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The Secret History of  The ABM Treaty, 1969-1972
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 60
Edited by William Burr
November 8, 2001
The September 11th Sourcebooks - Index
In the coming days the Archive will release subsequent volumes on lessons from the Soviet war in Afghanistan, U.S. policy and planning for "Low-Intensity Conflict," CIA guidelines on the recruitment of inteligence "assets," and the use of assassination in U.S. foreign policy.
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Last month's terrorist attacks on the United States generated renewed debate and discussion about ways and means for protecting U.S. domestic territory in the years to come.  Believing that national missile defense (NMD) is essential for "homeland security," the Bush administration is determined to pursue its plans to change fundamentally the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1972) so at to dispose of the strict limitations on research, development, and deployments that it mandates. The demands of coalition-building with Russia and other allies has already persuaded the Bush administration to postpone tests of ABM components that could have violated the Treaty.  Although the White House seeks a grand bargain with Moscow that links Russian acquiescence in NMD with cuts in strategic nuclear forces, it remains to be seen whether President Putin will accept changes that substantially circumvent the original purposes of the ABM Treaty.  According to the latest reports, Moscow and Washington are close to a deal that mandates strategic forces cuts and allows the Pentagon more scope for NMD tests, while leaving the Treaty intact for now, although the White House seeks eventually to scrap it(1)
     Another Republican president, Richard M. Nixon, presided over the negotiations that produced the ABM Treaty.  For top-level Nixon administration policymakers as well as treaty negotiators, the Treaty was valuable because it could check, if not halt, the Soviet strategic nuclear threat.  As national security adviser Henry Kissinger explained during a Congressional briefing on 15 June 1972, "by setting a limit to ABM defenses the treaty not only eliminates one area of potentially dangerous defensive competition, but it reduces the incentive for continuing deployment of offensive systems."  In other words, failure to check deployments of ABMs posed the risk of a heightened arms race because if both Moscow and Washington deployed nationwide ABM systems, there would be pressure on both sides to field more ICBMs armed in order to penetrate the missile defense shields.  Because multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) were ready for deployment, more missiles would be armed with MIRVs to give the offense a greater advantage.  In turn, more missile and warhead deployments would raise pressures to deploy more ABM sites to check an ICBM attack.  From this standpoint, ABMs added an element of strategic instability because they increased pressures to deploy missiles (2)
   The Treaty's contribution to strategic stability gave it widespread support, not only in the United States and the Soviet Union but also NATO Europe.  Since the 1970s, however, Republican administrations have waged assaults on the Treaty.  The Reagan administration's attack was more indirect. As the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) unfolded during the mid-1980s, Defense and State Department lawyers strained to interpret the ABM treaty in ways that would allow the Pentagon to develop and deploy space-based missile defense systems.  During a press conference, President Reagan explained that "as we progressed and developed SDI, we realized we were coming to a time in which that narrow interpretation of the ABM treaty could interfere with and set us back in what we were trying to accomplish."  A permissive interpretation became official policy under Reagan and Bush I although trenchant criticism offered by participants in the SALT I negotiations undermined its intellectual respectability (3).   Not long after the Clinton administration came to power, however, ACDA restored the "narrow" or "traditional" interpretation (4)
   The Bush administration's attack on the Treaty has been a frontal one.   Rather than trying to revive the Reagan-Bush I permissive interpretation, the president and his advisers straightforwardly acknowledge that their NMD plans contravene the terms of the Treaty.  National security adviser Condaleeza Rice frankly avowed several months ago that the "treaty is so restrictive that anything you do that isn't ground-based that you use in an ABM mode, so to speak, is a violation of the treaty."  Given their emphasis on Iraq and North Korea as potential sources of future ICBM threat, President Bush and his advisers see the treaty as a relic of the Cold War that interferes with U.S. defense planning.  Less than convinced by Bush's argument about new ICBM threats, Russian president Putin continues to see the Treaty as a source of stability in great power nuclear relations (5)
      The reported NMD deal with Moscow may well involve amending article VI of the Treaty (see document 42 below), which prohibits interceptor tests using non-ABM radars. However the Bush administration finesses the ABM issue, its ultimate objective is to overthrow a treaty that, with for narrow exceptions, prohibits its signatories from deploying missile defenses to protect national territories.  The Treaty permitted each signatory two ABM sites only: one to defend their capital, the so-called National Command Authority (NCA) and one to defend an ICBM missile field.  At the time of the signing, the Soviets were building a site to defend Moscow while the United States was developing a site near Grand Forks, MT to defend ICBM silos.  However, the Soviets were not interested in deploying a site to defend  missiles and the U.S. Congress, and some elements in the U.S. national security establishment, had little interest in funding a site for Washington, D.C.   Even before the treaty was signed, the SALT negotiators discussed the possibility of formally deferring those sites that were not yet under way.  With Congress refusing to fund an NCA site, deferral became a reality.  In 1974, at the Moscow summit, Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev signed a protocol to the ABM treaty that permitted Moscow and Washington to have only one ABM site; unless they exercised a one-time right to switch, the Soviets would keep their NCA site while the United States would keep the Grand Forks site (although Congress soon phased that out of existence) (6)
    Except for the few authorized sites with limited purposes, the treaty barred any other deployments and explicitly banned territorial defense through ABMs.   A number of articles and interpretative statements reinforced the prohibition against national missile defense.  The treaty banned any development or deployments of sea-based, space-based, or air-based ABMs or futuristic ABMs, e.g., laser-based systems (except for R&D work on land-based laser ABMs).  In addition, testing of ABMs was limited to "current or additionally agreed" sites.   Also to limit ABM development, the treaty included strict conditions on radar deployments as well as upgrading of non-ABM systems such as surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles.
      Although Henry Kissinger would speak in defense of the treaty in 1972, its sharp restrictions on ABMs were not what he had in mind during the early stages of the Nixon administration.  When Nixon and Kissinger proposed the Safeguard ABM system in early 1969, they sought a limited nuclear-armed missile defense system that could check accidental or small scale launches, whether from the Soviet Union or emerging nuclear powers such as China.  In particular, they wanted Safeguard for the defense of Minuteman missile sites in the upper Great Plains states.  In the first years of the administration, Congress began to fund two sites, one at Grand Forks, the other at Malmstrom. 
      Nixon and Kissinger were most concerned about Soviet ICBMs and engaging Moscow in arms control talks, especially if they could be linked to Soviet cooperation in Vietnam, the Middle East, and elsewhere.  Recognizing that the Soviets worried about the U.S. missile defense program, Kissinger and President Nixon saw the ABM as a bargaining chip to get Soviet concessions on strategic offensive missiles.  While that argument was generally persuasive to Congress, Nixon's ABM was never fully funded, linkage fell short, and participation in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) raised pressures for an agreement to limit sharply ABM deployments.  Given weak Congressional support, arising from concerns about the arms race, the military-industrial complex, and ABM's technical problems, the "thin" ABM system that Nixon and Kissinger originally sought became unreachable while arguments for limitations from State Department and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) as well as from the Soviets were difficult to resist.  By the mid-1971, if not before, the momentum for an agreement sharply limiting ABMs was irresistible.
    The Pentagon's publicly acknowledged NMD plans shed light on why the Bush White House regards the ABM Treaty as an obstacle.  For example, the Defense Department has plans for a series of tests that would use radar systems that were not designed for NMD missions (7).  The Pentagon also plans an NMD test site, with five silos for ABMs, at Ft. Greely, near Fairbanks, Alaska (and five more silos on Kodiak Island).  In addition, the Pentagon plans to upgrade radars in Alaska so they can perform NMD missions by tracking ICBMs.    Finally, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization has research and development plans for a space-based laser to knock out missiles in their "boost" phase (9)
    Implementing some of these plans appears to be inconsistent with the treaty.  Pentagon lawyers admit that recently delayed NMD tests were inconsistent with Article VI of the Treaty.  If Ft. Greely were simply a test range, the difficulties would be fewer (10),  but the Pentagon's interest in establishing what appears to be an emergency NMD capability there is difficult to reconcile with the treaty.  Disagreeing with Bush's assessment that the treaty is only a Cold War relic and worried that NMD could threaten their deterrence forces, Russian officials have shown no official interest in U.S. proposals for joint withdrawal from the treaty.  They have already argued that the plans for Ft. Greely amount to a treaty violation (11).   Absent a U.S.-Russian understanding, Congress could challenge treaty violations but in the current climate it is unlikely to take up the cudgels (12)
    Significant secondary sources and memoirs shed light on how and why an earlier Republican administration negotiated a treaty forbidding the type of activities that the Bush administration is planning.  Only in recent years, however, has it become possible to review much of the declassified record of the first SALT negotiations, especially the negotiations that produced the ABM treaty.  Indeed, only in the last few months have significant White House records on the talks become available at the National Archives.  With this and other declassified archival material it is possible to trace the negotiations that gave the ABM treaty its form and content (13).   The documents that follow in this electronic briefing book are by no means a definitive record of the negotiating history.  It was a complex process and not all of the relevant material has been declassified.  Nevertheless, these documents shed light on such important questions as:
  • why the Nixon White House saw advantage in an ABM system (see document 1)
  • how the early Soviet acceptance of an ABM system limited to the defense of national capitals, Moscow and Washington, constrained the U.S. negotiating position (see document 4)
  • the difficult negotiations over the provisions sharply limiting futuristic (e.g., laser and space weapons) ABM systems (see documents 11-13, 15, 16-18, 26, 27, 32 and 34-36)
  • the importance that the U.S. side attached to agreement on an article defining ABM systems in order to limit further possibilities for competition in futuristic ABM systems or components (see documents 14, 20, 21, and 26)
  • the U.S.'s ready acceptance of a Soviet proposal that an ABM agreement  explicitly ban national missile defense systems (see documents 24 and 25)
  • U.S. ABM proposals included sites to protect ICBMs although Kissinger privately acknowledged that he had "no military rationale" for them (see document 19)
  • the complex process by which the U.S. and Soviet delegations, with White House and Kremlin concurrence, agreed to an arrangement limiting each side to a few ABM sites (see especially documents 37-39).
  •    The documents also illuminate the policymaking process and the personalities involved.  As significant as Henry Kissinger's back channel communications with the Soviet were, archival and other declassified material illuminates the critically important role of the SALT delegation in negotiating the ABM treaty, article by article, word by word.  No intermittent secret communications could have substituted for the day-to-day labors of the delegations.  Nevertheless, the records of Henry Kissinger's discussions with U.S. and Soviet players in the SALT process illuminate not only his suspicions toward Moscow but also toward other elements of the U.S. national security bureaucracy, not least the U.S. SALT delegation and its executive secretary Raymond L. Garthoff (14).   Determined to assert White House control over major policy decisions and worried that the delegation might somehow deprive Nixon of credit for important diplomatic achievements, Kissinger was a zealous practioner of bureaucratic turf war.

