154. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

2114. Subject: Middle East: April 27 Meeting with Vinogradov. Ref: Moscow 2099.2

I opened meeting with DepFonMin Vinogradov by pointing out that we wished to clarify that in our view next step in SiscoDobrynin talks following Dobrynin’s return to Washington must be written Soviet indication of what they will accept of our Oct 28 formulations,3 particularly on peace and negotiations.
Vinogradov said Soviet impression was that Dobrynin had offered constructive new approaches to finding common ground on ME settlement, but Sisco had been vague in his responses and then left “abruptly” for tour of ME and meeting in Tehran. Vinogradov “did not think” question of receiving formulations in writing had come up, but if common ground was found it could be expressed in writing. Main question now is how USG envisages continuation of bilateral talks.
I pointed out that we had been extremely explicit on question of main concern to Soviets—withdrawal—in our Oct 28 paper and now it was Soviet turn to be explicit on peace, which was subject of major concern to US and Israelis.
Vinogradov said Sov Gvt had frequently heard that USG had gone as far as it could in Oct 28 proposal. Such language frequently used in negotiations but if US really means that its proposal is nonnegotiable there is no point in further bilateral talks. He asked specifically if US plan subject to modification, adding that answer to this question was very important and would “help solve many problems, including organizational problems of further work.”
I replied that I was obviously not prepared to discuss any modification to our Oct 28 paper, especially since it was drafted to take account of Soviet propositions on a number of issues and was extremely explicit on withdrawal. US position is that we have been very forthcoming and now it is Soviet turn to be specific on peace. After studying [Page 475] Soviet language on peace and negotiations, we could then decide how far we could go together in pursuit of goals of UNSC resolution.4
Vinogradov agreed that Soviets should be more specific at some time on peace, but said that as US has tried to produce balanced peace plan from its point of view, Soviet plan also balanced from its vantage point. “Frankly,” he said, “Sov Gvt ready to negotiate, to continue bilateral talks, to find workable solution which would satisfy all countries of region as quickly as possible. Situation on ground getting worse from point of view of both sides, and action necessary.” He expressed hope that both sides can reach stage where something can be submitted in writing (to four) but issue now was how to proceed in bilaterals since Dobrynin, who in hospital for medical check to be followed by rest, will not return to Washington before end of May. (Vinogradov returned to this point later to stress that end of May is earliest return could be expected).
As to procedure for next round of negotiations, I said that key element would be Soviet readiness to produce written language amplifying its unclear and inadequate position on peace.
Vinogradov said that the procedures to be adopted for talks would depend on who was conducting them. He said that if he were participating he would prefer to first identify all points of agreement and disagreement orally, then would try to bridge existing gaps in further oral discussions. After this, he would try to jointly formulate agreed language on points at issue. He objected to the idea of exchanging “artillery barrages of paper” which might prove unnecessary and have the further effect of binding the participants to new positions, at least for a time.
Speaking “off the record” Vinogradov criticized US Oct 28 position as a “good step forward” on borders combined with “several steps backward” on vital issues such as Sharm, Gaza and security arrangements which were left aside for “direct negotiations.” He claimed that although USG “sold” its proposal nicely it came as big surprise to Sov Gvt which hoped bilateral talks would be marked by continuing progress forward rather than retrogression. Before I could nail him on this he went on to say that counter-accusations that the Soviets had reneged on Rhodes formula were incorrect, since Soviets have not stepped back from it in substance. Although Israelis destroyed viability of Rhodes formula, Soviets still for flexible formula providing for negotiations through Jarring.
Vinogradov said Soviet Gvt ready to talk to USG and talk extensively, basically to avoid confrontation in area but also to find means [Page 476] of working together to achieve peace. He agreed with my observation that there was great similarity in US and Soviet positions, though from different points of view.
I denied that our Oct 28 proposal represented a step backward in any sense in the US position, pointing out that the idea of neutral formulations to cover points where no agreement possible was a concept Soviets accepted. Accusations of Soviet bad faith following presentation of our Oct 28 paper were natural result of procedures followed, where Soviets advanced many informal ideas orally which evaporated later. In contrast, we produced our ideas in writing and then married them to Soviet ideas in our Oct 28 paper. Later this became “the American position” while the Soviet position on peace and negotiations remains vague.
I also argued that process of committing ideas to paper during negotiations binds neither party since negotiations ad referendum pending agreement on whole package. Neither side need commit themselves on paper but it is essential that each understand other’s position precisely.
Vinogradov agreed, saying “this should be done,” but added that the main question was where and by whom. He said Sovs would prefer round in Moscow, although if USG wishes it would be possible to continue with Vorontsov in Washington.
If talks to be held in Moscow, Vinogradov indicated he would head Soviet team and would prefer starting with brief session to review positions of both sides and identify issues where agreement exists. He said Soviet Govt and he personally would of course welcome Sisco as US negotiator.
Throughout discussion Vinogradov was amiable and non-polemic and attempted to give the impression of potential flexibility.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 711, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VII. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Telegram 2099 from Moscow, April 27, provides the initial summary of Beam’s meeting with Vinogradov. (Ibid.)
  3. See Document 98.
  4. Reference is to UN Resolution 242; see footnote 5, Document 2.