SALT Issues for the FutureWe have been able to move from preliminary exploration of substantive issues to concrete negotiations in a fairly short period. The dialogue has been serious and businesslike. The rate of progress, however, has been influenced by differing perspectives.
This administration has established and enunciated a concept of strategic sufficiency. We have reflected this concept in the nature and number of our strategic forces and the doctrines for their employment. All these aspects of our posture are fully aired in each year's budgetary process. As I have pointed out in the section on Strategic Forces, Soviet deployments make us uncertain whether the U.S.S.R. has made a similar national commitment to strategic equilibrium.
There also remain specific differences that have gradually emerged in our exchange of proposals. These involve what an agreement should cover and how it should be verified.
We have approached the question on what armaments to include in an initial agreement with different definitions. While recognizing that a variety of offensive systems could be construed as strategic, we believe that priority should go to those that form the core of offensive threats, ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy strategic bombers.
The U.S.S.R. has broadly defined "strategic" offensive weapons as those that can reach the other side's territory. These terms include our theater nuclear delivery systems, including those on aircraft carriers. But our carrier and land based air forces abroad are essential components of integrated theater defenses created under alliance commitments in response to common threats. On the other hand the Soviet approach would not include limitations on its own theater nuclear forces, including their own medium or intermediate range missiles. During the course of the negotiations we have been making efforts in consultation with our allies to take account of this difference in perspective.
There has also been a difference over whether a separate agreement limiting ABMs alone would be in our mutual interest. The U.S. believes that to be stable and satisfactory, an agreement should include limitations on both offensive and defensive systems.
As I said last year, the requirement for adequate verification of any agreement is essential to both sides. We have not yet found a way to overcome certain differences. They are particularly difficult in connection with our attempts to limit or ban MIRVs or ABMs. We will continue working on solutions to these problems in future negotiations.
In light of these complex issues and our differing approaches, we are neither surprised nor discouraged that progress has not been more rapid. The discussions have produced the most searching examination of strategic relationships ever conducted between the United States and the U.S.S.R. Each side has had the opportunity to explain at length the particular strategic concerns caused by the present and prospective posture of the other. Both sides know better how an agreement could deal with these concerns.
The Soviet position has not been presented in the detail that ours has, but the negotiations have reached a point where views are better understood and the basis of an agreement may be emerging. Further progress is therefore possible when negotiations resume.
We need to determine how comprehensive an agreement is feasible. On the one hand, even a relatively modest accord would create a stake for both sides to preserve progress and build upon it with further agreements. Moreover, it could influence attitudes towards issues outside SALT. On the other hand, if all the effort that has gone into SALT were to produce only a token agreement, it could be counterproductive. There would be no reason to be confident that this could serve as a bridge to a more significant agreement. Therefore, we shall strive for an initial agreement which is as broad and comprehensive as possible. It must deal with the interrelationship between offensive and defensive limitations.
Two principles should be recognized. The strategic balance would be endangered if we limited defensive forces alone and left the offensive threat to our strategic forces unconstrained. It would also be dangerous, however, if only offensive forces were restrained, while defenses were allowed to become so strong that one side might no longer be deterred from striking first. To limit only one side of the offense defense equation could rechannel the arms competition rather than effectively curtail it.
We also have to clarify the relationship between the process of negotiations which may be protracted and involve several stages and actions taken during the talks and even after an initial agreement. It is clear that restraint is essential. If the Soviet leaders extend their strategic capabilities, especially in ways that increase the threat to our forces, we would face new decisions in the strategic field.
Last summer, in a press conference on July 30, 1970, I stated what appeared to me to be the only alternatives:
We can either continue this race in which they continue their offensive missiles and we go forward with our defensive missiles, or we can reach an agreement. That is why at this point we have hopes of attempting to find, either on a comprehensive basis, and lacking a comprehensive basis, a selective basis, the first steps toward which the superpowers will limit the development of and particularly the deployment of more instruments of destruction when both have enough to destroy each other many times over.
I retain that hope and in this report reaffirm my commitment to its fulfillment. At this stage what is needed are political decisions to move towards an agreement on the basis of an equitable strategic relationship. We have taken this decision.