152. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

  • SUBJECT
    • Reply to Kosygin on the Middle East

You will recall that Chairman Kosygin wrote to you on the Middle East [Tab B]2 making these points:

  • —Following the constructive UAR reply to Ambassador Jarring 3 for which the Soviet Union claimed some credit, “the rest depended entirely on Israel.”
  • —Israeli extremists clearly want 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 …”
  • —The Israeli response to Jarring on February 214 puts in jeopardy all the 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 US policy.
  • —This situation makes the USSR “give serious thought” to the “steps which may be required under these circumstances on [its] part.”

[Page 436]

At Tab A is a response to Kosygin for your approval. This makes the following points:

  • —There are hopeful signs of progress toward a peaceful settlement. Therefore, it is essential that a calm, serious atmosphere be preserved. We regret propagandistic Soviet statements.
  • —It is also a matter of regret that the USSR opposed an appeal for formal extension of the cease-fire.
  • US actions demonstrate deep US concern that peace be achieved.
  • —The military actions of the USSR over the past year have not been helpful. “We believe the USSR should give careful thought to how it, through its own actions in the coming weeks and months, can foster confidence on both sides in the possibility of a lasting and just peace.”
  • —Israel is a sovereign government and we support its security. We intend to continue efforts to encourage necessary compromises on both sides.
  • —The Soviet contention that the US is supporting expansionism is incorrect. A peace agreement must derive from negotiations. A settlement must meet the legitimate needs of both sides.
  • —It will take time for further changes in Middle East attitudes to occur. “Moreover, to suggest this situation is leading to such grave circumstances as to require special steps on the part of the Soviet government is unwarranted and is not conducive to the fostering of confidence.”

An alternative reply would have tasked the Soviet Union more sharply for not having played a more active role in promoting a political settlement. Particularly, it would have tasked the USSR more critically for not persuading the UAR to extend the cease-fire. These points are present but are not sharply made.

Recommendation: That you approve the message at Tab A. [Text cleared by Price, although he points out that this draft is harder in tone than Kosygin’s letter.]5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 765, Presidential Correspondence, USSR Premier Alexei Kosygin Corres. Secret; Nodis. Sent for action. Saunders and Sonnenfeldt forwarded a draft of this memorandum in an attached March 19 memorandum to Kissinger. Kissinger wrote in the margin: “Get approval before departure for San Clemente [March 26].” A notation on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. All brackets are in the original. See Document 130. Tabs A and B are attached but not printed.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 119.
  4. Reference is in error; the Israeli response to Jarring was dated February 26.
  5. Nixon initialed his approval of this recommendation on April 6. In an April 8 memorandum to Kissinger, however, Saunders suggested: “You should take another look at this before it goes since much has happened in the Soviet Union in the interval.” Saunders and Sonnenfeldt suggested several changes, considering, in particular, the passage of time since the previous draft letter. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 765, Presidential Correspondence, USSR Premier Alexei Kosygin Corres.) Kissinger apparently approved these changes on his own authority, i.e. without further referral to the President. The letter was then forwarded to Rose Mary Woods on April 12 for Nixon’s signature. (Memorandum from Houdek to Huntsman, April 12; ibid.) The final, signed letter, dated April 14, is attached but not printed.