123. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Message from Kosygin

The key points in the message from Kosygin which Ambassador Dobrynin gave me last night (Tab A)2 are:

The Israelis have in effect resumed military action against the Arab states.
The USSR is studying to what extent Israeli action has been coordinated with [U.S.]3 diplomatic action.
If Israel continues, this will widen the conflict with highly risky consequences for the situation in the Mid-East and international relations as a whole. If Israel continues, “the USSR will be forced to see to it that the Arab states have means at their disposal” to rebuff Israel.
The Four Powers must compel Israel to stop and to see that a lasting peace is established. Withdrawal of Israeli forces is key; if this is solved, there would hardly be any difficulty on other questions.

My thoughts about this message are as follows:

The tone is relatively moderate, but nevertheless this is the first Soviet threat to your Administration, so the tone of your reply will be important. The Soviets avoid directly threatening action of their own. So far, it would seem that they are loath to make this a U.S.–USSR confrontation.
There is evidence that the combination of our firmness and the Israeli raids are hurting Nasser.
  • —There is a strong likelihood that Nasser made a secret visit to Moscow January 22–27. That may be the background for this note.
  • Nasser told the Jordanian Foreign Minister that he cannot accept our position
    because the USSR won’t let him, and
    because he would appear to be capitulating if he negotiated while the Israeli bombing continues.
The Soviets seem to have become increasingly concerned about a peace plan with a U.S. label on it. [Page 368]
  • —This document suggests action by the Four Powers, and Kosygin has sent it to Wilson and Pompidou.
  • —It implies that we can compel the Israelis to settle.
The letter holds out the bait that if the cease-fire could be restored and withdrawal achieved, other issues would fall into place. It does not spell out a view on the other issues and therefore leaves the Soviet view vague. What is worse, the position that Israel must withdraw before other issues are settled is a return to the Soviet position of 1967, which seems to negate much of the progress made in the U.S.–USSR talks last summer.

The overall conclusion from the message and the circumstances surrounding it is that they are not in the stronger position vis-à-vis us. Our policy of holding firm creates the following dilemma for them: If they do not agree to our proposals, they get nothing, the onus for escalation falls on them and their client will lose if the escalation leads to a major clash. If they do agree, they would have to deliver their client on our terms.

The strategy of our reply that I propose is:

  • —to come down very hard on the Soviet threat;
  • —to relate Israeli observance of the cease-fire to corresponding observance by the other side, including irregular forces;
  • —to press the Soviets to spell out their views on what the Arabs would commit themselves to if Israel withdrew.

Because this message is going to both Prime Minister Wilson and President Pompidou, I believe State must be brought in. I have talked to Secretary Rogers and given him the memorandum at Tab B4 suggesting the elements of a reply based on our conversation from New York. I have also talked to Joe Sisco who agrees with this general approach.

I have also told Ambassador Freeman5 that we have a message and will talk to him before replying. I will reach Ambassador Lucet6 tonight. These small gestures of consultation are worth the effort since they will have the letter anyway. After we have a draft reply, we should seriously consider telling the Israelis.

We will have a draft reply for your consideration on Monday.7 My recommendation is that we should hold it, however, until at least Wednesday and preferably Thursday.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 489, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1970, Part 2. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. There is no indication on the memorandum that the President saw it.
  2. Printed as Document 121.
  3. Brackets in the source text.
  4. Not attached.
  5. John Freeman, British Ambassador.
  6. Charles Lucet, French Ambassador.
  7. February 2.