182. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Ball to President Kennedy0

Komer transmitted this memorandum to Bundy on February 1. For text of his covering note, see Document 185. Bundy forwarded the memorandum to President Kennedy on February 1 under cover of a note that reads: “This morning you said, ‘Call off the idea of a Nasser visit.’ I came downstairs and found this. If it seems to you to make a prima facie case, I suggest a brief meeting on U.A.R. policies and on Nasser visit in particular. We’d need Talbot, Feldman, Komer, and perhaps Bell and O’Brien. Or you may simply feel, as I must say I do, that the promise of gain is not worth the certain turmoil. How much good has it done us to have Sukarno regularly? We can improve relations and then have a visit, and Bowles is a smart negotiator who can easily play it that way.” (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Country Series, United Arab Republic, Nasser Visit)


  • Advantages to be Gained from a State Visit by President Nasser in April

In response to your request for an explanation of what is to be gained from a state visit by President Nasser to the United States in April we submit that such a visit would offer the opportunity to achieve the following:

[Page 452]

Special Objectives

Encouragement of the United Arab Republic’s desire to limit its relations with the Sino-Soviet bloc, of the U.A.R. to keep the Palestine issue in the “icebox”, of the U.A.R. ‘s more moderate policy toward Africa, and of a more statesmanlike role for the U.A.R. among the neutralists.
Advancement of the prospect for a solution of the Arab refugee problem.
Exploring the possibility of arranging an informal understanding on arms limitations as between Israel and the U.A.R.
Exertion of influence on Nasser to moderate his more radical domestic policies directed toward “social justice”.
Modification of President Nasser’s belief that Near Eastern policy is controlled by Zionism.
Amelioration of President Nasser’s sense of ostracism, arising from the fact that he of all neutralist leaders has never been invited to the United States although president of an important country for nearly eight years and its leader for nearly ten years.

General Objectives

Establishment of an atmosphere of greater confidence between the U.S. and the U.A.R. and encouragement of greater U.A.R. cooperation with the U.S.
Advancement of the personal relationship between you and President Nasser for future exploitation.
Communication directly to Nasser of your viewpoint and objectives in global issues and in the Near East and Africa as well as learning firsthand the viewpoints and concerns of President Nasser. We would expect Nasser’s outlook to be broadened.
Giving President Nasser, through travel in the U.S., firsthand knowledge of our power, our political, economic and social systems and our national character.

Desirability of an Early Date for the Visit

Since Secretary Rusk’s memorandum to you of January 10, 1962 proposing a carefully calculated series of steps with regard to the U.A.R. we have concluded that the state of tension in the U.A.R., disturbing to the entire Near East, arises from more than domestic concerns.

In brief, the U.A.R. seems convinced that the Western powers (perhaps excluding the U.S. but probably with U.S. consent) have decided to restore their grip on the Near East, to isolate the U.A.R., to involve the U.A.R. in a military conflict with Israel, and to cause the disappearance of the present U.A.R. Government as an aftermath of defeat by Israel. In [Page 453] response to the pressures it senses the U.A.R. is lashing out in propaganda against the British, the French, and those Arab regimes accused of working with the British, is trying the French “spies” in Cairo, and is building greater military strength despite economic stringency. The Soviets are exploiting this to the maximum.

In light of these current trends and the possible adverse developments they portend we are impelled to attach greater weight to a Nasser visit in April than to one in November in the hope of heading off serious trouble in the Near East. An initiation to Nasser need not be issued until after Ambassador Bowles’ proposed talks with him in mid-February, but a decision favoring an April visit in principle would allow Ambassador Bowles to have a full and free discussion with Nasser on the subject.

I enclosure for your information a short statement of some of the forces we believe to be at work impeding an improvement of U.S.-U.A.R. relations.

George W. Ball1



A number of factors can be identified which tend consistently to have a negative effect on any efforts to develop and strengthen US–UAR relations.

The UAR’s Own Policies contribute significantly to these difficulties frequently because the UAR may be engaged, as at present, in endeavoring to cultivate relations with the U.S. while attempting, at the same time, to secure certain of its requirements from the USSR. Thus, Nasser recently received Soviet naval and economic missions. Khrushchev’s letter to Nasser of January 6 reflects Soviet willingness to renew efforts for closer Soviet-UAR relations. At the same time the Soviets foster UAR fears of supposed Western attempts at “encirclement” or isolation of the UAR. In general, an acceleration in Soviet-UAR contacts is probably seen by Nasser as a means of speeding up implementation of the Soviet industrialization loan of 1958, as a way of expediting construction of the Aswan High Dam, and as confirming the UAR’s only reliable source of arms. Nasser probably seeks benefits from arousing U.S. concern at the prospect of closer USSR-UAR relations. For internal political reasons, as well as to convince the USSR and neutrals of the purity of its “anti-imperialist” [Page 454] policy, the UAR has recently created public rows with both France and the U.K.

Israel and France have thus been stimulated to undertake an anti-UAR campaign. French indignation at the Cairo “spy trials” has led to violent anti-UAR press campaigns not only in France but throughout Europe, and to negative French and Israeli reaction to U.S. aid to the UAR. For example, the UAR request for cotton under P.L. 480 to meet domestic deficiencies was interpreted by Israel as permitting the UAR to use more of its own cotton to purchase Soviet arms. This line has appeared in the U.S. press and has helped persuade U.S. opinion of an important new Soviet-UAR arms deal. This was further amplified by reports, vigorously denied by the UAR government, of establishment of a Soviet naval base in the UAR. (We do not believe Nasser has given the Soviets this privilege; Soviet arms now arriving in increased quantities in the UAR were ordered over a year ago. We have turned down the UAR cotton request and in fact we believe the UAR is anxious to prevent Soviet domination of the UAR cotton trade.) French counter-measures against the UAR have included recent efforts to block additional UAR drawings from the International Monetary Fund and efforts to cut down on lines of credit available to the UAR from European banks. The French clandestine radio, “The Voice of Free Men,” habitually attacks U.S.-UAR cooperation, and its out-put of this type has recently been stepped up.

The UAR’s Alleged Intent to Block the Suez Canal has been widely disseminated in connection with Portuguese vessels allegedly wishing to assist Goa or Dutch warships bound for West Irian. These statements appear to have been circulated by parties directly at interest and, while the UAR has seen fit neither to confirm or deny them, there is no evidence that the UAR is prepared to violate the Suez Canal Convention.

Conclusion: Such cross-currents are familiar to those dealing with UAR affairs over a considerable period of time. They tend to follow typical patterns. While a good deal of the responsibility lies with UAR policies themselves, as well as with Israeli, French and Soviet maneuvers, we believe we should not be deflected from our own objective of developing with patience and tenacity a stronger position in the UAR. At present, the UAR badly needs our help and has already modified certain policies to get it (putting Israel in the “icebox,” reducing its ties with the Soviet Bloc, a more moderate line in Africa). The UAR greatly fears over-involvement with the Soviets since fundamental to Nasser’s philosophy is a desire to remain free of foreign domination, Eastern or Western. We should pursue existing opportunities for attaining our objectives.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 786B.11/1–3162. Secret. Drafted by Thacher and Barrow on January 23.
  2. Printed from a copy that indicates Ball signed the original.