10. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

The purpose of the meeting was to review the possibilities of progress on Middle East negotiations and other matters. As it turned out, the conversation concerned almost entirely the Middle East.

After some desultory remarks on Napoleon’s strategy in 1812 and the Germany strategy in World War II, the discussion turned to current business. Ambassador Dobrynin asked whether the date for the visit to China had been set since it would help Soviet planning. He said they had had a report that the meeting would be in late February or early March, obviously quoting a Japanese report. Dr. Kissinger responded that the U.S. was aiming for February but a definite date had not yet been set.

Ambassador Dobrynin then turned to the subject of the Middle East settlement. Dr. Kissinger and Ambassador Dobrynin first discussed procedures. Dr. Kissinger said there were two ways of proceeding. One was for the United States to tell the Israelis and for the Soviets to tell the Egyptians that we were proceeding along this track. In such a case, of course, Dr. Kissinger noted there was a high possibility that it would surface. He could believe that President Sadat would keep matters quiet since he was getting what he wanted, but the Israelis had every incentive to focus public pressure. The other possibility was to bring the Israelis in on an interim settlement but to keep vague its relationship to an overall settlement until 1973. Dr. Kissinger observed that the first procedure was the more honorable course; the second might be the more effective course. Ambassador Dobrynin said he would check in Moscow as to their preference.

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The Ambassador then said that the Soviet Union had made major concessions. They were prepared to withdraw their forces, to have an embargo on arms into the Middle East, and to join a Soviet-American force for guarantees. In other words, they would be very flexible about anything that was within the Soviet discretion. Matters that required Egyptian approval were more complex. He therefore hoped that Dr. Kissinger would be able to concentrate in their discussions on those three items.

Dr. Kissinger told Dobrynin that the guarantees issue was really quite simple and that it would probably be settled fairly easily. If their talks were to have any chance of success, Dr. Kissinger would have to be able to demonstrate to the Israelis that they were getting something as a result of these talks that they were not getting as a result of the Rogers/Sisco approach. Ambassador Dobrynin responded by noting that the Israelis were getting the withdrawal of Soviet forces and a Soviet arms embargo.

Dr. Kissinger then said it would also help if the terms of the interim settlement were better than those now being negotiated. Ambassador Dobrynin asked what Dr. Kissinger meant. For example, did he mean that the line should be at the western end of the pass and not on the eastern end, that is on the Suez Canal side of the passes not on the Israeli side of the passes.

Ambassador Dobrynin also asked whether under those conditions it was conceivable that some Egyptian troops could cross the canal. Dr. Kissinger replied that it was conceivable but that he had no really clear idea, and that issue would have to wait.

Ambassador Dobrynin then asked for Dr. Kissinger’s concept of the final settlement. Dr. Kissinger replied that he did not really believe in shooting blanks and therefore would be very careful. It seemed to him that the demilitarized zones were an essential element. Ambassador Dobrynin commented that it was very tough to get a demilitarized zone that did not include some territory on the other side of the Israeli frontier. Dr. Kissinger stated that in such a case all of Israel would be demilitarized if the zones were equal. He then proposed jokingly that the zones start equi distance [sic] from the capitals. Dobrynin reiterated that it would be very hard not to have a demilitarized zone on the Israeli side. Dr. Kissinger remarked that if Ambassador Dobrynin could, however, get agreement on it this would be a tremendous step forward.

Dr. Kissinger finally said that it seemed to him that the matters which could represent enormous progress would be: if the Egyptian settlement could be separated from the others, if the demilitarized zones could be kept entirely on the Egyptian side, if the interim settlement could be on terms more favorable to Israel than the present one, and a determination of concessions Sadat ought to be prepared to [Page 30] make if he knew an overall settlement was coming. Dobrynin noted that he would consult Moscow but would like Dr. Kissinger to make a specific proposal at the next meeting.

Dr. Kissinger and Ambassador Dobrynin then went over the guarantees negotiations as they stood at the time, but Dr. Kissinger turned the issue aside, saying that this was relatively the easiest matter.

Ambassador Dobrynin then told Dr. Kissinger about his conversation with Assistant Secretary Sisco.2 He said first of all that Sisco had initiated the conversation. Secondly, with respect to his being at ease about Phantoms,3 Dr. Kissinger knew very well that the Soviets wanted the United States to hold the Phantoms to fuel the Soviet-American negotiations. Therefore, Ambassador Dobrynin could not have said what Dr. Kissinger told him Secretary Sisco had reported. As for the rest, Dr. Kissinger could rest assured that Ambassador Dobrynin would proceed very cautiously until he knew the results of their conversations.

Dr. Kissinger and Ambassador [Dobrynin] agreed to meet again around November 15 to pursue this conversation.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 492, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 8. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. This lunch conversation was held in the Map Room at the White House. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting was held from 1:10 to 3 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) Kissinger sent a summary account of the Middle East portion of this meeting to the President on November 23 to which this memorandum of conversation was attached. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 492, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 8)
  2. An account of Sisco’s lunch conversation with Dobrynin was transmitted in telegram 199411 to Moscow, November 2. The “two principal impressions” that emerged were a “very relaxed Soviet view” on the question of U.S. aircraft to Israel and Dobrynin’s belief that discussions on the Middle East would form an important part of the Moscow summit. (Ibid., Box 717, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. XVII, November–31 December 1971)
  3. Fighter aircraft.