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79. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Dobrynin’s Message on the Middle East: Brezhnev/Ismail Conversations in Moscow

On Thursday, July 19, we received an oral note from the Soviet Embassy (Tab A),2 which reports to you on Brezhnev’s talks in Moscow on July 13 with Hafez Ismail, Sadat’s national security adviser. Brezhnev briefed Ismail on the U.S.–Soviet summit. The key points in the note are as follows:

Brezhnev told Ismail that the U.S. considered the Middle East a very important problem. However, he claimed that the U.S. had not put forward “concrete considerations aimed at achieving a mutually acceptable solution.” In particular, the U.S. did not make a firm statement supporting the Arab demand for total Israeli withdrawal.

Brezhnev told Ismail that the U.S. was inclined to favor direct negotiations but did not rule out other indirect forms of contact, such as the Rhodes formula. The U.S. admitted the need for a comprehensive settlement but envisaged the possibility of separate solutions to individual aspects as well.

Brezhnev described the Soviet position as based on the principle of total Israeli withdrawal. The solution of this problem, he said, “would facilitate reaching agreement on all other aspects of the settlement.”

—Ismail saw the situation in the Middle East as “very complicated and fraught with danger of serious explosion,” which demands urgent measures. Egypt was convinced that the U.S. and Israel do not intend to modify their positions, particularly on troop withdrawal, and that this, “to a great extent,” prevents a just settlement.

—Ismail expressed satisfaction with the Soviet position and “stressed” that the establishment of a just and lasting peace was “unthinkable without active participation of the Soviet Union.”

—Although the Egyptians are “losing their confidence” in getting a settlement by political means, Ismail said, they continue to count to a [Page 244]certain extent on assistance from the UN Security Council. In particular, they hope a resolution will be adopted in the forthcoming session which will “move the settlement off dead center.”

Brezhnev concludes his report to you by stressing the Soviets’ “serious concern” that an aggravation of the Mideast situation could worsen the international climate in general, which would accord with neither Soviet nor U.S. interests.

The Soviet message contains no surprises and shows no movement by the Soviets or Egyptians from their maximum position. The report takes no account of the U.S. proposal for a set of vague general principles which could serve as a basis for beginning indirect talks and working out a Canal settlement as a first step. The Egyptians and Soviets had shown interest in this idea on earlier occasions this year. The U.S. idea was in fact a modification of a suggestion Ismail made to me in February.3

I will be meeting with Dobrynin to explore the question further,4 and will probably see Ismail again sometime next month.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 68, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 19, July 13, 1973–Oct. 11, 1973. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent for information.
  2. Attached, but not printed.
  3. See Document 28.
  4. On July 30, Kissinger sent a memorandum to the President reporting on his “very cordial luncheon meeting with Dobrynin” on July 26 and forwarded a memorandum of conversation of that meeting. He noted that “Dobrynin indicated that the Soviets were pretty fed up with Egypt. Hafez Ismail’s talks in Moscow had contributed to this.” The memorandum of conversation recorded that Dobynin said that “Egyptian foreign policy sometimes seemed to be made by madmen. Ismail, when he was in Moscow in early July, had done everything to strengthen those who were in favor of doing less for Egypt.” He assured Kissinger that the Soviet Union was a “restraining influence.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 68, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 19, July 13, 1973–Oct. 11, 1973)