180. Letter From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Nixon1

Dear Mr. President:

As your new visit to the Soviet Union is approaching, we shall have, probably, more often than once, to exchange ideas with you on the most important questions which will be the subject of discussions also at our personal meeting.

In this case I decided to dwell upon one of the issues of that very nature—the Middle East problem.

After the last October events I have already set forth to you in detail my thoughts regarding the Middle East affairs through our Ambassador in Washington, and also in the talks with Mr. Kissinger during [Page 887] his visit to Moscow last March.2 Our appraisal of the state of affairs with the Middle East settlement was given also in Mr. A.A. Gromyko’s talks with you personally and with Mr. Kissinger, including those very recent ones when they met in Geneva and on the Cyprus.3 We regard positively those meetings in general, considering that they demonstrate the desire of the sides to search for mutually acceptable solutions of the questions under discussion.

Presently, I would like to somehow summarize the exchange of opinion that has taken place up to now on the Middle East problem and to express a couple of thoughts on possible further steps in the interests of speediest achievement of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East.

It seems, that not only you and we, but also the whole world is well aware of the fact that due, first of all, to the agreed actions of our two countries last October it was possible to provide for not simply the cease-fire in the Middle East, but also the convocation of the Geneva peace conference on the Middle East under the auspices of the USSR and the US which are the co-chairmen of that conference.

Unfortunately, after generally not a bad start of the Geneva Conference its further deliberations as well as the cause of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East turned out to be actually paralysed. It was not once said before why it had happened, and there is no need, apparently, to repeat it again.

By now, as a result of latest exchanges of opinion there exists, as we believe, an understanding between the Soviet and American sides on the following important points:

1. The US and the Soviet Union are ready to act on an agreed basis in solving all the questions of the Middle East settlement.

2. As soon as an acceptable to Syria basis for an agreement with Israel on troops disengagement appears, the negotiations aimed at finalizing the agreement on that matter should be transferred to the respective working committee of Geneva Conference with the participation of the representatives of the USSR and the USA in the work of that committee.

3. The full volume of work of the Geneva Conference on considering and resolving the key issues of the Middle East settlement should be resumed in the nearest future.

The existence of such an understanding on the further way of actions by the USSR and the USA in the Middle East naturally causes satisfaction, but with one reservation: if what we have agreed upon is going to be carried out in practice.

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I paid attention to the fact that it turned out inconvenient for the US side to have even a short meeting of our Foreign Ministers in the capital of an Arab state—Damascus although President Assad of Syria and ourselves were prepared to do that. Frankly, we were somewhat surprised at that. If we are in agreement with you that our joint efforts should be directed at solving the Middle East problems, then it would appear even more useful for the representatives of the two powers to meet for an exchange of views in the very area, which is the subject of our common concern.

In our view, the most important thing now—and may be even more so than ever before—is for our two countries to bring about a real and sufficiently speedy progress in peaceful settlement in the Middle East, consistently adhering to the actually gained understanding, through joint efforts and, naturally, in contact with other appropriate countries.

I shall not, Mr. President, tell you again, how dangerous it would be, from our point of view, to continue the present situation in the area. I shall not do that only because quite enough has already been said about it, and not because our position on that matter has changed.

If I were to speak again about the substance of the Middle East problem, then inevitably the question would be of the heart of this problem, to which we not once returned in our talks and in our correspondence. This is the question of the vacating by Israel of all the Arab lands occupied in 1967 and later.

We are convinced, on our part, that given mutual desire of our two countries, and we have it, it is completely realistic to achieve substantial progress in the elimination of the most dangerous source of tension in the Middle East by the time of your visit to the the Soviet Union.

I would like to hope, Mr. President, that you are of the same opinion and that the US, on its part, will do everything possible so that at the meeting with you we could sum up what has been done on the Middle East settlement, and not speak again about the dangers of the situation in that area.


L. Brezhnev4
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 23, May–June 1974. No classification marking. Sent under a covering May 15 memorandum from Dobrynin to Scowcroft. A note at the top of the covering memorandum reads, “Hand delivered by Yuri Babenko, 5/15/74—7:40 p.m.”
  2. See Document 167.
  3. See Documents 174, 176, 177, and 178.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.