183. Message From the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) and the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hyland) to Secretary of State Kissinger 1

Tohak 130/WH51754. Subject: Soviet Position on Sinai Agreements.

The note delivered by Vorontsov on the Middle East, which apparently crossed your message to Gromyko,2 has a high potential for trouble-making. Taken at face value, the note is a warning that the Soviets will publicly oppose the agreement—“reject any attempts to get (Soviet) approval” and, in particular, will oppose the presence of American personnel.

The Soviet options would seem to range from a simple disassociation and public explanation, to more active efforts to upset the agreement: in the latter case, they could resort to extreme political measures, such as withdrawing as Co-Chairman of the Geneva Conference, on the ground that they could not be party to partial actions that postponed a settlement; or they could take a legalistic position and demand Security Council reconsideration of the terms of the UNEF mandate on the grounds that American presence is not provided for, and that new agreement links UN and American personnel in working arrangements, and in some respects makes the UN subordinate to the US, etc.

In short, if the Soviets wish to, they are in a position to insert their opposition into the US Congressional debate on the agreement, to mobilize radical Arab pressure against it, and in effect, to rob Sadat of the rationale that partial steps are linked to a broader framework of a final settlement.

No doubt, the Soviets are genuinely chagrined that the US has succeeded in recovering ground lost in March and once again has commanding political position. This they might swallow, if it were not for the symbolic and strategic significance of actual physical presence of Americans in the Sinai. For the Soviets such a new element may well foreshadow a growing US role, perhaps leading to US guarantees in the area excluding the Soviets altogether. The Soviets are probably still laboring under what they believe, or choose to believe, is a commitment for joint action. Even though they have long since realized that real [Page 739] joint action was unworkable, the pretense of “joint auspices” is still important symbolically, as well as a practical opportunity to insert themselves into the negotiating process. Brezhnev’s personal situation may also be affected since he is associated with the whole “joint auspices” operation.

Thus, we may face tricky and potentially dangerous passage with the Soviets in bringing new agreements into force. It appears unlikely that we can conciliate the Soviets with traditional soothing replies. Indeed, if we go too far in the direction of conciliation, we risk contradicting our public and Congressional position which, of course, will have to include positive evaluation of agreement and advantages of American role. We cannot simultaneously play down the agreement or the American role in communications with the Soviets. Nor can we afford to be overly defensive.

Since the Soviets might go public at any time, especially with working group possibly starting as early as September 4 in Geneva, we recommend a quick and fairly sharp reply before the Soviets freeze their position. We would use the points in your message to Gromyko but in a more assertive tone, rebutting the Soviet objections, and making the point that in present critical period leading up to SALT and possible complex grain deal, Soviet position would have a harmful effect on relations. This linkage, which we think affords us real leverage in this situation, is hinted at in the last paragraph of the Soviet message, i.e., “negative influence on relations between our countries.”

Attached is a draft reply to Brezhnev for your consideration.

[Omitted here is the text of a draft note from Ford to Brezhnev; it was sent on September 3; see Document 185.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Trip Briefing Books and Cables of Henry Kissinger, 1974–1977, Box 12, Kissinger Trip File, August 20–Sept. 3, 1975, TOHAK (8). Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent with instructions to deliver at opening of business.
  2. See Document 182 and footnote 2 thereto.