The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Digital Library

Stategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT)

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The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) were a series of bilateral conferences and international treaties signed between the United States and the Soviet Union. These treaties had the goal of reducing the number of long-range ballistic missiles (strategic arms) that each side could possess and manufacture. The first round of talks began in 1969 under President Nixon. After a period of negotiations, the first treaty, known as SALT I, was signed on May 26, 1972. By signing SALT I, the US and the USSR agreed to a limited number of ballistic missiles, as well as a limited number of missile deployment sites. Additionally, the two countries agreed to a principle of non-interference and respect for national sovereignty.

SALT I was scheduled to expire in October 1977. Both countries wanted to finalize a new, permanent, and more encompassing agreement before the expiration. The talks had stalled, however, in the months leading up to President Nixon’s resignation. Upon succeeding to the presidency in August 1974, President Ford was eager to advance the negotiations. A major breakthrough in the talks came in November 1974, when President Ford and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev met in Vladivostok to develop a foundation for a SALT II accord. After two days of negotiations, they created an agreement that includes the following:

  • A ban on the construction of new land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)

  • Each country would be limited to 2,400 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles (SNDVs), including ICBMs and heavy bombers

  • Each country would be limited to 1,320 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs), which made it possible to attach multiple warheads to a single missile

Photograph of President Gerald R. Ford Conducting a Nighttime Meeting with His Advisers to Discuss a Note Received from Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev about Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT)
Photograph of President Gerald R. Ford Conducting a Nighttime Meeting
with His Advisers to Discuss a Note Received from
Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev about Strategic Arms
Limitation Talks (SALT), 3/18/1976
(White House photograph A8860-19A)

After the Vladivostok Summit, further negotiations were still needed to address the advanced technology being developed by the two countries. The US had created new cruise missiles, which had greater accuracy and were undetectable by radar. The USSR had been developing Backfire bombers, which were long-range aircrafts capable of performing nuclear and maritime attacks. President Ford and General Secretary Brezhnev were hesitant to restrict the manufacturing of their respective weapons, which resulted in stalled negotiations. Hoping to ensure that SALT II was signed under the Ford Administration, Secretary of State Kissinger traveled to Moscow in January 1976 with two proposals that incorporated cruise missiles and Backfire bombers into the treaty, but the two sides were still unable to come to a consensus. Disagreements over these two weapons delayed the signing of a final treaty until after President Ford left office.

President Carter and General Secretary Brezhnev signed the SALT II treaty on June 18, 1979. Six months later, however, the Soviet Union went to war in Afghanistan. Due to the increased tensions stemming from this conflict, President Carter removed the treaty from consideration before it could be ratified by the US Senate. Nevertheless, both countries honored its terms until the treaty’s expiration in 1985.

For more detailed information about the Vladivostok meeting, please explore our page for The Vladivostok Summit Meeting on Arms Control. You can also check out the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library photo gallery for State Trips Abroad - Soviet Union.

 

Digitized Holdings Related to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks

Richard Cheney Files (White House Chief of Staff):
Gerald R. Ford Congressional Papers: Robert T. Hartmann Papers:


John O. Marsh Files (White House Counsellor):


Ron Nessen Files (White House Press Secretary):
Ron Nessen Papers:

 

Reading Copies of Presidential Speeches:


White House Press Release:

 

White House Records Office Legislation Case Files:

 

White House Special Files Unit:


National Security Adviser. National Security Decision Memoranda and National Security Study Memoranda :


National Security Adviser. National Security Council Meetings File:
National Security Adviser. Memoranda of Conversations:
National Security Adviser. Presidential Country Files for East Asia and the Pacific:
National Security Adviser. Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada:



National Security Adviser. Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East Discussions:


National Security Adviser. Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office Files:
National Security Adviser. Presidential Transition File (Ford-Nixon Transition, 1974):
National Security Adviser. Trip Briefing Books and Cables of Gerald Ford:
National Security Adviser. Trip Briefing Books and Cales of Henry Kissinger:
National Security Adviser. Trip Cables of Brent Scowcroft:
Photograph: