[Page 938]

338. Message From Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Nixon1

Dear Mr. President,

I have received and carefully studied your letter of November 3.2 As well as you, we want to be sure that on the basis of fundamental agreements and understandings that we have previously achieved we shall not only overcome the present Middle East crisis but we shall also move even further ahead in strengthening relations between our countries. We, on our part, from the very beginning of events in the Middle East, proceeded from this very perspective and correspondingly built our line of actions in accordance with them.

At the same time it is obvious to us that in order to proceed further along this path it is very important not simply to damp down temporarily the acuteness of the Middle East crisis but to do away with its roots. To do otherwise would mean to act contrary to the lesson that latest events in the Middle East taught us.

Certainly, to find cardinal solutions for the Middle East is not an easy task. In this case one needs self control and tact but not less also energy and principled approach. Without this nobody and nothing can guarantee us from a new explosion in the Middle East with possible even greater complications. We now believe in this as firmly as when we warned you before about unexpectedness and dangers lying in wait for us in the Middle East.

I shall not now touch upon the details of the Middle East problem, we have done this more than once, and soon they will be a subject of negotiations between sides concerned with active participation of the USSR and the US, what we have agreed between ourselves. I shall emphasize only one thing: the key element of the Middle East settlement was and still is the question of withdrawal of Israeli troops from all the Arab territories occupied by them in 1967 with simultaneous provision—with the participation of the USSR and the US—for guaranteed security of all states of that area, including Israel.

To make the progress in the Soviet-American relations more stable and less painful it is very important also, in our view, to draw correct [Page 939]conclusions from the latest developments, both taking place in the Middle East and accompanying them.

You write, Mr. President, that throughout the difficult days of the Arab-Israeli conflict you have kept carefully in mind the second of the Basic Principles of relations between the USSR and the US,3 and you quote in your letter certain parts of that Principle. Neither did and do we forget even for a minute both the quoted by you and other provisions of the Basic Principles, including those related to preventing the development of situations capable of causing a dangerous exacerbation of the relations between the USSR and the US or situations capable of increasing international tensions. We also remember and strictly follow the Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War, including its Article IV, providing for urgent consultations between the USSR and the US when certain situations emerge.

Since you yourself touched upon the importance for the sides of living up to the provisions of the above basic documents and in order to make that question completely clear for the future, I should frankly tell you, that some steps taken by the US in this period of time cannot be considered by us as fully corresponding to the letter and spirit of those documents. I have already informed you about my opinion regarding that matter, and I do not think it is necessary now to touch upon the issue again.

I believe it extremely important that we and you have common understanding of what has happened and that both sides make equally correct conclusions from that.

I agree with you that the fundamental documents signed at the two Soviet-American summit meetings have passed the test in the concrete situation and that now it is in real life that their deep substance has already been reconfirmed. The fact was also proved that the peace of the world greatly depends on the actions and policies of our two countries. That once again emphasizes the responsibility resting upon their leadership and necessity of exerting all efforts to remove dangerous hotbeds of conflicts. Everybody will benefit from that and none will lose with the exception of those who would seek profit for themselves from the opposite development of events. And such forces, as you know, do exist.

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

In conclusion, I would like to tell you, Mr. President, once again with full certainty that our determination to proceed further along the path of decisive improvement in the Soviet-American relations has not diminished as a result of the events in the Middle East. And we note [Page 940]with satisfaction that you are also resolved, as your letter says, to persevere on the chosen course.4


L. Brezhnev5
  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. According to a handwritten notation, the message was hand delivered to Scowcroft by Babenko at 4:30 p.m. on November 10. The message is attached to a note from Dobrynin to Scowcroft.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 316.
  3. See footnote 12, Document 70.
  4. In telegram Hakto 40, November 12, Kissinger asked Scowcroft to hold up on forwarding Brezhnev’s letter to the President until he got back. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 41, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Mideast, Islamabad, Peking, Tokyo, Seoul, HAKTO 1–60, Nov. 5–16, 1973) On November 21, Kissinger sent the message to Nixon attached to a memorandum in which he pointed out that despite “a somewhat quarrelsome tone,” the letter strongly reaffirmed that Brezhnev’s determination to improve relations had not been diminished by the Middle East crisis. He noted, however, that the General Secretary had emphasized that the Soviet Union must play an active role in the Middle East negotiations and in any guarantees. Nixon wrote on the memorandum: “K—Very interesting—Of course he could change his mind if he thought our opponents would succeed except for the fact that they now oppose détente.” (Ibid., Box 69, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 20, [October 12–November 21, 1973])
  5. The original bears this typed signature.