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

3835. Subj: Call on Gromyko on ME. Ref: Moscow 3825.2

At seventy-five-minute meeting July 10 Gromyko was attentive but seemed to be stalling for time. He was non-belligerent and avoided giving offense. Following is full account of discussion.
I noted that Sisco had seen Dobrynin July 13 to answer some of the questions Gromyko had raised with me June 29.4 I then told Gromyko we would like his reactions to our answers in due course but now wished to raise the problem of the ME military situation which was causing us great concern and worry. I told him I had been asked to recall Secy Rogers’ June 2 conversation with Dobrynin5 and went on to read him the following, with particular reference to the Secy’s June 2 statement.
“Asst Secy Sisco in his talk July 1 with Amb Dobrynin replied to the questions you asked regarding the Arab demand for total withdrawal and the relation between the US initiative and Four-Power talks. Sisco also described our views regarding consideration of the Syrian aspect. We would be interested in having in due course your reactions.
“In the meantime an especially serious development has come to the fore. I have been asked to recall Secy Rogers’ conversation with Amb Dobrynin June 2 and to refer particularly to Secy Rogers’ statement about Soviet military involvement and to Amb Dobrynin’s comments that the SovGov wished to avoid a US-Soviet confrontation. Amb Dobrynin remarked then that maybe the situation now is a little more equal in the military sense and perhaps this provides a good opportunity to advance toward a settlement. He said the possibility for peaceful settlement still exists and said there should be no doubt that the Soviet side does not want a confrontation.
“We would like to know whether these views are still valid as of today. We ask this question because indications have been increasing during the past that Soviet military personnel have in fact moved into close proximity to the Suez Canal. New deployments of Soviet surface-to-air missiles make this conclusion inescapable.
“I have been asked to re-read to you the text of Secy Rogers’ statement to Amb Dobrynin of June 2, which is as follows (Ref para 3 State 085691).
“I have been asked to say that in our view the latest Soviet actions in support of UAR military activity in proximity to the Canal cannot be characterized as defensive, since their net effect is to bolster UAR policy of violating the ceasefire. There is a serious question whether new Soviet support of the UAR in the Canal combat zone has not now led to a major qualitative change in the military balance. Given the UAR policy of attacking along the ceasefire line, we view Soviet activity as contributing to a serious escalation of the conflict.
“To understand our own position it is useful to go back to Premier Kosygin’s Jan 30 [31] message6 to the US, France, and the UK. The US replied to Premier Kosygin in a flexible, constructive manner.7 Then on March 23 Pres Nixon announced deferral on arms delivery for Israel. However, the result has been no ceasefire, no arms limitation talks, but indeed the introduction of new modern arms into the UAR. Another pressure developed on the USG when 79 [73] senators declared that the US should accede to Israel’s request for more aircraft. This has not been done. We came forward with a procedural initiative to get the parties themselves to begin discussion. Furthermore, we have continued our restraint on arms deliveries.
“We have previously on numerous occasions requested an authoritative statement of the Soviet Union’s intentions with respect to Soviet personnel and military involvement in the UAR but have received no satisfactory reply. A clear understanding on our part of Soviet intentions might help us avoid a serious miscalculation. We would still welcome such a statement. We will in any case interpret concrete Soviet actions in their own right and will be required to consider appropriate steps in the light of such Soviet actions.
“The final question is the opportunity which the present moment offers for a movement toward a settlement. We hope we may soon receive your reaction to our proposal for getting the parties negotiating under Jarring. This in turn would provide a favorable opportunity for greater activity in the major-power talks. As Sisco said to [Page 556] Amb Dobrynin, the US initiative offers the Soviet Union and the UAR an excellent and rapid way to test the seriousness of the US about peace.
“The escalating situation along the Canal again underlines the need for more speedy and effective efforts toward political settlement and validates the relevance of the US initiative. We again strongly urge that the Soviet Union not allow the opportunity presented by our initiative to slip by.”
After hearing my statement, Gromyko said the question arises as to how one should explain this appeal to the SovGov. Is it not, he asked, explained by the fact that the USG is preparing the soil for giving arms to Israel? In other words, the question arises because, on the one hand the USG has stated its readiness to renew the Jarring mission; on the other hand, we have statements such as the one you have made today. If the USG really would like to renew the Jarring mission, moreover with the aim of having it succeed, the USSR has been and is for its resumption. Why then are hints being made regarding possible developments of events such as are contained in your statement, Gromyko went on.
