186. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Ambassador Dobrynin’s Reply to the U.S. Mid-East Initiative

At Tab A is the text of Ambassador Dobrynin’s statement.2 At Tab B is a detailed commentary on it.

Perhaps the most important element in the Ambassador’s exchange with the Secretary was Dobrynin’s categorical assurance that the cease-fire will also include a military standstill. As we defined “standstill” in describing our initiative last month, that would mean no major troop movements and no new installations in the combat zone. This will be a key element in our approach to the Israelis.

The Soviet response is:

  • —mild and non-polemical in tone;
  • —substantively complementary to the UAR response;
  • —tantamount to a Soviet endorsement of the UAR acceptance with no unexpected hookers.

While they do not refer explicitly to our formula for beginning of talks under Jarring, they say that they favor both a cease-fire and resumption of Jarring’s mission.

The Soviets have emphasized—as did the UAR—that it is essential for the Four Powers to provide Jarring with detailed guidelines. The next major issue then—if the details of the cease-fire were confirmed and the Israelis accepted—would be debate over how detailed the U.S.-Soviet agreement should be before Jarring begins talks. The [Page 574] U.S. would have a case for resumption on the basis of its formula alone, but the Soviets could slow the beginning of a substantive exchange pending more detailed U.S.-Soviet agreement.

To put the Soviet reply in perspective, it must be kept in mind what the Soviets are gaining and what they are conceding.

They would be getting indirect talks started—if the Israelis accepted—and would be getting Israelis acceptance of at least the principle of withdrawal. Whatever that may mean in precise terms, it is more restrictive rather than less. The USSR also seems to see greater promise than in the past that the U.S. is prepared to press Israel. If it is genuinely concerned about further military escalation, it is also getting an opportunity to stop the shooting while the Soviet involvement appears on a rising trend of effectiveness.

They would be conceding a commitment to talk without a precise U.S. or Israeli commitment to total withdrawal. If they honored the military standstill, they would be stopping short of depriving Israel of air supremacy over the Suez combat zone. They would also be accepting the success of a unilateral U.S. initiative to get talks started. While they have their own image of increasing military effectiveness along the Suez Canal to rest on, they could also appear to have been influenced by the firm stand taken in San Clemente. They would also appear to be acknowledging tacitly their own desire to limit their military involvement.

Above all, of course, it must be remembered that the Soviets will be in an advantageous position if Israel does not accept. If Israel accepts, the U.S. will have brought the situation over the first major political hurdle but there will still be the cease-fire to be defined in credible terms and hard bargaining ahead on both sides, perhaps even before a serious substantive exchange can begin.

Tab B

Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff



The USSR reaffirms that it continues to seek “a settlement of this conflict through political means on the basis of the UN Security Council resolution.”

Comment: The USSR has been consistent on this general point. The issue has always been the price to be paid for a political settlement.


The USSR agrees to “the necessity of resumption by Ambassador Jarring of his mission.”

Comment: The USSR nowhere specifically mentions the U.S. formula for getting Jarring started. It seems implicit that the UAR response, in Soviet eyes, takes care of that. Therefore, the Soviets seem to be saying that they are willing to facilitate resumption of talks on the terms the U.S. has proposed, although that is not explicit.


The USSR’s “attitude is positive” toward Egypt’s and Jordan’s expressed “readiness to cease fire for a definite period of time if Israel also takes upon herself the same obligation.”

Comment: We have had no response from Jordan ourselves, so it is interesting that the USSR is speaking for Jordan. This may partly result from a slip in Egyptian coordination. The main point is Soviet endorsement of the cease-fire. What remains imprecise is whether both Egyptians and Soviets accept the U.S. definition of cease-fire to include military standstill—no major troop movements and no new installations.


Jarring’s success “requires that both sides unequivocally declare their readiness to implement” the UN resolution in all its parts. The UAR and Jordan have declared their readiness. It is “necessary that Israel should also clearly state her readiness …”3

Comment: This introduces an element of uncertainty. There has been a theological argument for more than two years over the word “implement.” Because the UAR claims that the Security Council resolution intends total Israeli withdrawal, it contends that agreement to “implement” the resolution is agreement to total withdrawal and that all that is needed is a timetable for withdrawal. Because the Israelis claim that the resolution only intends negotiation of an agreement on final boundaries, it has refused to use the word “implement.” We have supported the Israeli argument that negotiation must precede implementation. The element of uncertainty grows from the fact that the U.S. formula for beginning talks—which the UAR has now accepted—avoids this argument. It does not seem that the USSR is setting a new condition for beginning talks—it does not suggest a modification of the U.S. formula to include this and seems tacitly to leave that to the UAR. On the other hand, it does say that Jarring’s success “requires” such a declaration by Israel.


“… in the interests of success of Jarring’s mission it is important that he should have a definite enough understanding as to the basis upon which contacts should take place between the sides in search of ways to implement ‘the UN resolution’… . first of all a direction is required on the main questions of settlement—the withdrawal by Israel from the Arab territories occupied during the conflict of 1967—including [Page 576] the question of secure and recognized boundaries along the lines which existed prior to the conflict in June 1967—and the simultaneous establishment of a just and stable peace in the Middle East.”

Comment: The UAR in its written response also made the point that Jarring must have detailed guidance. What this means is that the Arabs and the Soviets would like the U.S. and the USSR to do the preliminary negotiating and drafting while Jarring tries out various drafts on the parties. The U.S. preference is for the big powers to do less of this formally and turn over the bulk of the drafting job to Jarring with help from us in the wings.


The USSR is expecting a U.S. reply to its June 2 proposals.

Comment: Pressure for U.S. response is consistent with the above point. The Soviets want the U.S. to re-engage in the big-power talks.


Parallel to resumption of Jarring’s activities, the Four Power talks should be “made more active to work out agreed guidelines for Jarring.”

Comment: It is difficult to know what to make of Soviet emphasis on the Four Power forum in their formal document, except that the Soviets have had some success in establishing better cooperation with the French in the last couple of months. We prefer the two-power forum. In the supplementary note on top of the basic Soviet paper, Dobrynin did make it clear that Moscow wants the two-power talks to continue active.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 489, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1970, Part 1, Vol. 1. Top Secret; Nodis. Sent for information.
  2. See Document 184.
  3. All ellipses are in the source text.