226. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • NSC Weekly Report #81

1. Opinion

On Negotiating

The comments which follow are not meant to be just negative—but I feel that I should share my concern that the way we have been conducting our negotiations on some key issues may be reducing our credibility and therefore also our ability to attain our goals.

[Page 913]

In negotiations there often comes the time to force the issue to a head by making the other side take stock of the consequences of failure. One should even be willing to deliberately create such circumstances, as Sadat has done from time to time. Of course, before one does so one should carefully marshal one’s resources and calculate timing very carefully.


We have been dribbling our concessions, and asserting from time to time that we would go no further. