62. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

108202. For Ambassador.

Purpose of this message is to bring you up to date re our current thinking on how to handle next steps in US-Soviet bilaterals on Middle East. Soviets, as you know, have proposed we move talks to Moscow. We believe there are political and psychological as well as practical advantages in maintaining pattern of Soviets talking to us in Washington, and therefore do not favor change of venue.
On other hand, when Soviets agreed to open talks here, we said we would keep open mind about having some discussions in Moscow. Our thinking, therefore, is to tell Soviets that in response to their proposal USG is prepared to send Asst Sec Sisco to Moscow for few days to hold a round of talks with FonMin officials prior resuming discussions with Dobrynin here. Subject your views, Sisco would hope at minimum to see Gromyko and Semenov and, of course, Dobrynin.
In Moscow talks Sisco would have three main aims in mind: (a) To have broad-ranging general discussion in which he would explain in depth rationale and basic principles underlying our approach [Page 191] to Arab-Israel settlement. From such an exchange he would hope we might also get better feel of Soviet intentions and strategy, although we realize difficulties this poses. (b) To engage Soviets in brief discussion of Middle East arms control problem. While Soviet response is probably predictable, we believe that for the record this subject should not be omitted in such a general exchange with Soviet Government. (c) To present our counter suggestions to Soviets’ June 17 document2 and explain in detail rationale behind it.
Sisco, accompanied by Atherton (NEA) and Walter Smith (INR), would hope to depart Washington Monday, July 7, stopping for consultations with British and French July 8 and 9 and arriving Moscow July 10. He would plan remain in Moscow through Monday, July 14, leaving following day for direct return to Washington.
Foregoing plan has been cleared by Secretary, but awaiting final White House approval, and you should make no approach to Soviets at this time. Meanwhile would appreciate soonest your comments on proposed schedule and substantive approach outlined above as well as your suggestions re how publicity should be handled if trip materializes. Our own thinking is that best way to minimize undue speculation and expectations is for announcement to be made along following lines: When U.S.-Soviet talks began in Washington, it was agreed that there might be some talks in Moscow as well. Assistant Secretary Sisco is now proceeding to Moscow for brief round of talks as part of continuing U.S.-Soviet discussions on Middle East. He will stop in London and Paris for consultation with British and French Governments enroute and will return to Washington in about one week’s time.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 649, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Negotiations, June 1969. Secret; Priority; Nodis; Noforn. Drafted by Atherton, cleared by Swank and Hornblow, and approved by Sisco. Repeated to London, Paris, and USUN.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 58.