301. Letter From President Nixon to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev1

Dear Mr. General Secretary:

I am most grateful for your letter of July 20 sending me your thoughts on the recent events in Egypt.2 These events impose on us the special obligation to conduct our relations in conformity with the principles of the Moscow declaration and the relationship that has developed between us.

As Dr. Kissinger has already informed Ambassador Dobrynin on my behalf,3 the United States had no advance knowledge of the recent events in Egypt. The fundamental principle which has guided and will guide American policy in this situation is that an effort by either of us, in the Middle East or elsewhere, to gain unilateral advantage at the expense of the other is incompatible with our broader mutual objectives and mutual responsibility. Experience shows that pursuit of such marginal advantages is futile as well as dangerous. The fundamental improvement in the US-Soviet relationship, to which my Administration is unalterably committed, can be maintained only on the basis of equality and respect for the legitimate security and political interests of both.

Mischievous speculation looking for disruption of our relationship is to be anticipated in such a situation as this. But you and I did not sign the Basic Principles of US-Soviet Relations4 in order to repudiate them and all that they represent in the first real test of their application.

On the Middle East question specifically, Dr. Kissinger has also assured your Ambassador, at my behest, that nothing that has occurred affects the general principles discussed between your Foreign Minister and Dr. Kissinger to promote a just overall settlement cooperatively. The US will take no unilateral actions in the Middle East. Elaboration of these basic understandings will be carried forward on the schedule agreed upon by the US side. There has not been and will not be any breach on our side of the strictest confidentiality of the US-Soviet exchanges.

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In my view, the recent events only dramatize the dangerous volatility of the Middle East, which underscores the urgent US and Soviet interest in helping to resolve the perennial crisis. This is clearly in the interest of peace and in the interest of furthering and safeguarding the great progress we have achieved in US-Soviet relations.5


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 130, Country Files, Middle East. No classification marking. Written in an unknown hand in the upper right-hand corner of the page is the note: “Handed by K to D[obrynin] 5:45 pm, 7/27/72.”
  2. See footnote 8, Document 300.
  3. See footnote 7, Document 300.
  4. Nixon and Brezhnev signed the Basic Principles on May 29 at the Moscow Summit; for the text, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pp. 633–635.
  5. Brezhnev’s response was handed to Kissinger on August 11 by Dobrynin; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974, Document 25.