/Lynn said that this would be covered in the remaining portion of the Packard study. Selin and Unger noted that it was decided not to attempt to discuss defense of our allies in strategic terms alone because of the close relationship with our conventional forces in Europe. Lynn noted on page 9 reference to the need for additional study on strategic forces required to support theater forces, while Selin added that decisions on general purpose forces affect our strategic forces.

Kissinger recalled that in NATO debates our allies expressed their belief that theater forces support strategic forces rather than vice versa. Packard believed that the issue of tactical nuclear policy in Europe was a very important one, and would be extremely significant both in his overall report and for SALT discussions. Kissinger suggested a cover note to this study saying that we have not included allied considerations.

Unger believed that the conventional situation in Europe impacts on the strategic relationship. G. Smith underlined the importance of our commitments to Western Europe to cover targets crucial to our allies. Unger questioned if our conventional strength were below that of our adversaries in Europe, how we would deter them if our strategic forces are on a par with or below theirs. Kissinger said that this important issue could be covered in a note that he and Packard could agree upon.

Kissinger questioned the degree of deterrence we now have against ground attack in Europe, given the changing strategic relationship of the past years. G. Smith did not believe the issue was so clearcut. With our 7th Army, tactical nuclear weapons, and strategic forces, the Europeans should not sense that our umbrella is eroding. He believed that the uncertainty factor for the Soviets was crucial and just as high as it was ten years ago. Packard thought that we did have some problems. Our tactical nuclear weapons cannot reach the USSR. Given the prospect of 80–90 million fatalities, would we intervene with nuclear weapons if the Soviets moved into Berlin? Packard disagreed with G. Smith’s assertion that the situation was not different than it was ten years ago. G. Smith repeated his view that the Soviets have no greater appetite than they did then to invade West Germany, and that [Page 113] tactical nuclear weapons were a factor in this situation. Selin declared that it would take a very large Soviet conventional attack to raise the question of whether we should go to nuclear weapons.

Kissinger believed that if our nuclear weapons deter the USSR, our different strategic relationship today must be reflected in the degree of deterrence. G. Smith said he was disturbed to hear the implication that Europe is in greater danger today with regard to the US nuclear umbrella. In response to Packard’s belief that the President would be hard pressed to use nuclear weapons in Europe, G. Smith said that this has always been the case and that Europe is not in a different state of security today. J. Smith opined that we just did not know what constitutes deterrence. Kissinger continued to question how one could write a long disquisition on the changed strategic relationship that all agreed has taken place during the past few years, without acknowledging its impact on the ability of American strategic forces to provide local defense. He was not saying that local defense was not possible. He thought these questions should be flagged for the decision-makers’ attention without prejudging them.

Farley referred to the four conditions on pages 8–9 which appeared to define strategic sufficiency.16 He asked whether we would have insufficiency if we could not fulfill one of these four conditions. Packard reviewed each of the conditions and thought there was agreement that the first two (maintaining our second strike capability and insuring that the Soviets would have no first strike incentives) were ones that all could agree were necessary for sufficiency. There were questions about the meaningful casualty levels of the third condition (relative outcomes in a nuclear war) and arguments over the fourth condition (damage-limitation against small or accidental attacks).

Unger suggested his fifth condition of relatively advantageous outcomes, which Packard suggested be added. Farley said that the Steering Group had not agreed to this condition. Selin did not believe this element should be added; it could mean that one was always confronted with the choice of either insufficiency or an arms race. Packard suggested, and it was agreed, that the JCS suggestions would be inserted as their position, accompanied by a statement of OSD objections.

The group then reviewed Section IV, Strategic Options.

G. Smith emphasized the importance of our public posture. The way in which we describe our strategic forces is crucial to world opinion, and ACDA should have a look at any public statements. Kissinger promised that ACDA would have a crack at any Presidential statements arising from NSSM 3.

[Page 114]

In discussing the question of uncertainties in the future USUSSR strategic relationship, J. Smith pointed out that the role of intelligence was to give the President a tool for dealing with such unknowns. Intelligence can serve to mitigate uncertainties, given the lead times of 18–24 months required for most major weapons systems.

There followed a discussion of several of the pros and cons under the options in this section, and several drafting changes and additions were agreed to.

Under the discussion on estimating the threat (IV A 1) Selin pointed out that option a referred to the greater-than-expected threat and that therefore the first con should read to the effect: forces probably greater than needed.