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    Document 1
    Henry Kissinger to President Nixon, "Analysis of Strategic Arms Limitation Proposals," 23 May 1969, with attachment "Comments on Strategic Exchange Analysis NSSM 28," Top Secret
    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, National Security Council Files (hereinafter cited as NSCF), box 873, SALT Jan-May Vol. I
    During the spring of 1969, the Nixon administration announced its plans for what it called the Safeguard ABM system; it projected 12 sites for a system designed to defend against accidental Soviet missile launches and a projected small Chinese ICBM force, with some sites located so they could defend U.S. ICBM fields from attack (15).   While the administration was sorting out its ABM plans, other elements in the national security bureaucracy were responding to a White House request--National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 28--for a study of possible SALT agreements and their implications for the U.S. strategic position.  By late May the agencies--ACDA, State, CIA, and Defense--had completed a report with a number of options which Henry Kissinger's NSC staff critically assessed; Kissinger presented Nixon with the major findings on 23 May.
        Kissinger found the study wanting partly because some of the options could improve the Soviet Union's capability to retaliate to a U.S. first strike, thus "increas[ing] the number of deaths we would suffer."  A proposal for hundreds of ABM launchers, multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), and large numbers of bombers looked good to Kissinger, but would have been unacceptable to Moscow.  Some agencies were interested in banning MIRVs Kissinger suggested that a ban would impair the U.S.'s ability to retaliate to a Soviet first strike by limiting the number of available warheads.  He also observed that another proposal, an ABM ban, was "probably not in our interest" because it would increase Soviet capability to launch a retaliatory strike against a U.S. first strike.
       Kissinger believed that anything, such as an ABM ban, that tended to improve the Soviet Union's retaliatory capability posed a political risk.  As he explained, "I question whether the strength of an American president's resolve in a crisis will be unaffected by the magnitude of Soviet nuclear retaliatory capability."  In other words, the fact that Moscow could launch even more devastating counterattacks might make a president more reluctant to order a nuclear attack should a political or military confrontation with the Soviets require a decision.  Tacitly, Kissinger was challenging what McGeorge Bundy would later call "existential deterrence": that the danger of nuclear catastrophe itself, not the size of U.S. and Soviet nuclear forces or any particular level of retaliatory capability, made decisionmakers draw back from nuclear weapons use.
    Document 2
    Henry Kissinger to President Nixon, "The Soviet Position on ABM Limitations on SALT," 22 January 1970
    Source: National Archives, NSCF, box 840, ABM System Vol. III
    During the months that followed Kissinger's tutorial to Nixon on NSSM 28, the administration sought funding for 2 Safeguard sites, near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota and Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.  Both sites were slated to defend nearby Minuteman ICBM fields; other sites would eventually provide defense for urban-industrial populations.  Congress was divided over funding the ABM and only the vote of Vice President Spiro Agnew in August 1969 broke a tie in the Senate and gave Nixon and Kissinger the bargaining chip they sought in negotiations with the Soviets.
        A few months late, the SALT talks began in Helsinki in mid-November 1969.  During the first round of the talks, the negotiators discussed their views on strategic and defensive nuclear forces without committing themselves to particular positions.  With the White House continuing to push Congress to underwrite a limited ABM system, Nixon and Kissinger were keenly interested in what the Soviet delegates had said about missile defense.  In this report to Nixon, Kissinger pointed out some of the pertinent Soviet statements.   Kissinger noted Soviet concern about Safeguard and the worries of chief Soviet negotiator Vladimir Semonov that ABM systems were destabilizing but he was not aware that the Soviets were drawing back from strong interest in missile defense which debate back to the 1940s and 50s.   Instead Kissinger cautiously advised Nixon that "it seems most likely that their preference is for a limited system capable of providing protection against third country attacks."  Nixon's marginal note shows that he was even more convinced that the Soviets sought a limited system: "This is what they will insist on."
    Document 3
    Walter B. Slocombe to Henry Kissinger, "A Safeguard Site at Washington for FY 71?," 24 January 1970, Top Secret
    Source: National Archives, NSCF, box 840, ABM System Vol.III 1/70 Memos and Misc
    During its initial discussions of Safeguard deployment possibilities, the Nixon administration considered the possibility of building a site at Washington, D.C., to protect decisionmakers from a Soviet attack.  In January 1970, Nixon asked for a review of this option and NSC staffer Walter Slocombe looked at the pros and cons of what would be called the National Command Authority (NCA) ABM option.  Slocombe (16)  saw decided advantages and disadvantages from a strategic and arms control perspective: not only was a Washington, D.C. site the equivalent to what the Soviets were already doing, it could provide protection against small attacks and, in the event of major war, give more time for decisionmakers to issue attack orders and relocate.  Nevertheless, Congress might refuse funding, the site would not cover more populated areas further north, and there were doubts about the Safeguard components.  In the end, Slocombe was more interested in the advantages; if the White House wanted to show its commitment to an area defense system, then it should start work on the Washington, D.C. site as quickly as possible.  Others, at Defense and elsewhere, had doubts about the decision-time argument and saw little military utility but great expense for a Washington, D.C. site (17).
    Document 4
    Helmut Sonnenfeldt to Henry Kissinger, "Secretary Laird Concerned About Leak of Soviet ABM Position," 29 April 1970, with Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird memo, "Impact of SALT on the SAFEGUARD Debate, 28 April 1970 attached, Top Secret
    Source: National Archives, NSCF, box 840, ABM System Vol. IV
    The Nixon administration would not ask Congress for a Washington, D.C. site until 1971, but arguments like Slocombe's may have influenced the SALT proposals that the Nixon administration developed in April 1970 and offered the Soviets later in the month.  The proposals included a NCA option that allowed each side to deploy an ABM system limited to the defense of Moscow and Washington respectively.  Exactly how the Nixon White House came to support an NCA option is murky but apparently it was Kissinger's choice to make.  He may well have agreed with Nixon that the Soviets were likely to reject an NCA-only proposal because they were also believed to support a limited ABM system.  Soviet rejection would, of course, would put the White House in a better position to ask Congress to fund more Safeguard sites. 
        If Nixon and Kissinger expected an early rejection of the NCA proposal they must have been startled when the Soviet delegation showed positive interest in it.  Laird and NSC staffer Helmut Sonnenfeldt argued that the Soviet stance was somewhat equivocal; nevertheless, they worried that it might leak and have a "serious impact on the Safeguard debate in Congress."  Congress was already unenthusiastic about funding a nation-wide deployment so if it learned that  the Soviets were willing to accept the most minimal system, opposition to more funding would inevitably increase. 
    Document 5
    Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, Intelligence Memorandum, "Soviet ABM Defenses--Status and Prospects," SR IM 70-27, August 1970, excised copy
    Source: CIA Historical Declassification Release, 1999
    This heavily excised document describes the status of Moscow's ABM efforts and explores the implications of SALT for future plans.  Interestingly, CIA analysts noted that the Soviets had significantly scaled back their plans for the defense of Moscow probably because of their "recognition that the system could be defeated by a determined attack using tactics of either saturation ... or exhaustion."
    Document 6
    Memorandum from K. Wayne Smith and Helmut Sonnenfeldt, National Security Council Staff, to Henry Kissinger, "SALT -- Vienna Phase IV," 12 January 1971, Top Secret/Sensitive
    Source: National Archives, NSCF, Box 880, SALT Talks (Helsinki) Vol. XIV 1 Jan 71-Apr 71
    The Soviet position on NCA eventually leaked but Sonnenfeldt was mistaken to suppose that Moscow would "get out of their position before long" because in August 1970 they strongly reaffirmed that choice.  Nevertheless, during the fall of 1970 through the spring of 1971 the SALT talks stagnated.  The Americans and the Soviets found themselves at loggerheads over what a comprehensive SALT agreement (18) would entail, e.g., whether it would include U.S. nuclear delivery--"forward-based"--systems stationed in NATO Europe.  With growing disagreements over the nature of a comprehensive agreement, Moscow began to emphasize steps to regulate ABMs.   That Kissinger, in early 1970, already had secretly told Dobrynin that the United States might consider a limited agreement could have only undermined the duly authorized efforts by the SALT negotiators to negotiate a comprehensive SALT agreement. 
          This report by NSC staffers Helmut Sonnenfeldt and Wayne Smith (one of McNamara's Pentagon "whiz kids') provides an inside view of the ABM problem in the wider SALT context in early 1971.  Like their superiors, Smith and Sonnenfeldt believed that one of the purposes of area defense, defense against a future Chinese ICBM program, was less important than a bargain with the Soviets regulating offensive and defensive systems.   Nevertheless, they believed that Washington had to go forward with the Safeguard program because it could provide a "bargaining chip" to influence the Soviet position on SALT.   Nevertheless, their outlook for the ABM was bleak.  Not only was it "highly unlikely" that Congress would fund area defense, there was a risk of "los[ing] Safeguard to the Congress."  Moreover, the Pentagon's ABM plans were ineffectual: "on a fairly conservative basis it is estimated that the 4-site Safeguard will save only about 10 Minutemen more than no defense at all" against the worst case threat estimate for 1979.  A more effective ABM scheme designed specifically for the defense of Minuteman fields--"hard-site defense"--risked "abandoning any hope for SALT", probably because it was wholly inconsistent with the U.S. NCA defense proposal that the Soviets had already accepted.
       To get progress on SALT, Smith and Sonnenfeldt suggested a range of options, including "Option E" offered at Vienna on 4 August (19), simpler agreements, temporary arrangements, interim agreements (e.g., a strategic systems freeze), or unilateral declarations, which was their recommendation.  Whatever form the SALT agreement took, they assumed that it would include the NCA option, thus giving the White House a "plausible rationale for abandoning the Safeguard 4-site defense." 
         That this report was marked "OBE" ("overtaken by events") suggests that it did not serve immediate policy needs.   Nixon and Kissinger were not ready to abandon the 4-site program although they were interested in finding a SALT alternative that could speed negotiating progress.
    Document 7
    Memorandum of Conversation (hereinafter Memcon) between Henry A. Kissinger and Anatoly F. Dobrynin, 28 January 1971, Top Secret/Sensitive
    Source: National Archives, NSCF, Henry A. Kissinger Office File, box 79, May 20 Announcement State Department
