Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT)The most important area in which progress is yet to be made is the limitation of strategic arms. Perhaps for the first time the evolving strategic balance allows a Soviet American agreement which yields no unilateral advantages. The fact we have begun to discuss strategic arms with the U.S.S.R. is in itself important. Agreement in such a vital area could create a new commitment to stability and influence attitudes toward other issues.
A New Method of Preparation.In previous arms control negotiations our usual practice was to develop a single proposal, based on what would command a consensus among diverse views in the bureaucracy. This frequently led to rigidity in the negotiations; unless the other side adopted an almost identical stance, the talks deadlocked. Time and energies were then consumed in renegotiating a position within our government.
I concluded that we needed a new approach-to give us a firmer grasp of the issues, to provide maximum flexibility in negotiations and to speed up the overall negotiating process. Because flexibility is a virtue only within a framework of clear purpose, I ordered the most comprehensive study of weapons systems bearing on the negotiations.
We assigned the analytical tasks to a special NSC group, the Verification Panel. It first examined the various weapons systems to determine the effect of conceivable limitations on our current and projected military programs, their effect on Soviet programs and-on the basis of this analysis the strategic situation ensuing from particular weapons limitations.
The panel looked as well at verification. Confidence that obligations are being adhered to is a basic requirement for stable arms control agreements and should be of equal concern to both sides. We made a detailed analysis of our ability, and the measures needed, to verify compiiance with each agreement. We also studied counteractions if we detected a violation, and whether we couid take them in time to protect our security.
The result was the development of individual "building blocks" for all offensive and defensive weapons. We can combine these blocks in various clusters of limitations and reductions to produce alternative proposals for the negotiations.
This enables us to respond quickly and meaningfully to any Soviet counterproposals; at home we are not the prisoner of bureaucratic jockeying to come up with an agreed response. The focus in our dialogue, either with the U.S.S.R. or within our own government, can be on substantive issues.
Differing Perspectives.We made mader major efforts to understand the position of the Soviet Union. Of all possible areas for negotiation, limitation of strategic weapons requires the greatest such efforts, for no nation will maintain an accord which it believes jeopardizes its survival.
This task of developing an equitable agreement is greatly complicated by our differing strategic positions and perspectives.
Even within the United States, and no doubt in the U.S.S.R., there are widely divergent views over the key elements of an effective and credible strategic posture. The technical issues are highly complex, and the political and strategic considerations engage our vital interests. It would be surprising, therefore, if there were not also large initial differences between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
The composition and level of our respective strategic forces reflected different geographical factors and historical development. This posed a major problem of establishing an equivalence between weapons systems with dissimilar characteristics and capabilities:
Our deployments of offensive missile launchers were completed by 1967; the U.S.S.R. continued to build different types of land based ICBMs and a nuclear powered missile submarine force that will equal ours within three years at current rates. The U.S.S.R. has constructed a large ICBM, the SS 9, for which the U.S. has no counterpart. Deployed in sufficient numbers and armed with the multiple independently targetable warheads (MIRVs) of sufficient accuracy, this missile could threaten our land based ICBM forces. Our MIRV systems, by contrast, do not have the combination of numbers, accuracy and warhead yield to pose a threat to the Soviet land based ICBM force.
The U.S.S.R. has a large force of intermediate and medium range ballistic missiles. We do not. On the other hand, our alliance commitments and their regional military programs caused us to base our tactical aircraft abroad; we also retain air power on carriers.
The U.S.S.R. has deployed an Anti Ballistic Missile defense system, thus far in the Moscow area. We have initiated an ABM program based on different strategic principles and missile systems.
Our analysis indicated critical areas of prospective strategic instability:
Offensive systems have clearly developed to a point where certain further improvements as well as increased launcher deployments could pose a threat to land based missile retaliatory forces and thus threaten stability.
Instability also could develop through the unchecked extension of defensive capabilities. One side might believe that its defenses could clearly limit the damage it might suffer from retaliation, and therefore that it was in a position to strike first.
We took these factors into account in shaping negotiating positions for SALT. There have been three phases so far, alternating between Helsinki and Vienna: Helsinki I (November 17 December 22, 1969); Vienna I (April 16-August 14, 1970); Helsinki II (November 2 December 18, 1970). The negotiators are now slated to reassemble in Vienna on March 15.