126. Letter From President Nixon to Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union Kosygin1

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Your message of January 31 has been studied carefully.2 For its part, the United States intends to continue its efforts to promote a stable peace between the parties in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution of November 22, 19673 and to encourage the scrupulous adherence by all concerned, not just one side, to the cease-fire resolutions of the United Nations. I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, this is the steadfast policy of the United States.

We do not accept the views expressed by the Soviet Government in explanation of the current situation in the Middle East. We have been using our influence with both sides urging strict observance of the cease-fire. Thus any implication that the United States has been a party to or has encouraged violations of the cease-fire is without foundation.

Moreover, your attempt to place responsibility on one side is not supported by the facts; there have been repeated violations of the UN cease-fire resolutions by both sides. Full compliance with these resolutions on all fronts, including the prevention of fedayeen attacks against Israel, would help establish a more favorable atmosphere for progress towards a settlement.

As I have pointed out, the United States, just shortly before the receipt of your letter, discussed this matter with both Israel and the UAR and urged both sides to adhere strictly to the UN cease-fire resolutions. We intend to continue these discussions in order to bring about early restoration of the cease-fire between Israel and the UAR. It will be recalled that in early 1969 the UAR announced and initiated a policy of non-observance of the cease-fire. An early indication by the UAR that it will abide by the UN cease-fire resolutions if Israel will do the same [Page 375] would contribute to a reduction of tension and violence and facilitate a political solution. We are prepared to continue our efforts in that direction. We are not aware of any recent Soviet efforts to this end.

We have noted the reference in your message to the effect that “the Soviet Union will be forced to see to it that the Arab states have means at their disposal…”.4 The United States has always opposed steps which could have the effect of drawing the major powers more deeply into the Middle East conflict. This could only complicate matters further.

For this reason, the United States: (1) supports the prompt restoration of the cease-fire; and (2) favors an understanding on limitations of arms shipments into the area. The question of arms limitations was raised directly with Mr. Gromyko in July of last year, our willingness to discuss this important subject was reaffirmed in my speech before the General Assembly5 this last fall and subsequently was again taken up with Mr. Gromyko by Secretary Rogers,6 and our strong preference for limitations was reiterated as recently as January 25.7 Our proposals for discussion of this matter were rejected by the Soviet Union.

While preferring restraint, as I indicated on January 25, the United States is watching carefully the relative balance in the Middle East and we will not hesitate to provide arms to friendly states as the need arises.

On the broader question of a peace settlement, the United States remains committed to help achieve a peace agreement between the parties as called for by the UN Resolution of November, 1967. We have noted your point to the effect that if the question of withdrawal were resolved, there would be no serious obstacles to agreement on other questions. As you know, there can be no withdrawal unless there is full agreement between the parties on all of the elements of a peace settlement. In this connection, the proposals of October 28 and December 18, 1969,8 meet the legitimate concerns of both sides on all key questions, including withdrawal. We believe these proposals constitute reasonable guidelines which would provide Ambassador Jarring the means to start the indispensable process of negotiations between the parties under his auspices. It is a matter of regret that Soviet unresponsiveness [Page 376] to these proposals is holding up this process; a more constructive Soviet reply is required if progress towards a settlement is to be made.

We note your desire to work with us in bringing peace to this area. We do not believe peace can come if either side seeks unilateral advantage. We are willing to continue our efforts to achieve a stable peace in the Middle East in a spirit of good will.

We are providing copies of this communication to Prime Minister Wilson and President Pompidou.


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 765, Presidential Correspondence, Kosygin. Secret; Nodis. According to a February 3 memorandum from Kissinger to Rogers, President Nixon approved Sisco’s delivering the letter to Dobrynin on February 4. Additional copies were to be delivered to the Ambassadors of France and Great Britain following delivery of the original. (Ibid.) According to telegram 17418 to Moscow, February 4, “Sisco handed President’s reply to Kosygin letter to Ambassador Dobrynin at 3 p.m. today.” (Ibid., Box 711, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VI)
  2. Document 121.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 2.
  4. Ellipsis is in the source text.
  5. The text of Nixon’s address before the 24th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 18, 1969, is in Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 724–731.
  6. Reference is to U.S.-Soviet ministerial discussions between Rogers and Gromyko on September 22, 26, and 30 in New York; see Documents 81 and 87 and footnote 1 to Document 91.
  7. For Nixon’s remarks on January 26 about supplying military equipment to the Middle East, see “Message to the National Emergency Conference on Peace in the Middle East,” in Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, p. 18.
  8. See Document 98 and footnote 3 to Document 109.