48. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

6944. Subject: Alleged US Aerial Intrusion.

Chief MFA American section Korniyenko called in DCM 2 at 2130 November 17 to read him following oral statement.
Begin text. On November 17 an American reconnaissance aircraft type RS–135, carrying out a flight over the Barents Sea, at approximately 1025 hours Moscow time approached the borders of the airspace of the USSR in the region of the south coast of Novaya Zemlya island.
Soviet fighter aircraft, defending the state borders of USSR, with the purpose of not permitting a violation by the American aircraft of the airspace of the USSR gave the crew appropriate signals. However, the American aircraft did not respond to these signals, continued its [Page 159] flight and reached (dostig) the airspace of the USSR. Only after one of the Soviet aircraft had fired warning shots did the American aircraft turn and move away in a north-west direction.
Directing the attention of the Embassy of the USA to this new fact of a flight of a USA military aircraft along the borders (u granits) of the Soviet Union, the Ministry recalls the warnings previously given the Government of the USA regarding the possibly dangerous consequences of such flights. End text.

The DCM said he would report Ministry’s statement to Wasington.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 713, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. X. Confidential; Immediate. An unidentified NSC staff member wrote a summary in the margin, which reads in part: “US pilot says he never got closer than 46 miles to USSR.” Kissinger wrote in the margin: “Can we get official report from Defense?” The query was forwarded to Haig for action. Although no written report from the Department of Defense has been found, see the oral report by Packard in Document 50.
  2. Boris H. Klosson.
  3. In telegram 190246 to Moscow, November 20, the Department instructed Klosson to reject the Soviet allegation, since “the aircraft in question was at all times over international waters and well outside of Soviet air space.” Klosson was also to protest “the unwarranted discharge of weapons by Soviet fighter aircraft in the vicinity of the U.S. plane” and to insist that Soviet authorities “take the necessary measures to prevent a recurrence of such dangerous activity, which could have tragic consequences.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 713, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. X) Klosson followed these instructions in a meeting with Korniyenko on November 23. (Telegram 7035 from Moscow, November 23; ibid.)