274. Message From President Nixon to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev1

Mr. General Secretary:

I have carefully studied your important message of this evening.2 I agree with you that our understanding to act jointly for peace is of the highest value and that we should implement that understanding in this complex situation.

I must tell you, however, that your proposal for a particular kind of joint action, that of sending Soviet and American military contingents to Egypt is not appropriate in the present circumstances.

We have no information which would indicate that the ceasefire is now being violated on any significant scale. Such violations as are taking place can be dealt with most effectively by increased numbers of [Page 748]observer teams to inform the Security Council of the true responsibility for violations.

We are prepared to take every effective step to guarantee the implementation of the ceasefire and are already in close touch with the Government of Israel to ensure that it abides fully by the terms of the Security Council decisions. I assume that you are taking similar steps with Egypt.

In these circumstances, we must view your suggestion of unilateral action as a matter of the gravest concern involving incalculable consequences.

It is clear that the forces necessary to impose the ceasefire terms on the two sides would be massive and would require closest coordination so as to avoid bloodshed. This is not only clearly infeasible but is not appropriate to the situation. In this situation the Security Council requires accurate information about what is occurring so that it as well as each of us can exert maximum influence in Cairo and Tel-Aviv, respectively, to ensure compliance with the terms of the ceasefire.

To this end, I am prepared to join with you at once to augment the present truce supervisory force by additional men and equipment. I would be prepared to see included in such augmented truce supervisory units a number of American and Soviet personnel, though not combat forces. It would be understood that this is an extraordinary and temporary step, solely for the purpose of providing adequate information concerning compliance by both sides with the terms of the ceasefire. If this is what you mean by contingents, we will consider it.

Mr. General Secretary, in the spirit of our agreement this is the time for acting not unilaterally but in harmony and with cool heads. I believe my proposal is consonant with the letter and spirit of our understandings and would ensure a prompt implementation of the ceasefire. This would establish a base from which we could move into the negotiations foreseen by Security Council Resolution 338 which we shall jointly sponsor.

I will await a prompt and positive reply from you on these proposals. Meanwhile, I will order the necessary preparations for the steps I have outlined. Upon receipt of your agreement, I will immediately designate representatives to work out the modalities with your representatives.

You must know, however, that we could in no event accept unilateral action. This would be in violation of our understandings, of the agreed Principles we signed in Moscow in 19723 and of Article II of the Agreement on Prevention of Nuclear War. As I stated above, such ac[Page 749]tion would produce incalculable consequences which would be in the interest of neither of our countries and which would end all we have striven so hard to achieve.

  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. 8. No classification marking. A handwritten notation on the message indicates that it was delivered to the Soviet Embassy at 5:40 a.m. on October 25.
  2. Document 267. In his memoirs, Kissinger wrote that after the President’s formal reply to Brezhnev was drafted, the WSAG principals decided it should be delivered at around 5:30 a.m. Washington time. He noted that this gave the U.S. Government additional time to complete its preparations and that by that time the Soviets would have noticed the U.S. troop movements. Kissinger added that this message, which rejected all Soviet demands, was sent by messenger, thus avoiding any softening via an explanation. (Years of Upheaval, pp. 588–591)
  3. See footnote 7, Document 250.