480. Letter From Premier Kosygin to President Johnson 1

Dear Mr. President,

The Soviet Government feels concerned over the fact that so far there has been no progress in the matter of a political settlement in the Near East.

Although as a result of the known resolutions of the Security Council which were supported by our two states, it was possible to halt military actions in the Near East, the occupation of the Arab territories seized by Israel in the course of the aggression, still continues. Israeli leaders are putting forward more and more openly plans for the annexation of these territories, or at least parts of them, and are even undertaking practical steps for their colonization.

Information is available about concentrations of Israeli forces in positions which can hardly be viewed otherwise than staging areas for the organization of new military actions against Syria and Jordan. The government of Lebanon shows concern over the threats directed at it as well. There is a growing evidence of increasing arms supplies to Israel from abroad.

In such an atmosphere of growing tension during the recent period one cannot exclude serious complications in the Near East, the possibility that the armed incidents provoked by Israel which continuously occur along the Suez canal and along the Israeli-Jordanian and Israeli-Syrian frontiers, will turn into a broad military confrontation.

All states, with the exception of the aggressor, stated during the Emergency Session of the UN General Assembly that the use of force should not result in any benefits and advantages, and that Israel should withdraw her forces from the seized Arab territories. You also spoke in the same sense during the meeting last June.

In continuing to behave in such a provocative and defiant manner the leaders of Israel seem to rely, first of all, on aid and support from the USA.

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As is apparent from contacts between Soviet representatives and responsible officials of your government, and from the whole course of events during the present session of the General Assembly of the UN, Israel’s expansionist ambitions find on the American side a benevolent attitude.

After the opening of the present session we were greatly surprised to learn that the American side not only has not moved forward in the search of a political settlement in the Near East but has shown a somewhat different attitude even toward her own proposals which had been proposed by her during the Emergency Session of the UN General Assembly.

One gains the impression that the American side is actually trying to abandon her own proposals, judging by the statements made by her representatives in New York. Under the pretext of an interpretation of these proposals, substantially new and additional conditions are being put forward in the spirit of the aggressive demands made by Israel. Attempts have also been made to steer the negotiations along a twisting and swampy path with many stops and retreats.

Meanwhile it should be made completely clear that: if the question of speedy withdrawal of Israeli forces is not solved then there can be no peace in that area. The unstable, explosive situation will continue and will introduce complications into international relations as a whole.

Where would lead the reliance of the leaders of Israel on US assistance? Some will help one side, others the other side. And thus, link by link, the chain of events will follow. Is this the way to strengthen peace in the Near East? Will this be of benefit to states?

The Soviet Government proceeds from the position that it is necessary to eliminate without delay the after-effects of aggression and, at the same time, to prevent the breakout of a new military conflict in this area in the near or more distant future.

The Soviet Government firmly believes that now there exists an objective opportunity to put an end to further dangerous protraction of the political settlement in the Near East. This can and must be done by means of a speedy adoption, let us say, in the Security Council of a resolution which was discussed at the end of the Emergency Session of the UN General Assembly and which provides for the withdrawal of troops without delay from the occupied territories to the positions as of June 5, 1967, at the same time recognizing the principle of independent national existence of all states in that area and their right to live in peace and security. Each side would be bound to observe such a Security Council resolution.

Of course, in addition to those mentioned there is a number of other questions awaiting a solution. There is the question of free navigation. [Page 920] We are convinced that these questions, too, should be solved in the interest of all countries on the basis of the aforementioned resolution, if adopted by the Security Council.

References to the effect that the Arab states are allegedly not agreeable to recognize Israel’s right to independent national existence are groundless. You are also undoubtedly aware that the Arab states, at any rate, those immediately concerned, have adopted a sound and realistic position.

The time has come to take resolute steps to put an end to the present dangerous situation in the Near East. One must not allow the political settlement be wrecked because Israel would like to realize her extreme claims behind which hides an unrestrained drive towards expansion. It appears that the Israeli leaders are little concerned with how this state will live tomorrow, without thinking of the consequences their political short-sightedness may bring about.

We are convinced that the overwhelming majority of states, perhaps all of them, will support every positive step in the direction of a settlement. And hardly anybody could come out against the decision of the Security Council which reflects the interests of states and is dictated by the desire to relieve tension and to bring lasting peace to the Near East.

In the positive results of such efforts nations would see not only a contribution to the strengthening of peace in that area but also a ray of hope in the cause of solving other problems facing mankind and, not in the least, by our countries.

I hope, Mr. President, to receive your early reply. One would like to believe that this reply will help to remove from the agenda a problem which has become a source of friction and conflicts.


A. Kosygin
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence File, USSR, Kosygin Correspondence, Vol. I. No classification marking. The copy printed here is headed “Translation.” Two copies of a slightly different translation headed “Unofficial translation” are ibid. Dobrynin called Rusk at 3:30 p.m. on October 21 and told him he had just received the letter and that Kosygin wanted him to deliver it in person. (Notes of telephone conversation, prepared by Mildred Asbjornson; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Calls) Dobrynin called on the President from 7:30 to 8:03 p.m. that evening and evidently delivered the letter at that time. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) No record of the conversation has been found.