5. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1


  • The President
  • The Vice President
  • The Secretary of State, William P. Rogers
  • The Secretary of Defense, Melvin R. Laird
  • (For Joint Chiefs of Staff) General McConnell
  • Under Secretary of State, Elliot L. Richardson
  • Director, Office of Emergency Preparedness, General George A. Lincoln
  • US Ambassador to the UN, Charles Yost
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
  • Colonel Alexander Haig
  • Harold H. Saunders
  • The Director of Central Intelligence, Richard M. Helms (for part of the meeting)

President: Mentioned effective Kissinger paper on options;2 asked Kissinger to distribute to members of Council.

Kissinger: Presentation based on talking points.

President: Is it accurate to say that 1967 war came without the expectation or intention of any of parties?

Kissinger: Yes.

[Page 25]

Yost: Agree.

Rogers: Rusk told him he concerned about repeat because rumors similar to 1967 circulating again.

President: I ask because it relevant to contigency planning—shows necessity for planning to consider unexpected. The more we can let our minds—when we have the luxury of time—run to the unexpected.

Laird: Problem: We’re spending time on procedure rather than on where we want to come out.

Our main purpose is to avoid war with USSR. Time coming when Israel will announce it has 10 missiles on the line just when we delivering F–4s. If we look at where we want to come out, we ought to begin putting some pressure on Israeli government. We have to be in position of pressing Israel but at same time promise to work with USSR to limit arms.

President: At end of meeting, talk about how to get plan for what we’re after before negotiators sit down. Laird’s point well taken. We must know what we want rather than saying we want whatever we can negotiate.

Yost: Agree. We may even want to put part of it on the table.

President: We tend in government too often to think too much about how we look in public.

Rogers: Procedures become substance.

President: One substantive decision we make is that we are going to take the initiative, which we haven’t done before. That’s a major decision. But we want to negotiate on our terms—not other peoples’ terms.

An imposed settlement in the Mid-East—not in terms of the formality but in terms of the skill of our negotiation—is what has to be done.

Laird: We have to think what’s going to happen with Israel. Our overriding purpose to avoid war with USSR. Israeli nuclear capability would increase risk.

Rogers: What makes you think Israel will announce?

Lincoln: Even if they don’t, we have a responsibility if we know. And USSR will know.

President: Henry, proceed. Talk about how we meld 2-power and 4-power, “as frankly I feel we must do.”

Kissinger: Intimate relationship among all these things. On overall settlement, I’ll concentrate on 4-power and 2-power approaches. Other two options have little support—let Jarring go by himself or US mediation.

[Page 26]

Spelled out pros and cons in February 3 memo, “The Middle East—Some Policy Considerations.”3

Whichever way we go, we can still regulate the intensity via diplomatic and public handling.

Kissinger then turned to amerliorative steps in the absence of a settlement. Foremost is the Israeli nuclear problem, which could draw USSR even more into the Mid-East with some form guarantee for the Arabs.

Review Group has not addressed itself fully to these basic issues. Mainly concentrated on negotiating options.

President: We’ve gone down the road on procedures because events have moved us on.

French note4—have to respond. But poses a problem with Israel’s friends.

How we set up this forum can be a major decision on substance.

We accept 4-power approach in principle but have bilateral discussions first.

Most important to move talks along with Russians.

On my trip,5 four-power talks not high on agenda. But opportunity to use them to draw de Gaulle toward us.

Need talking paper: What they might bring up and what we want.6

Handle letter in low-key way. Don’t announce, just acknowledge.

Rogers: State has never felt that four-power should supersede two-power.

Yost: Soviet ambassador said we must work closely.

President: “Don’t be in any hurry to have anything done on the four-power front.”

“At UN go to the two-power forum. Start talking with Soviets.”

Rogers: When Dobrynin comes back (around February 7) may have instructions.

President: Harmful if we give impression that four-power forum where things will be settled. Main value as umbrella. Lip service to dealing with British and French.

[Page 27]

Laird raised Israeli nuclear question.

What are we going to guarantee Israel?

We have to face up to that question.

We have to tell Israelis what we’re prepared to do.

Richardson: Rabin says:

1. Israel disinterested in international guarantees.

2. If US and USSR provide guarantees, this juxtaposes US and USSR in Mid-East in a dangerous way.

President: I’d make that point if I were Rabin. But I’d bet if Mid-East fighting breaks out again, there’s a 50 percent chance we’ll be dragged in.

It’s “not necessarily” true the USSR will stay out, even if they should.

If Israel in danger and calls on us to do something.

Greater danger each time Mid-East fighting comes around. Greater in 1967 than in 1956. Rabin doesn’t take account of this. [“Rabin reminds me of Radford.”]7

By the time we take this trip, be prepared to talk.

President: I have arranged that each week Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson to be briefed.

Briefing on Mid-East contingency plans.

Purpose of plans: to deter and then to force hostile forces to withdraw.

Soviets have capability to project force overseas as they did not five years ago.

[Comment: President again, as February 1, seems to be groping to understand Soviet intentions, degree of concertedness in decision making.]

Kissinger: Question raised whether we could repeat our approach to Cuban missile crisis.

President: This gets down to “mission Gerard Smith8 has.” [ACDA]

President: In looking at military contingency plan stages, could State prepare a comparable “diplomatic symphony” going at the same time.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–109, NSC Meeting Minutes, NSC Minutes Originals 1969. Top Secret. Drafted on May 1 by Saunders. All brackets are in the original. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting was held in the Cabinet Room from 10:07 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files)
  2. See footnote 2, Document 3.
  3. Kissinger’s February 3 memorandum explored the “arguments for and against seeking a general settlement” immediately and considered “ways of trying for a general settlement,” including the pros and cons of the Four- and Two-Power approaches. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 651, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East through December 1969)
  4. See footnote 9, Document 4.
  5. Nixon traveled to Europe February 23-March 2.
  6. “The Points We Want to Leave in Europe,” February 19. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 442, President’s Trip Files, President Nixon’s Trip to Europe, February–March 1969 (2 of 2))
  7. Admiral Arthur W. Radford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1953–1957.
  8. Gerard C. Smith, Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1969 until 1973 and Chief of the U.S. Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.