The USSR has always proceeded from the position that we must find a political settlement to the ME situation and remove the dangers inherent in that situation. The USSR has repeatedly stated this, for example in the Soviet PriMin’s letters to Pres Nixon, in statements by Soviet leaders at the time of the Supreme Soviet elections, and in his discussions with ME. The USSR has repeatedly stressed it wants a political settlement of the ME situation, to eliminate an aggravation of the situation and to bring about a radical change in the interests of peace.
Gromyko went on to say that if one looks objectively at the situation, one cannot find differences between the words and concrete deeds of the USSR in the ME. He asserted that the USSR does not wish to see contradictions within the positions of the govts with which it is exchanging views on the ME. He said there should not be contradictions in the positions of the USG and would like the USG to occupy the same position in words and deeds.
He said my statement contained the assertion that Soviet personnel in the UAR represented a danger and that their presence in certain areas of the UAR can or may lead to an escalation or an increase in tension in this area. Gromyko said the USSR categorically rejects this assertion.
He went on to say that the USSR has a certain number of advisers in the UAR. They had said so in statements made by the head of the SovGov, for example at a recent press conference. These personnel are in the capacity of advisers. Their number represents a threat [Page 557] to no one and their presence in the UAR cannot lead to an exacerbation of the situation. They have a purely defensive character and operate in this capacity.
Gromyko then said he did not wish to touch on purely military aspects of the question. He did not wish to refer to types of arms and their locations mentioned by ME and about which he presumed I had information from Washington. He then went on to say that even if something along the lines of what I said had taken place, one could not but draw the conclusion that the question relates to purely defensive actions on UAR territory. He said Israel was occupying foreign territory, that the area across the Canal belongs not to Israel but to the UAR, and represents territory captured by the Israelis. He said he wished to repeat that even if such things had taken place, they would be purely defensive actions. He went on to stress that he had not used the conditional tense accidentally.
Israel, he said, is spreading tendentious information and conjecture which the USG should not believe. The Israelis have a definite purpose in doing so, and if one should believe them, then one would think that Israeli and Soviet pilots are clashing. This is totally absurd. Perhaps, he went on, the Israelis wished to cause provocations, but we should not let them get away with this. As far as the Soviet Union is concerned, it thinks the USG should proceed coolly toward the problem and be guided by the lofty considerations of a political settlement of the ME situation.
In various discussions the Soviet Union has held, it has tried to convince everyone of the need to strive for political settlement of the ME problem, to establish a firm peace in the ME with guarantees for a peaceful, independent existence for all states in the region, including Israel. This settlement should include the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all occupied territory.
Gromyko said the Soviet Union follows this policy, and its latest proposals were guided by it. At the same time, he alleged the USSR begins to notice a lessening of interest on the part of the US in seeking ways for a political settlement. Even on questions in which the USG has expressed views similar to those of the USSR, he alleged that Moscow sees a diminution of US interest. He said he thought we would have welcomed the latest Soviet proposals, but instead Moscow has been puzzled by a lowered US interest, for example on the question of withdrawal and the establishment of peace.
Regarding a Soviet response to the US proposals, Gromyko said the Soviet proposals had been made earlier and Moscow had not heard from the USG. Therefore, the USSR has a more convincing reason to expect an answer from the USG first. Moscow would like to know the US position on the withdrawal of troops and the establishment of peace [Page 558] which the USG has until now considered to be the crucial issue, and probably still considers as such.
With respect to the US proposal about the resumption of the Jarring Mission, Gromyko said this was no great problem. The USSR has always advocated its renewal if it could lead to successful results. The question is not one of the resumption of the Jarring Mission. It is a matter of solving the basic question, the solution to which will not come of itself. He then asserted the USG always seems to dodge away from the main issues when there is need to move forward on questions of substance.
He then said his remarks were not a final, formal reply and that the Soviets would give an answer to the US proposals. In doing so they would take into account the statements I had made today as well as other statements.
I told Gromyko I had several remarks to make about his comments. We were addressing our appeal to the USSR because the indications we had were that Soviet military support and activity in the UAR has increased. The available evidence has impressed the USG, which would not have raised the issue if there were not a substantial increase, which creates a more dangerous situation in the area. It is important that the USG is convinced of the validity of the information and may have to act on it. The USG has not, as far as I know, been preparing new deliveries to Israel. We have suspended action on the Israeli request for more planes. We have done so in the interest of not escalating the situations, of not making it more tense.
I said it was well known the UAR had repudiated the cease-fire and was acting in violation of the ceasefire. Its actions are not purely defensive in this sense. Soviet support and increased military aid has changed and is changing the military situation between the Arabs and the Israelis. This increases the possibility of undesirable and unforeseen actions. Furthermore, it is forcing the USG to review its own position with respect to Israel where we have, until now, shown restraint by not escalating our military deliveries.
