173. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US
  • The President
  • William P. Rogers, Secretary of State
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • William D. Krimer, Interpreter, Department of State
  • USSR
  • A.A. Gromyko, Soviet Foreign Minister
  • A.F. Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador
  • Viktor Sukhodrev, Interpreter, Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The President welcomed Foreign Minister Gromyko to Washington and said that he appreciated the opportunity to have a talk with him. He had been informed that Mr. Rogers and Mr. Gromyko had held useful conversations in New York.2 It would be helpful if today they could discuss the questions of the general relationship between their two countries. The President said he was prepared to take up any items that the Minister wanted to bring up. Specific problem areas, in [Page 589] his view, which could be usefully discussed concern the Middle East, the Berlin negotiations between the Four Powers, SALT, a most important issue, Western Hemisphere problems, specifically Cuba, and problems in Asia, specifically Vietnam.

Mr. Gromyko suggested that each problem be discussed in turn and as one was finished the next problem be taken up. This procedure was agreeable to the President.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Middle East.]

Middle East

Foreign Minister Gromyko said that he had had a good exchange of views with Secretary Rogers in New York on the subject of the Middle East. To restate the Soviet position briefly, the Soviets were for peace in the Middle East. They would not like to see a new military clash in this area. The independent existence of all states needed to be assured and secured, and saying this, he included the existence of Israel as a sovereign independent state. If someone ever told the President that the Soviet Union had some other objective in the Middle East, or if it was alleged that it had some idea of subverting the independent existence of Israel, the President should not believe any such allegations. What was required today was a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Arab territories they were occupying and a formal, detailed agreement insuring a stable peace in this area. To accomplish these purposes, the role of the two great powers was far from being the least important. It was the Soviet position that peace in this area should be secured by a most solemn act, if necessary involving the participation of the UN Security Council, an act stating that troops are to be withdrawn, that peace is established, and that no one needs to be apprehensive for the security of any of the independent states of the Middle East.

It would be good if some work could be performed in the direction of a solution now. It was important that these efforts not be discontinued at the present time. As to the Soviet view of what needed to be done now, he had already told Secretary Rogers that the first thing required was a resumption of the Jarring mission. Let there be exchanges of views between the Israelis and the Arab states. Such exchanges could certainly not be harmful to any of the parties involved. Secondly, agreement must be reached on extending the ceasefire. The present situation must be formalized in the form of an appropriate agreement to the effect that firing between the sides will not be resumed and this was to be without any preconditions. Attempts to impose conditions on the extension of the ceasefire could only complicate the situation. After all, a ceasefire was a ceasefire, meaning that the two opposing sides had agreed not to shoot at each other.

Third, the bilateral contacts between the Soviet Union and the United States on this question should perhaps be renewed. They had [Page 590] been suspended for some time now and should be reactivated. It would be good to resume these contacts, and not only from the point of view of attempting to facilitate a solution for the Middle East. So far, the American side had not yet responded to the Soviet proposal on the substance of the matter even though that proposal had been submitted in response to the expressed wishes of the American side.3 Fourth, Four Power consultations should be continued. This would be a step creating more favorable conditions for consideration of various possibilities to solve the problem.

As for Israel, Mr. Gromyko said that the Soviet Union was prepared to give the most solemn guarantees of its existence.

Secretary Rogers said that he and Mr. Gromyko had discussed this question at some length in New York and seemed to agree on many aspects of the problem, but differed on how to get started. He asked Mr. Gromyko if, assuming that agreement would be reached, the Soviet Union would be willing to undertake peacekeeping activities together with the United States, specifically whether the Soviet Union was prepared to send troops for that purpose.

Mr. Gromyko inquired what the Secretary meant by peacekeeping activities. In the Soviet proposal they also mentioned the use of United Nations guarantees and personnel. He had thought this discussion was procedural; peacekeeping should be kept for substantive meetings. When would negotiations on substance begin, however? In his view the matter was pressing and this should be the first order of business. The four points he had just made were intended as steps to be taken at the present time.

Secretary Rogers said that the reason he had asked the question was that it affected the security of the parties involved.

President Nixon remarked that Israel no longer had any confidence in the ability of the United Nations to keep the peace.

Mr. Gromyko replied that what he was proposing was procedural in nature. These were the first steps to be taken and he realized that they were procedural rather than substantive. However, Secretary Rogers’ idea was not excluded.

Secretary Rogers inquired what steps the UAR intended to undertake in regard to a UN resolution on the Middle East.

Mr. Gromyko replied that they had this idea because there had been no forward movement toward a solution of the problem. Should the situation change, should the Jarring mission be resumed and the ceasefire continued, he thought the Arab position might change as well. Since he had not received an answer from the United States, he had not [Page 591] as yet contacted the Arabs in this regard. Secretary Rogers remarked that Mr. Gromyko should certainly be able to influence the Arabs.

President Nixon said that the Secretary had reported to him the conversations he had held with Mr. Gromyko about the Middle East. He was aware of the concern Mr. Gromyko had expressed regarding what he believed were misunderstandings which occurred at the time the ceasefire first went into effect. He was aware of Mr. Gromyko’s position that (1) the Soviet Union had not been a party to the ceasefire agreement, and (2) it was unfair to say the Soviet Union had collaborated in violations of that agreement.4 He did not want to go into this question in detail, but as practical men we had to recognize that a problem did indeed exist. In fact, this was our problem with the Israelis and affected our ability to influence them.

Mr. Kissinger recapitulated the procedural steps mentioned by Mr. Gromyko, namely, (1) resumption of the Jarring mission, (2) resumption of bilateral contacts, and (3) resumption of Four Power contacts. He asked whether they could be separated or whether Mr. Gromyko was proposing a package.

Secretary Rogers remarked that it would be a mistake to go into bilateral and Four Power meetings prior to reactivating the Jarring mission. Mr. Gromyko agreed, but added that purely bilateral contacts could take place at any time.

The President remarked that in the Middle East our respective interests differed considerably and that it was logical for great powers to compete with each other in this area. It was in the paramount interest of both sides, however, to secure the peace in this area since we would be very foolish to allow conflicts between minor powers to lead to a collision between us.

Mr. Gromyko agreed that the President was right and said we should stress what unites us rather than what divides us.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Middle East.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 71, Kissinger Office Files, Country Files, Europe, U.S.S.R. Top Secret; Sensitive. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors. The meeting took place in the Oval Office. For the full text of the memorandum of conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970–October 1971, Document 23.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 169.
  3. See Document 120.
  4. This view was also expressed in a Soviet “private note” for Nixon that Dobrynin handed to Kissinger in a meeting with him on October 9. (Memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, October 15; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 71, Kissinger Office Files, Country Files, Europe, U.S.S.R.) Kissinger’s summary of his four meetings with Dobrynin from September 25 to October 9 is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970–October 1971, Document 6.