221. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • USSR
  • General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev
  • Foreign Minister A.A. Gromyko
  • Deputy Foreign Minister V.V. Kuznetsov
  • Mr. G.M. Kornienko, Chief, USA Division
  • Ambassador A. Dobrynin
  • Mr. A.M. Alexandrov-Agentov, Aide to CPSU General Secretary Brezhnev
  • Mr. V.M. Sukhodrev, Interpreter
  • US
  • Secretary Kissinger
  • Assistant Secretary Joseph J. Sisco
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary Alfred L. Atherton
  • Director of Planning and Coordination Winston Lord
  • Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC Staff
  • Mr. William Hyland, NSC Staff
[Page 634]

B: My voice situation is that my doctors keep treating me and I keep . . .

K: That’s good for my nerves.

B: In that case I shall do my best to cure my voice. I have been thinking about how we should proceed today, and I have the following suggestions to make. Yesterday in general terms you expressed your attitude in principle to points raised in our latest document.2 Now to speak in the same general terms to you as yesterday, let me say I and my colleagues have formed the impression that you regard that document as a good and constructive basis for our work and for possible agreement between us.

As I understand it, in the latest letter I have received from the President,3 he feels that if we act in the spirit of accord, in the spirit of attempting to find an acceptable solution, and in the spirit of seeking to take concerted actions after the cease fire, we can find a good way out of the present situation. I want to be sure I understood the President’s message correctly. Therefore, if you have no doubts as to my having correctly understood the theme of the President’s message, I would suggest—I’m sure this goes for diplomats as for ordinary people—less words and more deeds.

I therefore suggest we begin the process of practically ironing out acceptable formulas, that is, we should immediately proceed point by point to what was stated in the document. Take point one, for instance, reach agreement on that; then we could inform President Nixon we reached agreement on that, and subsequent points under discussion are in the process of being concerted. In general, I should like to keep President Nixon informed on all steps we take here; inform him quickly as possible. I feel he would like that. I want this to be so because the President himself has reacted very promptly to all of my messages and I should like to respond in kind. If you agree, we could take up point one and endeavor to reach agreement on it. We feel this would bring us closer to adoption of a constructive decision and if such a decision is arrived at, Dr. Kissinger could take two days off and go to Leningrad before going home.

Seriously, we should proceed from the assumption that we have spent quite enough time discussing the general proposals of our talks and that, as I see it, we have reached a measure of accord on that score. Therefore, we should now turn to concrete work, and I believe we should take up the three points rather than relegating them to some kind of commission. It is better for us to bear the responsibility for deci[Page 635]sions of such vital importance rather than to relegate the decisions to someone else. If we did that, there would be no need to meet face to face, relegating it to a committee, instead of meeting face to face across the table, and in a very good atmosphere.

And, also, I proceed from the assumption that we certainly understand and realize you have certain difficulties as regards bringing your allies and friends to accept this or that decision. I trust you will realize we too have difficulties of the same sort, and particularly since we have more states to deal with than you. You have just Israel. We have the entire Arab world. We feel we are such major states we can, as President Nixon says, we can have decisive influence on decisions and a joint decision taken by us could prevail. What President Nixon said, I certainly agree with. Getting down to specific points, perhaps we can reach agreement quite quickly for something constructive to suggest to President Nixon and to finding an end to the conflict.

And, I also proceed from another assumption. That is, that I have noticed in my three years of experience conducting discussions with Dr. Kissinger that I turn out to be the man who makes all the concessions. You know that is true, that is why you are smiling. What about my position? I have to do all the crying.

I would then suggest that perhaps, Dr. Kissinger, if you agree, that you might give me the benefit of your comments on all three points of the resolution, of the document. We could then get down to concrete discussion and do away with abstractions.

K: If we do away with abstractions, we will have nothing left to say.

B: But I do think we ought . . .

K: Mr. General Secretary, you have correctly understood the letter of President Nixon, and I agree we should proceed with the attitude you described.

B: That is the only way we can act in order to get down to business.

K: I also agree we should go point by point. Could I ask one procedural question, because it is not clear from our discussion what we are attempting to do. Is it our intention to do something that, with the concurrence of the parties, we submit to the Security Council, or something simply we submit to the parties? I wasn’t fully clear yesterday what you had in mind. We are open minded.

B: While we have no pride in this respect, as I understood it yesterday, we seemed to reach an accord on a general approach. We could reach agreement on a certain proposal which we could, with the concurrence of the sides, present to the Security Council, and that would be acceptable to both sides—this is one possible method of action. If we feel it would be more expedient for our two states to bring influence to [Page 636]bear on the Arabs on the hand, and Israel on the other, and induce them to move forward to a peaceful settlement, that is another possibility I would agree with equally. In that event, too, we should start now by discussing the specific points, point by point. So if you have a certain preference, I would be glad if you told me.