    No doubt one of the events that overtook the Smith-Sonnenfeldt proposal was a higher-level Nixon/Kissinger decision to use "back channel" talks with Ambassador Dobrynin to break the SALT impasse and give the White House credit for a "breakthrough."   The Dobrynin/Kissinger talks had already begun a few days earlier and as evident in this document, their discussion centered on negotiating an understanding on: 1) a separate ABM agreement, and 2) a freeze of strategic forces.  The nature of the ABM agreement and the exact terms of the freeze would not be settled in the preliminary understanding but in a new round of negotiations.  The procedural details, e.g., when the ABM agreement would be worked out and the relationship between ABM and freeze negotiations, would take time to reach but, as this document suggests, Dobrynin and Kissinger were working toward an understanding.  That Kissinger more or less casually acquiesced in Dobrynin's effort to exclude submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) from a freeze would turn out to be tremendously controversial when other parties to the SALT negotiations became aware of it (20)
    Document 8
    President Nixon to Secretary of State Rogers, 18 March 1971, Top Secret/Eyes Only
    Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records (hereinafter RG 59), Office Files of William P. Rogers, box 25
    While the back-channel and front-channel SALT negotiations unfolded, the Nixon administration continued to press Congress to authorize more ABM sites.  In 1971, for its fiscal year 1972 request, the White House sought an optional fourth site either at Warren AFB or Washington, D.C.  As this letter shows, Nixon was worried that Congressional supporters of Safeguard might turn against the SALT process if an agreement jeopardized work on the sites.  That would have been the case if an agreement codified either the NCA option or another one offered in August 1970--zero ABM--that had been proposed to whet Soviet interest in a comprehensive agreement. (The Soviets were believed to have been ambivalent about ABMs to consider the possibility of a ban).  Thus, for the "sake of bringing our SALT position in line with our budget requests," Nixon wanted the delegation to offer a third option (not specifically mentioned in the letter) that would allow the United States to have four sites to defend ICBMs while the Soviets could have their one site to defend Moscow.  Nixon recognized that the SALT team believed that 4-to-1 was nonnegotiable but he believed that it could influence Moscow's negotiating behavior by making the Soviets worry that Washington planned to turn Safeguard into an area defense system (21)
    Document 9
    U.S. SALT Delegation, Memcon, "US Safeguard ABM Alternative," 26 March 1971, transmitted via airgram A-130, Secret/Limdis (22)
    Source: ACDA FOIA Release
    On 26 March 1971, SALT delegation chief and Arms Control and Disarmament Agency director Gerard C. Smith formally presented the 4 to 1 proposal to the Soviets but it was dead on arrival.  Ambassador J. Graham Parsons, the State Department representative on the SALT delegation, gamely defended the scheme but the Soviet delegate Petr Pleshakov (deputy minister of the Radio-Technical Ministry) "dominated the discussion with sharp but good-natured questions" about it.  The Soviets thought 4 to 1 was absurd and wondered why the United States would not stick with the NCA solution on which there already had been "substantial agreement."  The Soviets would consistently hold to a negotiating position based on an NCA solution.  Interestingly, Kissinger's memoirs make no mention of the 26 March offer or its later permutations (e.g., a 3 to 1 proposal offered later in the summer); indeed, he mistakenly claims that the delegation dragged its feet in making the 4 to 1 proposal to the Soviets (23)
    Document 10
    Transcript of Telephone Conversation, Amb. Dobrynin/ Henry Kissinger, 11 May 1971, 9:10 a.m.
    Source: National Archives, NSCF, Henry A. Kissinger Office File, box 78, SALT Jan-May 20, 1971
    During this lengthy telephone conversation with Dobrynin, Kissinger conveyed his ire that the SALT negotiators in Vienna were encroaching on the back channel negotiations.  In early May, chief Soviet negotiator Vladimir Semenov broached to Gerard C. Smith a possible deal involving first a separate ABM agreement and then a strategic forces freeze.  Although Semenov's position was outdated (Dobrynin was now agreeing to simultaneous ABM/freeze negotiation), Kissinger was incensed by the possibility that the negotiators in Vienna might overtake or disrupt his efforts through the back-channel and thus deny the credit due the White House.  He warned Dobrynin that Nixon "will take this as a personal affront."  He further accused the ambassador of "lying" when Dobrynin stated that he tried to preserve the confidentiality of their discussions.  While Kissinger was miffed that Raymond Garthoff (misspelled "Gartov" by the notetaker), the SALT delegation's executive secretary, and other "subordinates [were] discussing the same thing" as top officials and accused Moscow of "bad faith," Dobrynin downplayed the whole affair suggesting that it was just the "delegation fishing."  Dobrynin must have learned a lot about the Nixon White House from this conversation, especially that Henry Kissinger was less interested in solving diplomatic problems than in making sure that President Nixon got the credit for a solution (24)
         Kissinger, however, used the alleged instance of "bad faith" to press Dobrynin to settle very quickly the last details of the SALT arrangement that they had been negotiating.  That would include an understanding that an ABM arrangement and a freeze would be negotiated simultaneously but, contrary to Dobrynin's expectations, Kissinger refused to treat an NCA deal as the agreed outcome.  Kissinger's pressure tactics were successful and the Soviets agreed on the NCA point.  On May 20 President Nixon announced that the two sides had agreed to work out separately an ABM agreement and an arrangement to limit strategic weapons.  Thus, the White House had officially abandoned the goal of a comprehensive SALT agreement that Kissinger had already secretly discarded a year earlier.  In any event, the SALT delegation had new marching orders: to negotiate an ABM agreement and an interim freeze of strategic forces (25)
    Document 11
    SALT Delegation Cable 799 to Secretary of State, "Decision on Foreclosing Possible Future ABM Techniques," 12 July 1971, Top Secret/Nodis (26)
    Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records, Records of Undersecretary of State John Irwin, 1969-73, box 5, SALT July 1971.
    During the weeks after Nixon's announcement, the SALT delegation began to work up, while closely consulting with Washington, a draft ABM agreement for presentation to the Soviets.  One issue on which the delegation sought Washington's guidance was a particularly thorny one: the problem of future ABM systems.  In a "back channel" cable specifically marked "no distribution outside the [State] Department", State Department representative Ambassador J. Graham Parsons noted that there were widely diverging views on whether an agreement should limit the   development/deployment of possible ABM techniques such as laser weapons.  Acknowledging that laser weapons sounded like "Buck Rogers", (27)  Parsons noted the arguments of Pentagon representatives who believed that it was imprudent to try to block new technologies through an agreement with the Soviets.  Parsons expressed sympathy for Defense views but  given the importance of the problem, he called for review of futuristic systems in Washington so that the negotiators would know how to treat it in the draft agreement.
    Document 12
    SALT Delegation Cable 804 to Secretary of State, "Ambassador Smith's Views on `Advanced ABM Systems' Question," 13 July 1971, Top Secret/Nodis
    Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records, Records of Undersecretary of State John Irwin, 1969-73, box 5, SALT July 1971
    For the first and only time, the State Department members of the SALT delegation were split over whether to curb future ABMs; while Parsons leaned towards Pentagon views, executive secretary Garthoff expressed his disagreement with Parsons in a cable that remains classified.  Gerard C. Smith expressed his support for an agreeement that "cover[ed] all conceivable systems for countering ballistic missiles" in this "nodis" message to the State Department
    Document 13
    Seymour Weiss, Office of Planning and Coordination, State Department, to Secretary of State William P. Rogers, "Prohibiting Future ABM Systems," 19 July 1971, Secret/Sensitive
    Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records, Records of Undersecretary of State John Irwin, 1969-73, box 5, SALT July 1971
    Ronald Spiers, the director of State's Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, supported Garthoff's and Smith's arguments on future ABM systems and persuaded Acting Secretary of State John Irwin to support the Smith-Garthoff position.  When Secretary of State William Rogers was back in his office, the hawkish Seymour Weiss tried without success to get the issue reconsidered.  Intrigued  by the possibility of laser weapons, cognizant of Navy and Air force research on them, and skeptical that a "madman" could be deterred, Weiss objected to an ABM agreement that would prohibit future "systems."  While Weiss's general position was a minority one in the State Department, there was real interest in the national security bureaucracy in possibilities of land-based laser systems.
    Document 14
    SALT Delegation Cable 842 to State Department, "U.S. Proposed Agreements," 26 July 1971, Top Secret/Nodis
    National Archives, NSCF, Box 881, SALT Talks (Helsinki) 1 May-31 Jul 71 Vol.
    Still waiting for guidance on future ABMs, the SALT delegation, with substantial input from Washington, completed drafts of an ABM agreement and an interim agreement on limiting strategic weapons for tabling with Soviet negotiators.  The ABM agreement, which begins in section 2 of the cable, included a definitional article (Art. 2), which the delegation believed particularly relevant to restricting future ABM systems.  It also proposed limitations on phased array radars (28).    Other articles limited test launchers, mobile ABMs, multiple warhead ABMs, upgrading of surface-to-air missiles, and transfers of ABMs to third countries.  The agreement authorized the use of national means (such as satellite photography) for verifying compliance with an agreement; moreover, each party agreed not to interfere with the other's verification systems, that is, no attacks on satellite systems.  Article 11 created a Standing Commission (later called Standing Consultative Commission or SCC) that would review compliance and verification problems, among others.
        Article VI on mobile ABMs was relevant to the future systems issue but because Washington had not provided guidance on future systems as such, the draft did not refer to this issue.  A key issue was the permitted deployments; in article III the U.S. proposed a choice for each signatory: they could chose to deploy ABMs to defend their national capital (National Command Authority or NCA) or they could chose to deploy ABMs at three different ICBM sites west of the Mississippi or east of the Urals.  On orders from Washington, the delegation had dropped the 4-1 proposal a few weeks earlier.  As the Soviets were already committed to the NCA option, the U.S. "3-1" proposal was unacceptable because it could give Washington 3 sites.  A few weeks later, Kissinger authorized Smith to offer 2 to 1 instead.
    Document 15
    Director of Bureau for Politico-Military Affairs Ronald Spiers to Under Secretary of State John Irwin, "SALT: Future ABM Systems -- Verification Panel Meeting August 9 at 3:00 p.m.," 5 August 1971, Top Secret
    Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records, Top Secret Subject-Numeric Files, 1970-73, box 5, Def 12 US
    Presided over by Henry Kissinger, the National Security Council's Verification Panel was the highest interagency forum, short of the NSC itself, for discussion of SALT issues (except for those that Kissinger kept in the back-channel).  For the most part, it was not a decision making body; Kissinger would later consult with Nixon and prepare directives to the agencies and the SALT delegate.  By early August, the Panel was about to discuss the problem of future ABMs and Ronald Spiers presented John Irwin, who would represent the Department at the meeting, with a position paper supporting a "complete prohibition (i.e., on development, testing, production, and deployment) on any sea-based, air-based, space-based and mobile land-based ABM systems or components, current or future."  Spiers saw no alternative: if the United States was trying to limit one type of ABM system, a failure to limit others "would have the effect of heating up rather than damping down the arms race."  However, to avoid "technical and operational surprise," Spiers advised against limitations on research and development on "new ABM concepts" for fixed land-based systems. 

