58. Information Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

Herewith Kosygin responds to your message:2

  • —He will let us know later about ABM-ICBM’s;
  • —He wants the U.S. and USSR to join together to force a Middle East settlement, with special emphasis on getting the Israelis to go back to their borders.

Despite the lack of balance in his position, I have a feeling we ought to explore this a bit further.

W. W. Rostow 3
[Page 123]

Attachment 4

Copy of Moscow 2529 from Ambassador Thompson, Jan. 22, 1968

Ref: State 102228.5

I saw Kosygin at 11:30 a.m. today and delivered message per reference telegram.
Kosygin said the Soviets would study message and express their views later. However, he could make a few preliminary comments.
Re the NPT, Kosygin said the Soviets are also gratified with the progress achieved. They had done everything to expedite a solution of the outstanding issues and believed the NPT should be signed as soon as possible. Thus, on this question, the Soviet and US views coincided.
Re strategic weapon systems, Kosygin said the Soviets are still studying the problem. They would also study points made in the President’s message and give their views later.
Turning to the Middle East, Kosygin asserted everything depended on US and the President. There was, of course, a UN resolution in existence. When he talked with the President, such questions as opening of canal, recognition of Israel, and Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories had been discussed. As regards Soviet aid, he wished to point out that the Soviets never rendered assistance to aggressor, always to victim of aggression. One could not equate Arabs and Israelis, since the Israelis had launched aggression. The Middle East problem could be solved easily if the occupied territories were vacated by the aggressors. Kosygin said he felt that time had come for the US and USSR to join their efforts to achieve Israeli withdrawal. This could be done through various contacts and through joint pressure on Israel. Jarring mission was, of course, proceeding, but he was concerned it was becoming a routine operation. If US and Soviets did what he was suggesting, the canal could be opened and other elements of the problem resolved. His impression was that some people in the US wanted the Middle East tension to continue. While he did not want to mention any names, the Soviets did have some information about attitudes in the US. Thus, Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories was required. The US and USSR should join their efforts to this end, and he wanted me to convey this to the President. Kosygin continued that the Soviets are very concerned about the Middle East situation. On the other hand, while saying it did not want continued tension in the area, the US is doing nothing about removing it. For example, the US did not seem to be concerned about the plight of Arab refugees. If roots of [Page 124] conflict were removed, i.e., if the problem of occupied territories were resolved, other things, including the question of armaments, would fall in place. What the US was raising were subordinate questions, although Soviets knew that US is helping Israel.
I said I would inform President of Kosygin’s remarks. Noting that origins of present situation are well known, I said I saw no need to discuss them again at this time. Stressing our concern about the situation, however, I pointed out the President’s restraint in his discussions with the Israeli Prime Minister was an effort to help the Jarring mission and implementation of UN resolution so that a successful solution of the problem could be achieved. I also pointed out that the problem involved not only question of occupied territories, but also status of Israel, refugees, etc.
Kosygin concluded the conversation by repeating that if the question of occupied territories were resolved, i.e., if troops returned to their original positions, the whole problem could be settled.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. 57, 1/16-24/68. Secret.
  2. See Document 57.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  4. Secret; Nodis.
  5. Document 57.