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]
- 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.
- 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.