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301. Memorandum for the President’s File by Secretary of State Kissinger1

SUBJECT

  • Meeting with Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, on Tuesday, October 30, 1973, at 6:00 p.m., at Camp David

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • Ambassador Dobrynin
  • Secretary of State Kissinger
  • General Alexander M. Haig, Jr.

Ambassador Dobrynin thanked the President for receiving him. This week, and today’s meeting, the Ambassador said, were very important events in the U.S.–Soviet relations. The Soviet leaders valued the personal relationship with the President.

The Ambassador then read from General-Secretary Brezhnev’s letter to the President of October 28, [Tab A]2 which spoke of a “crisis of confidence” in U.S.–Soviet relations produced by Israeli deceit. We should not have a confrontation, the Ambassador declared. It was with a certain amount of sadness that he had to note that relations had reached this point. It took a very difficult decision on the part of Brezhnev to preserve our good relations with each other. We now had a good chance to find the conditions for final resolution of the problem.

The President asked if the Soviets had leaked to John Scali. Ambassador Dobrynin went through the history of the Security Council deliberations which produced the ceasefire resolutions, and then retraced the history of the ceasefire itself. He complained about the press stories about alleged Soviet misbehavior. What kind of a relationship is this, he asked, if one letter produces an alert?3

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Ambassador Dobrynin then discussed what was to be done. One of the first things to be done was to carry out the joint resolutions worked out between us. Then we should each send a senior representative to Cairo to supervise the progress of implementation. Then there should be an end to airlift of military supply, and then a start of political negotiations.

The President replied that he still looked for a better future in U.S.–Soviet relations. He hoped détente would soon be put back on track. He appreciated Ambassador Dobrynin’s discussion. Events had not changed the President’s view as to the vital role of détente in the world. He cited the indispensable role that our two countries would play in getting a settlement in the Middle East. The key was how we could get both of our recalcitrant friends lined up. Despite the difficulties of the past two weeks, these events gave us the best chance in a long time to settle the problem. We had resisted enormous heat in this country, during five days of a substantial Soviet airlift into Syria and Egypt. Only when we could not get Soviet cooperation to stop it did we start our own airlift.

We must avoid situations where we confront each other, the President pointed out. General Secretary Brezhnev and he must have an overriding concern with avoiding confrontation.

We want to work with the Soviet Union all along the line, the President continued. The principle of détente will not be destroyed. We should hammer out areas where we can work together and demonstrate how it can work concretely. Our new relationship had helped enormously in the present crisis. What we need now is a demonstration that our relationship is durable and we can accomplish positive things together.4

  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]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. Attached, but not printed. Brackets in the original. Nixon had originally wanted to meet with Dobrynin on October 29. However, Kissinger informed Nixon during a 3 p.m. telephone conversation on October 29, after a “long session” with Dobrynin, that October 30 would be a better day to meet. “First,” Kissinger explained, “we will then know what happened at the meeting of the Egyptians and Israelis. . . . We are concerned with the cease fire and that we will know tomorrow after the second meeting is finished. If your schedule permitted, I think it would be a very good idea.” (Ibid., Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 23)
  3. Dobrynin is referring to Brezhnev’s October 24 message, Document 267.
  4. Dobrynin recounted the meeting with Nixon in his memoirs. He said that Nixon spoke in a “conciliatory and even apologetic manner, stressing his intention to continue his policy of improving Soviet–American relations.” Dobrynin also wrote that Nixon saw the previous week as “just an unpleasant episode in our relations” and asked the Soviet Ambassador to inform Brezhnev personally that he [Nixon] “would not permit the Israelis to crush the encircled Egyptian Third Army Corps.” Nixon concluded, according to Dobrynin: “Please inform the general secretary . . . that as long as I live and hold the office of president I will never allow a real confrontation with the Soviet Union.” (In Confidence, pp. 304–305)