251. Conversation Between President Nixon and Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko1

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

Gromyko: One thing on the Middle East, I would like, if you had not mentioned it, I would mention it. I wish to tell you privately, strictly privately—

Nixon: Yeah?

Gromyko: —two key points. Frankly, some time ago, the United States Government, and you personally—and I think a sufficient decision was made—expressed concern how about delivery of armaments—

Nixon: To Egypt? Right?

Gromyko: Right.

Nixon: Fine.

Gromyko: We think it would be possible to reach understanding, if some kind of framework is reached, which would provide [for] withdrawal of Israeli troops from all occupied territories. We would agree on the limitation, or if you wish, even on stoppage—full stoppage of delivery [of armaments]—

Nixon: Hmm.

Gromyko: —in connection—even in connection with understanding on the first stage—

[Page 905]

Nixon: What to do here—

Gromyko: On the—

Nixon: Exactly. In terms of the—

Gromyko: —even in connection with the interim [agreement]—

Nixon: —interim. Right.

Gromyko: You agree.

Nixon: Right.

Gromyko: Even in connection, provided that this is the—connected with the final, with the withdrawal—

Nixon: Yeah.

Gromyko: —of—from all territories, within a certain period of time. More than this, I would like to tell you, also frankly, confidentially, both this point and then the third one I discussed with Mr. Brezhnev. So this is not the second point here. The second point is this: some time ago, you expressed interest—oh, I don’t know—in Egypt, about our presence there, our military—

Nixon: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Gromyko: —presence in Egypt.

Nixon: Yeah.

Gromyko: I do not know whether you know precisely our position, or not, on our presence, but, in a sense, we are present there. In a sense—

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Gromyko: North of Cairo, certain personnel, and certain forces—

Nixon: I see.

Gromyko: —and such presence, the presence is agreed. We are ready, in connection with understanding, full understanding, on the Middle East—

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Gromyko: —we are ready to agree not to have our military units there.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Gromyko: Not to have soldiers based there—

Nixon: Not the civilian, I understand.

Gromyko: Not precisely. Not to have military units, you know, there—

Nixon: Not there.

Gromyko: We probably—we would leave a limited number, a limited number of advisers for purely advisory—

Nixon: Advisory purposes.

[Page 906]

Gromyko: You know—

Nixon: Technical advisers.

Gromyko: —like you have in Iran.

Nixon: Like we have in Cambodia and the rest.

Gromyko: Yes, that is right.

Nixon: That’s right.

Gromyko: I said it’s for—

Nixon: I understand.

Gromyko: —for purely advisory purposes.

Nixon: But not for—I see.

Gromyko: Hmm.

Nixon: Right. I understand.

Gromyko: Absolutely right. I know that you—

Nixon: But these are matters that I deal with.

Gromyko: Okay.

Nixon: Yes.

Gromyko: I know. You understand very clearly.

Nixon: Yeah.

Gromyko: I would say limited, and maybe very limited.

Nixon: I understand.

Gromyko: Maybe very.

Nixon: Well, those are matters that could threaten—be discussed, if—but that has to be very private.

Gromyko: And it would be very private, very private—

Nixon: Right. Right. Right. The Mideast is so tense—so touchy, politically, in this country—

Gromyko: All these—

Nixon: —it has to be private here.

Gromyko: All these—

Nixon: Right.

Gromyko: —ideas, we did not put into motion—

Nixon: Sure. Right. Right—

Gromyko: —with anybody. Never. This is—

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Gromyko: —new, and this is principle.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Gromyko: And the third point, whether you attach importance or not, but Israel always stresses anything you don’t want to stress. It [Page 907] would be—we would be ready, even if this accord is written on this basis, even in connection with the interim agreement, in the third stage.

Nixon: Hm-hmm.

Gromyko: And we will be ready to deal—to sign, if you wish, together with you, or with U.S. and other powers, or with all other powers who are on the [United Nations] Seurity Council. This initiative [is] possible in a document, if with additional—

Nixon: Hm-hmm. Hm-hmm.

Gromyko: —agreement and understanding on security for Israel—

Nixon: Sure.

Gromyko: —in connection with the interim. With the interim—

Nixon: I see.

Gromyko: —provided that interim is—

Nixon: All right.