If we proceed from the premise that we cannot do anything at all, you cannot influence the Israelis and we cannot influence the Arabs, or proceed from the premise that we can do nothing through the Security Council in the sense of bringing about a resolution aimed at a settlement, first a cease fire and then a settlement, then the question arises why is our meeting necessary at all. Certainly I agreed to it in the sincere hope this meeting would proceed from the point towards a final acceptable solution that would serve the cause of reaching a peaceful settlement. How can we do that? By discussing the proposals. I’m not claiming the proposals are ideal or can be accepted as they stand right now. Certainly various amendments can be made to the proposals, but let us right now begin a calm and friendly discussion of those proposals, just as we did at San Clemente4 in a truly friendly spirit.

Now our conversation may present a few ideas. Some of the world’s greatest discoveries and inventions were made by the greatest scientists sort of off the cuff. Therefore, I believe in this case it is another thing we must take into account. The Security Council was convened at the initiative of the United States, and is still in session. As I now see it, if we start trying to work out a set of proposals bypassing the Security Council, that would not be the best way of acting. So I think we should endeavor not to violate the UN Charter, those provisions of the Security Council should be maintained.

We should give preference to the following method. Make an effort to elaborate proposals which could in a form that had been agreed by us be submitted to the Security Council in the hope that the Security Council will vote in favor of those proposals. I believe if we do succeed in elaborating such proposals, any point we agreed on should be mutually acceptable. Give no one a unilateral advantage, the Arabs, Israelis, the Soviet Union or the United States. They should be couched in such terms as to promote the good relations established between our countries, in such terms as would enable us to go further forward along the path we have chosen for development of our relations and the good will existing between us. And that also would be absolutely correct from our point of view for in international practice our two sides will have to take a constructive decision on these matters. If we just acted alone, we might have to face questions from various quarters and they [Page 637]might be so numerous that a full year would not be enough to cope with them.

K: I think we should follow the plan outlined by the General Secretary. I think we should attempt to come to some understanding here, then discuss it with the parties, and if we agree, have the possibility to exercise great influence on the parties, and then submit it to the Security Council. And, then after the cease fire, our two sides can continue exchanges on how to move towards peace, towards the final solution.

B: I have one substantial comment to make regarding this. I will be quite frank. I will not conceal. Let us endeavor to reach a constructive solution. You know as well as we do how contradictory the views and attitudes of the two sides are regarding the present situation, especially today, when there is a war on in the area. If we reach agreement here between us, and I am sure we can do that, and if we then start talking, we with the Arab world and you with the Israelis, the Israelis will confront you with so many questions as the Arabs will with us, our agreement will be worth nothing. We will not be able to act jointly in the Security Council. It will mean all we have talked about, about being able to influence the sides, agreeing to reach solutions, all that will hang suspended. We will lose our prestige, and they will say we were only pretending we can influence the parties, and in fact we cannot. As soon as we reach agreement, let us submit it to the Security Council. Then another matter arises, informing the sides. We can say this is what we have agreed to and are submitting to the Security Council. That is what we are going to do and you can do whatever you like. It is the only way to proceed.

K: Mr. General Secretary, I propose we try to reach agreement. We can then decide on tactics. In principle, if we reach agreement, then we should submit it soon after to the Security Council to bring about an end to the hostilities.

B: Let us indeed take that method. Let us then proceed to a point by point discussion. Let us take up all these things. We are prepared to hear you.

K: How do we do it? Let me read yours and then give you our suggestions. Would that be acceptable? First point, as I have it from your Ambassador was, “A call to the sides to immediately cease fire and all military action on the positions where the troops actually are.”

B: That’s correct.

K: Let me read the redraft I have. It is very similar to yours, only a little more precise.

B: Please. I am sharpening my knives for peaceful purposes. (Picking up a knife to eat an apple.)

K: “Calls upon all parties to the present fighting, including those who are not directly involved but have sent military units to the area of [Page 638]combat, to cease all fighting and terminate all military activity immediately in the positions they now occupy.” It is really only a little more precise.

B: Is that all of point one?

K: The only difference is that we just want an equal commitment from other Arab countries, that’s the only difference. Should I go on?

B: Please.

K: I’ll read your point, then our point. “Call upon parties to start immediately after the ceasefire a phased withdrawal of the Israeli troops from the occupied Arab territories to the line in accordance with Resolution 242 of the Security Council, with completion of this withdrawal in the shortest period of time.”

B: Yes, I have it before me.

K: Ours is much shorter. “Calls upon parties concerned to start immediately after the ceasefire . . .

B: Would you write it?