    Document 16
    Cable from Gerard C. Smith to Henry Kissinger, 7 August 1971, Top Secret/Sensitive, excised copy
    Source: ACDA FOIA Release

    In this back channel message, conveyed through CIA communication channels to preclude circulation to other agencies (29) , Ambassador Smith personally appealed to President Nixon to support prohibitions on futuristic ABM systems in order to prevent a future arms race (30)

    Document 17
    State Department Cable 145329 to SALT Delegation, "August 9 Verification Panel Meeting," 10 August 1971, Secret/Nodis
    Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records, Subject-Numeric Files 1970-1973 (hereinafter SN 70-73), Def 18-3 Fin (He)

    In a back channel message to Gerard C. Smith, ACDA's deputy director Philip Farley reported on the Verification Panel's discussion of proposals to ban ABMs and futuristic ABM systems.  According to Farley, the discussion of future systems was "fragmentary"; the Joint Chiefs opposed restrictions while ACDA representatives and Deputy Director of Defense David Packard supported them.  Kissinger, however, wanted to defer any action because future systems would not be an "operational problem" until the 1980s.

    Document 18
    State Department Cable 148188 to SALT Delegation, "SALT Guidance," 12 August 1971, Top Secret/Nodis
    Source: National Archives, NSCF, Box 882, SALT Talks (Helsinki) Vol XVI Aug 71

    David Packard's support for restrictions on future systems may have been decisive because a few days after the Verification Panel meeting, Nixon responded to Smith's message by issuing a directive (National Security Decision Memorandum 127) that instructed the delegation to seek a ban on mobile futuristic ABMs.  As Nixon had prohibited the SALT delegation from broaching proposals for "zero ABM", which Gerard C. Smith strongly supported, perhaps Nixon felt that it was appropriate to accede on the future ABM issue.  Whatever motivated him, Nixon asked the delegation to seek provisions in an ABM agreement that would enjoin either party from 1) deploying ABM systems that used devices other than radars, interceptor missiles, or launchers, or 2) developing, testing, producing, or deploying space-based, air-based, sea-based, or land-mobile ABM systems.  Consistent with State Department recommendations, these provisions would not prevent research or development work on futuristic (e.g., laser) land-based ABMs because the administration was interested in developments in that area.  Indeed, Nixon prohibited the delegation from "detailed discussion" of future ABM systems so that they would not call attention to U.S. interest.  Nevertheless, Nixon wanted to ensure a mutual U.S.-Soviet understanding that an "agreement should not be interpreted in such a way that either side could circumvent its provisions through future ABM systems or components. (31)

    Document 19
    Memcon between Henry Kissinger and Harold Brown, 30 August 1971, Dr. Kissinger's Office, San Clemente, with cover memorandum from Peter Rodman to Henry Kissinger, "Memcon of Your Talk with Harold Brown," 1 September 1971 attached, Top Secret
    Source: National Archives, NSCF, box 882, SALT (Helsinki) Sep-Dec 1971, Vol. XVII

    Caltech president (and former Secretary of the Air Force) Harold Brown was a senior member of the U.S. SALT delegation with his own ideas of what would constitute an adequate ABM deal.  As Kissinger would have known from reading the cable traffic, Brown preferred an ABM ban but if that could not be obtained, he wanted to prevent an ABM race by limiting the numbers of systems.  When Brown asked if Kissinger would consider a "2 population-sites deal", the latter was incensed because it implied that some at the SALT delegation ("the sons of bitches") were interested in such an arrangement when they should be pushing for the current 2 to 1 proposal (although Kissinger mistakenly said 3 to 1).  Later in the conversation, Kissinger admitted that he had "no military rationale for the missile sites," but that it was necessary to stick with that position because 1) the administration had asked Congress for those sites, and 2) it would put pressure on the Soviets to negotiate.  Further, Kissinger wanted the Soviets to have only one site: he would not approve an agreement that allowed them any more.  Nonetheless, he acknowledged that because the Soviets had accepted a one-site NCA option, it was difficult for the White House to ask for several ICBM defense sites.   Kissinger professed to be puzzled by his own actions: "I can't understand how it happened that we accepted NCA ... I often make mistakes but usually I know why afterward."

