178. Editorial Note

The Department of State offered preparatory advice for the upcoming Moscow summit talks. In a memorandum to the President on May 1 Secretary of State William Rogers stressed the significance of the summit’s culminating communiqué, which he described as “the major vehicle for informing the world of the results of your Moscow meetings.” He described the Soviets as being intent upon demonstrating through the document their primacy in the world order and would explicitly avoid incorporating statements of disagreement within the formal communiqué. Rogers therefore recommended:

“The communiqué should set forth in a matter-of-fact way the concrete agreements reached at the summit. It should say that progress was made toward less tension and more cooperation in certain specific areas.

“Ideally, the document should be a concise, straightforward communiqué, not signed by the principals. If ancillary agreements are to be announced, for example, a joint space mission project, a new environmental agreement, or an agreement in the field of trade, they should be referred to in the communiqué in a brief paragraph. The communiqué need not attempt to cover all areas of the world, as the Soviets like to do. Unless we have something specific to announce, the communiqué need say nothing about any particular area.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL USUSSR)

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Attached to this memorandum was a draft communiqué and, for comparison, previous Soviet international communiqués on various issues and the Shanghai communiqué resulting from the President’s trip to Peking 2 months earlier.

Also on May 1, Rogers sent to the President a 7-page memorandum entitled “The Middle East at the Summit.” He noted that the “one principal short-run parallel interest” in the region shared by both the United States and the Soviet Union was “to discourage a renewal of Arab-Israeli hostilities.” He then outlined objectives to be pursued at Moscow on this issue:

“Our task at the Summit, therefore, is to exploit the parallelism of USUSSR interests in the ceasefire, while at the same time insisting that the focus of negotiations must remain with the parties and not with the major powers. In this latter respect, this means in effect a standoff; that we and the Soviets continue to disagree not only on the substance of the overall settlement but even more fundamentally on ways to achieve it. Our counter to any Soviet pressure to renew bilateral or Four Power talks should be to keep the focus on the need for Egypt to face up to the necessity of negotiating a settlement with Israel instead of looking to others to do the job for it. The Arab, and specifically Egyptian inhibition about negotiating with Israel is their most vulnerable point, and we should use this to our advantage with the Soviets. We could make the point that, if the Egyptians remain unrealistically adamant about not negotiating directly, Jarring is there and we remain available if Egypt wants to pick up this diplomatic option in relation to an interim Suez Canal agreement. We will need to make these latter points in low key, however, given the fact that Israel itself is taking a very tough position in the Jarring talks and delayed for some months its agreement to enter Suez Canal talks at a time when Sadat was ready to do so.

“Finally, we must face the fact that a standoff on the Middle East in Moscow will leave a very unpredictable situation in the post-Summit period when all concerned will be reassessing their positions in the light of what does or does not happen there. The fact of your forthcoming Moscow trip has in itself had a somewhat calming effect. The Soviets can be expected to argue, however, that they cannot guarantee Sadat will go on being patient in the absence of negotiating progress. While this will be in part a Soviet pressure tactic, it could very well prove true. Egypt is the most unpredictable factor in the Middle East equation and will become increasingly so as time goes by. Sadat is frustrated at the lack of stronger Soviet military and political support, at United States failure to produce any softening of Israel’s positions while strengthening Israel militarily, at his own military weakness and at his inability to mobilize the Arab world against Israel and the U.S. He could strike out, directly or indirectly (for example, through Libya) at American interests; he could initiate at least limited military action; or [Page 663] he could be overthrown, with consequences in Egypt and the Arab world that are difficult to foresee. Any of these developments would complicate our position in the area generally. Additionally, a renewal of fighting would be a new complicating factor in U.S.-Soviet relations, and the Soviets may seek to raise this possibility as a means of persuading us to put pressure on Israel.” (Ibid.)