[Page 722]

261. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Dr. James R. Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense
  • Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • William E. Colby, Director, Central Intelligence Agency
  • Major General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the Middle East.]

Kissinger: I will bring you up-to-date.

We told the Soviets we would stop the resupply if there was a cease-fire, and they did. Also we said that détente would suffer if they persisted.

Dobrynin says they are at a crossroads. He called it the greatest crisis since the Cuban crisis. He called me on Sunday—he asked (if we could explore a ceasefire plus a reference to 242.2 He said they understood the airlift but could we not be provocative? On Tuesday3 they sent Kosygin to Cairo. On Thursday the Soviets sent a proposal for withdrawal to the ’67 borders, etc.4 I said we would reply within 24 hours. Dobrynin thought the military situation was a stalemate.

On Friday, Brezhnev said they were heading for an irreversible decision5 and wanted me to come there. I agreed for the reasons you know.

Let me tell you about the meetings there.

I told them I was too tired to meet on Saturday, but we met anyway and had a 5-hour meeting.6 Brezhnev said détente was the [Page 723]most important thing and he wouldn’t give it up for the Middle East. What difference does 5 or 10 miles make?

I filibustered on Friday night.

Colby: Did he seem to be under pressure?

Kissinger: Grechko had briefed him each day. I got the impression they were considering doing something.

Moorer: I think that answers the airborne alert questions. They were taking the first steps.

Kissinger: They were grim on Friday night—not hostile.

I criticized their proposal. I said: “We can haggle over every point, and maybe you can make a few points. I will tell you tomorrow what we can live with, and we should do it quickly.”

I sent them a critique. Brezhnev conducted the meeting—usually he just introduces it. I gave him a counterproposal. It led to a screaming match.

Schlesinger: On what?

Kissinger: Israeli withdrawal, etc.

They finally agreed on the resolution, and we made a side agreement—(1) on release of the POWs, and (2) the phrase “appropriate auspices” in the resolution means U.S.–Soviet auspices. This means the U.S. and the Soviet Union are in at the beginning of the negotiation and they consult and stay close thereafter. The Secretary General is on our ass; the Security Council is loaded against us. So the best auspices is what we got. But we will have extensive bilateral talks with the Arabs, to say to them that if they want a deal, they deal with us.

Colby: Who are the “parties?”

Kissinger: Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

We had a message from the Saudis—“get us off the hook.” We got three messages from Sadat and three from Hafiz Ismail.

Egypt asked me to visit while I was in Israel. I couldn’t arrange it but I will do it on the China trip next month.7

My theme is to remove the causes of conflict but we can’t do it while the Arabs are blackmailing us.

Colby: They can’t blackmail.

[Page 724]

Kissinger: The British are jackals. They have said they will intervene if asked. I said, “Don’t show your impotence, because we won’t pay any attention.” They said the UN should do it because they would be unhappy otherwise. The Europeans have been shits.

We have shown (1) that the Soviet Union can’t deliver when the chips are down, and (2) that the arms they buy won’t do it, and (3) the Arabs now know they must deal through us if they want results.

If you all would work out your ideas for a reasonable settlement.

I think Egypt is looking for a way to solve the Israeli security concerns. The problem is to reconcile Israel’s security and Egyptian sovereignty. I have been asked: “Would I pressure Israel?” I said if there is a reasonable proposal.

Schlesinger: The biggest problem is Jerusalem.

Kissinger: Jordan is ready to accept the Allon plan8 if he can get a street and the mosques in Jerusalem. The goddamn Israelis won’t give them a thing.

Colby: They’ll have to now.

Kissinger: The Israelis now know they depend on us. They were hurting on the 12th–13th. They were ready for a ceasefire in place. We were ready but the British bastards wouldn’t do it.

Colby: The Europeans are the first clients for oil—they’re supplicants.

Schlesinger: What shall we do with the British?

Kissinger: In this room I think we must reconsider our European policy.

Colby: I think they can’t have a special relationship with us and do what they are.

Schlesinger: I agree we must all think about our European relations.

I begin to see your views on the French. They at least have self-assurance.

The Germans are pitiful—they say our moving tanks will upset the Arabs.

Kissinger: After two weeks, our position with the Arabs is better than that of the Europeans who are kissing their ass.

The only other subject was SALT. Gromyko said they are rethinking SALT and it is tough for them. Therefore, I don’t think we should move on Alex’s proposal. It would confuse them. It is a move to more toughness. It gives a checklist of our fall-off.

[Page 725]

Colby: How well informed were they on the Middle East?

