SALT 1 - Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty

A series of meetings began in November 1969 and continued until May 1972 when agreement was reached between Richard Nixon (USA) and Leonid Brezhnev (Soviet Union) on the limitation of strategic ballistic missiles.
One of the key stumbling blocks to agreement was how arms should be limited and which types of weapons should be included in the arrangements. The differing weapon structure of each side made comparison difficult. Nixon's visit to China in February 1972 seemed to exert pressure on the Soviet Union to reach an agreement and sign the treaty.

The SALT 1 treaty outlined agreement in three areas:

  1. The ABM Treaty - (anti ballistic missile defences).
    Each side was allowed to have only 100 ABMs on each of two sites, one for their capital city and one to protect their nuclear missiles.
  2. The Interim Treaty
    Limits were placed on the number of ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) 1618 for USSR and 1054 USA; SLBMs (submarine launched Ballistic Missiles) 740 for both countries. The Soviet Union was allowed more as America had greater capacity in other areas e.g. strategic bombers. However this treaty did not cover developments such as MIRVs (Multiple Independently target able Re-entry Vehicle) which were capable of carrying a collection of nuclear weapons on a single missile. In reality the Russian MIRV and the American Cruise Missile were being built whilst SALT 1 was finalised.
  3. The Basic Principles Agreement
    This laid down some important rules for the conduct of nuclear warfare. The USA and the USSR pledged 'to do their utmost to avoid military confrontation' and 'to exercise restraint' in international relations.

The SALT 1 agreement was to last for five years therefore SALT 2 talks began in November 1972.