Consciously Seeking an Independent Basis of Power
Henry Kissinger's Dominance of Arms Control Policy
Especially for Henry Kissinger, the spring of 1971 was a perfect time finally to push for a strategic arms agreement with the Soviets. Previously arms control had been the means to a larger strategic goal. Now the agreement became a separate policy goal, one worth pursuing vigorously. The timeliness of this proposal was clear. For Kissinger, the balance of forces between the United States and the Soviet Union had reached a point where there was no longer any reason to delay. President Nixon, too, realized that the Soviets soon would reach parity with the U.S. in many areas (e.g., their SLBMs by the mid-1970s) and that there was no more support in Congress for an arms buildup.1 The Soviets, through Dobrynin, officially had accepted the U.S. proposal that offensive limitations be discussed before an ABM agreement was concluded-- on the condition that the U.S. accept ABM levels at the National Command Level (one site each around the national capitals). But the talks would have to be concluded simultaneously. Therefore, after months of private negotiations, the future for an agreement seemed bright. On May 21, 1971, President Nixon announced a breakthrough in talks with the Soviets: the two sides would seek an ABM agreement and constraints on offensive weapons.
Despite the hopeful signs, it would take one more year to finalize an agreement with the Soviets. Finalizing the agreement was complicated by controversies that were fueled by the extreme factionalism that had developed within the Nixon administration. On the surface, President Nixon seemed to take it all in stride. He claimed that when "three such distinctive personalities and temperaments were added to the already volatile institutional mix of the State Department, the NSC, and the Pentagon, it was inevitable that there would be fireworks." He noted that the relationship between Kissinger and Rogers,