18. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The President
  • U Thant
  • Under Secretary Bunche
  • Ambassador Yost
  • Dr. Kissinger

Much of the conversation was taken up by discussion of the Middle East. The President emphasized our desire for a peaceful settlement, remarking that he was not too sure that the Soviets were equally interested in bringing about a cooling-off period. He referred to the increased Soviet military presence in Egypt as a most hazardous factor since the Israelis were bound to react if the creeping advance toward the Suez Canal continued. If a confrontation resulted and the Israelis asked for more U.S. assistance, we would find ourselves morally committed.

The Secretary General said that when he had been in Moscow, Kosygin had emphasized to him the Soviet desire for a peaceful settlement. The latest Soviet formulation on peace had represented a great concession which had been hard to squeeze out of the UAR.

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The conversation ranged over the general question of what could be done to improve the UN’s contribution to peace. The Secretary General mentioned peacekeeping and Ambassador Yost remarked that we were still waiting for some important word from Moscow.

The President spoke warmly about the need for multilateralism in the economic and social aid field and assured the Secretary General of our support. He stated flatly that we want to move more into that field, and he added that of course there are difficulties to overcome with our Congress, e.g., in the field of appropriations for the UNDP where we had gone in for $100 million and would be lucky to get as much as we had last year. However, we hoped to do more next year. The President also remarked on the disadvantages of bilateralism in the matter of foreign aid.

With respect to visiting New York in connection with the 25th UN General Assembly, the President did not commit himself although he said he would “sympathetically consider” going. He said he was not sure of his schedule yet. The Secretary General suggested that the President come during the commemorative week in October. The President remarked that he might come at that time but that it would be difficult, and Ambassador Yost commented that another possibility would be for the President to come in September. The President said if he were to come he would expect to see a number of foreign leaders, which is always time-consuming (“half an hour if you speak the same language, otherwise an hour”). He supposed he would have to be there two days. U Thant referred to indications that some thirty leaders would be coming.

At one point in the conversation Mr. Bunche remarked that if the situation deteriorated further (presumably referring to the Middle East), there might have to be a meeting “at the top”. The President said he was willing to do anything useful to avert a crisis, but on the whole he was not a great believer in summit meetings unless they could accomplish something. If a meeting raised hopes which were subsequently dashed, this would be worse than if no meeting were held at all.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 298, Agency Files, USUN, Vol. IV. Confidential. Kissinger initialed his approval of the memorandum of conversation on an attached memorandum from Marshall Wright, dated August 12.