154. Backchannel Message From Secretary of State Kissinger to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1

Deliver to Gen. Scowcroft no matter where he is.

Hakto 27. You are to pass the following message from me to General Haig immediately, no matter where he is, for immediate reply.

[Page 630]

I have just learned that the President has recently seen Dobrynin alone to talk about the Middle East.2 This report concerns me deeply for three compelling reasons.

First, I cannot overemphasize the extremely tenuous nature of the current situation here. It is now a very close run thing whether we will ever get the parties together in Geneva—much less next week. At the present moment I cannot predict with any confidence that we will have our conference, and the slightest miscalculation—the least slip—and we will be embroiled in a major foreign policy failure of the gravest sort. Every move must be planned and carried out with the greatest care.

Second, the major spoiling role the Soviets are trying to play—the mischief they are about—has become glaringly obvious since my arrival in Cairo today. Sadat, from whom I have just come, spent well over 30 minutes pleading with me to help him stand up against Soviet pressures—which he says are getting more intense by the day. During the course of the conversation Sadat quoted several messages, purportedly from Dobrynin. I recognized the occasions, but the reports themselves were such misrepresentations of fact as to be totally misleading. One can only imagine the turmoil and mischief that such a miscast description of a conversation with the President could cause.

Third, I will be seeing Gromyko in Geneva next week if the conference convenes. I will be in an intolerable position if he knows, or even suspects, that he is privy to information on the President’s thinking that I do not have. The challenge to my credibility could be disastrous.

Thus, I must insist that I be given a full report of the Dobrynin conversation with the President. I am flying blind without it, which at this point could have disastrous consequences for all we are trying to do here and at home to build a peace and restore foreign and domestic confidence in this administration.

As to the Pilgrims speech,3 I have said all I intend to on the subject. It was given in good faith, cleared within the bureaucracy, and directed [Page 631] at strengthening the President’s hand in the tough months of slugging that face us in bringing Europe to its senses. It is not I but the country that is being punished by this act of pique.

I shall be seeing Sadat again tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. Cairo time for a heavy negotiating session. I must insist that I be given a full report of the conversation before that time, although I must tell you that there is almost no scenario of that conversation that I can imagine that will not be damaging—the question is only the degree of damage perpetrated.

I ask for your help, for the sake of the country, in two ways:

1) To get me the information quickly and,4

2) To assure that this sort of thing does not happen again.

Finally, I must emphasize how gravely I view this development. I urge you not to underestimate the seriousness of this cable.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 42, HAK Trip, Europe & Mid East, December 8–22, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Flash; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. Nixon met with Dobrynin on December 13 from 12:41 to 1:33 pm. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) No record of the meeting was found.
  3. Kissinger spoke to the Society of Pilgrims in London on December 12, focusing on the “Year of Europe” and proposing an international consumers group to regulate world demand. “At the same time, we must bear in mind the deeper causes of the energy crisis: It is not simply a product of the Arab-Israeli war; it is the inevitable consequence of the explosive growth of worldwide demand outrunning the incentives for supply. The Middle East war made a chronic crisis acute, but a crisis was coming in any event. Even when prewar production levels are resumed, the problem of matching the level of oil that the world produces to the level which it consumes will remain. The only long-term solution is a massive effort to provide producers an incentive to increase their supply, to encourage consumers to use existing supplies more rationally, and to develop alternative energy sources.” The address was printed in full in The New York Times, December 13, 1973.
  4. In message Tohak 79/37588, December 14, Haig replied to Kissinger, noting that he had just left Nixon and had made a formal request for more details on the President’s meeting with Dobrynin. He reported that the President said that, on the Middle East, he had merely urged continued U.S.- Soviet cooperation in achieving a settlement and had asked the Ambassador to use Soviet influence on Syria regarding the POW issue. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 42, HAK Trip, Europe & Mid East, December 8–22, 1973)