267. Message From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Nixon1

Mr. President:

I have received your letter in which you inform me that Israel ceased fighting.2 The facts, however, testify that Israel continues drastically to ignore the ceasefire decision of the Security Council. Thus, it is brazenly challenging both the Soviet Union and the United States since it is our agreement with you which constitutes the basis of the Security Council decision. In short, Israel simply embarked on the road to defeat.

It continues to seize new and new territory. As you know, the Israeli forces have already fought their way into Suez. It is impossible to allow such to continue. Let us together, the Soviet Union and the United States urgently dispatch to Egypt Soviet and American military contigents, with their mission the implementation of the decision of the Security Council of August [October] 22 and 23 concerning the cessation [Page 735]of fire and of all military activities and also of the understanding with you on the guarantee of the implementation of the decisions of the Security Council.

It is necessary to adhere without delay. I will say it straight that if you find it impossible to act jointly with us in this matter, we should be faced with the necessity urgently to consider the question of taking appropriate steps unilaterally. We cannot allow arbitrariness on the part of Israel.

We have an understanding with you which we value highly—that is to act jointly. Let us implement this understanding on a concrete case in this complex situation. It will be a good example of our agreed actions in the interest of peace. We have no doubt that all those who are in favor of détente, of peace, of good relations between the Soviet Union and the United States will only welcome such joint action of ours. I will appreciate immediate and clear reply from you.3

Respectfully,

L. Brezhnev4
  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. A note on the message states that it was received at 10 p.m. on October 24.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 258.
  3. According to Kissinger’s memoirs, Brezhnev’s letter “was one of the most serious challenges to an American President by a Soviet leader, from its peremptory salutation, ‘Mr. President,’ to its equally peremptory conclusion demanding an ‘immediate and clear reply.’” He added that “there was no question in my mind that we would have to reject the Soviet proposal. And we would have to do so in a manner that shocked the Soviets into abandoning the unilateral move they were threatening.” (Years of Upheaval, pp. 583–584)Nixon similarly wrote in his memoirs that Brezhnev’s message represented “perhaps the most serious threat to U.S.–Soviet relations since the Cuban missile crisis eleven years before.” He recalled that he asked Kissinger and Haig to have a meeting at the White House “to formulate plans for a firm reaction to what amounted to a scarcely veiled threat of unilateral Soviet intervention. Words were not making our point—we needed action, even the shock of a military alert.” (RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, p. 938) Prior to the meeting of the WSAG principals (see Document 269), Kissinger spoke with Haig on the telephone at 10:20 p.m. to discuss the implication of the introduction of Soviet troops into the region. Both Haig and Kissinger agreed that Soviets were taking advantage of the domestic crisis regarding Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate investigation. “I don’t think they would have taken on a functioning President,” said Kissinger. “Don’t forget that is what the Soviets are playing on. They find a cripple facing impeachment and why shouldn’t they go in there.” Haig replied: “If they do and start fighting, that is a serious thing. They go in there and that . . . They genuinely believe Israelis are . . . I am sure the Soviets are on the ground all over the place.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 23) Printed in Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 346–347.
  4. The original bears this typed signature.