Returning and Redemption
Dear Friend, President Leonid Brezhnev, First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party-
I am writing to you personally because, reposing trust in your friendly feelings, which I have myself come to realize in our numerous meetings, I hope to break the vicious circle in which the relations between our two countries have been caught. Our bilateral relations are today bedeviled by a misunderstanding which I feel will be exacerbated if certain points are not made clear.
I shall therefore be completely frank in this letter, however far this may take me, so that our point of view is fully conveyed to you, free from all tendentious interpretations and the influence of falsehoods.
1. We still bear in mind your own experience in World War II. The Soviet peoples rejected Nazi occupation and would not allow it to continue. They fought valiantly, making all the necessary sacrifices for the liberation of their land, and struggled without stint to secure their dignity. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the Arab people of Egypt should be equally eager to liberate their land, equally willing to make all the necessary sacrifices, whatever their magnitude may be. This, I believe, should constitute the right point of departure for us.
2. I therefore believe that my eagerness to maintain our friendship requires me to start this message at the point where our dialogue was broken off, since our last meeting in April 1972, and so get to the heart of the rnatter~the real reason behind the present “pause.” It is this which I hope will enable us to continue our dialogue and get to the core of the Problem. Once we have mutually understood our viewpoints, we shall be able to deal with all other issues.
3. You will perhaps agree, dear friend, that I have shown the utmost eagerness to maintain and consolidate our friendship in all spheres. It was this that made me pay four visits to Moscow-in March and October 1971, then in February and April of the current year. The main topic in our talks at all these meetings was the problem of the Israeli aggression and the steps which need to be taken for the liberation of our land.
Please allow me here to remind you that I have been careful at all the meetings I had with the Soviet leaders under your chairmanship, to emphasize two main principles-
First, that we don’t want anybody other than our soldiers to fight our battle for us.
Second, that we don’t want, nor do we ever seek, to let our battle spark off a confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States, insofar as this would be catastrophic to the whole world. I said, literally, that anybody who sought this was undoubtedly a lunatic.
4. The view on which we have concurred at our various meetings, particularly at our last meeting in April 1972, was that Israel and her backer, the United States of America, wouldn’t make a move to reach a solution to the problem, peaceful or otherwise, until Israel felt that our military power had grown sufficiently to challenge her military superiority. Only then would Israel, as well as the United States, see that it is in their interests to find a solution to the problem.
I mentioned in our frequent discussions that we needed a retaliation weapon which would deter the enemy from hitting Egyptian targets far inland, as he had done in the past, because of his knowledge that we would then be able to retaliate in kind and attack his inland positions.
It was obvious, and still is, that, deprived of such a retaliation weapon, we would remain incapable of taking any kind of military action and, consequently, Israel would see no need to change her intransigent attitude for a settlement of the problem to be reached.
5. Hence the message I sent you with Marshal Grechko, who visited us in May 1972, a few days before the Moscow meeting. For my part, I was careful to ensure the highest degree of success for his visit, and agreed to issue the statement which he had brought over from Moscow-a statement which claimed that Egyptian pilots had used the Supersonic MIG 238 on three occasions and that new fighter-bombers had been used in Egypt.
It was all untrue.
Still, I agreed to issue that statement to make a success of that visit, as I have said, and because I was conscious of the political objectives of the visit, particularly in view of the fact that it took place a few days before the Moscow meeting, and so wanted, as a friend, to let you conduct your Moscow talks from a position of strength.
However, I gave Marshal Grechko a clear-cut message to convey to you regarding the conduct of our relations after the Moscow meeting. It wasn’t difficult to anticipate the conclusions of the Moscow meeting as our problem was concerned- there was nothing so mysterious about it, in fact. I specified October 31 as the deadline for what we should achieve during that period-a period just about sufficient for completing our preparations for the post-U.S. elections round. I told Marshal Grechko we needed every minute and could afford to waste no time whatsoever, in order to secure the firm ground needed for the new round by the deadline fixed.
6. When on June 6 your ambassador conveyed your message to me on the outcome of the Moscow meeting-that is, nearly ten days after the meeting ended-I was not surprised- it was no news to us at all. On the same day I sent you another seven-point message… specifying the position even further. I earnestly urged that no time should be wasted between then and October 31- every minute counted.
In that message, you’ll find, I officially asked for an immediate resolution of the problem of command and domination- it was unreasonable for Soviet units to be stationed in Egypt without being under our command.
7. A whole month later, and following repeated approaches, both through the Prime Minister and through the Foreign Minister, I received a message from you, on July 8. It took you a whole month to reply, though I had informed you I counted the days, the hours, the minutes.
