185. Note From President Ford to the Soviet Leadership1

The President wishes the following message brought to the personal attention of General Secretary Brezhnev.

I have received your comments on the new Middle East Agreements, which were apparently written before receipt of Secretary Kissinger’s message to Foreign Minister Gromyko.2 There are several points in the Soviet communication that I wish to address quite frankly, lest there be any misunderstanding between us.

I am surprised and disappointed that the Soviet Union views the latest Agreements, including the provisions concerning the role of a small number of American civilian personnel, as a complicating element, contradicting Security Council decisions and our understanding about “appropriate auspices.” As the Agreement clearly states, both Parties are determined “to reach a final and just peace settlement by means of negotiations called for by Security Council Resolution 338, [Page 743] this Agreement being a significant step towards that end.” Moreover, the Agreement commits both Parties to resolve the conflict between them and in the Middle East by peaceful means, not by military force.

It is difficult for me to understand why such statements of intent are not in the interests of all Parties concerned, including the Soviet Union. After all, the United States and the Soviet Government agreed in a solemn document in 1973 that we would be guided in the formulation of our foreign policy by the objective of reducing the threat of war. For Egypt and Israel, who have been such bitter enemies, to undertake to resolve their disputes by peaceful means ought to be considered a significant accomplishment. Your Ambassador was informed in a general way about the progress of the negotiations.

I am also puzzled by the description of these Agreements as “separate actions” which are apparently opposed by the Soviet Government. My recollection of our discussions in Helsinki is that the Soviet side was not opposed to further agreements between Israel and Egypt. Indeed, the General Secretary, at one point, indicated that drawing a new ceasefire line eastward might be helpful in promoting an atmosphere more conducive to taking up the issues of a final settlement. The General Secretary said at that time that he realized all the issues could not be solved in one day, and that time would be required.

As for the presence of American personnel, it must be emphasized that both Parties found this an important element in the Agreement, and a source of confidence that the Agreements would be maintained. As described in the accompanying documents, involvement of US civilian personnel, not to exceed 200, which the Parties have agreed to complements UNEF but is completely separate from it and no way alters the basic character of the UN role or creates any special advantages for the US. Indeed, the US is acting in full consistency with UN Resolution 338.

It is, of course, for the USSR to decide its attitude towards these new Agreements. They are in no sense directed against the Soviet Union. Frankly, I do not understand why the Soviet Union should reject “any approval” of these Agreements.

The United States is still prepared, as I informed General Secretary Brezhnev, to work together to promote conditions for a peaceful and just settlement in the Middle East. With a new step toward peace having been achieved, our cooperation should be more important than ever. As noted in Secretary Kissinger’s message, we look forward to meeting with Foreign Minister Gromyko to review the situation and consider how we can work together on the next steps. We will at that time be prepared to agree to a time for reconvening the Geneva Conference.

[Page 744]

If the Soviet Union nevertheless decides to campaign actively against these Agreements, this cannot fail to have a harmful effect on our relations. This would be particularly unfortunate in this crucial period, when we are working toward another historic agreement limiting strategic arms, and are discussing the possibility of a significant agreement on the sale of grain and oil. Thus, I am convinced it would be in the best interests of our relationship, of peace in the Middle East, and of world peace, if the Soviet Union would carefully reconsider the implications of its latest communication and avoid taking actions that would cast a shadow over a significant achievement for peace in this greatly troubled and dangerous area.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 7, Aug–Sept 1975. No classification marking. Sonnenfeldt and Hyland forwarded a draft of the note to Kissinger as an attachment to Document 183. Kissinger approved the text with minor changes in message Hakto 50 to Scowcroft, September 3. (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, HAKTO (3)) According to marginalia, the note was delivered to the Soviet Embassy by messenger at 2:40 p.m. on September 3.
  2. See Document 182 and footnote 2 thereto.
  3. In a reply to this note on September 8, the Soviet leadership, while denying any intention of campaigning against the agreement, also denied being “a party to any actions which would approve the decisions prepared without its participation and without the participation of other Arab states and contrary to its opinion of the necessity of joint action. This hardly needs special clarification. Let’s be frank, we were surprised at the determination of the US side not to allow participation of the Soviet Union in the discussions of the questions which by the previously reached agreement should have been the subject of joint consideration with obligatory participation of both the United States and the Soviet Union, which was not once solemnly confirmed at the Soviet-American meetings. One more point. We could not be but surprised also at an attempt contained in the President’s message to somehow tie together the question of the Soviet Union’s attitude to the Egyptian-Israeli agreement with some other questions including negotiations on the strategic arms limitation and also some economic problems such as trade in grain and oil. Such an approach cannot promise any positive results from the point of view of the general interests of the Soviet Union and the United States.” (National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 7, Soviet Union, Aug–Sept 1975)