311. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrei Gromyko, Foreign Minister of the USSR
  • Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador
  • Victor M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • Europe; Nuclear Understanding; Jackson Amendment; Middle East

[The conversation began over cocktails in a room adjoining the dining room.]

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

Middle East

FM Gromyko: Alright. Now the Middle East. I would like to listen to you. I remember what you said to the General-Secretary and the Prime Minister.

Dr. Kissinger: As I told Anatoliy, we think we know how we might get a settlement with Jordan, but we don’t think it is a good idea to have a separate settlement with Jordan. So we think a settlement with Egypt is the heart of the problem. We have not spoken with anyone. We are not aware of any secret Israeli plan, whatever you may read, or any secret Israeli/Egyptian talks.

Our view is that it is important to make an initial major step with respect to Egypt. I was never wild about the idea of an interim settlement but I believe the biggest problem is to get Israel to make an initial step back. The longer it stays the way it is, the harder it will be. Therefore, we should try to get the situation into a state of flux. Without a final determination, we should approach the problem from a standpoint of security, of security zones, without raising the issue of sovereignty. For example, the notion that Egyptian sovereignty extends up to the 1967 borders but for a certain period the Sinai will be divided into zones—one zone where both sides can station their forces, other zones [Page 1057] where there can be some patrolling but no stationed forces, and maybe a buffer zone between them. Thus, for example, Sinai could be divided into five regions. In that event Egyptian civil administration would extend immediately to the borders.

I doubt Israel would accept this. In fact I am sure Israel would not accept this without massive pressure. If it is conceivable we could perhaps apply something like it to the Golan Heights. The major problem is to get some movement, or else the situation will be frozen so no movement can ever get started. Once movement starts, other pressures can continue to work.

FM Gromyko: I have two questions. First, does the United States accept the principle of withdrawal from all occupied territory? Second, does the United States accept the principle of a package deal? An all-embracing settlement?

Dr. Kissinger: When you say all-embracing, you mean Syria, because we can get the others.

FM Gromyko: I mean vertical as well as horizontal. I mean that the Suez Canal cannot be separated from withdrawal and the Palestinian question and Gaza and . . .

Dr. Kissinger: We would like to separate out the question of the Canal, but I see that the others are related to each other. But in my view the only justified solution is one all sides can accept. We would like to make progress towards a settlement. If it can be achieved only by a global approach, we will consider a global approach. Our view up to now, which has not changed, is that we should see if we can get a settlement on the Suez Canal first.

FM Gromyko: But Egypt will not accept this.

Dr. Kissinger: So we will look at the other approach. My own view, as I have told Anatoliy, is that a global approach will lead to no settlement. This is what Israel would prefer, because it means no settlement will occur. They would love to discuss this.

FM Gromyko: What nonetheless do you think practically can be done? Before November, or after November.

Dr. Kissinger: After November we should take the principles we agreed on in Moscow2 and apply them concretely to each area, to Egypt, to Jordan and to Syria. And then discuss how one tries to implement the right solution—whether to pass a UN resolution or apply direct pressure. If pressure is ever to be applied to Israel, it is better to do it earlier in the Administration.

[Page 1058]

FM Gromyko: We have talked with some Arabs in New York, and they have indicated again, they have reiterated, that they can’t accept a partial settlement without it being part of a global settlement and without withdrawal of Israeli forces. Then am I right that you are not prepared now to discuss this in a concrete way?

Dr. Kissinger: To discuss what?

FM Gromyko: The whole problem.

Dr. Kissinger: The only thing I mentioned was security zones. I have said I could not come up with a very concrete plan by now. What we should discuss is what do you mean by a concrete proposal.

FM Gromyko: Speaking concretely, what do you think about withdrawal? Are you in favor of complete withdrawal or not? Second, on the question of a partial or all-embracing settlement, it is a fact that without an all-embracing settlement a partial one won’t give results, because the Arabs reject it. As for Sharm el-Sheikh you know our position: Egyptian sovereignty plus a temporary stationing of UN personnel. With respect to the Gaza, the people there must determine their own destiny.

Dr. Kissinger: All this is in the paper you gave us.3

FM Gromyko: There must be some solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees. On Suez, Egypt is prepared to allow peaceful passage of Israeli shipping. With respect to Israel’s independence and sovereignty and existence, we agree to this, and the Arabs too, although without enthusiasm! With respect to guarantees, we are prepared to join with you in the most rigorous way possible, that is in the United Nations Security Council. Well, if we agreed on this, then we together could bring the necessary influence to bear on the parties concerned.

In short, what is your advice to me? What should I report to the General-Secretary on your views?

Dr. Kissinger: On the problem of guarantees, the history of UN guarantees does not create confidence that they operate when they are needed. This is the President’s view: We will work for a common position we can agree to, on the basis of the principles we reached in Moscow. But at some time, it is essential to recognize realities. The Arabs may recognize Israel’s right to exist, but the same was true of India and Pakistan before the war.4 The peculiarity of the Middle East is that war arises among countries who are already at war; everywhere else war arises among countries who are already at peace! What we need is some concern for security. We are prepared to bring pressure on Israel [Page 1059] short of military pressure. We will not allow outside military pressure. Economic or moral pressures we are willing to do.

FM Gromyko: You did not reply. What should I tell the General-Secretary?

Dr. Kissinger: On some of the proposals you have suggested, we disagree. On others we agree; on others we should discuss.

FM Gromyko: When?

Dr. Kissinger: Early November, after the election. Say the 15th or the 14th or the 13th.

Amb. Dobrynin: You will need one week after the election for celebration!

[At 3:45 the meeting ended. Dr. Kissinger had to return to the White House and would come back to the Embassy at 4:15 to pick up the Foreign Minister and the Ambassador and accompany them to Camp David.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 495, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 13. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The conversation took place at the Soviet Embassy. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors. For the full text of the memorandum of conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974, Document 55.
  2. See Document 292.
  3. See footnote 1, Document 291.
  4. Reference is to the Indo-Pakistani war of December 1971.