It was a disappointing message. It completely ignored all that I had conveyed to you first through Marshal Grechko and subsequently on June 6. It confirmed to me, however, the fact that such a method as you adopted in dealing with us-of ignoring our position and the battle we have ahead -followed from a certain mentality from which we have been suffering year after year since the aggression-for five years, in fact. I have repeatedly tried, over one and a half years, to draw attention to it, to no avail.
That is why I have rejected this message, and rejected this method; and now we have to have a pause-as friends-in order to define our positions frankly.
I would like, my friend, to reveal briefly my impressions of that period, because it is your right as a friend to know the reasons which, I believe, justify my decisions.
The crisis is “frozen,” and no means of breaking the present deadlock are available.
The American claim that the United States, and the United States alone, is capable of finding a solution has been increasingly vindicated, even after the Moscow meeting.
Israel’s unbridled actions in our Arab region continue unchecked.
The statement issued by the Moscow meeting calls for “military relaxation” in the region after the solution of the problem.
Your message of July 8 completely ignores the measures we had agreed upon and which we believe to be absolutely necessary insofar as they would enable us to resort to military action, if need be, after the U.S. elections.
The United States continues to give unlimited amounts of weapons to Israel, and is modernizing the entire Israeli air force, apart from other types of armaments.
Your attitude, following this message, reveals that the partial embargo you have imposed on us for the last five years, in regard to “retaliation weapons,” has been extended at this critical period to cover basic necessities which I had specified in my message to you but which you completely ignored.
In view of all these considerations, my decision to terminate the mission of the advisers has been designed to give us a pause-to mark the inevitable end of a certain era and the beginning of another based on fresh concepts, recalculations and redefinition of our stands.
8. Let me, my friend, cite examples from what happens in the armed forces-and consequently among our people, insofar as the armed forces constitute a part of the Egyptian people. The advisers should have informed you of these before the situation deteriorated so much.
A. In the Navy- The commander of our navy has for the last four years been demanding a new submarine-detection device to replace the Soviet one currently in use whose range is a mere 500 meters. Your reply has consistently been that the Soviet Union possessed no other submarine-detection device, while every naval officer in Egypt knows that your warships are equipped with a device which detects submarines as far away as the horizon. The West has it too, and it isn’t a secret. We are not a backward country- we read about what both the West and the East have, and follow up advances in all fields throughout the world. What makes it even ironical is that your warships “live” among us!
The horizon-detection device is on the market in the West; it isn’t a secret. Other devices are available that have at least twenty times the range of our device, and they are not secret either.
What would our naval officers say in view of such a state of affairs?
B. In the Air Force- All our air force officers-who graduated from your academies-know that you possess superior aircraft such as the M500, such as those we had until recently. But then all that you have is regarded as secret and unapproachable. .
The rocket-equipped aircraft which we have fly, loaded with their rockets, at a speed almost half that of the commercial, passenger Ilyushin-62s and Boeings. Their rockets are launched at a subsonic speed and continue to be vulnerable to antiballistic missiles for more than six minutes, while Phantoms, flying at Mach 2.25, are equipped with U.S. Shrike rockets, which travel at supersonic speeds, naturally. I had drawn your attention to this fact at the time, through your ambassador, even before ten such rockets were fired at us.
What would our air force officers say to this?
C. In the Army- You sent us l80-mm guns, in view of the l75-mm guns the United States had supplied Israel with-but the former simply could never compare with the latter.
The American gun is tank-mounted, highly mobile, with a built-in firing mechanism so that it can reach the farthest targets it is designed for. Yours is immobile (it can be moved by no less than twenty men), has no built-in firing mechanism and so falls short of its full range. This was denied us, to ensure that it wouldn’t be used offensively-in accordance with the offensive weapons embargo you have imposed on us.
As has been declared, the United States sent unlimited numbers of its offensive guns to Israel, while you sent us no more than four of those guns, to be used on a l60-kilometer-long front.
Our officers know that you have a more powerful gun than the American one-and mounted too, but it is, as usual, a secret, and your experts deny that you have anything of the sort.
What would our artillery officers say?
In the infantry, each officer and each soldier knows that the weapons used in opening gaps in enemy lines mean simply his life itself at the start of military operations. All we have in this line is, however, World War II equipment. Our officers who had their military training at Frunz [military academy] know that you and the West possess- which is not a secret- rockets for the opening of gaps. We have been repeatedly demanding such weapons for two years now, and getting the same reply-the Soviet Union hasn’t any.
This is just a sample. I could give you hundreds of other examples -all known to every officer and every soldier in the armed forces, and, hence, to the people.
Is this a method of cooperation by a friend?
Our defense system lacks a lot of “items,” though we say the opposite of this to the people and the world at large. And this is where I would like to have a pause, in order to discuss the “mentality” behind it all.
