320. Editorial Note

President Johnson and Soviet Premier Kosygin met June 23 and 25, 1967, in Glassboro, New Jersey. The situation in the Middle East was a major subject of discussion. During their meeting from 11:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on June 23, Kosygin urged Israeli withdrawal to the prewar armistice lines. According to a memorandum of conversation prepared by interpreter William D. Krimer, Kosygin said that if this were not done, “hostilities were certain to break out again; the Arabs were an explosive people and no other solution to this problem was possible.” He told Johnson that UAR Deputy Prime Minister Fawzi had told Secretary Rusk the previous day that if the International Court of Justice were to decide that the Gulf of Aqaba should remain open, the United Arab Republic would abide by that decision. Kosygin said that he thought this communication offered hope for a solution to the Middle East problem. He reiterated that if the problem were not solved, “they would be sure to resume the fight sooner or later. If they had weapons, they would use them. If they did not have them, they would fight with their bare hands or buy weapons and surely someone would be found to sell them these weapons.” Johnson said he hoped they could prevail on both sides to agree first that they would talk to each other. He stated that the problem of security had to be dealt with as well as troop withdrawal. He said that if the United States and Soviet Union refrained from furnishing arms to Middle East countries, at most they could fight with their hands, and he expressed the hope that another armed conflict could be avoided. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Addendum, USSR, Glassboro Memoranda of Conversation) In describing the conversation later, Johnson said after Kosygin’s comments about fighting “with their bare hands, if necessary,” that he “leaned forward and said very slowly and quietly, let us understand one another. I hope there will be no war. If there is a war, I hope it will not be a big war. If they fight, I hope they fight with fists and not with guns. I hope you and we will keep out of this matter because, if we do get into it, it will be a ‘most serious’ matter.” (Record of debriefing by [Page 557] the President; ibid., Files of Walt W. Rostow, Hollybush) For records of all meetings between Johnson and Kosygin at Glassboro, as well as related material, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XIV, Documents 217 ff. A position paper and talking points on the Middle East, prepared in the Department of State, are in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, USSR, Hollybush, 6/67 (I), President’s Meeting with Chairman Kosygin.

No record of the meeting between Rusk and Fawzi to which Kosygin referred has been found, but see Document 321.