286. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
- Sadat-Brezhnev Meeting in February, 1972
[2½ lines not declassified] The highlights are as follows:2
The overall impression given [less than 1 line not declassified] is a sense of the tension that continues to underline Sadat’s relations with the Soviets. From the Egyptian leader’s standpoint, the theme of the entire discussion was one of concern that his relations with the Soviets are not what they ought to be. He warned that the internal situation in Egypt will “explode” unless he is able to offer his people more convincing evidence that the USSR is fully committed to the Egyptian-Arab cause.
Sadat expounded on his concept that the United States has created “two belts” of pressure on Egypt, one in the south including Iran, Ethiopia, Chad and the Congo and one in the north which includes Malta, Jordan, Italy, Greece and Israel. Although that concept appeared to be mainly for the sake of argument with the Russians, it does fit with Sadat’s other [Page 997] arguments that Egypt is now confronting the U.S. rather than merely Israel. But all this, along with some remarks about his problems with Maoism among Egyptian students, was also aimed at what Sadat believes are Soviet phobias. His effort, however, does not appear to have made much impression on the Soviet leaders.
Sadat’s strategy proposals for 1972 are not very exciting. He said he intends to escalate “political action” prior to your visit to Moscow;3 to prepare to defend against any Israeli attack and to launch a military attack across the Suez Canal—perhaps against the Sinai passes. He noted, however, that he does not have the military means to take such a military action and that he needs a force of fighter-bombers and some ultra-modern tanks (he did not mention the time needed to train with this equipment).
The Egyptian leader further requested an industrial-military complex, financed by the Libyans in order to assure domestically produced ammunition. Given the incongruities between Sadat’s requests and what he claimed to be his strategy and timing, it is hard to escape the conclusion that his “military requirements” have a primarily political motivation. They seem to be more to quiet Sadat’s critics at home than to prepare for serious military action against the Israelis at an early date.
[less than 1 line not declassified] the Soviet response was essentially playing for time—perhaps to see how our present negotiations were going. [less than 1 line not declassified] Brezhnev underlined the fact that Soviet policy has not changed and that the Soviet leadership sees no need for it to change. The Soviets, in effect, rejected Sadat’s grand design. The providing of forty U.S. aircraft to Israel did not change the nature of Soviet-Egyptian “friendship,” according to Brezhnev. Moreover, Moscow’s policy continues to be one of “solving the crisis peacefully.” In this connection, Brezhnev told Sadat that the Arab-Israeli problem is on the Soviets’ agenda for your summit meeting in May but he promised nothing except that “in any case we will continue with new initiatives for a political solution in consultation with you.”
Brezhnev avoided falling into the trap of enabling Sadat to claim that the Soviets vetoed military action against Israel. He stated that the Soviets had always striven to help the Egyptian army become an offensive army but he reminded Sadat that a decision to make any kind of a military move is a serious one and it is necessary to “weigh many considerations.”
There were some sharp exchanges between Brezhnev and Sadat about Egyptian military requirements and Soviet willingness to meet [Page 998] them. Brezhnev stated that in Moscow’s view, the Arabs need unity as much or more than hardware—even Saudi Arabia and Jordan should be approached by Sadat, and Sadat should work out—with Soviet help—military arrangements with the Syrians for the use of Syrian airfields by the Egyptians. In the end, however, Brezhnev promised hardware:
—100 new-type MIG fighters (70 before June 1972 and 30 in the second half of the year),
—20 TU–22 supersonic bombers,
—200 T–62 tanks, and more sophisticated communications equipment and arrangements for licensing some military production in Egypt.
Even here, however, the note was one of caution: deliveries are to be paced with training, wasteful industrial projects are to be avoided, etc. At the close of the meeting, Brezhnev once again reminded Sadat that the Soviets were not happy about developments in connection with Libya, the Sudan and the relations between Soviet experts and the Egyptian military.
In sum, [less than 1 line not declassified] indicate that the Soviet-Egyptian relationship is considerably more reserved than it was before Nasser’s death. Sadat is trying to manipulate the relationship primarily to strengthen his domestic political situation. He does not seem genuinely interested at this time in war with Israel. The Soviets, for their part, are still holding Sadat at arms’ length. They are playing for time until they see how our private negotiations develop. The Soviets are clearly keeping their options open. The Soviets are willing to provide new arms to the Egyptians but they are concerned about the Egyptian request for an industrial base which would enable them to produce their own weapons. Such a development obviously would make Egypt less dependent upon the USSR for weapon supply.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Secretary’s Files, Box 37. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text that remains classified.↩
- Sadat met with Brezhnev on February 3 during his February 2–4 visit to Moscow.↩
- Nixon was in Moscow May 22–28 for the summit with Brezhnev.↩