135. Editorial Note

On July 16, 1970, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Kissinger sent President Nixon the records of his three most recent conversations with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, which took place on June 23, July 7, and July 9. The memoranda of conversation are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Documents 171, 177, and 179. In a covering memorandum to President Nixon, Kissinger offered some “highlights” of the conversations:

Change in Tone. On June 23, shortly after the launching of our Middle East initiative, Ambassador Dobrynin was evasive and uncooperative. In our July 7 and 9 conversations, after our ten days in San Clemente, he presented a sharp contrast, being both conciliatory and effusive about the Soviet desire to reach understandings.

Middle East. Dobrynin moved from his June 23 statement that the Soviets were temporarily absolved of any responsibility for a settlement because of our direct approach to the regional parties to his July 7/9 underlining of Soviet anxiousness for a settlement. He emphasized that the Soviets did not seek a confrontation with us, that it was essential to come to an agreement and that he was fully authorized to deal with me to conclude an agreement. He indicated, although ambiguously, that the Soviets would consider withdrawing their troops from Egypt once they knew what a political settlement would look like. I [Page 469] bore down very hard on the Soviet presence in the Mideast and, in response to a question, acknowledged that it appeared we were on a collision course.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 712, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VIII)

“Following Kissinger’s July 9 conversation with Dobrynin, Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco met with the Soviet Ambassador on July 13 to discuss the recent cease-fire initiative proposed by Secretary Rogers on June 19 (see Document 129). Telegram 111425 to Moscow, July 13, reporting the conversation is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1970, Vol. 3. The same day, Sisco sent a memorandum to Kissinger informing him of some “strictly personal” impressions he gave Dobrynin regarding the Soviet Union’s continued military involvement in the UAR:

“I wrote a very brief telegram covering my last conversation with Dobrynin. What is not contained in the telegram is that I gave the Ambassador some personal impressions—strictly personal—of the atmosphere which the continuing increased Soviet military involvement in the UAR is creating which increases the risks of possible confrontation with us. I said that it would be well for Dobrynin to reflect that the President at the outset of his Administration had declared an era of negotiations. For seventeen months we had negotiated in good faith, and we feel that the Soviets have not come half the way; and that our restraint on the military side has not been met by restraint but rather by a fundamental decision on the part of the Soviet Union to involve its personnel in an operational capacity. This is a most serious decision for the Soviets to have taken, and our concern has increased not only because of the creeping process in recent weeks, but also because of Soviet unwillingness to tell us quietly and confidentially what their intentions are and what the outer limits of their involvement may be as they see it.

“I said I had watched our President for months and felt that he had offered political proposal after political proposal, and political option after political option in the context of the United States exercising great restraint in the face of pressures for providing Israel with substantial numbers of additional aircraft. I hoped that Dobrynin was not reporting to Moscow that our involvement in Vietnam reflected any lack of resolve in the Middle East. The President was a man of peace, a man who wanted a negotiated settlement, but also a man of firmness and toughness, which it would be well for the Soviet Union to take fully into account as it develops Middle East policy. He would not be pushed around in the Middle East or anywhere else. These were only personal judgments I was expressing; but I would advise Dobrynin to take very, very seriously the words expressed by the President some months ago [Page 470] that the United States would view with deep concern any attempt by the Soviet Union to dominate the Middle East.

Dobrynin responded critically to the recent ‘tough talk’ which he said would not force the Soviet Union to make decisions of the kind it would not wish to make. He remonstrated several times that the emphasis on the Soviet role was creating a crisis atmosphere, and that it was not making it easier for Moscow to take constructive initiatives during the current discussions with Cairo. At the same time, he was quick to say, these were personal remarks and we would be receiving the replies to our political initiative at an early date.” (Memorandum from Sisco to Kissinger, July 13; ibid., Box 340, Subject Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger) Sisco’s memorandum is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Document 181.