37. Editorial Note

President Nixon held his sixth press conference, broadcast nationally on television and radio from the East Room of the White House, at 7 p.m. on June 19, 1969. When asked about his position on MIRV [Page 142] testing, Nixon replied that the administration was “considering the possibility of a moratorium as part of any arms control agreement. However,” he continued, “as far as any unilateral stopping of tests on our part, I do not think that would be in our interest. Only in the event that the Soviet Union and we could agree that a moratorium on tests could be mutually beneficial to us, would we be able to agree to do so.”

The news conference ended with a question about Safeguard. The President took issue with the reporter’s suggestion that the ABM was “in trouble” in the Senate and denied that the administration was preparing compromise language. To shore up support for the measure, Nixon added that he recommended Safeguard “based on intelligence information at that time. Since that time new intelligence information with regard to the Soviet success in testing multiple reentry vehicles—that kind of information, has convinced me that Safeguard is even more important. Because however we may argue about that intelligence, as to whether it has an independent guidance system as ours will have, there isn’t any question but that it is a multiple weapon and its footprints indicate that it just happens to fall in somewhat the precise area in which our Minutemen silos are located. This would mean that by the year 1973, in the event the Soviet Union goes forward with that program, that 80 percent of our Minutemen would be in danger. ABM is needed particularly in order to meet that eventuality.” The transcript of Nixon’s press conference is in Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pages 470–480.

The President had written the phase “80 percent of our Minutemen” on his briefing materials prepared by the NSC staff in anticipation of questions about MIRVs during the press conference. Nixon also wrote the following: “(1) What they have is a multiple weapon—with mission of attacking our Minutemen. (2) This makes A.B.M. vital.” Referring to the Cuban missile crisis, the President noted: “Kennedy: (1) courageous (2) able to do it because confident of our strength (3) I don’t want Am. Pres. to be in position where in a crisis U.S. is behind.” The President’s briefing materials are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 845, ABMMIRV, MIRV Test Program, Vol. 1.