38. Editorial Note

On March 7, 1973, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger forwarded a letter from Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev to President Nixon in which Brezhnev stated that a Middle East settlement remained “the second most important unfinished problem.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 495, President’s Trip Files, DobryninKissinger, 1973, Vol. 15 [Jan.–1973]) On March 6 and March 8, Kissinger met with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin, who had just returned from consultations in Moscow. In a March 8 memorandum, Kissinger reported to the President that he had given Dobrynin a rough summary of his talks with Ismail and had suggested that the United States and the Soviet Union might try to frame some general principles that could be used to promote an interim agreement. He noted that he had argued that there was no point in having detailed discussions as long as the United States was negotiating directly with the Egyptians; Dobrynin had not balked at this proposition. (Ibid.) Kissinger also told Dobrynin on March 8 that he thought there was no possibility of a settlement along the lines of the paper Gromyko had given him during his visit in April 1972, which represented the formal Arab position. (Memorandum of conversation, March 8; ibid.) On March 8, Nixon met with Dobrynin who concluded the conversation by citing the two issues Brezhnev regarded as the highest priority for the forthcoming June summit: the nuclear treaty [Page 118]and the Middle East. (Memorandum of conversation, March 8; ibid.) Regarding the Soviet paper handed to Kissinger by Brezhnev during Kissinger’s

April 1972 visit to Moscow, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 141, footnote 5.

On March 14, Brezhnev sent Nixon a message describing his talks in Moscow with Egypt’s Minister of War, Ahmed Ismail, who had expressed the Egyptian Government’s serious concern with the absence of any progress toward a peace settlement. Egypt had been subjected to Israeli aggression for six years and Arab lands were still occupied by Israel. Ismail had declared that although it preferred a peaceful settlement, the Egyptian Government was coming to the conclusion that military confrontation with Israel might become unavoidable. Therefore, Egypt had to prepare itself for the possibility of a new military clash. Brezhnev concluded his message by saying that he wanted to emphasize again the seriousness of the developing situation in the Middle East and to draw the President’s attention to the necessity of taking constructive steps in order to prevent such a confrontation. Brezhnev argued that such a turn of events would not only cause irreparable damage to the countries in the region but hurt other countries as well. Therefore, much depended on having the Soviet Union and the United States take “agreed steps directed at settlement of the Middle East situation.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 70, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Exchange of Notes Between Dobrynin and Kissinger, Vol. 5)