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Brezhnev told Dent that there are some problems, one or two, and I am kicking some pants on them. I have approved all the various cooperative projects personally and we will move ahead on them. Now, the Middle East.
Gromyko: I am certainly gratified by those words of yours. As I understand, you are expressing the hope that this matter (MFN) will be brought to a successful conclusion. I would prefer "confidence" as a word.
President: I will add with "confidence" for all the agreements I have mentioned. But on MEN—we are making progress and coming along. But I just cannot promise to deliver Congress. My prestige is behind it and Dr. Kissinger is working with Congress and the Jewish community.
Kissinger: Yes, but we may not have a compromise before you go to Moscow Mr. President. We are working on lining up support before we go back to Jackson. He is the most difficult.
Gromyko: Now to the "easy question” of the Middle East.
Gromyko: Maybe my words won't sound pleasant. But it is a reality that we do see US actions in the Middle East are in contradiction with the agreements between us and with your own words. I can recall that you said right here in this room that the US is in favor of joint action in the Middle East. And you said that if the US and the Soviet Union agree there will be peace and if they don't agree then there will not be peace. That is what I remember you said to me. And you said the same thing in substance in San Clemente. But where are the concrete results to illustrate those words have been carried into action? One can only call US actions "separatist." Maybe the US is seeking an advantage for itself by taking these separatist actions. The US is leaving the Soviet Union completely aside in the Middle East settlement. This was mentioned to Dr. Kissinger in Moscow.? You know, if we wanted to frustrate peace we could easily do it because it is within our capability. So it would be good if you could weigh the consequences of separatist action because we had an agreement to act in a coordinated way to resolve the issue. And this doesn't just boil down to the fact that we do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. After all, we sat next to them at Geneva, at the Geneva Conference, the one you have now blocked. We don't regard them as untouchables or something like that. I hope you will look at the problem again and correct the situation.
We want to act on a coordinated basis and we do not want to see Israel gobbled up. We want to see it as an independent, sovereign state. We want a just settlement. One can buy the condescending attitude of this or that Arab leader, but not peace by separate action. I am speaking very frankly on behalf of Leonid Brezhnev. We can have peace by acting together, if we both want peace.
President: I discussed this with Mr. Podgorny and I have also carefully read the accounts of the talks between Kissinger and Brezhnev. I saw Brezhnev worked him over pretty good for three hours.
You suggested that if it wanted to, the Soviet Union could frustrate peace. I am totally aware that if either of our governments decides that there should not be peace, then there won't be peace. I stress if “either." I have said there could be no peace if the Soviet Union is against it and there can be no peace unless we are for it. Because we have to influence Israel. I have said it publicly and I say to you that it is not an intention of ours or our policy to follow what you call a separatist course. We do not want to push the Soviet Union out because you have interests and you have many ties. In fact, in many cases you have closer ties than we. So there must be a recognition that there is a part for each of us to play there.
We now have the difficult problem of Syrian-Israeli disengagement. We have had discussions with Israel and we have had to reject their proposal regarding the Golan Heights. Now the Syrians are coming. Whether agreement is possible will depend on very hard negotiations on our part.
Why not do it in the larger forum in Geneva? It would not work. We broke out the Egyptian-Israeli disengagement. That was good. Now we are trying to break out Syrian-Israeli disengagement. Once those two issues have been broken out, then the Geneva forum comes into play to work out the broad areas of a settlement. That is even more difficult than disengagement because it will be a permanent settlement. Let me assure you: there must not be another war in the Middle East. Whenever there is war in the Middle East it drags us into potential confrontation. We do not want the situation of last October where we were airlifting to Israel and you to Egypt and Syria. It is ridiculous. The Soviet Union and the US should not let the Middle East destroy the progress we have made in other areas–Europe, SALT, etc.—important as the Middle East is. There is no intention on our part to go separate and cut the Soviet Union out. There is no intention that the US will be the major power in the Middle East. You should be there; we should be there. We each have a part to play. The immediate problem is the peace agreement. We believe we had to take a bite-Egyptian-Israeli disengagement, Syrian-Israeli disengagement-as we did. Maybe we consulted inadequately. I have talked to Dr. Kissinger about that. It serves no purpose to discuss who will be "Mr. Big." We both have a role. If you could deliver the Israelis, we would be only too glad. I told Podgorny that. If you can deliver the Israelis, we will deliver the Syrians!
As I said to Mr. Podgorny and sometime ago to the Ambassador, Mr. Brezhnev would have had a legitimate beef if the US was trying to go
alone. But that was not our intention. Our only purpose was to get an agreement which could then be negotiated on in Geneva.
