20. Message From the Soviet Leadership to President Nixon1

In continuation of the confidential exchange of opinion on questions of the Middle East settlement we would like now to inform the President of a recent discussion on these questions with Mr. Ismail, President Sadat’s advisor.

In receiving Mr. Ismail in Moscow the Soviet side proceeded from the fact that, though it was previously aware of Egypt’s position of principle on the Middle East settlement it was useful and necessary to discuss the questions once again, having particularly in mind the prospective activization of the Soviet-American dialog on these questions, which is agreed upon between the President and L.I. Brezhnev.2

An exchange of opinion took place in the course of talks with Mr. Ismail on a general situation in the Middle East and also on possibilities of a settlement of the dangerous to world peace Middle East conflict, especially in the light of the achieved agreement on ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam and in the light of a continuous lessening of tension in Europe.

Mr. Ismail reaffirmed the invariability of Egypt’s position on the necessity to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict on a just basis which should mean fulfilment first of all of two main principles: a withdrawal of the [Page 53]Israeli forces from all occupied Arab territories to the line of June 5, 1967, and guaranteeing of lawful rights of the Arab people of Palestine.

The settlement in the Middle East, as Egyptians stress it, can be carried out by several stages but within a framework of a single plan (in package), so that all elements of the settlement are coordinated and balanced among themselves, and in each of the stages the sides in conflict should undertake appropriate obligations.

Mr. Ismail has underlined that the Egyptian side continues to believe that as a basis for the solution of this problem can and should serve a plan of settlement which, as is known, was brought by us to the knowledge of the American side and was at one time the subject of a discussion. And it was clearly stated by Mr. Ismail that there can be no separate Israeli-Egyptian settlement independent from the settlement between Israel and other Arab countries involved in the conflict.

Mr. Ismail set forth well-grounded, to our mind, objections of the Egyptian side against any version of a “partial” settlement which, being not an inseparable, organic part of a single plan, could be used to perpetuate the Israeli occupation of Arab territories.

Mr. Ismail has noted that Egypt does not intend to connect the conflict in the Middle East with other international problems since the solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be made more difficult if seach for such a solution is connected, for example, with the problem of European security and other problems.

In general as a result of our talks with Mr. Ismail we once again satisfied ourselves that the leaders of Egypt are ready to reach a political solution of the Middle East problem on a basis just to all the countries involved, including Israel. They are ready to try to have a new round of practical steps in that direction, though they claim that they do not specifically believe in the possibility of change towards realism in the positions of both Israel and the United States.

At the same time we have got an impression from our talks with Mr. Ismail that, if at this time also no progress is reached towards political solution of this vital to them problem, the Arabs can turn to the use of other possible means of its solution. While understanding the complexity of using other methods of struggle they nevertheless state that in case of a next failure of their efforts to reach a just political settlement they simply will have no other alternative.

We on our part have stressed the importance of finding practical ways for solution of this prolonged and utterly dangerous problem, having in mind that ultimately the Arab peoples themselves should decide both their position and their further method of action in solving this problem.

All this, to our mind, confirms the necessity to activize the search of a way out from the deadlock which developed in the question of the [Page 54]Middle East settlement. For this purpose a joint contribution is needed on the part of all concerned, and not the least—on the part of our two countries, the United States and the Soviet Union. We on our part are ready for a more active and concrete discussion with the American side of the developed situation and of the ways to overcome difficulties in the Middle East settlement on the basis of implementation of the Security Council resolution what both our countries favour.

While informing the President of our talks with Mr. Ismail we proceed from the premise that a mutual exchange of information on this question is useful for rendering necessary assistance in finding an acceptable for all interested parties solution of the Middle East problem.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 70, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Exchange of Notes Between Dobrynin and Kissinger, Vol. 5. No classification marking. A handwritten notation at the top of the page reads: “Handcarried by Vorontsov on 2–18–73, 10:00 a.m.”
  2. President Nixon and General Secretary Brezhnev agreed to this at the May 1972 summit. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 284.
  3. In his memoirs, Kissinger commented on the Soviet message: “In short, the Soviets were putting forward, under the threat of war, an intransigent Arab program certain to lead to deadlock or confrontation. By opposing both an interim agreement and a separate Israeli-Egyptian settlement, Moscow was objectively encouraging a blowup. The Kremlin may have calculated that a crisis would force the United States to engage itself. But excessive cleverness rarely pays in diplomacy. Moscow’s dilemma was that it could contribute to a settlement only by urging its Arab clients to compromise. Unwilling to do this, it both encouraged a blowup and recoiled from its consequences, condemning itself eventually to a seat on the sidelines.” (Years of Upheaval, p. 210)