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

SUBJECT

  • Sadat Letter to Brezhnev

[1 paragraph (51/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

[1 line of source text not declassified] The letter is another reflection of Sadat’s frustration with a situation in which the openings for movement seem virtually nil. It is also an expression of his concern that the Soviet leaders at the summit talks may tacitly or otherwise agree to leave the Arab-Israeli situation as it now stands.

Although Sadat did not refer directly to the possibility of an agreement to limit the quality or quantity of arms supplies to Egypt and Israel, he clearly is concerned that such an agreement might be discussed at the summit. The thrust of his argument is that the balance of power between the Arabs and Israel can only be shifted if Egypt is provided with the means to develop an offensive capability in the air. Failing this, he claims, the Israelis and the United States will be able to freeze the present situation indefinitely. He cites a variety of evidence to support his belief that this is, in fact, Israeli and U.S. policy now.

Sadat pointed to King Hussein’s proposal for an eventual Palestine entity as an especially dangerous example of the way in which the U.S. and Israel are working. He also included an implied complaint about the willingness of the Soviets to allow Jews of military age and [Page 981]technical qualifications to emigrate to Israel. Sadat’s language indicates that he remains deeply worried that world attention will turn away from the Middle East, leaving him with what he calls “a border dispute” which would lack international support and which would lead to direct negotiations and “defeat.”

Here too, Sadat is subtly reminding the Soviets that in talking to the United States, they should not be led into any arrangement that provides for direct negotiations. For his part, he tried to reassure Brezhnev, that he will stick to his “firm decision” to reject negotiations with Israel, if the Soviets will stand firm against U.S. blandishments or pressures. In other words, he will not undercut Moscow by again using the U.S. as an intermediary. He also asserted, however, that if the Soviets continue to fail to change the terms of power between Egypt and Israel, Soviet objectives and even the existence of the “progressive” Arab regimes may be threatened.

On the whole, Sadat’s is not a strong letter. It does not offer anything new. It is defensive in tone and very much the plea of a worried client to his patron rather than an argument presented by one partner to another in whom he has real confidence. The Soviet leaders may agree up to a point with Sadat’s reasoning but they will hardly welcome his implicit suggestions that their present policy is a failure.

It is still doubtful that under present circumstances, the Soviets will run the risks involved in providing Egypt with the kind of effective, offensive air power Sadat wants. There are indications, however, in the Soviet-Egyptian communiqué following Sadat’s Moscow visit last week that the Soviets are now willing to give at least some rhetorical support to the line Sadat took in this letter. The communiqué omitted the usual stress on the defensive character of Soviet military support for Egypt and supported the view that, in the absence of a settlement, the Arabs have “every reason to use other means” than negotiations to regain territory lost to Israel. Despite that language, there is nothing in Sadat’s letter or the communiqué to point to any new diplomatic initiative by the Soviets or the Egyptians.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 638, Country Files, Middle East, Arab Republic of Egypt, 1972, Vol. VIII. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.