Rebecca Lesses

Associate Professor, Philosophy and Religion
School: School of Humanities and Sciences

Wilson, No. 2 – news columns – United Nations, N.Y. – President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexie N. Kosygin sparred at long distance Monday over an Israeli pull-back in the middle east.

            Mr. Johnson topped the Soviet premier by speaking Washington an hour before Kosygin’s address at the Russian-sponsored emergency session of the United Nations General assembly.

            When the leaders of the super-powers had finished they were as far apart as ever but both had left open the door for face-to-face secret discussions.

            Kosygin had no time for President Johnson’s formula for the middle east: recognition of Israel’s right to live by the Arab states; justice for the Palestinian refugees; innocent passage through the Aqaba gulf and the Suez canal; limits on the arms supply for the mid east.

            The Soviet premier proposed the condemnation of Israel, reparations for the war damage, withdrawal from the new territories occupied. There was no sign that President Johnson would agree to such harsh treatment of Israel.

            This left open the big question of Kosygin’s visit to the United Nations. Will he and President Johnson finally get together to talk about what practical steps can be taken in the mid east and other parts of the world toward more stable political conditions?

            Kosygin listened to President Johnson’s speech in Washington at a foreign policy conference for educators. Communist sources said Kosygin then did not change a single word of his prepared text in which he bitterly condemned the United States and Britain for backing Israel, accused the Israelis of atrocities and of inciting the war against the Arabs.

            Later, smarting under expertly argued response of Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban, Kosygin and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko left the United Nations assembly about five minutes before Eban finished. It was not a formal diplomatic walkout of the entire Soviet delegation, but was joined by the Egyptians as a kind of second-grade protest against Eban.

            Eban lectured Kosygin: “You come here in our eyes not as a judge or as a prosecutor, but rather as a legitimate object of international criticism for the part you have played in the somber events which have brought our region to a point of explosive tension.

            “If the Soviet Union had made an equal distribution of its friendship amongst the peoples of the middle east, if it had refrained from exploiting regional rancors and tensions for the purpose of its own global policy, if it had stood in evenhanded devotion to the legitimate interest of all states, the crisis which now commands our attention and anxiety would never had occurred.”

            Two points stood out in Kosygin’s address aside from his expected vituperation against the United States. He proclaimed the Soviet Union to be a friend of the people of Israel. He wanted to consider the problems of the mideast in context with the other worldwide issues between the United States and the Soviet Union.

            In general, Kosygin’s address, while cold and condemnatory, was considered remarkably restrained as compared to other such attacks in the U.S. against the United States.