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Richard Nixon Administration: News Conference on the Middle East

(March 21, 1970)


On Monday the Secretary of State, as you have already been informed, will make a statement on the administration's Mideast policy, with particular reference to two requests by the Israeli Government, one for economic assistance, and the other for military assistance. The Secretary of State will have a press conference at that time in which he will answer any of the questions you may have on the specifics of that decision.

I would like to, at this preliminary point, indicate the basic factor that led to that decision, and also the factors that will guide us as we make decisions in this area in the future. As far as the military portion of the decision is concerned, I would describe it as essentially an interim decision. Our goal in the Mideast, or goals, I should say, in broad terms, are four.

First, to have a cease-fire; second, to reduce the flow of arms into the area; third, to achieve a political settlement; and fourth, to accomplish to the greatest extent possible, a balance between the forces in that area which will contribute to peace from a military standpoint and not to disturb that balance.

The decision that the Secretary will announce on Monday is one based on our present appraisal of the balance of power in the Mideast.

In recent days there have been disturbing reports that the Soviet Union, by deliveries of new [surface-to-air] missiles, SA-3's, to the U.A.R. and through the insertion of military personnel, may be taking actions which could change that balance. It is too early to say whether that is the case. We are watching the situation closely.

If the U.S.S.R., by its military assistance programs to Israel's neighbors, does essentially change the balance, then the United States would take action to deal with that situation. The Secretary of State will cover this matter in greater detail in his statement.

It is our hope that in our negotiations with the Soviet Union, bilaterally, and in the Four-Power talks, that we can convince all the major powers to stop escalating the arms race in the Mideast, to work together for a cease-fire, and to achieve, of course, a political settlement.

Apart from the recent reports, there have been some developments in the Mideast in our bilateral discussions with the Soviet Union that have been, I would say, modestly encouraging, and we trust that that trend, rather than this latest trend, will be the one that will prevail.

But the Secretary of State's statement on both the economic and military assistance program, as I have indicated, is based on the decision which was made on our analysis of the present balance in the Mideast, one that we believe should be maintained in the interest of peace and of a settlement.


Q. Mr. President, in what you had to say about the Middle East and the decisions to be announced by the Secretary of State Monday, there seemed to be the clear implication that the decision is against sending the additional arms to Israel. Could you go so far as to say whether or not that interpretation is on the right track?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, Mr. Horner [Garnett D. Horner, Washington Evening Star], I am not going to preempt what the Secretary of State is going to say. But let me also indicate that the Secretary of State's statement will cover the whole area of a major economic proposal--request-that was made by the Government of Israel, and also the area of military requests that are made by the Government of Israel.

I would think that it would be unwise to anticipate or speculate in advance what the Secretary of State is going to say on these various things.

What I am simply saying is this: that insofar as the military portion of the decision is concerned, that portion is based on the fact situation as we see it at this time, and that will be constantly reappraised as the fact situation changes.

That is why I refer to it as essentially an interim decision rather than one that looks forward over a period of say 2 years, 3 years, or 4 years, because the fact situation does change.

Sources: Public Papers of the President