54. Intelligence Note From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hughes) to Secretary of State Rogers1
- USSR–MIDDLE EAST: Gromyko Probably in Cairo to Clear New Soviet Position for US–USSR Talks on Middle East
A Soviet Embassy source in Washington has intimated that Gromyko’s visit to Cairo which began June 10 is connected with the Sisco–Dobrynin discussions on the Arab-Israeli settlement problem and that it will enable the Soviets to make a new presentation to the US in the near future. There is other good evidence as well that this is the main purpose of Gromyko’s trip. Although the evidence is sketchy regarding the extent of Moscow’s optimism, it seems likely that Moscow in sending Gromyko was confident that the consultations would produce a useful position which the Soviets could take in Washington, and that the trip does not signify Soviet consternation over a totally negative UAR attitude toward further Soviet settlement talks with the West.
Purpose of the Trip. Egyptian media have noted that the Soviet Ambassador in Cairo called on Nasser on May 17 and on UAR Foreign Minister Riad on May 10 and 19 to discuss the US-Soviet and the Four Power talks on the Middle East, and there is every reason to believe that such consultations have continued since then. The authoritative Cairo newspaper Al Ahram on June 10 stated that Gromyko was coming to Cairo for “important political talks on the Middle East crisis,” and a Western wire service on June 11 cited “officials” as saying that Gromyko briefed Riad June 10 on the US-Soviet and Four Power talks. It is also noteworthy that the four other Soviet officials who accompanied Gromyko to Cairo are all Middle East experts from the USSR Foreign Ministry. The group includes Deputy Foreign Minister Semenov, who has been extensively involved in international discussions since 1967 relating to the Jarring mission, and Deputy Near East Division Chief Semyoshkin, who was in Washington on temporary duty from March to May to take part in the Sisco–Dobrynin talks.
Moscow Reasonably Sure Gromyko Will Succeed. From recent indications the Soviets appear to want and expect the US-Soviet and Four Power discussions on the Middle East to continue. Our estimate is that [Page 176] Moscow in recent weeks succeeded in obtaining through the Soviet Ambassador in Cairo assurances that Nasser—perhaps grudgingly—recognized the utility of ongoing great power efforts, regardless of his expectations as to the outcome, and that Nasser conceded that the Soviets would need periodically to take a fresh approach. The Soviet Embassy source in Washington, in linking the Gromyko trip to the Sisco–Dobrynin talks, went further, saying that the US had given the Soviets a statement of US views, to which the Soviets were preparing a reply. If so, the purpose of Gromyko’s trip would be to clear the new Soviet stand with the Egyptians.
The Cairo press has indicated UAR displeasure over the position taken by the US in the US-Soviet discussions on the Middle East. It seems likely that the Egyptians would not agree with any Soviet proposal to take the US position as a point of departure for working out a new Soviet stand. On the other hand, the Egyptian authorities would have trouble defending the view with Gromyko that the Soviets should reject US views out of hand and should only reiterate existing Soviet positions, as this obviously would end the US-Soviet discussions. Soviet-Egyptian differences undoubtedly exist, since otherwise Gromyko’s trip would be unnecessary. But these differences probably concern how far the Soviets should go toward US views in their next presentation in the Washington discussions, and not whether the Soviets should take any fresh position at all. As long as Gromyko is able to obtain Egyptian acquiescence on a new Soviet position for use with the Americans which will contain enough movement to keep the bilateral talks going, Moscow would probably consider the trip a success.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL USSR 7. Secret; Limdis.↩