    Document 20
    U.S. Salt Delegation, Memcon, "Smith-Semenov Post-Mini-Plenary Conversation, September 17," 17 September 1971, transmitted via airgram A-518, 20 September 1971, Secret/Nodis
    Source: National Archives, SN 70-73, Def 18-3 Fin (He)

    The top U.S. and Soviet negotiators, Gerard S. Smith and Vladimir Semenov,  developed an amiable working relationship and held many private discussions after the formal plenary sessions.  By this time, differences on the ABM issue were evident; one of the most persistent areas of disagreement concerned article II.  Although Semenov elaborated at length about the implications of one word ("indistinguishable") for verification, the Soviets may have been more worried that references to interceptors and the articles could somehow impinge on their freedom of action in upgrading surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Smith, however, emphasized how important article II was for the U.S. side; unless ABM systems were defined along with components (interceptors, radars, etc.), he worried, "we might think that we had concluded an agreement on limiting ABM systems, only to find that in fact we had only limited launchers, interceptors, and radars."  That is, without defining an ABM system, one of the parties might try to circumvent the agreement by developing a new type of ABM systems. 
        Differences on Article III also surfaced; Semenov raised questions about U.S. proposals on the scope of ABM deployment areas as well as U.S. concept of modern ABM radar complexes (MARCs), whose purpose was to establish quantitative limits on ABM radars (32).   Smith and the U.S. delegation were not willing to give up on these proposals, which they saw as necessary constraints on ABM development.

    Document 21
    U.S. Delegation SALT Cable 1055 to State Department, "Joint Draft Text," 24 September 1971, Secret/Nodis
    Source: National Archives, SN 70-73, Def 18-3 Fin (He)

    A week later, and just as the negotiations were adjourning, the U.S. delegation transmitted a text of an ABM agreement as jointly worked up by the U.S. and the Soviet delegations.  Bracketed portions indicate which articles remained contested by one side or the other.  Disputed items included articles II (definitions of systems/components), III (authorized deployments), V (3) (future systems), and V (c) (limitations on phase array radars).  One of the most critically important disagreements was the matter of agreed ABM deployments.  The U.S. position was now 1 to 2 (NCA or two missile defense sites), while the Soviets supported a 2 to 2 solution: one NCA site and one missile defense site on each side.
       Despite the disagreement on whether an article should explicitly address future systems, the two sides had reached, or were reaching, substantial agreement on a number of important points, including:
    1) testing of ABM systems would be limited to "current" test ranges or those that were "additionally agreed."  While the United States was willing to acknowledge that its current test ranges were at White Sands and Kwajalein Atoll, the Soviets were would not acknowledge formally their site at Sary Shagan (they would only say that current sites were well known to both sides).
    2) the U.S. proposal to bar development, testing, or deployment of air, sea, or land-based mobile ABM systems, which directly touched on the question of future systems (Art. V)
    3) to bar development, testing, and deployment of multiple ABMs or automatic launchers (Art. V)
    4) not to provide non-ABM systems (e.g., air defense missiles or radars) with ABM capabilities (Art. VI)
    5) to prevent ballistic missile early warning radars from playing ABM roles, in the future, such radars would only be deployed on the national periphery and "oriented outwards." (Art. VI)
    6) the creation of a Standing Consultative Commission to address compliance  problems (Art. XII)
    7) to use national means of verification and to bar interference with them (Article XII)
    8) the arrangement would have "unlimited duration."  Nevertheless, if one of the parties wanted to withdraw from the agreement, because of "extraordinary events" jeopardizing its "supreme interests", it could do so after giving six months notice.  The withdrawing party would have to explain what those "extraordinary events" were. (Art. XV)

    Document 22
    U.S. Delegation SALT Cable 1056 to State Department, "Status Report at Conclusion of SALT V," 24 September 1971, Secret/Nodis
    Source: National Archives, SN 70-73, Def 18-3 Fin (He)

    In this report, sent to accompany the "Joint Draft Text" (above), the delegation reviewed the points of agreement and disagreement with the Soviets over the draft ABM agreement. 

    Document 23
    U.S. Delegation SALT, "US/USSR Mini-Plenary Meeting No. 4," 30 November 1971, transmitted via airgram 594, 2 December 1971, Secret/Exdis (33)
    Source: Department of State FOIA Release

    Having reconvened in Vienna, the two delegations resumed work on the ABM issue.  During this meeting, negotiator Aleksander N. Shchukin discussed some of the proposed key restrictions of an ABM agreement.  He showed that the Soviets accepted the idea of banning the development and deployment of mobile ABM systems as well as multiple ABMs and automatic reloading devices for them.  Nevertheless, he took issue with U.S. proposed treaty article on future systems by arguing "prohibiting something unknown ... would create uncertainty as to the subject of a Treaty ... Such had never been done in a serious treaty."  This remained Moscow's position until January 1972 when the Soviets became more responsive to U.S. initiatives on future systems (see document 34 below).  Instead, Schukin proposed that an ABM agreement explicitly "exclude the possibility of the defense of the territory of the country."  Both sides would be limited to ABM systems designed to protect the national capital and to protect one ICBM launcher site. 

    Document 24
    U.S. Delegation SALT Cable 1107 to State Department, "Soviet Proposal for Ban on Deployment of ABM Systems for Defense of Territory of the Country," 2 December 1971, Secret/Exdis
    Source: Department of State FOIA Release

    In this cable the U.S. delegation reacted to the Soviet proposal that Article I of the agreement include language to preclude territorial defense.  The delegation observed that the Soviets might have designed their Article I draft to counter U.S. proposals to limit ABM radar and future ABM systems.  The delegation would respond to the Soviets by asking for more specific proposals because "broad undertakings" were no substitute for them.

    Document 25
    Cable, Gerard C. Smith to Henry A. Kissinger, 8 December 1971, Top Secret/Eyes Only, Excised Copy
    Source: ACDA FOIA Release

    Even if Smith thought that the Soviet proposal to prohibit national ABM defenses was insufficient he was nevertheless positive about it.  In this "roundup" prepared for the Kissinger back channel, he said that the Soviet proposal was "evidence" that Moscow accepted the "theory of mutual deterrence."  In other words, the Soviets accepted the notion that building up national missile defense systems undermined deterrence by forcing competitors to enlarge their ICBM and SLBM forces and thereby increase capability to penetrate a defensive shield.

    Document 26
    U.S. SALT Delegation, Memcon, "Resolving Differences on ABM Joint Draft Text," 9 December 1971, transmitted via airgram A-633, 10 December 1971, Secret/Exdis
    Source: Department of State FOIA Release

    During the course of the SALT talks, many thorny issues reached resolution during meetings between Raymond L. Garthoff (U.S. delegation executive secretary), Oleg Grinevsky (Foreign Ministry), and Nikolai Kishilov (general secretary, attached to the Foreign Ministry from military intelligence).  Usually, one of the U.S. delegates, mainly J. Graham Parsons, also attended so that Garthoff could avoid possible charges of unauthorized action.  Thus, this group came to be known as the "Group of Four."  Both Soviets secretly wore recording devices when they met the Americans so that the military could be assured that they had not spilled any secrets (34)
       This meeting shows that Article II, defining ABM systems and components, continued to be a difficult one; during a meeting of the "Group of Four", Grinevsky complained that it was "troublesome" and unnecessary.  But he was willing to accept it if the U.S. dropped article V (3) on future systems.  Garthoff responded that a trade was out because both II and V were important.  Nevertheless, as he noted when preparing the memo, it appeared that the Soviets "would go through a ritual of trying to get concessions from our side on Article V before [Grinevsky] would be authorized to reach an agreement accepting the basic US position on Article II."

    Document 27
    U.S. Salt Delegation, Memcon, "SALT," 10 December 1971,  transmitted via airgram A-639, 13 December 1971, Secret/Exdis
    Source: Department of State FOIA Release

    This interesting memcon suggests that at least some of the Soviets had an interest in developing future ABM systems.  As Aleksander Shchukin observed, if "new technology should make possible components carrying out the same tasks as existing components, but perhaps in a more efficient and less costly manner, why should those be prohibited?"  He was not proposing that any such components could be used to break out of the treaty; as he had just observed "the agreement would bar the deployment of future systems in a manner providing a territorial defense."  Nevertheless, Shchukin was responsive to Nitze's suggestion for an agreement "in principle" that before either side deployed a new type of ABM system, the two governments would have to agree.  Here could be found the seeds of an agreed statement that would supplement the treaty (see document 34 below).

    Document 28
    Director of the Bureau for Politico-Military Affairs Ronald Spiers to Secretary of State William P. Rogers and Under Secretary of State John Irwin, "SALT - Principal Negotiating Issues," 20 December 1971, Secret/Exdis
    Source: Department of State FOIA Release

    Although U.S. and Soviet policymakers had agreed that an ABM treaty would eschew national missile defense, they also expected that it would permit a small number of ABM sites.  As Spiers explained to Rogers and Irwin, the problem, of course, was how many and what kind of sites as well as limits on ABM radars so that excessive deployments would not allow a signatory to break out and establish an area defense.

