130. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
- Letter from Kosygin on Mid-East2
Ambassador Dobrynin yesterday delivered to Secretary Rogers a letter (attached) to you from Chairman Kosygin on the Middle East dated February 26.3 Addressing you on the “situation shaping up now around the problem of political settlement, he makes these points:
- —The impression has been growing in recent weeks that a breakthrough was imminent. This was the result of a constructive UAR position.
- —The USSR “had an occasion to express in Cairo [its]4 positive attitude” on this move.
- —After the UAR reply, “the rest depended entirely on Israel.”
- —Israel clearly wants to retain the occupied Arab territories. “However, we were told on several occasions by the American side, at the most responsible level as well, that the United States stood for the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from the occupied territories/in the case of the UAR—from all the territory of the United Arab Republic occupied by the Israeli troops/, if the Arabs take, on the question of terms for peace, the position of which the American side spoke both publicly and in bilateral contacts with us. We were taking those assurances by the U.S. Government with all seriousness and, naturally, were proceeding from the assumption that the American side would be able to exert the necessary influence upon Tel Aviv…”
- —But on February 21 the Israeli government came out with “a defiant statement”5 declaring its refusal to withdraw troops from the occupied territory of the UAR. This puts in jeopardy all efforts thus far to achieve a political settlement.
- —The President will realize “to what consequences” Israel’s position can push events “as well as that the Soviet Union cannot remain indifferent to these events.” Responsibility will “rest with the United States.” Israel could not take such an “obstructionist, bluntly expansionist” position in contradiction to U.S. policy.
- —This situation makes the USSR “give serious thought” to the “steps which may be required under these circumstances on [its] part.”
Secretary Rogers in his cover memo (attached)6 makes these points:
- —The USSR is taking a strong line publicly and privately to exploit and reinforce the UAR’s presently favorable position.
- —The Secretary told Dobrynin he was disappointed that the USSR, in making a public statement, was exploiting the situation propagandistically. [A Soviet statement was issued yesterday.]7
- —The Secretary “noted that it was not helpful for the USSR to make it appear that we had adopted the position that Israel should return all of the territory.” Specifically, our position had been that the questions of Sharm al-Shaikh, Gaza, the West Bank and the demilitarized zones had to be negotiated by the parties.”
- —The Secretary told Dobrynin that, while the Israeli reply was not satisfactory, more time is needed to work towards a peaceful solution. The USSR should not exacerbate the situation.
- —The Secretary objected to the final point above which had overtones of threat.
- —A Four Power meeting Tuesday would be premature, but we would talk about Four Power action in lieu of a Security Council meeting on the assumption that the Four Power meeting scheduled for Thursday8 would take place.
Comment: The letter illustrates some of the problems I discussed with you:
- The Soviet leaders were obviously told that we supported the 1967 frontier with Egypt and essentially the 1967 frontier with Jordan.
- As long as we proceed unilaterally, the Soviet Union has a vested interest to undercut us by taking positions where we cannot follow.
- It underlines the need: (a) for clarifying our views with respect to a package settlement, (b) seeing in what way it can be made part of a Soviet-U.S. dialogue.
- After the immediate tactical phase is over, we should seriously consider taking up the plan for opening the Canal to gain some time.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 4 [part 2]. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. A notation indicates that the President saw the memorandum and its attachments.↩
- Attached but not printed. During a telephone conversation with the President at 7:18 p.m., Kissinger reported: “On the Middle East, the Russians delivered a letter for you to the State Department—the Israeli attitude is our fault and they have asked for a Four Power meeting. That is essentially what we thought would happen.” (Ibid., Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 9, Chronological File)↩
- According to Rogers’s Appointment Book, Dobrynin called at 9:45 a.m. on March 1 to request the meeting. Before he received the Ambassador at 12:06 p.m., the Secretary summoned Sisco to his office for a quick briefing. (Personal Papers of William P. Rogers) Sisco called Kissinger at 12:07 p.m. and reported: “Henry, I just want to let you know Dobrynin has asked for a meeting with the Secretary. He is seeing him just about now. I went up to brief the Secretary for about 2 minutes. I told him I think we should take a tough line with him. He has been beating us over the head publicly. Is he interested in peace or propaganda points? We know what the problems are and what is to be done. If he comes back to why haven’t we answered their former note, then he should tell them that part of it is OBE.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 9, Chronological File)↩
- All brackets are in the original.↩
- For the text of the Israeli statement, see Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, March 20–27, 1971, p. 24504.↩
- Attached but not printed; dated March 1. Rogers briefed Sisco on his meeting with Dobrynin during lunch at 1:15 p.m. (Personal Papers of William P. Rogers; Appointment Book) Sisco then called Kissinger at 3:34 p.m. to report that Dobrynin had delivered a letter from Kosygin. “It’s a letter which has a good deal of propaganda overtones,” he remarked. “Emphasis in re-emphasizing Egypt’s line on Israeli withdrawal. Holding us responsible for negative Israeli reply.” Sisco added that he was drafting a memorandum, which the Secretary had dictated on the meeting. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 9, Chronological File) Sisco called Kissinger again at 10:15 a.m. on March 2 to review the situation. When Kissinger asked if the memorandum from Rogers to the President contained a “fairly full description,” Sisco replied: “Henry, this is what I was told—I was not there. I’m not happy that he sees this fellow alone but there’s nothing I can do about it.” (Ibid.)↩
- Pravda and Izvestia published the official Soviet statement on February 28. For the English text, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. XXIII, No. 9 (March 30, 1971), pp. 7, 36.↩
- March 4.↩