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Digital Archive International History Declassified

October 29, 1973

PERSONAL LETTER FROM THE HEAD OF THE KGB, YURII ANDROPOV, TO THE GENERAL SECETARY OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE SOVIET UNION, LEONID ILYICH BREZHNEV

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    Andropov gives his views on American and Soviet strategy vis-a-vis the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
    "Personal Letter from the Head of the KGB, Yurii Andropov, to the General Secetary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev," October 29, 1973, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Dmitriń≠ Antonovich Volkogonov papers, 1887-1995, mm97083838, Reel 16, Box 24, Folder 39. Translated by Sergey Radchenko. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/198187
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[in handwriting: to L.I. Brezhnev]

[in handwring: com. Gorbachev M.S. has been acquainted][1]

Dear Leonid Ilyich!

Knowing your kind attitude to me, I decided to express some considerations, which concern not so much the actual crisis in the Middle East as the situation, which has been created around it. I was prompted to do so by the Italian cable[2], which Konstantin Ustinovich [Chernenko] forwarded to you yesterday. One can see from it that the adversary is counting not just on strengthening his position in the Middle East as a result of this crisis, in particular, on the collapse of the progressive regimes in the Arab countries, but also on the creation of difficulties in our leadership, which can, in his opinion, weaken our unity.[3]

Since this is not the first cable on the subject, I take it as my duty to underline that the Israeli military machine, in collusion with the enemies of peace in the US, is seriously betting on this. With this, such methods are being used as gradually pushing us towards accepting the burden of full responsibility for the eruption of the Middle Eastern conflict. With this aim, the line is being consciously erased between the actions of the Arabs, who began the war, and our policy, which was directed at the prevention of the unleashing of a military conflict. This is not just done by means of the Western propaganda but, objectively, with the hands of the Arabs themselves, whose leaders, Sadat and Assad, faced with military defeat, would very much want to renounce their responsibility and pin it on us.

In this connection, one’s attention is drawn to the tactics, chosen by the American-Israeli tandem. The fact that the Americans like Kissinger and the Israeli leadership have adopted the tactic of delays in the resolution of concrete questions connected to ceasefire is completely obvious. But something else is becoming clearer and clearer: they will try to use this tactic not just now but in the future, at every subsequent stage of crisis settlement, in order to delay the resolution of this question for as long as possible. Israel’s aim is clear: using delays, to put pressure on the ARE [Arab Republic of Egypt] in order to win more favourable conditions for the peace settlement.

As for the Americans, their pattern of behavior in the Middle Eastern question, judging by everything, is also tied to this country’s domestic problems, in particular, to the difficulties Nixon has due to the “Watergate affair.” One can see from the cables of c[omrade] [Anatolii] Dobrynin and our residents in Washington and New York that the “Watergate affair” has flared up again. The threat of “impeachment” has now become more realistic for Nixon than it was a few months ago. One cannot rule out that in this situation the Jewish lobby in the Congress is seriously limiting Nixon’s actions and his desire to implement the agreement which was reached during your, Leonid Ilyich, visit to the USA.

For his part, Nixon, of course, is interested in giving the solution of the Middle Eastern business such as direction as to destract the attention of the American public from the “Watergate affair.”

Another tendecy is also visible in the tactic of delays: to tire us out, to exhaust us. Already for two weeks we have observed the following picture: almost daily, beginning from the early morning, assurances come from Washington that Nixon and Kissinger are “together with us” making every effort to liquidate the crisis sutation in the Middle East, and are creating the impression that the resolution of the question of the ceasefire is seemingly in our pocket. But, as a rule, in the afternoon[4], [Soviet Ambassador in Egypt] c[omrade] Vinogradov is called in by Sadat, who declares that the situation on the front is catastrophic and demands our immediate help.

It is quite understandable that in such a situation our leadership and, first and foremost, you personally, cannot do anything else other than, putting all urgent tasks aside, deal with the questions posed by Sadat until the next morning. If one had to specifically come up with a method in order to disrupt the normal work of our leadership, one could hardly find a better method. I personally see this as a kind of sabotage, intended to artificially hold us attached to the Arab-Israeli conflict, creating over-exhaustion for all, especially for you personally.

After all, in such a situation you are forced to postpone many other questions of no lesser importance than the Middle Eastern one, for instance, the preparation of your visit to India, the review of the economic plan for the coming year, etc. All of these are questions, which cannot be decided in haste, on-the-fly; they demand from you a great commitment of strength and energy, which are currently completely eaten up by the Middle Eastern affairs.[5]

Such a situation, frankly speaking, appears dangerous to me because human capabilities are not limitless.

Moreover, there a long and determined struggle with Israel and the American “hawks” lies ahead. And this struggle, it appears to me, will not only take place on the Middle Eastern plane. Its success is closely connected to the solution of many other problems, which, at first sight, do not have a direct relationship with the Middle Eastern affairs, which also must be [two words not legible] by the Politburo.

Like all comrades, I clearly understand the whole meaning and the whole significance of the steps, which were urgently and energetically taken by the Soviet Union on your initiative. All of this was necessary, and, unquestionably, produced its positive results.

But perhaps now a moment has already arrived when one will have to treat the problem of the Middle East as a long-term, multi-stage, and complicated one, which will by virtue of this require a more even-paced solution, such conduct of affairs that one’s energies are not depleted and not exhausted. By this, Leonid Ilyich, I first and foremost mean you, the extreme overstraining of your strength and your almost around-the-clock activity, which are of course very important in the solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict but which are also extremely necessary for many other important tasks and are first and foremost necessary for our party and the Soviet people.

With respect,

[Signed] Yu. Andropov

29 October 1973

[1] The latter notation evidently belongs to a much later period (mid-1980s).

[2] Not further identified.

[3] Here and elsewhere, underlined by an unknown reader (probably Brezhnev).

[4] Underlined by the typist, not by hand.

[5] The entire paragraph is set off by a hand-drawn vertical line on the margins.

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