9. Message From the Soviet Ambassador (Dobrynin) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

When we look back at the road covered in Soviet-American relations since the May meeting, we naturally feel satisfied with the positive changes in the relations between our countries. It is also quite understandable at the same time that our thoughts are more and more returning to those matters which happen to be yet unresolved. In this connection we would like to draw the President’s attention first of all to the following two questions.

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

Second. L.I. Brezhnev paid attention to the readiness of the President expressed in the message of December 18, 19722 to continue the discussion of the questions of the Middle East settlement, which the President quite justly ranks among the foremost foreign policy tasks, which demand the exertion of efforts on the part of our states in this 1973.

[Page 20]

Consequently, we on our part repeatedly raised the question concerning the necessity of seeking a constructive settlement of the Middle East conflict and suggested to resume an active discussion of this question, particularly through the confidential channel.

However, in reply to our appeals we were told that the US were totally absorbed in the Vietnamese affairs and therefore could not for a while pay due attention to the subject of the Middle East.

Speaking about this question, it is necessary to emphasize that time is passing while the situation in the Middle East remains complicated and dangerous. If effective measures are not taken the events there can get out of control. There is no doubt that if hostilities in the Middle East erupt once again then—taking into account existent ties with this area of other states including major powers—there could develop quite unwelcome consequences for the cause of international security, and it is difficult to envisage what would be the end of it and for how long these complications would persist.

As is known, in the course of the Soviet-American exchange of opinion, including that on the highest level, a thought has been repeatedly stressed that the United States and the Soviet Union should not allow that the development of events in that area would lead to a confrontation between our countries; it was stressed that it is necessary and possible to find a solution answering to the interests of all states in the Middle East, to the interests of our states and the interests of peace in general. This has been pointed out personally by President Nixon as well, who not once spoke about his readiness to use his influence for the solution of the Middle East problem in this very spirit.

We think that both the USSR and the US really can use their influence, their weight, and nature of their ties with the countries—participants in the conflict in order to finally bring the whole matter to the liquidation of the military hotbed in the Middle East.

In this connection a postponement of the exchange of views between us on this important problem seems to be unjustified. There can be of course an order of priority in the solution of problems, but there are problems which can and should be solved in parallel with other urgent international issues. We believe that in the interests of big policy it is exactly in this way that we should approach the solution of the Middle East problem.

As for the Soviet Union, we are prepared for a confidential exchange of views with the American side on this problem. The President knows well the essence of the Soviet position. We have consistently proceeded and proceed from such provisions of principle, which are contained in the known resolution of the Security Council.

The key question of a settlement in the Middle East is, undoubtedly, the question of Israeli troops withdrawal from all the Arab terri[Page 21]tories occupied in 1967. If it is solved, then there can be no doubt that there will be no special difficulties in solving other questions of the settlement as well, such as providing for the security and independent existence of the state of Israel and of other countries of that area; establishing demilitarized zones, providing for the freedom of navigation of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal and in the Gulf of Aqaba, respect for the rights of the people of Palestine etc. Of course, the whole complex of the Middle East settlement should cover not only Egypt, but Syria and Jordan as well.

We have expressed those thoughts to the President more than once. Some time ago we have already forwarded to the US Government concrete proposals on this matter as well. We still believe that these proposals constitute an appropriate basis for agreement.

Now as never before the time factor has become of decisive importance in the question of political settlement in the Middle East. We are well aware of the feelings of the Arabs. Further existence of the deadlock in the settlement, for which Israel is to blame, cannot but force the Arab countries to seek a way out along the lines of using military methods to solve the lingering crisis no matter what would be the attitude of others to it.

Only substantial progress in the settlement through political means can prevent such a dangerous turn of affairs. We hope that in accordance with the results of the negotiations in Moscow we can start in the near future an exchange of views aimed at working out joint agreement on the settlement of the situation in the Middle East.

  1. Source: 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. No classification marking. A handwritten notation at the top of the page reads: “Handed to HAK by Dobrynin 1/28/73.”
  2. Letter from Nixon to Brezhnev; ibid., Box 495, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 14. It is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XV, Soviet Union, June 1972–August 1974, Document 71.