58. Conversation Between President Nixon and his Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Kissinger: And you know I’m seeing Ismail?2

Nixon: Yeah, yeah. I know. [Laughs] You don’t expect to get out of that, do you?

[Page 178]

Kissinger: No. No, but I—

Nixon: Don’t we need for you to do our best there, too?

Kissinger: I think we ought to waste time so that there’s no blowup until—‘til the summit. Now, we are—

Nixon: Oh, good God, yes!

Kissinger: We’re under massive pressure from the Soviets to, uh—

Nixon: Squeeze the Israelis?

Kissinger: [unclear] to have some Middle East result at the summit. I think we’re giving them enough, already, on that nuclear treaty.3 But, I’ve been talking to the Israelis. I think they’re moving a little, but not enough. But, after I come back from talking to Ismail, Mr. President, we might review that situation.

Nixon: Yep.

Kissinger: So that you know where it stands.

Nixon: Yeah, we don’t want to have a Middle East war on, on our hands or consciences this summer. [Laughs]

Kissinger: No. No. No.

Nixon: Huh?

Kissinger: There is a chance that it can happen, not because—simply because of the irrationality of the Arabs.

Nixon: But look: that’s always the reason. It’s always the reason. Nobody thought there was going to be one in ’67. I remember I talked to Gene Rostow4 about it [unclear].

Kissinger: [unclear]

Nixon: Never. That doesn’t mean he [Rostow] was dumb; it just meant that everybody was telling him that.

Kissinger: No, they were absolutely convinced. I was convinced, then, that as soon as they closed the Straits of Tiran that there’d be a war. But, I think there might be an Egyptian military move, but I don’t think they can do—I’ve had an intelligence assessment made of it;5 it doesn’t look as if they can do anything of a substantial size. They don’t have any heavy equipment forward. They don’t have any units that could do it. But, I’ve thought out a procedure by which we could get talks started.

Nixon: Um-hmm?

Kissinger: It depends on two things: The Russians have agreed, in principle, but we haven’t given it substance, yet. If we could come up, [Page 179]perhaps even at the summit, with a set of principles that are very vague, that don’t mean anything, but are different from the Security Council Resolution, then, perhaps, the Egyptians could say they got something. The Israelis could acquiesce, and they could use that as a basis to start negotiating the interim settlement. And the Egyptians will probably want that the overall settlement is negotiated simultaneously. I’ve talked to the Israelis about it; they don’t want to accept that. But I think we could get them to accept that. But—

Nixon: We have to.

Kissinger: But all that would depend, here, Mr. President, on whether we can get propositions that are general enough—

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Kissinger: —so that both sides can accept them. If that would work, we could buy ourselves a year—

Nixon: Um-hmm.

Kissinger: —anyway.

Nixon: Um-hmm. Um-hmm. Hmm. That’d be great. I know you’ve talked about that before, and I—

Kissinger: Well, I’ve got the—that—

Nixon: I’ll look—I’ll concentrate on it. I’m going to try to get my mind on one of these things as time goes on here.

Kissinger: The Russians have agreed to it as a concept. Now, between their agreeing to it as a concept—

Nixon: Yeah?

Kissinger: —and, uh—

Nixon: Hmm.

Kissinger: —and then finding words that are really general enough—Brezhnev has written you a burbling letter about my visit.

Nixon: Good.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Conversation No. 919–3. No classification marking. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon met with Kissinger in the Oval Office between 9:07 and 9:25 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files) The editors transcribed the portion printed here specifically for this volume.
  2. See Document 63.
  3. Kissinger is referring to the Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War, which was signed in Washington on June 22. (24 UST 1478; TIAS 7654)
  4. Eugene Rostow, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, 1967.
  5. See Document 59.