It was agreed to drop the phrase “offsetting the least part of our advantage” under the third con for option a. Selin pointed out that our current policy is option b, not option a. Kissinger suggested that a pro for option b could be that it provides the greatest incentive to the Soviets to enter arms limitation talks. Lynn believed that option a could also provide incentive for SALT talks. It was agreed that pros along these lines would be inserted under both options a and b.

Farley thought that the first con under option c was overstated, and it was agreed to tone this down. The group also concurred in a JCS suggestion to change the first pro under option c to read: “forces needed against the estimated likely threat”.

Kissinger wondered whether the second paragraph on page 12 was accurate, i.e., that option c would reduce our confidence in crises. He wondered whether 20% more missiles, for example, would give us more confidence in a crisis. Selin noted that we had confidence in past crises when we enjoyed a superior relationship. Lynn said that the thinner you slice your relative strategic posture the riskier it becomes to be firm during a crisis.

In response to Kissinger’s query about our sensitivity to minor changes in the Soviet threat, Selin said that it was a question of which threat one was discussing and how much redundancy was needed beyond the assured destruction level of 25 to 30% fatalities. The discussion then centered on the question of redundancy (IV A 2). Halperin pointed out, and Selin agreed, that redundancy is related to deterrence, not damage-limitation.

Packard said that, speaking frankly, one had to admit that the issue of redundancy was being treated strictly in the context of the current components in our strategic forces, rather than taking a hard look at redundancy that might be caused by competition among the military services. Thus, this issue was being treated only in terms of the present facts of life, and there was no vigorous examination of possible new forces. Lynn suggested a background paragraph to this effect, [Page 115] and Kissinger agreed. There followed a brief discussion of the question of the mix of our forces which Unger noted was relevant to all the conditions listed for sufficiency. Packard said this had been studied. G. Smith wondered, in this regard, why we placed our missiles near cities; he agreed with the Navy’s emphasis on getting them out into the seas. Lynn noted the command and control problems of sea-based forces.

There was some discussion of how the options in this section would complicate Soviet planning. It was agreed that in addition to option a, option b would also serve this purpose to an extent.

Farley noted the seeming paradox between the two cons for option a (with regard to the adequacy of the forces). Unger pointed out that the first one referred to assured destruction, while the second one covered other factors such as damage limitation, contingencies, etc.

(Kissinger had to leave the meeting at this point, and Packard became Chairman.

Discussion continued about the pros and cons. Unger noted the second pro under option c, a sea-based force only would reduce Soviet incentives to attack the continental United States. Lynn again recalled the command and control problems related to submarines.

There was considerable discussion about the thrust of section B, beginning on page 13, and it was agreed to highlight the political and public aspects in the title for this section. Halperin noted that we will call whatever option we choose sufficiency. Selin suggested deleting a reference to emphasizing this concept under option 1, and this was agreed upon.

J. Smith wondered whether the first option, which included proceeding with MIRVs and Safeguard, could be characterized as emphasizing moderation. After some discussion it was agreed to reverse options 1 and 2, and to say that the new option 2 emphasized moderation in comparison to the new option 1. Selin did not perceive the difference between options 1 and 2 in terms of our strategic force decisions. He did not see how under the new option 2 we might be passing up opportunities to improve our relative strategic capabilities. Packard and Unger felt that this was a fair statement. Packard said that the discussion was merely treating the broad options of increasing, decreasing, or maintaining present strategic forces. This was an overlook at the general effect before dealing with specific programs; therefore under this broad option we might be passing up some opportunities to improve our capabilities. Farley said that if the con for the new option 1 of perhaps inducing the Soviets to seek détente was to be retained, there should also be a con to the effect that this option might harden Soviet attitudes, given our uncertainty about Soviet reactions.

After some further discussion on this section (IV B) Selin suggested, and it was agreed, to pick up language contained in the Steering Group report.

[Page 116]

With regard to the final section on unresolved issues (V), Halperin suggested adding the problem of requirements generated by our NATO commitments. It could be noted that this issue, unlike the other three unresolved questions listed in this section, was being addressed in the remaining portion of the Packard study. This was agreed to.

