225. Memorandum From the President’s Special Consultant (Bundy) to President Johnson 1
The Middle East with Kosygin:
You know all the issues. I think what we need is to probe him on one basic point:
Do they want to cool it off, or heat it up again? They really do have the choice, in two main ways:
- How many planes and tanks they give UAR and Syria. (You can safely refer to “reports” of “hundreds” of tanks and planes, without making the reports your own-if he denies the reports you can press the value of your call for registration of arms shipments at the UN. This should be mentioned with emphasis somehow, or they’ll think you didn’t mean it in your speech.)2
- Whether they join us in serious negotiations for a realistic peace, which our 5 principles do aim for, or instead stick to unworkable propaganda positions. Specifically, you could note with satisfaction his acceptance of Israel as a state, and press him to get his friends to do the same. The question after that is maritime rights, and after that, recognized and secure boundaries. He’ll talk withdrawal; we want withdrawal to peace, not to June 4.
We will match our policy to theirs. We have absolutely no desire for another arms race, nor do we seek any “confrontation” with them. [Page 507] We don’t think the Middle East is a promising place for either of us to play such games in-the players there are too unpredictable. Moreover, we recognize that they can’t make a 180 degree turn over-night, nor seem to abandon friends like Nasser-dangerous, unreliable and ineffective though Nasser has proved. But every move toward peaceful and constructive positions will get full understanding and response from us.
On the past, you may want to assure him categorically that we did not know of Israeli decision of June 4 that they would have to react to the threat they faced. He does not need to be told that we weren’t in the fighting itself—he knows.
On one separate point: Having been in Saigon at the time, I remember how much Kosygin resented our choice of that moment, when he was in Hanoi, for our first bombing attack. I think you ought to tell him—in a wholly private word—that you had no intention of involving him in any way-you had long since determined that you would have to react at once to the next direct attack on US installations there-and your hand was forced by the people who hit Pleiku. (I believe this quite personal concern of his is entirely separate from the general question of bombing.)
Finally, while I think you will want to be courteous and even gentle in tone, I think it will be important to be clear and firm in substance-your public language has been extremely moderate and generous, and we don’t want him to miss your strength. The best way to show it will be if he tries any rough stuff—which I don’t predict—but one way or another this old pro needs to take home a picture of your strength as well as your responsiveness.