228. Memorandum From the Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State Whitehead (Timbie) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • NSPG Meeting on START and Defense and Space


Our strategy in Moscow was to focus Soviet attention on the 4800 ballistic missile RV limit, and suggest that 6000, 4800, 1540 and the counting rule comprise an acceptable package. We don’t have a formal response to this approach. Our delegation in Geneva continues to emphasize all of our proposed sublimits (including 3300 and 1650). The Soviets probably perceive mixed signals here, and our primary objective is to get Soviet attention fixed on the 4800 as our priority need and try to settle on the above package.

The Support Group has produced a long paper2 covering a large number of START issues. Talking points follow on each issue in the paper.


—We have the basis for a good agreement: 6000 total warheads, 1600 launchers and bombers, 1540 heavy ICBM warheads, counting rule.

—The most important element we need to add is the 4800 ballistic missile warhead limit.

—What we have been pushing for since START began in 1982.

—Would ensure equality in this key measure of strategic capability.

—Would give us headway for a substantial bomber and ALCM force, and at the same time maintain equality with the Soviets in missile warheads.

JCS says this is top priority, we agree with that assessment.

—Should press Soviets hard on the 4800, insist on a response. Their proposal for separate low limits on each component of the triad is out of the question. Need to get them to respond to our approach.

[Page 987]

—3300 ICBM RV sublimit would be good to have, but is less important to us. Low on the JCS priority list.

Mobile ICBMs

—As we reduce, survivability of our remaining forces becomes even more important.

—For ICBMs, this means mobility.

—We have two programs, and we will need them.

—Soviets have mobile ICBMs, and will want to keep them.

—Problem here is verification.

—Verification is very difficult, but the Soviets are not going to give up their SS–24’s and SS–25’s. Is this a treaty breaker, or is the real problem our unfamiliarity with verifying mobiles? We should work hard on verification. Get the Soviets to work hard on it too.

—When the time comes to shift our position on mobile ICBMs, we should do so only in return for the verification provisions we need, including a low limit like 500–1000 warheads on mobile ICBMs.


—In the end, we can go back to the idea we suggested at Reykjavik—an exchange of unilateral declarations on SLCM plans.

Heavy ICBM Modernization

—Soviets complain that we permit 1540 heavy ICBM warheads, but they really can’t have them under our position because heavy ICBMs can’t be tested or modernized.

—In the end, we will have to give ground on modernization and testing, but not the 1540 limit.

—[less than 4 lines not declassified]

Reduction Period

—Seven years is what the Chiefs say they need.


—Our intelligence says this aircraft has a theater rather than intercontinental mission.

—We know more about this aircraft now than we did 10 years ago.

—The Soviets are not going to agree to count it as if it were an intercontinental bomber, so we will need to do something else.

—We should, however, get some handle on Backfire. We could get a commitment on the total number, and on the absence of refueling capability and training.


—The Soviets have agreed that one effect of the reductions will be to reduce their throwweight by 50%.

[Page 988]

—Now we need to find a way to record this.

—There are several ways to do this, all binding on the Soviets. With a little ingenuity, we can try to capture this important constraint.

Defense and Space

The Defense and Space paper3 produced by the NSC staff has wildly divergent options. OSD is apparently proposing that we hold to our current position in the negotiations and have the President declare our intention to deploy a Phase I SDI system as soon as possible. Hank Cooper apparently recommends that we terminate the radar constraints of the ABM Treaty in order to permit testing and deployment of advanced US satellite sensors; this would also resolve the Krasnoyarsk problem.

The option State has inserted in the paper is more modest:

—Non-withdrawal through 1996 (a two year extension beyond our current proposal, a year has passed since Reykjavik).

—A period of negotiation in the years leading up to 1996 on the situation after the expiration of the non-withdrawal commitment.

—Either side could withdraw from the ABM Treaty after 1996 upon six-month’s notice.

The basic objective is to settle on a length of time for the non-withdrawal commitment, and put off all other issues for subsequent negotiations. Such a minimal agreement may permit the START reductions to go forward, without prejudice to either side’s positions on interpretation of the ABM Treaty or what may happen after 1996.

—Good beginning in Reykjavik.

—Agreed on the concept of a period of non-withdrawal. Differ on the duration of this period. Soviets have hinted flexibility here. This probably can be resolved.

—Major differences on other questions, such as what happens after this period, and what the ABM Treaty permits and prohibits.

—Probably not necessary to solve all these problems in order to have a START agreement.

—A simple non-withdrawal commitment without a lot of other elaborate provisions may be all we need.

—The Congress would probably be careful in approving funds for SDI testing to avoid jeopardizing the reductions. But they are doing that anyway.

[Page 989]

—Success in achieving a reductions agreement would be a big plus for the SDI program. The best thing we could do for SDI is to make it part of a strategy that pays off in deep reductions in strategic forces.

—This would broaden support for the program, and bound the threat SDI needs to counter.

Declaration of Decision to Deploy Phase I SDI


—Don’t yet know how to meet the criteria we have established.

—Would please only those in Congress who are already enthusiasts, but would further shrink the base of support in Congress for SDI.

—Won’t help get START reductions.

—Soviets may be in a position to deploy first.

Terminate ABM Treaty Provisions on Radars and Other Sensors

—[less than 4 lines not declassified]

—Not a good way to resolve Krasnoyarsk. Especially now that the Soviets say they are suspending construction.

  1. Source: Department of State, Bureau of Arms Control and Disarmament, Lot 01D127, 1969–1990 Subject Records of James P. Timbie, Box 1, START/INF 1987. Secret. Drafted by Timbie; cleared by Nitze, Kampelman, and Harrison. A stamped notation indicates Shultz saw the memorandum.
  2. See Tab B, Document 227.
  3. See Tab A, Document 227.