162. Memorandum From Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- Secretary Rogers’ Conversation with Dobrynin
Attached is a copy of the memorandum of conversation between Secretary Rogers and Ambassador Dobrynin on June 2 (Tab A).2 You are already familiar with the general outline of their discussion and the memcon adds little of importance to that. It does, however, give the text of the new Soviet formulations on the nature of peace and the obligations which the Arabs and Israelis would undertake in a peace settlement. You will recall that Assistant Secretary Sisco feels that these formulations represent a “slight advance.” The following is a more detailed assessment.
Dobrynin informed Secretary Rogers that he was authorized to continue discussions on the Middle East with Assistant Secretary Sisco. He then referred to his discussion with Sisco earlier this year during which Sisco had asked for more detailed Soviet formulations on the nature of peace and the obligations which the Arabs and Israelis would undertake. At the same time, Dobrynin noted he had indicated the Soviet interest in more precise U.S. language on withdrawal and other matters. Dobrynin then handed the Secretary two papers with the following formulations (actually extensions or modifications of two points [Page 494] made in the original Soviet paper of June 17, 1969, with our underlining added):3
“Point 3, Section II
From the moment of deposit with the UN of the concluding document or documents the parties shall refrain from acts contradicting the cessation of the state of war and the establishment of the state of peace, in accordance with paragraphs 10 and 11, with the understanding that, juridically, cessation of the state of war and establishment of the state of peace will begin at the same time of the completion of the first stage of the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the territories occupied during the conflict of 1967.”
“Point 11, Section II
The Arab countries, parties to the settlement, and Israel mutually agree
- —to respect and recognize the sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability and political independence of each other and their mutual right to live in peace in secure and recognized borders without being subjected to threats or use of force;
- —to undertake everything that is necessary so that any military or hostile acts, with the threat or use of force against the other side will not originate from and are not committed from within their respective territories;
- —refrain from intervening directly or indirectly in each other’s domestic affairs for any political, economic or other reasons.”
In conclusion, Dobrynin commented that these two formulations along with the others that had been presented to Sisco previously—that is the June 1969 Soviet document and presumably Soviet commentary since early March—would stand or fall together.
The new formulations must be viewed against the background of the recent history of our dialogue with the Soviets on a Middle East settlement (see Tab B4 for a more detailed recapitulation). You will recall that in early March Dobrynin indicated to Secretary Rogers the Soviet willingness to resume bilateral talks and to meet U.S. wishes for more detailed formulations on the obligations of peace provided we would be more forthcoming on the issue of withdrawal, particularly regarding Sharm al-Shaikh, Gaza and Syria. He also said the USSR would be ready to supplement provisions in its plan on the cessation of the state of war by a provision on establishing, as a result of settlement, a state of peace. Dobrynin was not, however, addressing himself [Page 495] directly to our October 28 document5 but rather was talking about modifications in the USSR’s June 1969 proposals.
Before Dobrynin returned to Moscow, he had three other meetings at State on the Middle East—another session in late March with Secretary Rogers which completed setting the stage for two Sisco– Dobrynin meetings on April 1 and 6. Secretary Rogers made it clear that we were unwilling to go beyond our earlier proposals (the October 28 document on the UAR and the December 18 proposals on the Jordan aspect), although we had no objection to resuming the bilateral talks. Assistant Secretary Sisco’s talks with Dobrynin were not very fruitful, although the door was left open to further discussions. Essentially, they reviewed the state of play, and Dobrynin made clear he had instructions to talk only from the Soviet June 1969 paper.
It is possible to see, as Sisco does, a “slight advance” over their earlier positions. The caveat should be quickly added, however, that this may be highly illusionary. The Soviets have made an apparent concession on one key issue—Arab control of the fedayeen—but seem to have retrogressed in other important areas since last March. On balance, therefore, it may be that there is really no net movement in our favor.
On the positive side, the Soviets, after many months of pressure from us, have finally agreed in effect to the principle of the Arab governments assuming the obligation to control the fedayeen after a settlement. This has been a key issue for us because there is virtually no chance of bringing the Israelis along without such an Arab commitment. They have also given us half a loaf on the juridical timing of peace by saying now that a formal state of peace can come into effect after completion of the first stage of withdrawal.
On the negative side, the Soviets, by talking about modifications in their June document, seem to be wiping the slate clean of Sisco’s Moscow talks last July and Secretary Rogers’ New York talks in September which provided the basis for our October 28 document. In effect, they are still rejecting our total package in favor of building on their initial, and to us unacceptable, approach of a year ago. In fact, Dobrynin’s comment that the two new formulations on peace would stand or fall together with “others” that had been presented to Sisco has a somewhat negative ring.
The Soviets seem to have raised other new barriers to progress. Their continuing insistence on obtaining more precise language from us on the question of withdrawal is probably the best example. In the Four Power talks they have made total withdrawal without any border [Page 496] rectifications the condition for any further movement and they seem to be implying the same in our bilateral dialogue. At a minimum they want us to fill in the gaps such as Gaza, Jerusalem, Sharm al-Sheikh that we have so far left to the parties to negotiate. There is yet to be a satisfactory response from the Soviets on how the parties will negotiate, since they apparently wrote off the Rhodes formula last March.
On the whole it is difficult to hold out much hope for progress in the bilateral talks with the Soviets. They seem to be following a game plan that gives us just enough bait to remain interested while they try to sell us a position based on maximum Arab demands. For instance, the Arab commitment to control the fedayeen is important to us and the Israelis, but it hardly matches with our agreeing to spell out more on the withdrawal issue. Acceptance of control over the fedayeen is an important concession from the Soviets and Arabs but withdrawal is the foundation of the entire Israeli position.
The interesting question to ask, however, is: Does Moscow want these talks more than we do? It would seem to me that the USSR has a greater interest than we do in talking just for the sake of talking. They want to preserve the image of reasonableness while they help the Egyptians militarily and benefit from the deteriorating situation on the ground. Also, Nasser seems to want to keep the negotiating option open and it would be difficult for the Soviets to cut him off. Our main interest is in real progress toward a settlement. We have some interest in looking reasonable too, but in present circumstances we are billed as the obstacle to progress, so the talks do not provide much in that regard. They could be broken off if we chose some other move that would cast the U.S. as the peacemaker and the USSR as the obstructionist.
I will be sending you shortly a more comprehensive analysis of our talks with the Soviets on the Middle East.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 712, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VIII. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. A notation on the memorandum indicates Kissinger saw it.↩
- Document 159.↩
- Printed here as italics. See Document 58.↩
- Tab B is printed as Document 151.↩
- See Document 98.↩