NEW YORK (Jul. 21)
The Soviet Union tried to pressure President Johnson to take action to halt Israeli advances during the 1967 Six-Day War, even indicating it was prepared to risk nuclear war, according to an article in the Reader’s Digest on the use of the Moscow-Washington teletype hot line during the Arab-Israel War.
The hot line was used five times during the war in what the magazine, in a copyrighted article, said was a “war of nerves and of wills” waged by President Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin. The article, “Countdown in the Holy Land,” based on interviews with participants in the teletype confrontation, was written by Reader’s Digest roving editor, Lester Velie.
Premier Kosygin used the hot line ‘for the first time in anger” on Tuesday, June 6, the second day of the war, the article said. In that call Mr. Kosygin demanded that President Johnson persuade the Israelis to stop their advance in the Sinai Desert and withdraw, hinting that otherwise the Soviet Union would intervene.
The President’s answer was that the United States would not unilaterally act and the matter should be referred to the United Nations. Premier Kosygin called again that day and, ignoring the President’s preference for UN action, again demanded that the United States force the Israelis to withdraw.
Mr. Kosygin’s message, the magazine said, indicated that “the Soviets would have to make perilous decisions…with dire consequences.” “It was clear,” the article said, “the Russians were coming as close as they could to saying that they were prepared to risk nuclear war.”
President Johnson’s second reply to Mr. Kosygin was the same as the first, the article said, and no more transmissions were made until June 10, the last day of the war.
Premier Kosygin called three times on June 10 to demand the U.S. act immediately halt the Israeli advance (now being made into Syria). President Johnson answered that he could exercise no more control over the Israelis than the Russians could over the Arabs, the Reader’s Digest article said. The article said after Premier Kosygin’s third call, President Johnson Sept. units of the Sixth Fleet toward the Syrian coast.