The Course of SALT NegotiationsThere has been speculation both here and abroad concerning the talks. Progress has been facilitated by our agreed policy of privacy with respect to the negotiating exchanges. I will, of course, respect that agreement. I am, therefore, free to discuss only the general character of the talks and underlying issues which have emerged.
We believed that progress could best be made if the initial exchanges encouraged agreement on the definition of the subject matter and the nature of the issues. Thus, we did not launch discussions in the traditional manner of hard, detailed proposals that might lead to early deadlock, each side supporting its opening position. instead, we explored some general concepts of strategic stability and related them to the issues posed by limiting individual weapons systems. Our negotiating team, ably led by Ambassador Gerard Smith, reviewed our analysis, explaining how we thought agreements might evolve and their verification requirements.
This essentially exploratory approach, which included a general treatment of verification, enabled each side to gain greater understanding of the other's thinking. There was broad consensus on certain general strategic concepts. At the same time there were clear differences on whether certain systems should be inciuded in discussions of an initial agreement.
Both sides proceeded in a thoughtful. nonpolemical manner. Calm, reasoned dialogue produced a common work program for future sessions.
In the later phases of the talks we moved from an analysis of issues to a discussion of concrete measures. Initially the U.S. suggested possible approaches involving both numerical and qualitative limitations on strategic offensive and defensive systems, including MIRVs. We also put forward an alternative comprehensive approach which would not constrain MIRVs, but would involve reductions in offensive forces in order to maintain stability even in the face of qualitative improvements.
The Soviet Union, for its part, submitted a general proposal which diverged from ours in many respects, including a major difference on the definition of strategic systems.
When it proved difficult to make progress on the basis of the initial approaches and proposals, our preparatory work enabled us to move rapidly to a modified approach taking account of Soviet objections. Our approach incorporated alternative provisions for either limitation or a total ban of ABM. Modified proposals were put forward by the Soviet Union as well. On some issues our views coincided or were quite close; on others there remained important differences. In many respects, Soviet suggestions on various aspects of offensive and defen sive limitations lacked the specificity and detail to permit firm conclusions about their overall impact.