It is good we had this talk. At the summit we will talk the same way. We do not have a policy of cutting you out, “separatist” policy as you called it. There can only be peace if both of us are for it. I said this to Mr. Brezhnev at San Clemente and to Mr. Podgorny and to everyone. That is my belief. It wouldn't last otherwise. Now it is up to you and Kissinger to work out the consultative framework. There is no point giving the press an opportunity to talk of our two great powers eyeing each other suspiciously. We have no desire to derive advantage at the expense of Soviet participation. The US and Soviet Union must work together in the long run. Or it will not last. I hope you will tell Brezhnev not only what I said but how I said it.
Gromyko: I heard all you said and cannot but agree with much of it. It is correct that a peaceful settlement needs to be achieved. That is exactly what needs to be done.
[At this point Steve Bull8 came in to remind the President that Mr. Gromyko had a one o'clock luncheon engagement.)
You spoke of the need for both powers to act together to reach the goal. But the practical activities of the US in the Middle East run counter to those fine words. All that the US has done of late in the Middle East has been done in circumvention of the Soviet Union by separate measures.
Consultation is not the crux. The two sides can exchange information as long as they wish but their actions may never come together. The crux is for both sides to act together and that has not happened. I do not know what Dr. Kissinger will say to me in pursuance of what you
have said, but we will see. Perhaps this is all we can say now in view of the shortness of time.
President: I hope you and Dr. Kissinger can work out some understanding so we can proceed to our goal, the peace settlement which we both pursue. I leave it to both of you and Dobrynin can be the referee.
Kissinger: The Foreign Minister is, of course, so flexible.
Gromyko: I would like to say a few words on Europe, especially on the all European Security Conference. In this area, we are happy to see
the US taking a more constructive position. We said so to Dr. Kissinger in Moscow and also to you previously. In Moscow, Dr. Kissinger had certain interesting ideas. We told him we hoped the US Delegation would play a more vigorous role in Geneva. We are pleased to see that in recent days this has happened. We hope you and Dr. Kissinger will do everything to bring the Conference to a successful conclusion and to conduct the third stage at the highest level. You see, I have something pleasant to say.
President: Yes, we have made great progress. If the conferees can agree to important matters, then we will come to the summit. It is the same with you—you don't want to come if there is no agreement. Of course, there are also the Europeans and they also have ideas. So it is not all that easy to get agreement.
Kissinger: We have worked with the Allies and you will have seen that there has been progress.
President: I have talked with the Italians, with Wilson and Brandt and they are all on track. Also with the Dane. We are using our influence; I am.
Kissinger: We have to do a little more with the British in regard to one item-confidence-building measures in the spirit we discussed in Moscow. These are the military things, Mr. President.
Gromyko: Well, thank you very much. Thank you for this conversation. I certainly appreciate it. It has been a very frank exchange of views. I express the hope that all that relates to the closeness of our positions will be brought to fruition. On those matters on which I had to say things that are not so pleasant for you to hear, I hope they can be worked out too. I would like you to instruct your Secretary of State that when he addresses the General Assembly he should not fire too many arrows at us. Because in my own speech I had to do some “fighting, you know against whom. President: I would like you to discuss one question that you
didn't make much progress on-MBFR.
President: I would like you to discuss it with Henry at lunch. It is very important for certain reasons here.
Both Kissinger and Gromyko addressed the Sixth Special Session of the General Assembly, which met to discuss the needs of developing countries and the international cooperation necessary to address them. Gromyko's April 12 speech and Kissinger's April 15 speech were reported in The New York Times, April 12 and 16, 1974, respectively.
Gromyko: That is indeed a very important matter, as was said by General Secretary Brezhnev in Moscow. But the Western position in Vienna is not objective. No agreement can be reached on that basis. And what is more, we think they think so too.
President: Well, we discussed with Mr. Brezhnev a five percent cut by both sides.
Gromyko: Well, thank you very much Mr. President.
President: We have had many meetings in this room. All of us should indicate that we are making positive progress on all items, we are preparing for the summit. The New York Times said Kissinger was gloomy in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 10 But before the other summits everyone was pessimistic.
Gromyko: We must surprise them again.
President: We must work hard and come out with results. We should say we are making good progress, although not everything is settled. We have to leave some things for Brezhnev and me to settle.
[As the President was escorting Gromyko to the door, Gromyko said "We trust you understand that we want you to come and have the meeting and that nothing should interfere with it.")
[The President accompanied Mr. Gromyko to the West Lobby. They spoke about détente and the President said, in shaking Mr. Gromyko's hand at the West Lobby door, “We will be cursed by future generations if we fail. We must succeed.")
10 See “Kissinger Gloomy on 3 Major Issues," ibid., April 12, 1974, p. 1.