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

    • Soviet Private Note on Middle East Violations

I am sending you separately a memorandum summarizing and enclosing my four recent, significant conversations with Ambassador Dobrynin.2 In our fourth session, October 9, he gave me an oral note on the Middle East (attached at Tab A)3 which I particularly wanted to [Page 33] highlight for you. Dobrynin says this note is for you alone and they do not plan to refer to it elsewhere. In this note the Soviet leadership:

  • —complains about the “hostile” campaign we are supposedly inspiring against them concerning, in particular,4 their violations of the Middle East ceasefire5 and, more generally, the theme of a “credibility gap” with regard to the Soviet Union;
  • —maintains that our charges of violations are groundless because the Soviet Union was only “informed” of the ceasefire and was not a party to it;6
  • —insists “that there have not been and there are not now rocket launchers manned by Soviet personnel in the Suez Canal zone”;
  • —claims we almost completely ignore Israeli violations and blames the affair on our support of Israel in its efforts “to deliberately complicate the question of ceasefire in order to torpedo the negotiations”;
  • —maintains that our proposals and subsequent statements did not organically link the Jarring talks to the ceasefire;
  • —points to the “uproar” created by your recent trip, our delivery of Phantoms to Israel, and our U–2 flights7 in violation of UAR “territory” as examples of our own steps of aggravation in addition to supporting Israel’s obstructionism;
  • —reaffirms that the USSR remains a supporter of a speedy political settlement, an opportunity for which is created by the Arab agreement to negotiate through Jarring and by the “actually existing state of ceasefire”;
  • —states Soviet readiness to continue bilateral and four power talks;
  • —asks where the US is going in the Middle East and wonders if we will support with deeds what we say to the Soviet government or if we are in effect out to deceive them.


I am struck by the almost plaintive defensive tone of this note—especially considered in the context of the resolution of the Cuban base issue and a previous conciliatory note on Jordan. The defensive nature is all the more evident when compared with the much harsher Soviet [Page 34] Foreign Ministry note of October 6,8 three days before this note, and Brezhnev’s public blustering over Jordan in his speech of October 2.9

My view is that the Soviets found themselves overextended, and have been engaged in a retreat to a more tenable position while covering their tracks with a tough public position.10

They are, however, almost surely aiming to consolidate the gains they have already made through the ceasefire/standstill violations. Thus their phrase—”the actually existing ceasefire”—can be read to mean for us to forget the past and start fresh from a new status quo. It is this line that we can expect to meet with increasing frequency in coming days and weeks.

I believe that we were sloppy in our launching of the Middle East peace initiative,11 including our failures to12 button down understandings on the ceasefire/standstill, to clearly relate it to the Jarring talks, to be prepared to monitor it from the start, and to involve the Soviets more fully.13 We compounded these defects with our hesitant response to UAR and Soviet violations while we understandably made certain that Israeli charges were well founded before taking action.

None of this, of course, excuses the Soviet actions which have been flagrant and provocative violations of the spirit of the initiative, if not in every case the letter. They certainly calculated their moves carefully and they clearly looked for legal loopholes for these moves. What is crucial is not the legalistic gymnastics but the basic Soviet intentions.

As for their claim that no Soviet personnel are manning (a careful choice of words) the air defense missiles, our intelligence holds that the Egyptians are not yet capable of handling the more advanced SA–3 missiles.

Whatever may have been their original calculation, they have been stung by the widespread publicity of their duplicity. While they may be perfectly willing to cheat, they are chagrined when confronted with [Page 35] the fact in public. Clearly, we are in for a delicate period of both private and public diplomacy with the Soviets.14

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 71, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Gromyko, 1970. Top Secret; Sensitive; Nodis.
  2. Document 6.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Document 228.
  4. Nixon underlined most of this phrase.
  5. See footnote 5, Document 3.
  6. Nixon underlined most of this paragraph.
  7. Nixon underlined these three examples. The source of “uproar” was the President’s visit on September 28 to the Sixth Fleet, which was stationed 15 miles off the Italian coast in the Mediterranean Sea; Nixon remained overnight on the aircraft carrier Saratoga.
  8. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Document 224.
  9. During his speech at Baku on October 2, Brezhnev emphasized Middle Eastern affairs, including the recent crisis in Jordan. According to Brezhnev, the Soviet Union had arranged for the “cessation of the annihilation of detachments of the Palestinian resistance movement.” An assessment of the speech, prepared in the Department of State, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 713, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. IX. For excerpts from the speech, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. XXII, No. 40 (November 3, 1970), pp. 3–7.
  10. Nixon underlined most of this paragraph.
  11. Nixon underlined most of this phrase.
  12. Nixon underlined the words “failures to.”
  13. Nixon underlined the phrase “to involve the Soviets more fully.”
  14. In his daily news summary on October 17, the President underlined the following sentence from a television report on the Middle East: “The Soviet seem less concerned with peace than with maximum support for the new Egyptian leaders.” Nixon wrote in the margin: “Seems likely.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, President’s Office Files, Box 32, Annotated News Summaries, October 1970) John R. Brown III forwarded this comment to Kissinger on October 17. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 713, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. IX)