K: It’s very short, yes, we will give it to you in writing. “Calls upon parties concerned to start immediately after cease fire the implementation of Security Council Resolution 242 in all of its parts.” I must say this—just for your information—it has not been at all discussed with Israel. In fact, they have told us that they do not accept any linkage with 242. I just wanted to tell you. We are submitting this as an indication of our willingness to proceed in the spirit the General Secretary outlined.

B: We will get a translation. I will then look into it in greater detail. It is very difficult to get all the details by ear. I trust you will give it in writing.

K: Point three. I will read yours, just as a check, then I will read our point three. “A decision to start immediately and concurrently with the ceasefire appropriate consultations aimed at establishing a just and honorable peace in the Middle East.” Just for checking.

B: Durable peace.

K: I was wondering, I have never seen the word “honorable” before . . .

B: It is durable.

K: I didn’t hear it correctly on the phone.

B: It is wrongly translated in this paper.

K: We have for point three. “Call upon parties concerned to start immediately and concurrently with a cease fire appropriate negotiations under appropriate auspices aimed at achieving paragraph two above and aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.”

Sisco: “appropriate auspices to establish . . . ”

[Page 639]

K: “Aimed at establishing . . . aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.” And if you wanted—we don’t insist on it—what we mean by just and durable peace—“in conditions of mutual security and respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area within secure and recognized borders.” We will write it out and give you a text.

B: What a hard time I have with you.

K: It is basically the words of your proposal.

B: After this discussion I am going to file an application. We have a higher diplomatic school. I’m going to take that course. It may be easier to talk to you.

K: We have never failed yet, Mr. General Secretary, in our negotiations and we won’t fail in this one.

B: That seems to be a promising prospect. I have a feeling we are going to have a nice dinner together tonight, starting off much earlier than we did yesterday, which will be a prize for us.

[Omitted here is material on the detailed negotiation between Kissinger and Brezhnev on the language of the Security Council resolution.]

K: Let me sum up so we are very sure. Our understanding of “auspices” is that at the opening of negotiations and at some critical moments the U.S. and Soviet Union will be participants in the process of negotiations.

B: We will participate.

K: Right, not at every session, but at key points. This is our understanding. The actual implementation we will have to work out afterwards, because we cannot get it accepted tonight.

B: In short, the US and the Soviet Union are active participants in the negotiations.

K: Not in every detail, but in the opening phase and at critical points throughout.

B: Perhaps we could formulate it in this way. The Soviet Union and the United States are active participants in the negotiations which shall be conducted under their auspices. Details of what particular moments will be worked out in the process of the actual negotiations, but also with a view to not letting the process of negotiations slip out of our hands.

K: I must tell you honestly the Israelis will violently object to Soviet participation.

B: Then, other side might object to American participation.

K: Therefore, for us to guarantee 100% would be unrealistic, but we will use our maximum influence. That I can honestly promise. We [Page 640]have no interest in a relationship with you, Mr. General Secretary, in which we break an understanding with you.

B: But that is something which I would like to have laid down as an understanding jointly reached, on our interpretation of the meaning of the word “auspices.”

K: What I have written out is that the negotiations will be conducted under our auspices and we will participate in them at crucial moments.

B: In other words in the solution of all the key issues.

K: Yes.

B: In the interests of achieving a durable and reliable peace in the area.

K: Right. But it must be brought about after the cease fire. We cannot do that tonight.

B: I agree. First implement the first part, i.e., the draft resolution to be submitted to the Security Council.

K: Our understanding is what we have given to you. I will write it out to make sure we understand exactly what is given to you. I don’t want to be impolite, but the most useful thing I can do in the time frame we have is to get in touch with the President. The understanding is exactly what I have given you.

B: Right. Then you can get with Gromyko.

K: If we can meet three or four hours after we have sent out our messages. One other technical thing. Could our people set up open telephone lines between me and Scali?

B: Yes.

K: During the Security Council meeting tonight, we will get our people to work together.

[Omitted here is material on the technicalities of Kissinger’s communication with New York.]

K: We should also have agreement that neither Malik nor Scali will accept amendments except by mutual agreement.

B: Absolutely, and we consider that we have reached agreement.

K: I technically have to ask the President’s approval.

B: I am very sincere. I am not saying goodbye.

K: The President could overrule me. It could happen, but I tell you as a friend, it won’t happen.

(There was a brief discussion of a possible preamble. Gromyko pointed out this would take time and suggested simply leading in with “The Security Council.” The Secretary agreed.)

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 76, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Kissinger Trip to Moscow, Tel Aviv & London, October 20–22, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The meeting was held in the General Secretary’s office in the Kremlin.
  2. See Document 202.
  3. Document 217.
  4. See Documents 73 and 74.