President Johnson Trying To Keep
The Middle East From Having An Arms Race
(March 18, 1965)
President Johnson explains
to President Nasser that the United States
feels that they should ovoid supplying arms
to major players in the conflict and should
not give one side military advantage of the
other. Johnson also does not want to hurt
relation between the U.S. and Israel.
192. Letter From President
Johnson to President Nasser/1/
Dear Mr. President:
Since my message to you last December 12/2/
I have looked forward to a further exchange
of views between us. Now, unfortunately, new
tensions have developed in the Near East.
I have been deeply concerned by developments
in the direct relations of the United States
and the United Arab Republic which have put
strains on the friendship I hope for between
our two governments and peoples. As the proud
leader of an important people, you will, I
know, share my view that the best way to deal
with difficulties of this kind is to discuss
them man to man, with full respect for each
other's rights and responsibilities.
I have therefore asked Ambassador Battle
to seek an appointment with you to bring this
personal message and to discuss with you the
issues of current importance in the Near East
that concern us both.
The problem which needs this kind of discussion
today is that of the best way of dealing temperately
and responsibly with the growing arms race
in the Middle East. As you know, the United
States Government has consistently sought
to find ways and means of turning that arms
race downward. We are convinced that it does
not serve the real interest of any people
in the area. At the same time, we have obligations
and interests which require us to take account
of the pressures that are generated by very
heavy arms supply from other countries.
It is in this context that I have asked Ambassador
Battle to discuss our present position with
you. That position has been established within
the framework of our traditional policy of
restraint with regard to arms sales. The principles
of that policy are two:
First, we shall, to the greatest extent possible,
continue to avoid selling arms to the principal
parties to the Arab-Israel dispute.
Second, in no case will we sell arms that
will give one side a military advantage over
the other. This is the policy we have followed
and will continue to follow.
You and I carry heavy responsibilities. I
am convinced that by serious efforts on both
sides, we can do much to improve understanding
between our Governments. I can assure you
that on my side I will do my full part to
maintain and to increase relations of mutual
respect between our two countries. The interests
of our peoples will thrive in strength and
understanding, not in weakness and frustration.
Lyndon B. Johnson
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security
File, Special Head of State Correspondence File,
United Arab Republic, Presidential Correspondence.
Secret. Filed with a draft by Bundy, an earlier
draft, and related memoranda. In a March 18
telephone conversation, Bundy told Ball that
the President wanted a short letter, and Bundy
had dictated one. (Ibid., Ball Papers, United
/2/See footnote 2, Document 117.