News Secretary Ron Ziegler: "President Nixon believes that the agreement signed today is an historic event in every sense of the word. This is the first time the two major powers have achieved this kind of understanding, affecting their vital security."
President Richard M. Nixon: "It is an agreement which will limit strategic arms between the two most powerful nations in the world."
Ed Karrins: The agreement the President and Aide Ron Ziegler were talking about came in two parts: one, a limit on antiballistic missile installations and, two, a five-year interim freeze on certain offensive weapons. Round 2 of the SALT Talks, which began in Geneva in November, was scheduled to use that time to thrash out a final treaty.
Even that decision came only after a long Senate debate over what Senator Henry Jackson saw as a major flaw in the Moscow accord.
Senator Henry Jackson: "All of the rhetoric, all the talk has been, 'Well, we'll get an agreement that'll bring about parity'. This isn't parity. The Russians in this area, in the missile area, land-based and sea-based, will have superiority in numbers and in the qualitative capability of those numbers, period."
Ed Karrins: Jackson wasn't the only critic. Republican John Sherman Cooper felt the agreement didn't go far enough.
Senator John Sherman Cooper: "When you recall that about 12,000 tons of TNT destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that on this was carried 2 million tons, there's enough both of us have to destroy each other a hundred times over."
Ed Karrins: That kind of argument and the Vietnam issue prompted new attempts to cut the Defense Department's budget for new military hardware. But Defense Secretary Laird went to the Hill repeatedly to declare he didn't want SALT ratified unless the Pentagon got all the money it asked for.
Defense Secretary Melvin Laird: "I could not support the agreements if the Congress fails to act on the movement forward on the Trident system, on the B-1 bomber and on the other programs that we have outlined to improve our strategic offensive systems during this five-year period."
Ed Karrins: In the end it did get most of the money, and Senator Jackson with tacit White House backing managed to attach a rider to the SALT Ratification Resolution requiring that U.S. negotiators at SALT II bid for absolute equality in the arms balance.
It was October 3rd before Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko joined President Nixon at White House signing ceremonies.
Unknown Speaker: "The treaty and the interim agreement entering into force today are based on recognition of the principle of the equal security of the parties, and they offer no one any unilateral military advantages."
President Richard M. Nixon: "As we take this first time, we look forward to working together in taking the next steps, not only to limit the burden of arms on ourselves, but to lift the burden of fear of war from all the people of the world."
Ed Karrins: If the China trip left Moscow feeling like the odd man out, Peking's Vice-Foreign Minister Ch'iao Kuan-hua seemed to reflect the same sort of discomfort about the SALT pacts.
Vice-Foreign Minister Ch'iao Kuan-hua: [Chinese]
Interpreter: "This can by no means be regarded as a step toward nuclear disarmament. On the contrary, this marks the beginning of a new stage in the Soviet/U.S. nuclear arms race. Before the ink on the agreements had dried, the one hastened to test new type of nuclear weapons, and the other expressed its intention to make a big increase immediately in its military expenditure. How can this be described as reducing the threat of a nuclear war?"
Ed Karrins: Peking had no such complaint about moves to expand U.S./Soviet trade. It, too, had decided to buy the capitalist goods.