    Document 29
    U.S. SALT Delegation, Memcon, "SALT," 20 December 1971, transmitted via Airgram A-677, 23 December 1971, Secret/Exdis
    Source: National Archives, NSCF, Box 884, Memcons 1971

    During this meeting, the "Group of Four" continued work on the ABM agreement Joint Draft Text.  They made progress on wording for Article I's prohibitions on ABM defense of national territory and were close to an agreement on Article II.  Noting that there was no "connective" linking the descriptions of ABM systems and components, Grinevsky suggested adding "namely" or "consisting of" at the end of 1 (a), but Garthoff proposed "currently consisting of" in the name of greater precision.  As Garthoff noted, that phraseology had important implications for the question of future system because it would mean that components were not restricted to the familiar ones currently available; while the purposes of ABM systems would not change, their components could.  Grinevsky agreed to take the suggestion to the delegation.
      The two sides also reached a conceptual breakthrough on Article V.  As Spiers hinted in his report to Irwin and as Shchukin had suggested to Brown and Nitze, the Soviets were becoming amenable to a solution to the future systems problem that involved an agreement to consult that would be part of the negotiating record if not part of an agreement as such.  Thus, Grinevsky's response was positive when Garthoff proposed an "agreed minute" that would require consultations and agreement in the SCC prior to any deployment of future systems.

    Document 30
    U.S. SALT Delegation, Memcon, "SALT Joint Draft Texts," 21 December 1971, transmitted via Airgram A-678, 23 December 1971, Secret/Exdis
    Source: National Archives, NSCF, Box 884, Memcons 1971
    The Group of Four moved closer to agreement on the final language for articles I and II.  Also, taking up Garthoff's suggestion for an agreed minute, Grinevsky asked him if he had drafted anything (see page 3).  Well prepared, Garthoff had an "illustrative draft statement", which the Soviets promised to study.  According to this statement, neither side would circumvent an agreement with future ABM components and that if either side developed them they would not deploy "without prior consultations and agreement in the Standing Consultative Commission (SCC)."

    Document 31
    U.S. SALT Delegation, Memcon, "SALT VI (35)  US/USSR Mini-Plenary Meeting No. 13 U.S. Embassy," 7 January 1972, transmitted via Airgram A-701, 13 January 1972, Secret/Exdis
    Source: Department of State FOIA Release

    An important moment in the ABM negotiations occurred when chief U.S. negotiator Gerard C. Smith announced U.S. concurrence with the Soviet position that an agreement on ABMs should be enshrined in treaty form.  As Smith explained, an ABM treaty would, under the Constitution, become "the supreme law of the United States."  By ratifying a treaty, Smith also explained, the Senate would establish a "broad political consensus supporting both the objectives and the terms of the treaty in question."  This concession satisfied the Soviet negotiators because they believed that an understanding on ABMs was significant enough to justify the treaty form.  The Soviets also stated their position on specific limitations of ABM components around missile defense areas and NCA sites, but the U.S. side would not accept all of their desiderata.  The Soviets, believing that the Kissinger-Dobrynin agreement remained valid, rejected U.S. arguments for including SLBMs in the interim freeze arrangement.

    Document 32
    U.S. Salt Delegation, Memcon, "Narrowing of Differences in SALT," 11 January 1972, transmitted to State Department via Airgram A-710, 14 January 1972, Secret/Exdis
    Source: Department of State FOIA Release

    In the discussion of future systems on 11 January by the "Group of Four", it appeared that divisions among the Soviets complicated agreement on the language of an agreed minute on future systems, e.g., whether it should require anything more than mutual consultations at the SCC (the Americans wanted more than that). Grinevsky and Kishilov agreed that Articles I, II, and III would ban future systems or components; they also agreed with Garthoff that ABM systems and components "of some new kind in the future" such as laser interceptors should be in the purview of an agreement.  But a statement made by Grinevsky suggested that "other (presumably military) members of his delegation were unyielding", that is, they did not agree on these points (36)

    Document 33
    Director of the Bureau for Politico-Military Affairs Ronald Spiers to Under Secretary of State John Irwin, "SALT," 13 January 1972, with "Major SALT Alternatives" Attached, Top Secret/Nodis, Extract
    Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records, Records of Undersecretary of State John Irwin, 1969-73, box 4, Verification Panel Meeting, Jan-Feb 1972

    Not surprisingly, the lack of consensus on the details of a treaty were mirrored by inter-agency disagreements in Washington.  To help his superiors reach a decision on what the Department's position on a final ABM settlement, Spiers reported to John Irwin on five alternatives in descending order of preferability: an ABM ban (zero ABM), one-for-one, two-for-two, one-plus-one, and two-or-one.  Because the U.S.'s one-for-one proposal left the Soviets without an ICBM defense site while providing such defense for the U.S., Spiers saw it likely that the Soviets eventually accept a two-for-two because it would give each site a site to defend ICBM and a site to defend its capital.  However, it would take complex discussions before the negotiations reached the point before both sides could agree to a two-for-two solution.

    Document 34
    U.S. SALT Delegation, Memcon, "SALT," 26 January 1972, transmitted via Airgram 743, 27 January 1972, Secret/Exdis
    Source: National Archives, SN 70-73, Def 18-3 Aus (Vi)

    A few days later the Group of Four had another meeting which represented a major step toward agreement on future systems.  Using drafts that each side had already prepared, the group produced an "agreed interpretative statement" that required the signatories to discuss limitations on ABM components (other than missiles, launchers, or radars) that may be "created in the future." The Soviets had shed whatever hesitations they had in the past; as Grinevsky explained, they "accepted the American position on the subject entirely, save that it would be a jointly agreed interpretation rather than a paragraph in the treaty."  In addition, the Four discussed the thorny question of ABM radars and the less controversial problems of prohibiting transfers of ABM technology (Article IX) as well as multiple warhead ABM interceptors (later included in Article V).

    Document 35
    U.S. SALT Delegation, Memcon, "SALT," 31 January 1972, transmitted to State Department via Airgram 763, 3 February 1972, Secret/Exdis
    Source: Department of State FOIA Release

    As Garthoff later observed, on 31 January the discussion of future systems  "entered the home stretch. (37)"   Garthoff read talking points that the U.S. delegation hoped would reflect a common understanding on limitations on future systems.  Thus, the delegation sought Soviet agreement that except for the specific deployments permitted in Article III there would be no other deployments of ABM systems or components.  Moreover, to satisfy Soviet interest in using new technologies as "adjuncts" to an ABM system, the U.S. agreed that would be allowable so long as such devices did not "substitute for" interceptors, launchers, or radars.  Grinevsky quickly observed that he "believed there was complete agreement" on the issues.  The Soviets, however, were not entirely happy with formulations in the latest U.S. version of the interpretive statement on future systems, in part because there was no reference to ABM "systems."  Agreement was reached that both parties agreed not to transfer ABM systems or components (including blueprints for their construction) to other countries or to deploy them outside their national territory.  Language to this effect would appear in agreed statement G supplementing the treaty

    Document 36
    U.S. SALT Delegation, Memcon, "SALT," 1 February 1972, transmitted via Airgram A-769, 3 February 1972, Secret/Exdis
    Source: Department of State FOIA Release

    A review by the Group of Four facilitated nearly final agreement on the interpretive statement on future systems.  A phone call from Grinevsky to Garthoff a few hours later settled the issue: the Soviet delegation would likely agree to the latest U.S. text if it included the phrase "based on other physical principles."  Final language regulating future systems appeared in agreed statement D supplementing the treaty.

    Document 37
    U.S. SALT Delegation, Memcon, "SALT Problems and Prospects," 14 April 1972, transmitted via Airgram A-855, Secret/Exdis
    Source: Department of State FOIA Release

    It was not until mid-April that the negotiators neared agreement on the difficult problem of how many, and what type of, ABM sites each side could have.  In the spirit of detente, the Soviet and U.S. SALT delegations flew to Lapland for cross-country skiing.  During the flight back to Helsinki, Garthoff discussed a wide range of substantive negotiating problems with Kishilov and Grinevsky (in what was referred to as "the Tundra talks").  Besides revisiting the vexing problem of SLBMs, the three tried to sort out the question of ABM levels in Article III.  Indeed, Washington was linking the SLBM issue with ABM: if the Soviets agreed to include the former, the United States would meet the Soviets half way on ABMs.  A week earlier, the Soviets had put their latest ABM proposal on the table: both sides would have the right to an NCA defense site.  In addition, the United States could have one site to defend ICBM, while the Soviets could have two areas to defend ICBMs, to compensate for the smaller numbers of ICBM launchers in their fields.  For 3-5 years, however, the Americans would not deploy their NCA defense site while the Soviets would not deploy their second ICBM defense area.   In response, the U.S. SALT delegation offered the Soviets 2-for-2: each side could have 1) an ICBM defense site, or 2) either an NCA defense site or another ICBM defense site, with the right to change from one type of deployment to the other.  In addition, the 2-for-1 concept offered in 1971 was still on the table.
           Kishilov told Garthoff that Washington's quest for two ICBM sites was an important barrier to agreement because of the disparities in numbers of launchers in U.S. and Soviet fields.  If the United States wanted a second site, it should be Washington, D.C., not another Minuteman base.  Giving his personal view, Garthoff saw a possibility in a 2-for-2 arrangement with each side have an NCA defense site and one ICBM defense site.  Thus, the NCA option that Kissinger ended up disliking so much remained on the table in modified form.
        So that the number of protected ICBMs were comparable, the Soviets proposed increasing the radius of the ABM site deployment circle from 75 to 150 kilometers.  The ABM facilities for defending NCA would be within a circle of 150-kilometer radius around some point in the capital.  Although the discussants did not reach final agreement on the number of ABM interceptors for each site, the direction of their discussion was that about 100 would be appropriate.
        The Soviets also raised the possibility of deferring the second sites for three to five years.  Although Smith and others supported the idea of deferral, the Pentagon objected.  Nevertheless, in 1974 Nixon and Brezhnev signed a protocol to the ABM treaty not merely deferring, but giving up, the right to a second site.
       The ABM radar and "OLPAR" (other large phased-array radars) issues remained hard to resolve because the Soviets were less interested in constraining radars.  The Soviets objected to U.S. proposals for equal numbers of MARCs for defending capitals as well as to U.S. proposals to limit radars for the missile defense sites.  OLPARs were important because Washington wanted to ensure that Soviets did not provide phased-array radars, which could be used to track objects in space or to monitor missile tests, with significant ABM capabilities.  The Soviets had proposed an interpretative statement that generally barred each party from deploying OLPARs whose capabilities equaled or exceeded that of the smaller modern phased-array radar then deployed at their ABM radar complexes.  Garthoff objected because it was imprecise, and would establish unequal standards (the Soviets' smallest such radar might be larger than the United States' smallest).  Grinevsky, however, could not come up with an unobjectionable standard.

