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.