6. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders and Richard T. Kennedy of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- SRG Meeting on NSSM 182—“Implications for US Policy of Probable Lines of Soviet Strategy and Policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, Near East, Arabian Peninsula, and South Asia”
The paper for discussion at this meeting is the one you asked for to focus on the issue of Soviet intentions and efforts in the arc extending from the eastern Mediterranean through South Asia. In the development of the paper, it became clear that the tendency in the bureaucracy is to dismiss the notion that there is a new and persistent Soviet thrust into this area.
The purpose of this meeting, therefore, is to accomplish two objectives:
1. To examine the thesis that there is a Soviet effort in this area by assessing the degree of Soviet activity there and discussing possible responses to it. In the next several weeks—with the visits of Bhutto and the Shah, your trip to Peking and a possible mission to Saudi Arabia—we shall hear a great deal about this thesis. A simple objective of the meeting is to put those who will be participating in those events in a position to respond with a sensible position of our own.
2. The other objective is to begin to articulate a US strategy for this area. At present, much of our policy is a collection of responses in the context of bilateral relationships. While it may be artificial to try to construct a detailed concept for an area as diverse as this, it should be possible to give greater coherence to our activities there.
The fact is that our friends who live in and near this area see a concerted Soviet effort to achieve hegemony there for the dual purpose of containing China and dominating a major center for supply of the world’s energy.[Page 33]
—President Bhutto believes the Soviets are working through India and Afghanistan as well as in Baluchistan to encourage the further dissolution of Pakistan and to achieve a position on the Indian Ocean.
—The Shah sees a Soviet pincers movement, with bases in India and Iraq, aimed at Pakistan, the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf.
—The PRC, deeply worried about Soviet “encirclement,” must be concerned about an apparent Soviet thrust toward its southern borders. The PRC Foreign Minister’s recent endorsement in Tehran of Iranian policy in the Persian Gulf is one recent indication.
—King Faisal, while predominantly preoccupied with the consequences of the continued Arab-Israeli impasse, is also worried by the increase of Soviet military aid to Iraq and to South Yemen, which he sees as a threat to stability in the Arabian Peninsula.
—Other friends like Bourguiba and Hussein talk increasingly about the passivity of the US in the face of an “obvious” Soviet thrust into the Persian Gulf.
In developing a sensible US strategy that protects our direct interests and limits Soviet influence, our choices are not mutually exclusive but are rather a matter of emphasis. The general elements of a strategy include these possible approaches:
1. We can continue to pursue bilateral relationships throughout this area in a routine way. If we operated primarily on the basis of the judgments in the paper prepared for this meeting, this would probably be the result.
2. We could concentrate not just on strengthening our bilateral relationships but on (a) giving new emphasis to our programs in this area in order to create an impression of a reinvigorated American position and (b) actively promoting the relationships evolving among countries friendly to us in the area. There is a trend toward a set of inter-relationships there which can serve our interests. There is an evolving back-channel relationship between the Shah and Faisal and between the Shah and Hussein. Complementing this is a very close relationship between Faisal and his chief of intelligence and Sadat. Hussein is working increasingly closely with the Saudis and in Oman and the Persian Gulf, where the Shah is also heavily involved. In an unusual way, the Israelis are tied into this network through their relationship with the Shah and their unique position vís-a-vís Jordan. Lebanon and Turkey also have their relationships with some of these countries. Pakistan developed an even closer tie with Iran and has military assistance relationships with Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Jordan. Ethiopia has its tie with Israel and may become more involved with affairs of the Arabian Peninsula. A US strategy which consciously promotes these relationships and works with them would provide a broader dimension to our policy. It would also leave the US sufficient flexibility not only to develop a close relationship with these friends but also to compete for position in countries somewhat less friendly like India and Egypt. In contrast to the policy of containment, this would be a policy of diffusion—nurturing enough local resistance so that Soviet thrusts are absorbed without damage.
3. A third possible strategy, often recommended by Israeli leaders and the Shah, is to concentrate principally on the points of strength within [Page 34] this area. The points most commonly mentioned are Iran, Israel and Ethiopia. One could also add Saudi Arabia because of its potential economic power and perhaps even Pakistan, though less for its own power than for the importance of its stability for Iran and the subcontinent. This strategy differs from the second mainly in degree. The more the US depends openly on these points of power and cooperation, less on regional, the more we risk alienating other nations in the area, especially in the Arab world, but also India. The alienation of India and Egypt is obvious if we were to concentrate on Pakistan and Israel. It is less obvious, but possible, that we would alienate Saudi Arabia by focusing on Israel and Iran.
4. A complement to any of the above would be to seek US-Soviet understandings on issues in the region, drawing on our global relationship to limit the potentially dangerous aspects of rivalry there. What you want from the meeting is to lay a foundation for acceptance of an approach between the second and third possible strategies outlined above. One objective is awareness that a regional strategy would enhance US interests and at the same time meet the concerns of our friends in the area.
In conducting the meeting, we recommend that you:
—ask the CIA to assess the pattern of Soviet activity throughout this area;
—then lead discussion through a series of questions toward some judgments on whether or not a concept for US policy is possible that would cover this whole region. A progression of such questions is in your talking points at the next tab.
The problem you will face in this discussion will be that most of the people around the table will be tempted immediately to slide into consideration of problems in one sub-region or another, for example the Arab-Israeli conflict or Persian Gulf issues. Constant effort will have to be made to keep the focus on the plane of higher strategy. One way of doing this would be to say that separate discussion of the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf problem is scheduled a little later when the NSSM 181 paper will come up for discussion.
To bring this meeting to a point, we would suggest that at the end of the session you ask that the present paper be refined in the light of the discussion and that a series of actions be drawn up that would be particularly directed at strengthening the impression of significant US attention to this area and encouraging the development of inter-relationships within the region that help us to pursue our interests.
The papers in this book include:
—Talking points which could lead discussion toward articulation of a regional concept are at the next tab.
—The Analytical Summary describes what is in the State paper and then poses issues for discussion. The issues portion of the analytical summary will give you a sense of the issues that can provide the basis for discussion.
—The NSSM 182 paper prepared in the State Department. This has been discussed in an inter-agency group, but there are still changes to be made. However, it can serve as a reasonable basis for discussion.
Summary: Saunders and Kennedy briefed Kissinger on the upcoming SRG meeting to discuss NSSM 182, and provided him with an analytical summary of the response.
Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, National Security Council Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–068, Meeting Files, 1969–74, Senior Review Group Meeting, Soviet Strategy in Near East/South Asia, NSSM 182, 7/13/73. Top Secret. Sent for information. Brackets are in the original. Quandt drafted the attached analytical summary on July 12. Attached but not published are the undated talking points and the Department’s draft response to NSSM 182, which is published as Document 3.↩