5. Editorial Note

On October 16, 1971, Assistant to the President Henry Kissinger sent President Nixon a memorandum analyzing the recent trip of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to the Soviet Union. Sadat was in Moscow October 11–13 for talks with General Secretary Brezhnev, Chairman of the Council of Ministers Kosygin, and President of the Presidium N.V. Podgorny. The analysis, drafted by Harold Saunders and Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council staff, was based only on public reaction and public statements. After speculating why Sadat went to Moscow—to pressure the United States and Israel, to obtain additional Soviet military help, and to repair damage in Soviet-Egyptian relations—Kissinger informed the President that, “Judging from the public statements and speeches, Sadat gained assurance of continued military assistance. How specific this is in terms of new equipment remains to be seen.” Moving to the Arab-Israeli situation, Kissinger stated that “it is not clear what occurred in Moscow. The speeches and communiqué seem to reflect Soviet-Egyptian differences. [Page 17] Sadat’s tough language about the use of force to pressure Israel was not endorsed in the communiqué, and the Soviets generally avoiding talking about the dangers of war.” “The idea of an interim settlement was not mentioned” and the Soviets couched their statements “in terms of the UN [242] resolution and Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories, and a settlement reached through [UN envoy] Jarring. Podgorny did say, however, the Soviets supported efforts inside and outside the UN to reach a settlement.” The memorandum concluded that “the Soviets will evidently provide some further aid but have continued to hold to the position that a military solution is not feasible at this time.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 637, Country Files, Middle East, UAR, Vol. VII) The condensed version of the communiqué, October 14, as well as Podgorny’s speech on October 12 are in Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. 23, No. 41, pages 5–8.

In a subsequent undated memorandum to the President, Kissinger reported to Nixon that Sadat had informed the Soviet leaders that he planned to initiate military action against Israel, that he needed new Soviet military equipment to respond in depth to expected Israeli retaliation in depth, but he would only do so if the Israelis made the first strike. Kissinger recounted, “Brezhnev cautioned that unpleasant propaganda would result from initiating military action and stressed the need for a political solution.” The Soviet Defense Minister assured Sadat that he already had more and better military equipment than Israel and a substantial Soviet military presence including 50 Soviet fighter aircraft, 9,500 advisers, and satellite and aircraft reconnaissance capability. Nonetheless, agreement was reached to provide 10 missile carrying TU–16 aircraft (Egypt’s deep strike capability against Israel), 100 MIG 21’s and a squadron of MIG 23’s, all having new engines, one battalion of 180 mm guns with a range of 26 miles, and 220 mm mortars with ammunition. Deliveries of bridging and minefield equipment as well as artillery pieces would be made in 1971 with aircraft deliveries stretched out to 1972. Kissinger concluded: “A reading of the full transcripts give the impression that the Soviet position is ambivalent; it could be interpreted as either extremely tough or a holding action. The Egyptian posture, on the other hand, is decidedly abject.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 637, Country Files, Middle East, UAR, Vol. VII)