49. Memorandum From Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • SiscoDobrynin Meeting, May 19

Sisco talked with Dobrynin both May 19 and 20. Moscow is still considering our formulations and, according to Dobrynin, discussing them with “people involved in the area” so little was accomplished. (Tab A)2

However, Dobrynin said an Egyptian would be in Moscow soon for consultation—Joe had the impression it might be Nasser but didn’t ask. He asked for clarification on two points:

Dobrynin said a package settlement should cover all the countries, but so far only a UAR–Israel settlement had been discussed. He asked what we planned for Jordan. Sisco told him that we feel the best place to begin is with the UAR, but we doubt that an Egyptian settlement can be implemented without a Jordanian settlement. We are not trying for a separate UAR–Israel settlement, but cannot give specific ideas on a Jordan settlement now. [The Russians know the Egyptians will object to what they believe is our policy of trying to split them off from Jordan.]3
Dobrynin said the US has departed from the positions Secretary Rusk took when he met Gromyko in New York last fall. Moscow would be puzzled by this, and Dobrynin asked for an explanation. Sisco said he would review the record.

What is happening here is that Rusk, in talking with Gromyko and UAR Foreign Minister Riad last fall, was more specific on withdrawal. We have, for bargaining purposes, been less specific. The Russians in December must have told the UAR they thought they could produce US agreement to full Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai. They obviously sent Dobrynin back to find out whether we’re just bargaining or have changed our substantive position, since they’re now getting ready to talk with the Egyptians about our proposals. Sisco, in replying (Tab C),4 [Page 159] simply said there was “no deviation” in principle “between general views expressed in the past and the present proposals. This will leave the Russians to conclude that our present formulation is not our last word if the Russians can produce the right concessions from the UAR.

Just for your background, Secretary Rusk saw Gromyko on October 6, 1968, but little that he said on the nature of an Arab-Israeli settlement was specific enough to conflict with our current proposals. The Soviets may be thinking more of Rusk’s “Seven Points” which he gave to Egyptian Foreign Minister Riad on November 2 and Gene Rostow gave to Dobrynin on November 8 (Tab B).5 Even these were just tossed off by Rusk in a conversation as illustrative and weren’t intended as a definitive statement of policy.

The main changes in our position as the Russians would see them are:

Rusk talked about Israeli withdrawal from the UAR to the old international border. We are still thinking along these lines, but as you know have avoided being that specific about a return to pre-war borders in talking with the Russians.
Rusk took the position, as we do now, that the refugees would have the option of returning to Israel, but we have now added restrictions by Israel such as an upper limit on the number of returnees.
Rusk suggested a non-removable international presence at Sharm el Sheikh. Our current position is that any arrangements must be worked out by the parties.
Rusk’s “Seven Points” were not intended as an exposition of our entire position and there was much less emphasis on peace than in our current proposal. This is not a change in our position but Dobrynin may feel it is.

It will probably be 2–3 weeks before we have a complete Russian response to our proposals.

Dobrynin said the USSR attaches importance to the talks, is prepared to continue, and will give us their comments but he couldn’t estimate when this would be.

Sisco told Dobrynin that the Israeli attitude towards the talks is negative, and it would help if we could get a positive Soviet reaction on the UAR attitude towards peace.

[Page 160]

Sisco also brought up the Suez Canal incidents, and told Dobrynin that although the situation seemed to be cooling, we were concerned with the Israeli attitude and their message to the UAR that they could not accept a continuation of the incidents.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 725, Country Files, Europe, SiscoDobrynin Talks, Part II, May 1969. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Attached but not printed at Tab A is telegram 79805 to Moscow, May 20.
  3. Brackets in the source text.
  4. Attached but not printed at Tab C is telegram 80620 to Moscow, May 21, which provides a full account of the SiscoDobrynin session of May 20.
  5. Attached but not printed at Tab B are telegram 269827 to Moscow, November 9, 1968; telegram 7544 from USUN, November 3, 1968; and a memorandum of conversation between former Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Gromyko, October 6, 1968.