    Document 38
    Henry A. Kissinger to President Nixon, "Moscow Trip," circa 17 April 1972, with "Issues for My Moscow Trip" and "SALT" papers attached, Top Secret/Sensitive/Exclusively Eyes Only
    Source: National Archives, NSCF, HAK Office Files, box 21, HAK's Secret Moscow Trip Apr 72 [1 of 2]

    While the SALT negotiators were working out details of an ABM agreement, Henry Kissinger was preparing for and making a secret trip to Moscow to discuss the forthcoming Nixon-Brezhnev summit.  With a secret Kissinger visit, Moscow would have parity with Beijing.  In these briefing papers for President Nixon (later initialed by Nixon), Kissinger reviewed the central issues--Vietnam, SALT, Europe security, and trade--that he would discuss with Brezhnev and Foreign Minister Gromyko.  On SALT, Kissinger hoped to settle two problems--ABM deployments and whether the interim agreement would include SLBMs.  Trying to compensate for his earlier mistake, Kissinger had been working the back channel with Dobrynin to include SLBMs in SALT through language that would authorize the 62-SLBM submarine fleet that Moscow wanted in the first place.  This deal making is hinted in Kissinger's "freedom-to-mix" suggestion that would allow the Soviets to replace old ICBMs with modern Yankee class submarines.  Even if it gave the Soviets more submarines than the United States, Kissinger argued, the U.S.'s access to forward-bases in Western Europe compensated for that numerical advantage.
       On ABMs, Kissinger saw the need for more negotiations on radars and OLPARs and he did not expect more than a "slight advantage" on deployments.  Nevertheless, he intended to reject "equality" even if the Soviets insisted on it.  He was probably not yet aware of the Garthoff-Kishilov-Grinevsky discussion, but he knew that key players such as Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird had broached the possibility of a 2 for 2 settlement that substituted a  Washington NCA site for the second ICBM defense site.  Kissinger saw some advantage because "it would still permit us to defend a larger number of ICBM sites", but he also saw disadvantages: stopping work on the Malmstrom site and the possibility that Congress might not fund the NCA site. 

    Document 39
    Memcon, "Basic Principles: Vietnam; SALT; European Security; Bilateral Relations; Announcement of Visit; Summit Arrangements; China," 22 April 1972, Top Secret/Sensitive/Eyes Only
    Source: National Archives, NSCF, HAK Office Files, box 72, HAK Moscow Trip April 1972 Memcons

     During the second full day of their talks, Kissinger and Brezhnev turned from small talk and banter to Vietnam and then to SALT (beginning on page 17).  While the Moscow visit brought little progress on Vietnam, more was accomplished on SALT.  Brezhnev led the way on the ABM issue by reading a note that incorporated the understanding on Article III that Garthoff had reached with Grinevky and Kishilov a few days earlier; the Soviets had treated the "Tundra talks" as an official U.S. initiative (38).   Thus, each side would have an NCA and an ICBM defense site with 100 interceptors deployed at each.  In addition, ABM facilities would be located within a circle of a 150-kilometer radius whose center would be within the limits of the capital or an ICBM base.  As Brezhnev noted, these ideas were a "reflection of your proposal to us."  All of these points became elements of the ABM treaty.
       Whatever move Kissinger had intended to make on ABMs had been indirectly preempted by the SALT delegation; after Brezhnev unveiled his proposal, Kissinger conveyed some irritation by jokingly referring to Garthoff as "an adviser to your delegation. " (39)   Nevertheless, he accepted the proposal, perhaps because Secretary of Defense Laird has already made a suggestion along the  same lines.  Kissinger, however, did not accept the 150-kilometer radius proposal noting that it "does not reflect our official thinking, but that of a member of our delegation."  His demurral was to no avail because 150 kilometers, along with the 2-2 proposal, would be incorporated in the treaty. 
       Brezhnev and Kissinger then turned to the more complex SLBM problem when the former presented another proposal, this time based on Kissinger's thinking ("all those communications you made through Ambassador Dobrynin").  This issue was handled quickly; the more difficult problem was getting the agencies, from Pentagon to the State Department, to accept a proposal that would authorize the Soviets to build up to 62 SLBM submarines with 950 launchers.  Kissinger was able to finesse Pentagon support but the White House had to browbeat Rogers and Smith into accepting the SLBM arrangement (40)

    Document 40
    U.S. SALT Delegation, Memcon, "SALT," 16 May 1972, Secret/Exdis
    Source: ACDA FOIA Release

    The 2 for 2 proposal that Kissinger accepted at Moscow quickly became the basis for Article III of the ABM treaty and the negotiators at Helsinki began to wrangle over its wording.  It took them nearly two weeks before they reached agreement on 16 May and that session included a two hour debate over the wording to describe the ABM radar complexes for the defense of national capitals.  Two ABM issues remained unsolved: 1) the standard for the smallest ABM phased-array radar for limiting the size of OLPARs and 2) the location of the ICBM defense site.  On OLPARs by late April the Soviets seemed to accept the U.S. position that the power level of the smallest U.S. missile site radar (MSR)--specified as 3 million watt-meters squared---should be the ceiling for non-ABM phased-array radars.  During the course of May the Soviet negotiators  (perhaps under pressure from the military) tried to raise the ceiling to 50 million watts so the debate continued.  To reduce the possibility of the Soviets interconnecting the ICBM defense and the Moscow sites, the United States wanted explicit language specifying east of the Urals and west of the Mississippi.  The Soviets rejected any mention of geographic areas (probably for internal political reasons) and the issue remained unsettled until the eve of the summit.

    Document 41
    Kissinger Report to Nixon, "SALT," n.d. [May 1972], Secret/Exclusively Eyes Only
    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials Project, White House Special Files, Ronald Ziegler Briefing Materials, box 37, Soviet Summit May 1972 (2 of 2)

    Days before Nixon left for Moscow, Kissinger provided him with a background paper on the SALT negotiations explaining what had been negotiated and what problems remained on the table.  Besides reviewing the major features of the ABM treaty, Kissinger recounted the background of the May 1971 understanding, the subsequent difficulties over an ABM agreement and the role of SLBMs in the interim agreement, and Brezhnev's initiatives during the secret visit (41)
        As Kissinger explained, two ABM issues remained to be settled: 1) the standard for the smallest ABM phased-array radar for limiting the size of OLPARs and 2) the location of the ICBM defense site.  Just before the summit began, the Soviets yielded on the OLPAR issue and agreed to 3 million watt meters squared; this would be embodied in agreed statements B and F supplementing the treaty.  On the location of the NCA and ICBM defense sites, the two sides finally agreed not to mention geographic areas but only to specify distances.  Figures ranged from 1300 to 1500 kilometers but the differences were not meaningful.  The SALT negotiators at Helsinki reached agreement on 1300 kilometers, which Nixon and Brezhnev readily accepted; this was incorporated in agreed statement C (42)

    Document 42
    U.S. Department of State Press Release, Secretary of State William Rogers to President Richard Nixon, 10 June 1972

    Nixon and Kissinger left for the summit on 20 May but kept the SALT delegation away from Moscow until the last possible moment, on 26 May when the ABM treaty and Interim Agreement were to be signed.  Having the delegation at hand during the course of the summit might have helped the principals iron out the final wrinkles, but Nixon and Kissinger did not want to share the limelight.  The result was a rather messy negotiating process.  Even after the delegation arrived in Moscow for the signing ceremonies parts of the ABM treaty were being retyped! (43)
       This document, released to the press on 13 June 1972, presents the ABM Treaty and the Interim Agreement on strategic arms limitation with detailed commentary on the major provisions of each.  Both agreements were interdependent: the Interim Agreement could only enter into force when both Moscow and Washington had formally accepted the ABM Treaty.  Moreover, according to a unilateral statement made by Gerard C. Smith on 9 May, the United States would withdraw from the ABM treaty "if an agreement providing for more complete strategic offensive arms limitations were not achieved within five years."  Thus, from Washington's perspective, the ABM Treaty's near-term durability depended on progress on SALT II.
       Supplementing the Treaty and the Agreements were "Agreed Interpretations", which the heads of the two delegations initialed on 26 May, "Common  Understandings" which had the status of verbal agreements, and "Unilateral Statements" mainly by the U.S. side.  The "Agreed Interpretations" included the understandings on "ABM systems based on other physical principles", OLPARs, and the distance between the NCA and ICBM defense site, among other problems.
       The results of the ABM negotiations--major limitations except for two authorized sites for each signatory--were not the limited defense system that Nixon and Kissinger had sought in 1969.  Nevertheless, in an election year, the Treaty and other SALT arrangements were valuable symbols of the Nixon administration's interest in peaceful superpower relations that could help offset the political problems caused by the slow disengagement from the Vietnam war.  Even more significantly, the arms control agreements had great importance for Nixon's and Kissinger's larger effort to guide the Soviet Union's development by containing it in a web of agreements and understandings with the West (44).

