534. Letter From Premier Kosygin to President Johnson 1

Dear Mr. President,

In the letter of October 232 you state that the Government of the United States continues to stand for prompt political settlement in the Middle East, attaches no new conditions or new interpretations to alternative draft resolutions which were discussed in accordance with the proposals made by the American side toward the close of the Emergency Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly last July. You particularly emphasize that there need be no doubt of the United States position that Israeli troops must be withdrawn from the territories of other states. We take note of your statements and expect that your representatives will proceed exactly from these statements in the consultations mentioned in your letter. So far, however, in discussing the Middle East problem your representatives have followed the line which only creates additional obstacles for the solution of the question of the withdrawal of the Israeli troops and which is at obvious variance with the contents of your letter.

You mention the question of the fundamentals of policy in this area. However, the latest events show that the crux of the problem is not only in the general principles but in concrete actions by one or another side in a given situation and how in fact these actions correspond to the declared principles. Nor do I think that the consideration of the position of the USSR by the American side in a distorted light can do any good.

Your representative in New York suggested that in order to avoid the waste of time our two states should propose an agreed draft resolution on the political settlement in the Middle East for its consideration in the Security Council. We agree with this suggestion. As enclosure to this letter I am sending to you a draft resolution of the Security Council,3 which, in our opinion, could be adopted. The draft is based on the proposals to which the U.S. Government agreed toward the close of the Emergency Special Session and which the U.S. Government itself had put forward. In working out the draft we have taken into consideration the views expressed in your letter and particularly your assurance with regard to the invariability of the US position concerning the withdrawal of the Israeli troops.

Now about the general principles, that you especially stress.

The Soviet Union is vitally interested that the Near and Middle East be an area of stable peace. We are strongly opposed to turning this area into an arena of dangerous frictions and conflicts.

The Soviet Union further proceeds from the fact that the Middle East plays and will continue to play a great role in the system of world economics and in the international life. The fruits of national labor, natural resources of the Arab states and peoples, as well as services provided by them in the interests of international communications are of great importance to Europe, Asia and also to North America. We are convinced that proposals and decisions on the Middle East problem should be based first of all upon due respect to this contribution by the Arab states, irrespectively of their internal political systems. One cannot allow the aggressor to gain through his actions a prize in terms of territories which did not belong to him, or in any other form.

To take the route toward which the Israeli extremists, intoxicated by war chauvinism and wave of adventurism are now pushing, would mean to show benevolence for aggression, to defy the basic principles of justice and the U.N. Charter which bears not only our signatures but also that of Israel.

The Soviet Union stands for the acknowledgment of an undeniable right for independent national existence of all states of the Middle East, including Israel.

Political independence and territorial integrity for all the states, prevention and curbing of aggression—whoever launches it—this is the basic provision from which our policy proceeds, and in this area, too.

In this concrete situation the Soviet Government proceeds first of all from the necessity of elimination without delay of the consequences of the Israeli aggression against the Arab countries and of restoration of peace and first of all of the solution of the most acute and basic problem—[Page 1052]the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from the territories of the Arab states occupied by them.

The Soviet Union stands for peaceful and just solution of the problem of the Arab refugees on the basis of due regard to their legitimate rights and interests. The Soviet Government stands for a peaceful passage of ships of all countries through international waterways with due respect to the sovereign rights and territorial integrity of the states through which lands these waterways come.

As for the problem of limitation of the arms race in this area, its solution on the basis of elimination of the consequences of the Israeli aggression, naturally cannot be but welcome. We do not think, however, that the resumption of shipments of American arms to Israel—the country that has committed and is still continuing aggression against the Arab states—will contribute to the awakening of the sense of reality with the Israeli leaders. By her latest brazen war provocations Israel is obviously seeking to complicate the way to settlement, to cross out the work which is being done in the interest of arriving at some common platform. The Soviet Union proceeds and will proceed from the fact that states cannot live by a political calendar written to please Israel.

Our proposal is clear. It is necessary firstly, that the Security Council should adopt without any procrastination a decision on a withdrawal without delay of troops by the parties to the Middle East conflict to the positions they occupied before June 5, 1967, proceeding from the inadmissibility of conquest of territory by war, as well as on acknowledgment without delay of the right of all states in this area for independent national existence in the conditions of peace and security. Secondly, to proceed on the basis of such a decision by the Security Council to practical actions towards its realization.

The Soviet Government expresses its hope that within shortest period of time the parties will come from declaring the principles to their concrete implementation.


A. Kosygin

[Omitted here is the text of a draft resolution.]

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR/UN. No classification marking but filed as an attachment to a Secret telegram, telegram 71851 to Moscow, November 20, which transmitted the text. The letter is marked “Unofficial translation.” Telegram 71851 notes that Dobrynin had given the letter to Rusk that afternoon and that in his preliminary comments, Rusk pointed out that it presented certain problems of content and timing. A copy of the signed original and a translation prepared in the Department of State is filed with a covering memorandum from Read to Rostow, March 13, 1968. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Head of State Correspondence File, USSR, Kosygin Correspondence, Vol. I)
  2. Document 484.
  3. The attached draft resolution, not here printed, is similar in substance to the Soviet draft resolution introduced in the [Page 1051] Security Council on November 20. (UN document S/8253)