204. Note From the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • Latest Brezhnev Letter2

The message, on the whole more pained than threatening, reflects Soviet awareness that developments in Cyprus are likely in the end to leave the USSR less influential in yet another place in the Middle East.

There is of course as always the paranoid reaction of assuming that some sort of larger game, masterminded here or somewhere, is underway.

The two basic Soviet proposals—withdrawal of Greek military personnel and restoration of Makarios—were to be expected. They both continue to be reflected in Soviet UN positions, where the Soviets interpret the SC resolution as requiring Greek withdrawal. It is not perhaps surprising that the Soviets don’t associate themselves with the proposal for talks in London, nor indeed with the call for a cease fire. In part this reflects Moscow’s strange dissociation from the process now underway diplomatically and in the UN; but it also reflects its recogni[Page 1028]tion that the outcome of these activities is likely to leave the USSR worse off than before (including, incidentally, with regard to Turkey which by its invasion has probably assured itself of some kind of improvement in Cyprus compared with the past which will leave it less in need of Soviet support).

The only threatening element in the Brezhnev letter is the reference in Point 1 to “our two powers” acting “not only under the roof of the UN but also through other means” to get Greek withdrawal and cessation of interference. I think you will need to say something, preferably orally at this stage, to Vorontsov on this. It could be very simple:

—we agree that the UN is not the only means for exerting influence toward restoration of peace and constitutional arrangements;

—we are already, and have been, exerting utmost influence through diplomatic efforts with all concerned;

—obviously, other forms of intervention on the island, unilaterally or bilaterally, cannot be envisaged; they would also contravene the London/Zurich agreements;3

—we are of course prepared to continue close consultations with the USSR.

The Soviet point on restoration of Makarios, while heartfelt, seems mostly for the record. The last part of the point “restoration of the status of Cyprus as an independent state as it existed before the military intervention of Greece” seems to allow for a different personality. (I have already said to Vorontsov that we should not emphasize personalities per se as much as restoration of peace and constitutional arrangements.) In any case, Brezhnev does not call for withdrawal of Turkish forces (he merely says the situation has deteriorated, as evidenced by the Turkish landings.) The Soviets can’t believe that the Turks want Makarios restored in the end.

Altogether, Soviet conduct is having the effect of reducing rather than enhancing the Soviet role in events. It is not in our interest to correct this, though we should not actively promote it either, since it would be likely to bring about an unnecessary confrontation.

You should tell Vorontsov:

—we got the letter and studied it;

—we of course want to cooperate with the Soviets, in the spirit of our relations and agreements (as the President told Brezhnev yesterday);4

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—we have no desire for a confrontation of any kind;

—we think the major task now is to bring about a cease-fire and the opening of negotiations between Greece and Turkey as proposed by the British;

—we want restoration of the status quo ante, including with regard to military forces and the constitutional order;

—above all we want to get the fighting stopped;

—we are exerting maximum influence on Greece and Turkey by all appropriate means at our disposal;

—we hope the Soviets will do likewise;

—there should be no interference by additional powers in the island. (see page 2, above.)

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 75, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Kissinger Conversations at Zavidovo, May 5–8, 1973. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. The July 21 letter from Brezhnev to Nixon is ibid., Box 70, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 24.
  3. The London–Zurich agreements, signed in 1959, led to a constitution for Cyprus, which provided for its independence from Great Britain.
  4. Nixon’s July 20 note to Brezhnev, in which he emphasized the need for peace, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 70, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 24.