84. Letter From Premier Kosygin to President Johnson1
Dear Mr. President:
According to information being received by the Soviet Government the State of Israel is actively engaged in military preparations and evidently intends to carry out armed aggression against neighboring Arab States. Under conditions of extreme tension at the borders of Israel with the UAR and Syria, Israeli militant circles are attempting to impose upon their Government, their country and their people an “adventurist” action for the purpose of resolving all problems by military means. There is a danger that these circles may cause an armed conflict, which would be fraught with important consequences for the cause of peace and international security.
We understand that in the situation now taking shape much depends upon the United States and upon you personally, Mr. President, as to whether Israel will undertake such a reckless act. In this respect there cannot be any other view. If there will be no encouragement on the part of the US, then Israel will not dare step over the line.
In your letter of May 222 you called upon us to exercise our influence along with yours in the direction of restraint. We are for restraint. We are convinced that no matter how complex the situation in the area along the borders of Israel, Syria and the United Arab Republic may be, measures must be found to prevent this conflict from becoming a military one. The situation is such that, in our opinion, this can be done. A new hotbed of war must not be permitted to develop in the world.
That’s why we are in favor of a restraining influence, but, of course, not to the detriment of the lawful interests of the Arab States. Their actions are of a defensive nature. Moreover, it is precisely restraint that [Page 160] they are exercising and, as we know, they do not want a military conflict.
Of course, if the “adventurist” line should prevail and if arms should be used, this could be the beginning of far-reaching events. Should Israel commit aggression and military operations begin, then we will render aid to those countries that are subjected to aggression.
Neither we, nor you, nor the Arab countries, nor the people of Israel are interested in a conflict. We appeal to you to take all necessary measures to prevent an armed conflict. We, for our part, will also undertake measures in that direction.
Chairman of the Council of Ministers
of the USSR
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence File, U.S.S.R.—Presidential Correspondence. Secret; Nodis. The source text, a translation transcribed in the Division of Language Services of the Department of State, was sent to Walt Rostow, along with the original letter in Russian, with a covering memorandum of May 31 from Read. The classification appears on the translation but not on the original letter. Soviet Charge Yuri N. Chernyakov gave the letter to Secretary Rusk at 3 p.m. on May 27. After Soviet Country Director Malcolm Toon translated the letter, Rusk told Chernyakov he would transmit it to the President immediately. He told Chernyakov he could inform his government that Rusk regarded the letter as highly important, especially its last paragraph, and that the U.S. Government was making a maximum effort to restrain all governments in the crisis area, including Israel. (Ibid., Country File, Middle East Crisis)↩
- See footnote 3, Document 41.↩