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120. Message From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Nixon1

Dear Mr. President:

The messages you transmitted to us through Dr. Kissinger in connection with the latest developments in the Middle East have been thoroughly considered by myself and my colleagues, and we have already expressed to you some of our own considerations on the matter.

Now I would like to share with you in greater detail some of the thoughts in connection with that of your messages, in which you regarded the situation in the Middle East as a “very and very serious” one.

You do remember of course, Mr. President, that both in our talks in Moscow, Washington and San-Clemente and in my correspondence with you I, on my part, constantly expressed a serious concern about the lack of progress in the political settlement, and emphasized in every way possible that in these circumstances a new outbreak of hostilities may happen there at any moment.

Quite recently in his talks with you, Mr. Gromyko stated the same as well, on behalf of the Soviet leadership.2

In order to prevent dangerous developments and to give a necessary impetus to the peaceful settlement in the Middle East on the basis of the known UN decisions, we suggested to you that the USSR and the US should reach a mutual understanding regarding the key points of such a settlement.

Unfortunately you were not, however, ready for that. And now the situation in the Middle East has once again gravely deteriorated.

As it was to be expected, the calculations that the cease-fire would last there indefinitely without the termination of the Israeli aggression, without the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from all the Arab territories occupied by it in 1967, turned out to be in vain.

It would be possible to say a lot more on that matter but the main thing now, when our warnings have already come true, is to take urgently effective measures for eliminating the initial cause of the conflict. Without it the situation in the Middle East will continue to remain the source of constant danger. Partial measures will not help here.

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In this connection, in our view, it would be very important if there come on the part of Israel a clear, without any reservations, statement of its readiness to withdraw from the Arab territories occupied by it, having in mind that at the same time security of Israel, as well as of other countries of that area, would be guaranteed.

What is unacceptable in this for Israel if—as its leaders constantly claim—they are concerned with these very questions of security? Would it not correspond to the interests of the Israeli people themselves and is it at all possible to seek security of a state in a seizure of foreign territories?

As you know, Mr. President, we have always called upon the sides to exercise restraint, consistently advocating the very cause of political settlement. But the lack of any progress up till now in this direction could certainly not but affect the effectiveness of such our calls.

And, as we firmly believe, the giving up by Israel of its claims to the Arab lands could ensure a turning point in the dangerous situation in the Middle East, could be a beginning of the process of settlement on the basis of the UN decisions.

We would like to hope that now, when the situation makes it espesially imperative, the United States will use the means at their disposal for a necessary influence on Israel in this direction.

It goes without saying that we are ready to continue the Soviet-American confidential consultations on the whole Middle Eastern problem along the lines we have talked about during the meeting with you, Mr. President.

We would like to underline specifically the following. We firmly proceed from the premise that the current events in the Middle East should not cast a shadow on all the good things which have developed recently in the Soviet-American relations. We do not allow a thought to the contrary.3

Respectfully,

L. Brezhnev4
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 68, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 19 [July 13, 1973–Oct. 11, 1973]. Top Secret. A handwritten notation at the top of the page reads: “Handed to Gen. Scowcroft by Minister Vorontsov, 6:00 p.m., October 7, 1973.”
  2. See Document 92.
  3. At 3:25 p.m. on October 7, prior to delivery of this message, Dobrynin telephoned Kissinger to give him the Soviet reply. Kissinger said that Dobrynin knew as well as he did that this message did not say anything, and commented that they were going to have “a critical period” that week. Dobrynin expressed the hope that it would not be a crisis. Kissinger commented that Dobrynin knew perfectly well that the United States was prepared to ask Israel after the fighting was over to make “accelerated diplomatic moves.” He noted that he had been prepared to make a speech the next day in which he was going to advocate MFN for the Soviet Union, among other things, but that he might have to drop that section from the speech, depending on developments. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Material, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 22) Printed in Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 97–98.
  4. The original bears this typed signature.