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217. Message From President Nixon to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev1

Dear Mr. General Secretary:

As you know, I have dispatched Secretary Kissinger urgently to Moscow to consult with you regarding the termination of the current conflict in the Middle East.

The purpose of this brief note2 is to emphasize to you that Dr. Kissinger speaks with my full authority and that the commitments that he may make in the course of your discussions have my complete support.3

I am confident that if you and I work together on this explosive problem, we can find a solution which will bring a lasting peace to the area. It will, however, require a firm commitment from both of us to devote our personal efforts toward achieving that goal and to provide the strong leadership which our respective friends in the area will find persuasive.

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I am sending a message to Dr. Kissinger which he will convey orally to you, of my strong personal commitment in this regard.4

Sincerely,

Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 70, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Exchange of Notes Between Dobrynin & Kissinger, Vol. 7. No classification marking. A handwritten notation at the top of the page reads: “[illegible] by Gen. Scowcroft, 10/20/73, 11:25 a.m.” A note in Nixon’s handwriting at the bottom of the page reads: “Mrs. Nixon joins me in sending our best personal regards to Mrs. Brezhnev and to you.”
  2. In telegram Tohak 14/WH32541, October 20, 1449Z, Scowcroft sent Kissinger the text of the note to Brezhnev and wrote of the President’s motivation for this personal message. (Ibid., Box 39, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Moscow, Tel Aviv, London, TOHAK 1–60, Oct. 20–23, 1973)
  3. In telegram Hakto 3, October 20, 1610Z, Kissinger stressed that the message should not contain the phrase “speaks with my full authority” since he needed to be in a position to insist to the Russians that he had to pass proposals back to the President for his consideration. (Ibid., HAKTO, SECTO, TOSEC, Misc., Oct. 20–23, 1973) In telegram Tohak 24/WH32553, October 20, 1807Z, Scowcroft wrote that the Secretary’s modifications in Hakto 3 did not arrive in time given Nixon’s insistence that the message go out. (Ibid., TOHAK 1–60 October 20–23, 1973) Kissinger recalled: “I was horrified. The letter meant that I would be deprived of any capacity to stall. Moreover, the letter implied that the Soviets and we would impose an overall Mideast settlement on the parties and that I was empowered to discuss that subject as well—a concession totally contrary to our strategy until now, which sought to separate the cease-fire from a political settlement.” He added: “Undoubtedly, Nixon’s eager involvement reflected a desire to be identified with something more elevating than the interminable and sordid legal disputes over the Watergate tapes.” (Years of Upheaval, p. 547)
  4. At 10:30 p.m. on October 20, Vorontsov delivered Brezhnev’s reply, which thanked the President for his “kind letter” and stated that he understood that Dr. Kissinger, Nixon’s “closest associate,” would speak on the President’s behalf and that any commitments he might make during their discussions would have Nixon’s complete support. Brezhnev added that he agreed that “the present explosive situation in the Middle East” demanded their serious attention and believed that their great personal efforts would be needed to work out a “cardinal solution that would bring a lasting peace corresponding to the interests of all the peoples of the Middle East.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 70, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Exchange of Notes Between Dobrynin and Kissinger, Vol. 7)