179. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Status of SAM Sites in the Egyptian Standstill Zone

A new inter-agency task force under the chairmanship of CIA has been formed to improve the quality and usefulness of intelligence reporting on the Egyptian-Soviet missile complex within the Egyptian standstill zone. The first product of this group is a graphic description of the development of the missile complex accompanied by an explanatory narrative (attached).2 Better quality photography and the gradual development of improved and more sophisticated analytical techniques has recently made it possible to refine our judgments on the operational status of the “occupied” SAM sites. This analysis will be updated as new information becomes available.

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You may wish to study this memorandum yourself, but the following are a few of what seem to be the more important points:

—The number of sites which probably were operationally equipped on September 3 (17 to 23, including two sites with the Soviet-operated SA–3 equipment) was close to the number estimated to be in the area immediately after the cease-fire/standstill went in effect (15 to 25, including up to five SA–3’s). As you know there was a big Soviet and Egyptian push to move SAMs toward the Suez Canal in the weeks immediately preceding the cease-fire/standstill agreement on August 7. After the standstill went into effect and up to early September the rise in the number of total sites was relatively small and was accomplished largely through modifications and improvements in previously existing facilities.

—There appears to have been a substantial increase in SAM site construction between late August and mid-September as well as some increase in the number of operational sites. It is especially important to note that Soviet-operated SA–3 equipment accounted for most of the increase in operational sites during this period.

—After mid-September the construction of new sites began to slow down and level off, but if anything, the push to occupy and turn operational the already constructed sites increased for awhile. Thus, for instance, during the week of September 13–21 the number of operational SA–3 sites doubled to a total of 28, while the comparable total of SA–2 sites increased by one-fourth to 30.

—Since late September there appears to have been a general leveling off of all missile-related activity in the standstill zone, but a longer time period and more information is probably necessary before such a judgment can be made with a high degree of confidence. As of early October, however, the number of sites which were probably operational had stabilized at around 58 to 61. Of these, it is estimated that between 25 and 29 are the Soviet-operated SA–3s and the remainder are SA–2s. Preliminary analysis of subsequent U–2 missions had not revealed any new SAM sites up to October 18.

Several important conclusions seem possible from this analysis.

—In the first two weeks of the cease-fire period, the Egyptians seem to have been doing about what they said they were doing—hardening sand sites there before the cease-fire and maybe moving some missiles around.

—The Soviets and Egyptians appear to have answered our strong protests on September 3 against standstill violations3 with not only a continuation of the activity we objected to but with an increase in both [Page 616] the construction of new sites and especially the deployment of equipment to turn them operational.

—The Soviets cannot legitimately claim, as they are trying, that they are uninvolved and not responsible for whatever happened in the standstill zone. We know that the number of operational sites has more than doubled since the cease-fire/standstill went into effect. The Soviets, of course, supplied the equipment and the Egyptians would simply not have been able to plan and execute such a massive buildup. Moreover, the increase in Soviet-operated SA–3s is even more dramatic, with perhaps half of the some 25–29 operational units having been introduced between late August and mid-September, and the remainder since that time.

—It is too early to know for sure, but it is possible that the Soviets and Egyptians are in the process of completing the buildup of the missile complex. They have already constructed the densest and most sophisticated barrier-air-defense system ever erected and there are early indications that SAM-related activity is leveling off within the standstill zone.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 656, Country Files, Middle East, Ceasefire, Mideast Vol. I. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. Attached but not printed is the October 21 “Status of SAM Sites in the Egyptian Standstill Zone.”
  3. See Document 157.