INT: What was Kissinger's role in all of this?

RG: As the impasse began to develop between the different conceptions of what strategic weapons were that should be dealt with in SALT talks, it became increasingly clear that there could be no early agreement on really dealing any comprehensive way with strategic offensive arms. At the same time, there remained the problem of... trying to find a way of curbing the developing competition and deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems, ABM systems. so this led both sides to begin to want to explore other possibilities for somewhamore limited initial SALT talks. The Nixon administration and the key person in the Nixon administration on this whole question was Henry Kissinger decided that it was prefeto explore these possibilities for more limited strategic arms agreements, through a direct back channel from the White House, through Ambassador Dobrynin in Washington, rather than through the delegations representing all of the key agencies in Washington and backed up by the Departments of Defence and State and other agencies in Washington. And so initially secret back channel was developed and did reach agreement on the outlines for a more limited ABM treaty and a partial constraint on certain strategic offensive systems, which was announced about a year later or a year and a half after the SALT talks had originally begun, in May 1971. Now this was the first that most people, including even the American SALT delegation, knew about the extensive negotiations that had been going on for nearly a year, in this back channel. In later phases of SALT 1, that is of SALT leading to the initial agreements of 1972, there continued to be some recourse to the back channel, but on a more limited and more parallel basis, with the main negotiations through the delegations. There sometimes may have been some advantages, there certainly were some disadvantages and there certainly was some friction generated by the fact of these back channels, but the most important period of the back channel exploration was in that first year, when it was indeed not even known to at least the American delegation. and it still is an arguable point. It did succeed in finding a new basis. On the other hand, if the delegations had been authorised to explore the same kind of things that Kissinger and Dobrynin explored, I don't doubt that a similar outcome could have been reached through the delegations. But be that as it may, that's not the way it was handled.

INT: Could it be said that Nixon and/or Kissinger were using the talks as a political vehicle, as well as a strategic device?

RG: Um, President Nixon and Henry Kissinger were of course aware of the arms control objectives of SALT and of SALT as a negotiation in arms control. But I think the role of SALT in the overall administration's policy toward the Soviet Union, in this (inaudible) political strategy toward the Soviet Union was even more important and that this led to... slowing SALT down in some cases, speeding it up before the summit meeting, particularly in other cases, but also initially through attempts to use even the convening of SALT as a bargaining chip to get Moscow to weigh in on the Vietnamese situation, that was the most important initial attempt at using SALT for what was quite candidly referred to as a strategy of leverage. It was not very successful in that respect, in part because I think... Nixon and Kissinger over-estimated the extent to which the Soviet leaders in Moscow were able to determine the position of the North Vietnamese and exaggerated the extent to which Moscow could or would be able to exert leverage. In any event, SALT had an important role in overall foreign policy that was probably was more important in the view of Nixon and Kissinger than the strictly arms control objectives and it also meant that some of the particular arms control objectives tended to be short-cutted in the process of negotiation and especially in the back channels. Now, SALT also was a political factor in domestic politics, to some extent, and in particular it became so in the sense that it became important to President Nixon to reach an agreement at about the time that agreement was in fact reached. That is to say, in the spring of 1972, immediately before the election, but not so far in advance that it would be forgotten by people at the time of an election and it was a real achievement and it was so regarded and it did have a positive political impact and throughout the White House regarded the whole SALT process as being an important element in domestic political terms as well as in foreign policy strategic terms and both of these, in addition to its more direct purpose of arms control.

INT: Certainly I somewhat naively, having read the story of SALT and what happened afterward, why weren't MERVs a serious part of the SALT agreement and by not including MERVs, did that not sort of negate the whole purpose of SALT?

RG: Um, I think the SALT 1 agreements were a real achievement, especially the ABM treaty. The limited offensive agreement was much less successful and in effect it deferred most of the problems in dealing with offensive systems to SALT 2 and later negotiations. Still, the fact that the two great adversaries could sit down and seriously discuss something as sensitive to their security as strategic arms was something of an accomplishment in itself and certainly the agreements, especially the ABM treaty were important. There was however certainly one important failure of SALT 1 and that was the fact that no adequately serious attempt was made and no agreement reached of course, to limit MERVs. The timing was such that it was still possible, although barely possible, at the beginning of SALT to have still put a lid on the deployment of MERV technology, but the one year postponement as a result of the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the outcome of the American election that year, and the formulation of the new strategy of approach by the Nixon administration, those three factors tended to put the question off for a year and by the time that SALT really got into high gear, in early 1970, the United States already had a fully developed and deployable MERV, and indeed soon after, it was beginning to deploy them. This meant that while we could still be satisfied with the situation in which further testing and development of MERVs was banned, the Soviet Union at least couldn't with out making a great sacrifice, because if they agreed to a MERV ban under those circumstances, if ever there was through unilateral American action or a general break-down of the agreement between the two sides, a break out from the arms control situation, the United States was in a position to deploy MERVs right away. And they were not. And that would have meant a great disadvantage. So it was harder for the Soviet Union then to agree on a MERV limitation. I emphasised the fact that the United States had tested and developed MERV because that was really the key element from our standpoint in controlling the Soviet adherence to a MERV ban. it would have been very difficult to monitor and to verify in specific terms whether particular missiles had MERV warheads or not and so on, if the systems had been developed and tested. the fact that the Soviet Union had not yet developed and tested a system, meant that we had a strong handle on that and could have had much greater assurance that they were not secretly deploying MERVs. As I've mentioned, the Soviet Union would have had to settle for less assurance, because of the asymmetry in the situation, but the main point is that it was already very difficult to agree on a MERV ban by 1970 and virtually impossible thereafter. In the spring of 1970, the United States did make an effort of sorts by proposing a MERV ban, but we did so on excessively onerous terms, that it was virtually certain the Soviet Union would turn it down, as they promptly did, and we failed to offer our best position, which would have been a ban on MERVs verified by a ban on testing. If we had offered just that, the Soviets might or might not have agreed to it. and indeed, talking with Soviet arms control negotiators at the time and in recent years, when there is no longer a Soviet Union and they can feel freer to talk about such things, I think it's pretty clear that this was a matter that had not yet been decided in Moscow. that doesn't mean that we know the chances for a MERV ban were lost because we didn't try hard enough, but it does mean that because we didn't try at the time, we'll never know, because they never had to face up to making the decision in Moscow. What they did face at the time was an American pothat also called for on-site inspection, which we didn't even know at that time how we would conduct, and was not essential to our position. And in other ways, a position which waindeed

INT: Dr. Garthoff, thank you very much indeed.