169. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • U.S. Position on Mid-East Standstill violations this week

I understand that the State Department is considering taking a position in Secretary Rogers’ talks with Eban,2 Riad3 and Gromyko4 this [Page 570] week that would begin exploration of a plan for partial rectification of the standstill violations in the UAR. Secretary Rogers has not agreed to this yet, but he sees Eban Tuesday morning and I felt you should have a chance to make your views known before then.

The idea being discussed in State is that Secretary Rogers would explore (not propose) with Eban and Riad the following plan: The UAR would remove missiles (but not raze sites) from a zone 20 kilometers west of the Suez Canal cease-fire line but be allowed to redeploy them to sites elsewhere in the 50 kilometer standstill zone. This would permit Israel some rollback. (As of the last firm readout of photography there were 23 operationally equipped SAM sites within 25 kilometers of the Canal, 14 of them SA–3, at least half of the 23 were within 20 kilometers of the Canal.) But it would also permit the UAR to say that it had removed “not one missile” from the standstill zone.

The argument being made for at least exploring an approach like this tentatively is based on some reports that Israel would settle for a face-saving way to put the standstill violations behind them and get on with the talks. The argument further holds that this moment with the foreign ministers in New York must be seized to get the talks started or the cease-fire will gradually deteriorate and hostilities will begin again at a much more sophisticated level with the USSR more heavily involved than ever. The momentum gained over the summer will be completely lost.

The argument against this approach, however, seems compelling. The central point is that it would put us—the aggrieved party—in the position of seeking a way to cover up for the transgressors. The U.S. would be suggesting a way to cover up Soviet and Egyptian violations of their understanding with us on the standstill. As Aron and others pointed out to me in Paris,5 the hesitant way we dealt with the initial violations in August probably gave the USSR an unintended signal that the U.S. was prepared to close its eyes to violations and, in effect, encouraged them to continue their expansion of the missile complex. To try now to find a cover-up would be to repeat that signal. It would also undercut the stronger position we have gained in the Jordan crisis and by our further arms shipments to Israel.

The alternative to the above approach is to ask Riad and Gromyko—as well as Eban in a lower key—for their proposals for getting the talks started now that part of the original basis for them has been [Page 571] undercut. Although there is room for doubt that either the UAR or Israel really wants talks under present conditions, it is still possible to negotiate a new standstill arrangement on which talks could be based.

The advantage of this approach is that it would leave the initiative in the hands of those who broke the agreement or (though unlikely) in the hands of the Israelis if they wanted talks badly enough to suggest their own compromise. It would avoid our appearing to be looking for a cover-up.

You will recall that, before departing on the Mediterranean trip, you ordered that no new significant diplomatic steps be taken until we had a chance to reassess the situation in the wake of the Jordan crisis and the standstill violations.6 Nasser’s death later made that reassessment all the more necessary. It is in progress, and a Senior Review Group is scheduled Thursday on this subject.7 It would seem logical for Secretary Rogers to use his sessions Tuesday with Eban and Friday with Riad and Gromyko to hear their proposals for getting talks started.

Recommendation: That you authorize me to inform Secretary Rogers that in his discussions this week on the Middle East standstill violations and negotiations he should merely listen to the views of others and not put forward any U.S. suggestions pending interdepartmental review of next measures.8

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 656, Country Files, Middle East, Ceasefire Mideast Vol. II. Secret; Nodis. Sent for action.
  2. Rogers met with Eban on October 13 for about an hour. The Secretary asked Eban what kind of rectification of the cease-fire violations he thought could be achieved since “total rectification standstill violations did not seem possible.” Eban responded: “we will look at what they suggest and then we will see,” adding that “what was necessary was that US and Israel press for rectification.” Rogers also asked Eban whether he thought that Israel should invest its energy in reaching a peace settlement with the United Arab Republic or simply keep the cease-fire status quo while waiting for “something to happen in long run.” Eban chose the latter but “reiterated Israel wanted keep ceasefire, keep its options open, clarify principles of settlement, and try not to go back and lose ground.” (Telegram 169237 to Tel Aviv, October 14; ibid., Box 1156, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, June Initiative Vol. IV, August 28–November 15, 1970)
  3. On October 15, Rogers met with Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad for almost two hours at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, with other U.S. and UAR officials present. In response to accusations of cease-fire violations, Riad said that “no one in his country is prepared to remove any missiles from zone.” He added that his government would even add missiles—what he described as defensive weapons—to the area because it was within his country’s right to defend itself. He also commented that he would “raise whole question” in the UN General Assembly “because for three years Arabs had been trying to get SC Resolution 242 implemented without any success.” Rogers described the conversation as “cordial and restrained,” with neither side proposing solutions to overcome the cease-fire impasse. (Telegram 2504 from USUN, October 16; ibid.) According to telegram 2686 from USUN, October 24, Rogers and Riad met again on the morning of October 23 for a follow-up discussion. (Ibid.)
  4. Rogers met with Gromyko on October 16 and discussed the Middle East for a “full hour, with no give on either side.” The Soviet Foreign Minister argued that since the Soviet Union was not party to the cease-fire agreement, it was not responsible for violations. Rogers countered that the United States held the Soviet Union responsible for the violations along with the United Arab Republic because they “could not have taken place without knowledge and complicity and probable participation of Soviet Union.” In response to Gromyko’s proposal of “washing out past difficulties,” that the cease-fire be extended for a “limited period,” and that Jarring, bilateral, and Four Power talks be resumed or continued, Rogers said that the United States could not move forward “without some rectification of the situation that has resulted from violations of the ceasefire standstill.” (Telegram Secto 15, October 16) Rogers and Gromyko met again on October 19, but ended the meeting with the Secretary’s conclusion that no compromise between the United States and the Soviet Union was possible at the time and that the next step was the Soviet-UAR pursuit of the issue in the UN General Assembly. (Telegram Secto 33, October 19) Both telegrams are attached to an October 20 memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon summarizing the meetings, printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970–October 1971, Document 19.
  5. Reference is presumably to French philosopher Raymond Aron. No record of Kissinger’s conversation with Aron in Paris has been found. In a February 6 telephone conversation with Milton Viorst, Kissinger said: “I think highly of Aron and he has the best analytical mind I know.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 4, Chronological File)
  6. See Document 164. The trip, which included visits to Italy, Yugoslavia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, lasted from September 27 to October 5.
  7. See Document 172.
  8. Nixon did not approve Kissinger’s recommendation but, rather, wrote: “This is too dogmatic—present our views but not as a proposal—& listen to theirs.”