You look on us as though we were a backward country, while our officers have had education in your academies-just like your own officers. We, furthermore, follow up developments throughout the world- East and West- which are not any longer secret. Armament is dealt with in books which are circulated throughout the world. When the Soviet advisers were asked about a given item, they either fell silent or replied that the Soviet Union didn’t have it-while we, and everybody else, knew that the Soviet Union has everything.
9. Let me tell you frankly, my friend, that I feel our future relations to be seriously threatened. And the most serious thing about it is the sense of bitterness our people will be left with, in regard to the Soviet Union.
You have every right, I believe, in view of my recent decisions to adopt such a stand as would in your opinion serve your interests. But I do not believe that it is in your interest at all to let our people be so bitter toward the Soviet Union, after such a long period of friendship and constructive work as we have been through together.
Your decision to withdraw the M500 aircraft, especially after a joint Soviet- Egyptian communiqué was issued during Marshal Grechko’s visit to the effect that Egyptian pilots had flown them, is, I believe, one of the worst decisions imaginable insofar as it embitters our people and the armed forces.
So was your decision to withdraw the jamming equipment, operated as they were by Soviet personnel, either under the pretext that they were secret, that we couldn’t operate them or any other pretext. It was again a most unhappy decision, which dealt a serious blow to Soviet-Egyptian friendship.
Both decisions meant that the Soviet Union was imposing its conditions on us.
We had, together, put an end to armament monopoly in the world since 1955,
There is another, more serious consideration. We are facing, in this battle, an enemy equipped by every possible weapon. What would be the conclusion of the ordinary citizen?
I shall leave it to you to assess the real dimensions of all this, but I would have done violence to our friendship if I didn’t tell it all to you as frankly as this.
10. One last thing, which I want you to see very clearly-
The deadline of October 31 had been transmitted to you in the message I already conveyed with Marshal Grechko, the other message sent through your ambassador, and personally through our Premier during his last visit to you,
The aim of our Premier’s visit was that a joint communiqué be issued to spare us all kinds of malicious reporting and Shadenfreude; but you refused to do so.
I would like to tell you, in all honesty and frankness, that I still hold this deadline- October 31- as the decisive factor in our relationship.
I hope sincerely- and in a spirit of real fraternity- that you will realize that this is not a warning, as some people may tend to interpret it; we never address warnings to anybody because we cannot accept any warnings from anybody.
This deadline is based on two factors- one is political, the other military.
As for the political factor, as we have concurred in our last meeting and in my messages to you-we shall find ourselves, after the U.S. presidential elections, in a situation marked by joint U.S.-Israeli efforts to impose a solution in favor of Israel. Without a solid military base to stand on, we shall simply slip into the vicious circle once again-a Jarring mission, a Security Council resolution, and an Israel that feels too superior militarily to make a move.
As for the second factor, the military, you can ask your military men what kind of military superiority Israel will have by next November and December.
Israel will have fully “assimilated” all the up-to-date accretions to its air force-the great numbers of Phantoms and Skyhawks-and the gap between us, already so wide, will be even wider.
So you can see very clearly, my friend, that such a deadline is based on political and military considerations already agreed on.
Having said that, let me tell you that we, in Egypt, will continue to show gratitude for your assistance. The evidence of this you will find in the emphasis I consistently laid on the role of Soviet support for us, in all the speeches I addressed to the Arab people in Egypt and the Arab region at large, even when I declared my decision to terminate the mission of Soviet advisers in Egypt.
To be completely honest, however, I have to state that your very first priority in establishing the cooperation you wish to have with us should be to enable us to liberate our land. We wish to consolidate our cooperation with you to the greatest possible extent-though such an extent will be commensurate with the extent of assistance we shall receive from our friends in the Soviet Union, toward solving our basic and paramount problem, that of liberating our land.
I have written to you, and ask you to intervene personally, because I have complete confidence in your feelings, your understanding of our cause, and your eagerness to solve the problem.
The problem of liberating the land is everything to us-our very life, conduct, relations, and actions. I seriously fear that some people may fail to appreciate this properly and so allow bitterness to take the place of friendship.
Now, if you find that the above clarifications are conducive to a better understanding of our circumstances, Dr. Aziz Sidqi, our Prime Minister, will be prepared to pay a private visit to the Soviet Union- at the time you deem appropriate- to pave the way for a meeting between us and for a detailed study of all questions to be made, designed to help our relations to proceed in the future from a firm basis of trust, and cooperation based on mutual frankness to serve our common interests.
Please accept my genuinely amicable sentiments and appreciation. With best wishes to you personally, your colleagues in the Soviet leadership, and the friendly Soviet people.
(signed) Anwar el-Sadat
President of the Republic
August 30, 1972