Gromyko: —connected. [unclear] and our own suggestion was that, well, when vis-à-vis the border or finalization of the agreement, only some kind of decision—

Nixon: True.

Gromyko: —should be taken on guarantees. But we are ready to discuss this idea in connection—we can sign any agreement with guarantees in connection with the interim, provided that the interim is linked with Israeli [withdrawal]. The limitation of even—limitation, even stoppage [unclear]—

Nixon: Your arms?

Gromyko: Second—

Nixon: Present?

Gromyko: —not presence of any Soviet units. Not—

Nixon: Sure.

Gromyko: —[unclear] heavy units, intermediate military—

Nixon: Right.

Gromyko: —you could say.

Nixon: Sure.

Gromyko: Some of the limited—I say this would [be] limited number of advisers for purely, purely, purely advisory purposes.

Nixon: I understand.

[unclear exchange]

Gromyko: If you—

Nixon: Let us do a little—as I say, we’ll do a private talking on this. And then, on this message that Kissinger brings you tomorrow on Vietnam, I think you’ll find very interesting. It could be very—

[Page 908]

Gromyko: Good.

Nixon: It could be very important.

Gromyko: Very good.

Nixon: If we could get that out of the way, you could see—and I don’t, we don’t want to ask you to do anything that’s not in your interest—but if we get that out of the way, it opens other doors. You see?

Gromyko: Good. I have to say—what I told you about this Middle East, this is—

Nixon: Comes from—

Gromyko: —result of the conversation personally with Brezhnev. And he wants me to say to you—

Nixon: Yeah.

Gromyko: So we are taking a position.

Nixon: I understand.2

[Omitted here is a brief, largely unclear exchange as Nixon and Gromyko evidently left the room.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 580–20. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. Brackets indicate unclear portions of the original recording or those omitted by the editors except “[for]”, “[of armaments]”, “[agreement]”, “[United Nations]”, “[is]”, “[withdrawal]”, and “[be]”, added for clarity. The conversation was conducted in English without interpreters. According to the President’s Daily Diary, this “one-on-one” meeting took place from 4:40 to 5 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) No written U.S. record of the conversation has been found. Although neither was present, Kissinger and Dobrynin both described the meeting in their respective memoirs. See White House Years, pp. 838 and 1287, and In Confidence, p. 234. Prior to the meeting, Kissinger sent Nixon a memorandum explaining that Dobrynin had informed him on September 20 that Gromyko had a “personal message from Brezhnev” that he would like to deliver in private. “The Soviet leaders are proposing that this issue be handled in the same framework as Berlin was, having concluded that present efforts could not lead anywhere. They recognized that we are stymied in our initiative. They in turn, with their basic commitments to the Arabs, are under pressure to deliver something for them sooner or later if they are to preserve their influence.” (Memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, September 28; Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970–October 1971, Document 335) For a record of Nixon and Gromyko’s conversation prior to the private “one-on-one” meeting, which was attended by Rogers, Kissinger, and Dobrynin, see ibid., Document 337.
  2. Following the meeting, Gromyko prepared a memorandum of his “one-on-one” conversation with Nixon for circulation to members and candidate members of the Politburo. Regarding the Middle East, Gromyko wrote the following: “I said that above all, clarity was needed with respect to the withdrawal of Israeli troops. If the U.S. has serious intentions and is genuinely willing to promote a settlement ‘on the basis of complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from all occupied Arab territories,’ we would be willing to give favorable consideration to the following issues: (1) limiting or even stopping outside arms shipments to the countries of the region once the situation has been fully resolved; (2) withdrawing our actual ‘military units’ from the region, but ‘leaving military advisers in the relevant countries’ who would have purely advisory functions, like the military advisers the U.S. has in certain countries, such as Iran; (3) the issue of political security guarantees could even be resolved in connection with the first-stage agreement, the so-called interim agreement, if it is linked to the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Arab territories within a specified period of time. I again explained to Nixon that we are willing to reach agreement on the aforementioned basis only if any agreement, including an interim agreement, is linked to the ultimate total withdrawal of Israeli troops, i.e. to thereby predetermine the final settlement. Without the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops no settlement is possible.” (See Soviet-American Relations, 1969–1972, Document 204, footnote 3)