194. Message From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Nixon1

As we have already informed the President we are now engaged in consultations with the leaders of Arab countries concerning the formula suggested by the US side for the decision by the Security Council on the questions of ceasefire and withdrawal of the Israeli forces.2 For the completion of these consultations we will need some more time.

Meanwhile L.I. Brezhnev would like to share with the President his thoughts of a broader scope in connection with the latest events in the Middle East.

What is going on now in the Middle East is in his view, in some degree, also a test of the determination of both our powers to strictly adhere to the course they took in their relations and in international affairs.

The situation is, no doubt, a complex one. It is clear to both the Soviet leadership and the President. The United States and the Soviet [Page 563]Union, to put it straight, have certain established relations with Israel and with the Arab countries correspondingly, and their positions on the questions of a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict differ in many ways.

However, the trouble is not only in that—and may be not so much because of the fact—that the Soviet Union and the United States are of different positions on the Middle East problem. The main thing in this case is that they differently evaluate the situation in the Middle East in the absence of a political settlement there.

The Soviet leaders constantly—and quite recently as well—have drawn the attention of the President to the danger of this situation which threatened with a new explosion at any time. We do not want to allow the thought that the United States desired such an explosion. This would not correspond to the obvious interests of the US itself, as we understand them, and this has been repeatedly said to us by the American side. However it remains the fact that the American side quite indifferently treated our warnings.

The differences in our evaluations of the danger in the lack of settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict can be, of course, the matter of regret. But now this is not what really matters and we shall deal not with this. Now we should look for the ways to unwind the situation. In other words—it is necessary to talk about the future.

While thinking about the present situation and searching for a way out of it one inevitably comes to a thought which may be not a new one but deals with the heart of the problem. Whatever is the outcome of the present hostilities—and it is difficult to foretell it—one thing remains clear: there will be no stable peace in the Middle East unless Israel withdraws from the occupied Arab lands. This is the crust of the matter—and we are deeply convinced in it.

And no matter what wording after all the Security Council adopts, the real meaning of it will be in an immediate turning—using it as a starting point—to the solution of the substance of the problem, and not in dealing with a search of palliative measures. And the substance of the problem—and we would like to definitely emphasize that once again—is in the very necessity of the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all the Arab territories occupied in 1967. Naturally, at the same time with that, the security of all states of the area, including Israel, and their borders would be guaranteed—either by the decision of the Security Council or by the great powers; with the withdrawal of the Israeli troops the state of war would be discontinued and the freedom of navigation for Israeli ships as well in the Suez canal and in the straits would be ensured. And other questions of interest to Israel could be also solved, but of course, there may be no question of satisfying Israel’s territorial claims.

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What may be unacceptable here for Israel and those supporting it? And indeed, all those measures would strengthen the security and the very existence of Israel as a sovereign state. It is known that both our countries—the USSR and the USA—contributed a quarter-century ago to the creation of that state. And consequently the Soviet Union has never been and is not for the liquidation of Israel as a state, although in Israel—and not only there—there are people who slander the Soviet Union, forgetting those facts as well as the gratitude which they expressed to us in the past for saving millions of Jews from bloody massacres by Hitler hangmen. There was a time when those, who are now fulminating an anathema against us in the US and other countries, held thanksgiving church services in honor of the Soviet arms that saved many peoples, including Jewish people, from extermination in the years of joint USSRUS fighting against the fascist plague.

The above stated position regarding the ways of settling the Middle East crisis seems to us, we repeat, as both being just and ensuring the legitimate interests of all states and peoples of that region.

It should not be difficult, as it seems, for the US Government as well to take a similar position, since President Nixon in his speech in the White House on October 153 also spoke for the right of each state in the Middle East to preserve its independence and sovereignty, for the discontinuance of military actions there on such a basis, which a lasting peace could be built upon.

True, it was noticed in Moscow that in the same speech of the President of October 15, there appeared a motif of a quite different order. We have in mind his words to the effect that the US policy in connection with the current events in the Middle East is similar to the policy pursued by the US in 1958 when Lebanon was the case. Statements of this kind which recreate in the memory the intervention of the American marines in Lebanon are in no way consistent with the above-mentioned and cannot but cause concern.

In this connection L.I. Brezhnev would like to stress specifically the following thought and he hopes that the President will consider it with due attention: however far the current events have gone they have not passed the point of no return. Therefore the leaders of both the Soviet Union and the United States should exercise restraint.

We are aware that there exist influential circles in the US which would like to destroy what has been already built at a price of great efforts. That should not be allowed.

Those circles have fanned up a real hysteria, and this definition is not ours, the Americans themselves say that. But, let’s put it straight, [Page 565]this hysteria aimed against the Arab countries strengthens distrust of the US policy.

The opinion is being formed that the US supports only one policy of Israel, the policy of expansion and annexation of foreign lands. You may disagree with that. But we would like to let you know our appraisal if both we and you want to look into future.

We, on our part, have been doing and will do everything in order not to allow such a turn. We would like to hope that the American side would act in the same way.

If both sides strictly adhere to such a measured approach, despite the difficulties which each side faces, the future course of events will undoubtedly bring forth only positive results. And we shall be able to continue the construction of edifice which we have started to build.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 69, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 20, October 12–November 21, 1973. No classification marking. The message is attached to a note from Dobrynin to Kissinger that reads: “Dear Henry, I am sending you herewith the oral message I have told you about this morning over the telephone. Sincerely, A. Dobrynin.” A handwritten notation at the top of the page reads: “Handcarried to Peter Burke by Yuri Babenko at approx. 10:30 a.m., 10–17–73.”
  2. See Document 193.
  3. For the text of Nixon’s remarks on the Middle East during his October 15 speech, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1973, p. 871.