Secretary Rusk withdraws proposal for Nasser visit – March 5, 1962

In attached memo,2 Secretary Rusk withdraws his proposal that you consider a Nasser visit in April, despite the favorable recommendations from Bowles and Badeau. State still believes that a cautious step-by-step effort to get on a better footing with the UAR is sound policy, but backs off from a visit now because of your reluctance and Nasser’s continued bad behavior after our initial probes.

Rusk urges, however, that we hold open the possibility of a visit in December. It costs nothing to do so, as long as there are no leaks. In fact, if there is an 18-power summit meeting you’ll have an opportunity to see Nasser and decide for yourself whether a later visit would be useful.

Meanwhile, to see the case for a Nasser visit you should read the attached views of Ambassadors Bowles and Badeau.3 To my mind the same strategic considerations which dictate our policy toward Tito, Sukarno, and other neutralists are valid in the case of Nasser. If we invited Tito, Nasser will be the only major neutralist who has never been to the US; thus singling him out will almost compel him to react unfavorably.

It is the Arab/Israeli issue which makes a visit difficult; paradoxical as it may seem, however, better relations with Nasser might give us more leverage toward promoting an ultimate Arab/Israeli settlement than any other course. Egypt’s attitude is the key to such a settlement; no other Arab state dares get out ahead of Nasser in moving toward a settlement lest he revile it as a traitor. Moreover, the new Syrian Government’s agitation over the Jordan waters may well heat up the whole Arab/Israeli situation again. Hence it may become important for you to discuss this problem personally with Nasser.

Despite the political risks, I also continue to believe it worth an investment of your time and prestige to influence Nasser toward a less radical stance; he can cause us a lot more trouble if actively hostile than if he has a vested interest in good relations with us.

R.W. Komer4

1 Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Staff Memoranda, Robert W. Komer. Secret.
2 Document 205.

In telegram 1247 from Cairo, February 21, Badeau registered his strong support for Bowles’ recommendation that Nasser visit the United States in the spring of 1962. He added: “No miracles should be expected but strong effort increase understanding and urge UAR moderation essential and can most effectively be made by President Kennedy in personal contact with Nasser. Same negative factors arguing against spring visit can be cited against visit at any other time. Therefore believe we should choose spring date as offering more hope for beneficial after effects.” (Department of State, Central Files, 786B.11/2–2162) Bowles’ views are in Document 195.
4 Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
Secretary Rusk withdraws proposal for Nasser visit – March 5, 1962

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