We do not have precise, accurate information from the Soviet side regarding its military activity in the UAR. This situation may engender exaggeration and speculation, but the evidence available to us is impressive and very disturbing. I went on to say that I was sure he would believe that the US is taking it seriously and that is why we have spoken on sober terms in Moscow and Washington.
I then went on to point out that we were happy to note that the Soviet Union, like the USG, believes in the necessity for political settlement of the situation in the ME. Regarding withdrawal and a peace settlement, the USG was certainly no less interested in these points than the USSR. We were glad to note that there was some [Page 559] advance in the latest Soviet proposals. Far from ignoring these proposals, we thought they offered something to build on in the proper setting and at the proper time.
I went on to stress that our initiative was not intended to set aside the Two- or Four-Power talks or the Soviet proposals. It was suggested as an emergency measure to bring the parties into discussion on the basis of firm acceptance of UNSC Res 242. We were not asking anything of the USSR or the Arabs to which they had not already agreed. On the other hand, we were asking the Israelis to engage in indirect negotiations and to commit themselves to withdrawal. The purpose was to revive the Jarring mission and to get talks started.
Discussions have taken place in NY and Washington for over a year on the matter of giving guidance to Jarring. We still think it will take time to reach agreement on precise instructions and guidance to Jarring. In the meantime, the opportunity would be lost to bring together the parties and to reduce tensions and ease the exceedingly dangerous situation which is building up. It is our view that once talks start under Jarring, the Two- and Four-Power talks will have much more meaning.
The USSR and the USG will have the duty and the opportunity to narrow the gap between the two sides. I said that up until now the talks in NY and Washington had been operating in a vacuum, and Gromyko broke in to ask in what respect. I answered they had not brought the two parties together, and our aim was to launch Jarring and to bring the parties into discussion. We hoped our procedural suggestion would appeal to all concerned as an emergency measure, as a way of escaping from a dangerous situation. I stressed again that we wanted the Soviet govt to consider seriously the advantages.
Gromyko responded by saying that if any undesirable developments take place in the ME, this would be due to actions undertaken by the Israelis or by the wishes of the USG. Otherwise, there can be no undesirable developments in the area. He went on to say that the USSR was not only against an exacerbation of the situation but for finding a solution to the problems of a political settlement. He then reiterated this assertion that any undesirable developments in the ME would be due to actions taken by the Israelis and USG toleration of such actions. He said that if there are hotheads in Tel Aviv who want to exacerbate the situation and to provoke a major incident, he hoped the USG would finds ways to cool these hotheads. The USG should proceed from the fact that it has interest in preserving peace. He went on to say that he understood the Arabs plan to answer the USG proposals.
[sic] I told Gromyko I thought it was unfair of him to accuse us of doing undesirable things. We were trying to get Israel to accept [Page 560] UNSC Res 242 and firmly to accept the principle of withdrawal and to engage in negotiations.
Gromyko broke in to say he understood this. He said the USG thinks it would be achieving a great deal to get Israel to accept the principle of withdrawal. However, what the USSR wants is total Israeli withdrawal from all territories. What troops and what territories, these are the main questions. The UAR does not want to discuss the issue if it is only a question of withdrawal of Israeli troops from Sinai. In the Soviet view, it would not be a very great advance if the USG were able to get the Israelis to agree only in principle to withdrawal.
I told Gromyko our concern was to get the two parties together so that they could negotiate this issue along with the question of frontiers which must be established by agreement. I went on to stress that our concern was about the developing military situation. I said that if the Soviet Union could provide clarification about the actual state of affairs and its intentions, it might help to reduce our anxiety.
Gromyko said he had nothing to add. He wished to say only that the USG should approach the situation coolly and not make any judgments based on the views of certain govts or hotheads.
[sic] In conclusion I expressed the hope he would treat seriously our concern about the developing military situation in the ME.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1155, Saunders Files, U.S. Peace Initiative for Middle East, 6/10–7/23/70, Vol. 1, 5 of 5. Secret; Priority; Nodis. On July 8, Sonnenfeldt and Saunders sent Kissinger a memorandum seeking his approval of instructions for Beam’s talk with Gromyko on the Middle East. Kissinger initialed his approval on July 8. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 712, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VIII)
  2. In telegram 3825 from Moscow, the Embassy provided Beam’s highlights of his meeting with Gromyko on July 10. (Ibid., Box 1155, Saunders Files, U.S. Peace Initiative for Middle East, 6/10–7/23/70, Vol. 1, 5 of 5)
  3. See Document 176.
  4. See Document 175.
  5. See Document 159.
  6. Document 121.
  7. Document 126.