181. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- Meeting with Ambassador Dobrynin
I wrote a very brief telegram2 covering my last conversation with Dobrynin. What is not contained in the telegram is that I gave the Ambassador some personal impressions—strictly personal—of the atmosphere which the continuing increased Soviet military involvement in the UAR is creating which increases the risks of possible confrontation with us. I said that it would be well for Dobrynin to reflect that the President at the outset of his Administration had declared an era of negotiations. For seventeen months we had negotiated in good faith, and we feel that the Soviets have not come half the way; and that our restraint on the military side has not been met by restraint but rather by a fundamental decision on the part of the Soviet Union to involve its personnel in an operational capacity. This is a most serious decision for the Soviets to have taken, and our concern has increased not only because of the creeping process in recent weeks, but also because of Soviet unwillingness to tell us quietly and confidentially what their intentions are and what the outer limits of their involvement may be as they see it.
I said I had watched our President for months and felt that he had offered political proposal after political proposal, and political option after political option in the context of the United States exercising great restraint in the face of pressures for providing Israel with substantial numbers of additional aircraft. I hoped that Dobrynin was not reporting to Moscow that our involvement in Vietnam reflected any lack of resolve in the Middle East. The President was a man of peace, a man who wanted a negotiated settlement, but also a man of firmness and toughness, which it would be well for the Soviet Union to take fully into account as it develops Middle East policy. He would not be pushed around in the Middle East or anywhere else. These were only personal judgments I was expressing; but I would advise Dobrynin to take very, very seriously the words expressed by the President some months ago that the United States would view with deep concern any attempt by the Soviet Union to dominate the Middle East.
Dobrynin responded critically of the recent “tough talk” which he said would not force the Soviet Union to make decisions of the kind it would not wish to make. He remonstrated several times that the emphasis on the Soviet role was creating a crisis atmosphere, and that it was not making it easier for Moscow to take constructive initiatives during the current discussions with Cairo. At the same time, he was quick to say, these were personal remarks and we would be receiving the replies to our political initiative at an early date.[Page 562]
I concluded this portion of the conversation by saying that I just wanted personally to get this off of my chest, and that I had no authority to say any of this. I wanted to say what I said because the Soviets in the past have miscalculated regarding United States intentions and it was important he reflected to Moscow the resolve and the fiber and the determination of the President, as I read the situation.
I have brought this memorandum to the attention of Secretary Rogers.3
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 340, Subject Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger. Secret; Nodis; Personal; Eyes Only. On July 17, Kissinger forwarded this to Nixon under a covering memorandum that reads: “You will see that Sisco made some extremely useful points concerning recent Soviet moves in the region, their unwillingness to explain their actions, and the nature of your personal approach and policy. I think Sisco’s presentation should prove helpful and is another reason for you to compliment him when you see him.” Nixon wrote the following note on the covering memorandum: “K—Tell Sisco an excellent follow-up to my recent instructions to him.”↩
- Telegram 111425 to Moscow, July 13. (Ibid., Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1970, Vol. 3)↩
- At 5:40 p.m., Kissinger and Sisco spoke on the telephone about Rogers’ reaction to Sisco’s meeting with Dobrynin. According to a transcript of the telephone conversation, Kissinger told Sisco that the President was behind him. Sisco replied, “Well, between you and me the only flack I got was from the Secretary of State.” Kissinger responded, “Really? The President is a terribly perceptive man. He told me he would bet me a thousand to one that you got hell from the Secretary and he wanted me to call you and reassure you. I didn’t pick that up. What did he give you hell about?” Sisco replied, “It’s a long story. Let’s just say that I took it and it’s over. I just don’t want this thing to go on.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 364, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)↩