Kissinger: They were grim on Saturday. I tried to downplay Israel’s success, not to humiliate them. They said the roads were cut—this was Sunday morning. They knew quite a bit.

Their disdain for the Arabs is complete. They said if the Arabs would stand and fight, they could wear down the Israelis.

Colby: The problem, in a way, is covering the activities of your friends.

We are geared to the opposite. They are right not to tell us too much. They were very weak in Syria.

Kissinger: The leaders appeared to me very chastened.

The incursion was a fluke which worked.

They may get cocky again, but they’ll never be the same.

I have learned something. You either do something or you don’t. If you do it, do it massively—you take the same heat.

Schlesinger: How long will the airlift continue?

Kissinger: Until it melds into the sealift.

Colby: How about the deal with the Soviet Union?

Kissinger: Right now we have no deal. What I’d like to see is a bulge now and then a cutback after my trip so as to look like it is my outcome.

Schlesinger: Our problem is we don’t know what to do. Should we replace as the President said, or fill their wish list?

Kissinger: It must be geared to two things: What they lost and what the Soviet Union is doing. Whatever we put in, Israel will not go to war again without opening a supply line to us.

Schlesinger: One problem is our arms inventories: Tanks, TOW, 105, Sparrow—we are deep into inventories.

Kissinger: I want a bulge now, over the next three weeks, and then a level thing that we can space out.

Colby: We shouldn’t nit-pick them now.

Kissinger: By December we will turn on them, but up to then we don’t want to have the Jewish community on us for not being generous now.

The deadlines are my trip, and the Israeli election.

We can get through one more winter, but we have got to have a settlement next year.

Schlesinger: What about aircraft?

Kissinger: Replace what they have lost and replace the Mirages and Mysteres.

[Page 726]

Schlesinger: How about two per month?

Kissinger: Let’s call the 40 Committee on an emergency and keep on with the two per month.

Schlesinger: O.K. We will cover the losses.

Kissinger: We have been using DPRC to get the foreign policy considerations. I don’t think that is a good forum. If you will let Sy Weiss in on what you plan.

Colby: NSCIC. The President made me Vice Chairman. I would work it like the 40 Committee.

Schlesinger: We need to straighten out the recce in the Middle East.

Kissinger: Let’s do it at the next WSAG.

Schlesinger: We must decide whether to use the U–2 or the SR–71. The U–2 has a better camera.

Colby: We could run a joint recce with the Soviets.

Schlesinger: Should we look at Latakia, etc? We have our troubles with Qaddafi. I suspect shipments are going to Egypt through Libya. The SR–71 could fly down to Libya on the coast on its return.

Kissinger: O.K. We got away pretty well with the last one.

If they complain about tomorrow, we could say it’s to fix the ceasefire lines.

Colby: If we could get the assurance that Egypt wouldn’t fire at the U–2, we could fly it from [less than 1 line not declassified].

Kissinger: I don’t think they would.

Colby: The only important coverage is the Canal.

Schlesinger: Right now we can’t put out a picture.

Colby: If you would approve the paper.

Kissinger: Give me one page on how to handle the picture.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the Middle East.]

Schlesinger: What did you get from the Saudis?

Kissinger: I told them we will take care of their problems but we can’t do it under pressure.

I don’t want a military man with me. We can have one go later.

Schlesinger: Take Clements and leave him in Riyadh.

Kissinger: I’d rather do it later. I don’t want Simon, or anyone else clamoring. I’ll send him later.

I just want to establish a mood. I won’t spend more than three hours anywhere except in Cairo.

I don’t think we want the Saudis involved in a settlement—we should hang it on Egypt and Syria.

Schlesinger: These people need Tender Loving Care.

[Page 727]

Kissinger: But not the wrong kind. I want it but in a disciplined way.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the Middle East.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 2. Secret; Nodis. The luncheon meeting was held in the White House Map Room.
  2. Kissinger is referring to his 7:55 p.m. conversation with Dobrynin on Saturday, October 15. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 23)
  3. October 16.
  4. October 18. See Document 202.
  5. October 19. See Document 209.
  6. Kissinger is presumably referring to his lengthy meeting on Sunday, October 21; see Document 221.
  7. At 11:22 a.m. that morning, Kissinger sent a message to Ismail suggesting that he might accept “the kind invitation of the Egyptian side to visit Cairo” on his way to China in November. The message stressed: “The U.S. side believes it essential that prior to Dr. Kissinger’s visit, U.S.–Egyptian relations be conducted in such a manner as to maintain an atmosphere conducive to constructive discussions.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 132, Country Files, Middle East, Egypt/Ismail, Vol. VII, October 1–31, 1973)
  8. See footnote 4, Document 8.