There being no further questions, the meeting was then adjourned.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–111, SRG Meetings Minutes, Originals, 1969. Top Secret. The meeting was held in the Situation Room of the White House. No drafting information is provided.
  2. The paper, entitled “U.S. Strategic Posture: Basic Issues,” was drafted by the NSC Staff and distributed to Review Group members. (Ibid., Box H–37, Review Group Meeting, Strategic Force Posture, 5/29/69) The paper, as revised by the Review Group, served as the basis for discussions at the NSC meetings held on June 13 and June 18. See Documents 35 and 36. The final version is printed as Document 34. The paper summarizes a report, entitled “A Review of the U.S. Strategic Posture,” completed by the NSSM 3 Interagency Steering Group. The 24–page report includes the following sections: Introduction, The Political and Military Role of U.S. Strategic Forces, Results of the Analysis, and Key Issues for Presidential Consideration. Packard, the group’s chair, sent the report to Kissinger under a May 12 covering memorandum. (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–75–103, 320.2, Strategic)
  3. NSSM 3 is Document 2. NSSM 28, issued on March 6, ordered the preparation of U.S. negotiating positions for possible strategic arms limitation talks. For the response to NSSM 28, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXII, SALT I, 1969–1972, Document 14.
  4. Throughout these minutes references to page numbers are keyed to the version of the summary paper distributed May 26 by the NSC Secretariat. [Footnote in the original.]
  5. See Document 28.
  6. The summary paper under discussion listed three general alternatives for “managing the U.S.-Soviet strategic relationship.” The first two were either maintaining or improving U.S. strategic programs. The third, at page 15, reads as follows: “Exercise restraint on new strategic arms programs as a means of promoting prospects for strategic arms limitations. We would emphasize our interest in talks. We would delay MIRV testing and possibly reduce the Safeguard program, and we could suspend these programs if the Soviets reciprocated. We would also emphasize that our programs would be resumed or accelerated if no agreement were reached or early progress made.”
  7. Section II of the summary paper explored two general factors—Political Issues (Part A) and Military Issues (Part B)—that shaped U.S. strategic posture. It also articulated two differing viewpoints for achieving strategic sufficiency: “Some will argue that we must make decisions to deploy new strategic weapon systems in anticipation of possible threats in order to reduce the risks we face to the maximum feasible extent and leave no doubts as to our resolve to maintain or improve as necessary the capabilities of our strategic posture.

    “Others will view deployments of new systems in anticipation of threats premature and as inconsistent with our defensive and non-provocative objectives. They will counsel restraint in making such decisions and the amassing of unambiguous evidence that the threat justifies them.”

  8. This paragraph listed the following four conditions that defined strategic sufficiency: “maintain high confidence that our second strike capability is sufficient to deter an all out Soviet surprise attack on our strategic forces; maintain forces to insure that the Soviet Union would have no incentive to strike the United States first in a crisis; maintain the capability to deny to the Soviet Union the ability to cause more deaths and industrial damage in the United States in a nuclear war than they themselves would suffer; deploy defenses which limit damage from small attacks or accidental launches to a low level.” Kissinger highlighted and wrote “how about Europe” next to the third criterion.
  9. Section 1 of the summary paper outlined the general purposes for which the United States maintained strategic forces.
  10. The summary paper’s first sentence reads, “There is general agreement that the overriding purpose of our strategic posture is political and defensive; to deny other countries the ability to impose their will on the United States and its allies under the weight of strategic military superiority.”
  11. See footnote 6 above.
  12. Section II, Part A, paragraph 3 of the summary paper noted that, while Steering Group members agreed that the allies would be troubled by U.S. indifference to growing Soviet strategic strength, they disagreed whether the allies would welcome or be critical of moves to improve the U.S. strategic position.
  13. Section II, Part A, paragraph 4 reads as follows: “The issue concerns the nuclear guarantees we extend to countries threatened by China’s nuclear program. It has been our policy to extend general assurances of U.S. protection against nuclear threats or nuclear attacks while avoiding specifics. How can we make such guarantees credible, and is it in our interest to do so?”
  14. According to section II, Part B 1, a mix of three objectives—assured destruction, crisis stability, and deterring disarming attacks—determined the design of U.S. strategic posture.
  15. Kissinger recalled this reexamination of U.S. strategic doctrine in his memoirs. Given the advent of Soviet-American strategic parity, he remembered particular concern that the U.S. nuclear deterrent was no longer credible and that the Soviets might use their strategic forces for a less than all-out attack. (Kissinger, White House Years, pp. 215–218)
  16. See footnote 8 above.