WASHINGTON (Feb. 9)
Asserting that a discussion of the Middle East problem will be the second item on the agenda of his summit talks in Moscow next May, President Nixon bluntly accused the Soviet Union today of responsibility for the current situation in that region and called on the Soviet government to help avoid a “major conflict in the Middle East” by restraining its supply of arms to its allies in the area.
In his annual foreign policy report to Congress. Nixon reviewed the history of the Middle East conflict since 1969 and disclosed that the Soviets have deployed some “eight surface-to-air missile installations, several squadrons of combat aircraft with Soviet pilots, 5,000 missile crew members and technicians and about 11,000 other advisors” in Egypt since early 1970. This build-up continued through 1970, he said and Soviet personnel were directly involved in violations of the standstill cease-fire agreement of Aug. 7, 1970.
The President urged the Soviet Union to aid in achieving peace in the Middle East by refraining from using the Arab-Israel dispute “to enhance its own military position” and by “encouraging the negotiations of peace.” The urgency with which President Nixon regards the Middle East situation was evident in his disclosure that “a discussion of the problem of the Middle East and the reasons for the failure to reach a peaceful settlement there” will be second only to an agreement on strategic arms limitations on the agenda of his forthcoming Moscow talks and will precede the problem of European security “in all its aspects” which is third on the agenda.
Nixon devoted some 5,000 words to the Middle East situation in his 236-page third annual foreign policy survey titled “United States Foreign Policy for the 1970s–The Emerging Structure of Peace.” The document discussed America’s relationship with all parts of the world and global problems. The President said in the preface that the State and Defense Departments would issue details later on inter-country relations and American defenses.
CEASE-FIRE ‘MINIMUM’ FOR TALKS
Examining four of the “issues for the future” in the Middle East, Nixon stressed that “at a minimum, the cease-fire must be maintained if the climate for negotiation is to be preserved.” While hoping for an end to the “arms race” there, he said, the military balance “must not be allowed to tempt one side to seek an easy victory or panic the other side into a move of desperation.”
Noting that “maintaining the military balance is not by itself a policy which can bring peace,” Nixon said that the “search for an overall Arab-Israel settlement will continue under Ambassador (Gunnar V.) Jarring’s auspices” and that “our efforts to help the parties achieve an interim agreement will also continue, as long as the parties wish.” On this point, he added that “the interim approach, if it is to succeed, must find a way to make progress on practical and partial aspects of the situation without raising all the contentious issues that obstruct a comprehensive solution.”
Warning the Soviet against obstructing detente by its activity in the Middle East, Nixon put that issue as follows: “The United States and the USSR can contribute to the process of settlement by encouraging Arabs and Israelis to begin serious negotiation. The Great Powers also have a responsibility to enhance, not undermine, the basic conditions of stability in the area. Injecting the global strategic rivalry into the region is incompatible with Middle East peace and with detente in US-Soviet relations.”
Earlier in his Middle East discussion, the President said that “a secure peace in the Middle East requires stable relations on both levels–accommodation within the region and a balance among the powers outside.” The President sharply charged the Soviet Union with responsibility for the current Middle East situation. “The Soviet Union’s effort to use the Arab-Israeli conflict to perpetuate and expand its own military position in Egypt has been a matter of concern to the United States,” he said.
USSR ALMOST KILLED CEASE-FIRE
Nixon reviewed the erratic course of negotiations with the USSR on the Middle East and said that the talks with the Soviet Union in 1969 “unfortunately foundered” because the “Soviet Union tried to draw a final political and territorial blue-print, including final boundaries, instead of helping launch a process of negotiation.”
He stated that in the fall of 1969 “We reached an understanding with the USSR on a possible procedure for indirect Arab-Israeli talks” but in Dec. of that year “the Soviet Union changed its mind on this understanding.” Early in 1970, the President said, the Soviet Union began “a major military build-up in Egypt which further delayed negotiations. The President noted that when, because of the Soviet-Egyptian cease fire violations, “Israel refused to negotiate until the violations were rectified,” the US “provided Israel with means to cope with this situation.”
Since that time, his report added, the Soviets introduced more missiles and “advanced” aircraft. The report did not describe the present Soviet strength in Egypt. In his section “on relations with the Soviet Union” in this report, the President declared that the “fragile cease-fire” achieved in Egypt Aug. 7, 1970 by the US was “almost killed in its infancy” by “a rash and provocative Soviet and Egyptian missile buildup along the Suez Canal.”