    The editor thanks Raymond L. Garthoff for his helpful comments on the text and the documents.

    1.  David E. Sanger, "Putin Sees Pact with U.S. on Revising ABM Treaty," New York Times, 22 October 2001; Alan Sipress and Bradley Graham, "Missile Defense Tests Are Put Off," and Steven Mufson, "Postponement Shows Priority Shifts," Washington Post, 26 October 2001, and "Russia Plays Down U.S. Missile Decision," Susan B. Glasser and Peter Baker, Washington Post, 27 October 2001; Walter Pincus and Allan Sipress, "Missile Defense Deal Is Likely," Washington Post, 1 November 2001.

    2.  Office of the White House Press Secretary, Congressional Briefing by Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, The State Dining Room, 15 June 1972.

    3.  Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Ronald Reagan, 1987 (Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1989), 263.  For a review of the debate and a detailed critique of the permissive interpretation, see Raymond Garthoff, Policy Versus the Law: The Reinterpretation of the ABM Treaty (Washington, D.C., Brookings, 1987).  For another view, see Paul Nitze, From Hiroshima to Glasnost: At the Center of Decision (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1989), 330, 443-48.

    4.  See "The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty," <http://www.state.gov.www/global/arms/factssheets/missdef/abmtrea3.html>.

    5. "Speed Key in Arms Talks, Rice Says," Los Angeles Times, 27 July 2001.  For a recent Putin reference to "stability," see "Bush, Putin: Attacks Unified Nations," Washington Post, 20 October 2001.

    6.  During 1975-76, Congress terminated the Grand Forks site largely because the U.S. Army was not planning to make it operational.  Stephen I. Schwarz et al., Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 (Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution, 1998), 288-89. The Moscow site still exists but is of doubtful utility, highly expensive and, because it relies on nuclear warheads, dangerous if used. See Steven J. Zaloga, "Moscow's ABM Shield Continues to Crumble," Jane's Intelligence Review, February 199 Post 9, 10-14.

    7.  Sipress and Graham, "Missile Defense Tests Are Put Off," Washington Post, 26 October 2001.

    8.  James Dao, "Pentagon Sets Ambitious Tests of Missile Plan," Washington Post, 13 July 2001.  For a critique of the Pentagon's plans, see Cindy Williams and David Wright, "Double-Speak on Missile Defense," The Boston Globe, 4 August 2001.

    9.  Vernon Loeb, "U.S. Plans to Test Space-Based Laser to Intercept Missiles," Washington Post, 18 July 2001.

    10.  U.S.-Soviet agreements from the late 1970s permit the establishment of new test sights. In 1978, the Standing Consultative Commission--the U.S.-Soviet joint committee that reviewed SALT compliance issues--approved an "agreed statement" that 1) codified then-current U.S. and Soviet test ranges, and 2) authorized the establishment of additional test ranges as long as (i) they were consistent with Article I obligations not to provide comprehensive territorial defense, and (ii) the SCC received notice no less than 30 days after construction began.  See Sidney N. Graybeal and Patricia A. McFate, "More Light on the ABM Treaty: Newly Declassified Key Documents," Arms Control Today 23 (March 1993):15-19.

    11.  Fred Kaplan, "ABM Test Mostly Miss Real Issues, Analysts Say," Boston Globe, 2 September 2001; Peter Baker, "Russian Says Alaska Test Site Would Violate ABM Treaty," Washington Post, 20 July 2001, and Vernon Loeb, "Russians Resolute on ABM Pact," ibid., 14 August 2001.

    12.  For the constitutional issues, see Walter C. Clemens, jr., "It Take Two to Tear It Up; Congress and the President Share the Responsibility," Washington Post, 5 August 2001.

    13.  For a detailed account of the ABM and the SALT negotiations, with extensive citations to other sources (Nixon and Kissinger memoirs, public documents, etc.) see Raymond L. Garthoff, Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan, 2nd ed. (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1994), 146-223.  Garthoff's recent memoir, A Journey Through the Cold War, at 243-276, provides a pointed and succinct account.  Also useful is Mike Bowker and Phil Williams, Superpower Detente: A Reappraisal (London, SAGE Publications, 1988), 67-76, and Randall B. Woods, Fulbright (New York, Cambridge University Press, 1995), 519-525.  For problems with ABMs, see an earlier Archive briefing book, "Missile Defense Thirty Years Ago", <http://www.nsarchive.org/NSAEBB/NSAEBB36>.

    14.  For Garthoff's tangled relationship with Kissinger, see Raymond Garthoff, A Journey Through the Cold War (Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution, 2001), 268, 271, 292, and 301. 

    15.  For Nixon's and Kissinger's public statements at the time, see Garthoff, Detente, 164.

    16.  In between senior Pentagon positions during the Carter and Clinton administrations, Slocombe was a member, and later chairman, of the National Security Archive's Steering Committee.

    17. For background, see Garthoff, Detente, 162-163.

    18.  Garthoff, Detente, 165, 168-69; Bundy, A Tangled Web, 94-5. 

    19.   Option E included 1) 1900 central strategic offensive systems (ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers) for each side, with a ceiling of 1710 ICBMs and SLBMs and a subceiling of 250 "modern large ballistic missiles," 2) ABM alternatives: NCA defense or an ABM ban, 3) reliance on national means of verification, and 4) a number of corollary restraints. 

    20.  For Kissinger's account of the effort at a breakthrough and the secret talks with Dobrynin, see White House Years (Boston, Little Brown, 1979), 810-23. See also Garthoff, Detente, 166-70 and 179-182.  See also Garthoff, A Journey Through The Cold War, 254, 261.

    21.  Garthoff, Detente, 171

    22. Used for messages of more than usual sensitivity, "limdis" or "limited distribution" means distribution strictly limited to officers, offices, and agencies with need to know.

    23.Kissinger, White House Years, 813; Garthoff, Detente, 171 (note 64), 174 (note 72).  For Smith's account of the 4 to 1 proposal, see Doubletalk, 211-18.

    24.See also Garthoff, Detente, 166-67

    25.Garthoff, Detente, 167.

    26.Used for messages of the highest sensitivity between the President, the Secretary of State, or chiefs of mission, "Nodis" means "no distribution" other than to the addressee without the permission of the State Department's Executive Secretary

    27.  Participants in the SALT process sometimes called such weapons "futuristics" or "exotics." 

    28.  By using electronic scan antenna, phased-array radars can scan and track many objects at the same time allowing them to determine trajectories and predict points of impact. 

    29.  ACDA excised the reference to the Agency, however, so as to avoid acknowledging that the CIA has overseas communications systems

    30.  For Smith's memoir account of the debate over "futuristics," see Doubletalk: The Story of the First Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (Garden City, Doubleday, 1980), 263-65.

    31.  Garthoff, Policy Versus the Law, 53-54.

    32.  MARCs were circular areas of no more than 3 kilometers in diameter in which each party could deploy ABM radars, with any number of radars allowed in the complex.   Because existing Soviet radar components would fit within defined MARC areas, Smith and his colleagues saw the concept as consistent with Moscow's interests but the Soviet negotiators saw it as simply tying their hands.  See Smith, Doubletalk, 310-12.

    33. Used for highly sensitive messages between the White House, the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, Under Secretaries, and chiefs of mission, "exdis" or "exclusive distribution" means distribution exclusively to officers with essential need to know.

    34.  Garthoff, Journey, 251-253.

    35.  "VI" refers to negotiating session 6.

    36.  Garthoff, Policy versus the Law, 56-57.

    37.  Garthoff, Policy versus the Law, 61.

    38.  Garthoff, Detente, 176 (note 73).

    39. Rather than give Garthoff any credit, Kissinger's memoir account simply treats the Soviet offer as a "new proposal." White House Years, 1148-49.

    40.  See Garthoff, Detente, at 183-189, for a full account of this complex story.

    41.  Kissinger overlooks the contribution of the U.S. SALT delegation to Brezhnev's suggestions.

    42.  Compare Kissinger's and Garthoff's accounts of the negotiations over the distance between the NCA and the ICBM defense sites; White House Years at 1218, 1221-22, and 135, and Detente, p. 177 (note 75).

    43.  For the interactions between the SALT delegation and the Moscow summit as well as the shabby treatment given to the SALT team, see Nitze, From Hiroshima to Glastnost , 322-28; Garthoff, Journey, 269-70; Smith, Doubletalk, 407-40.

    44.  Garthoff, Detente, 32-33; Bowker and Williams, Superpower Detente, 46-57. 

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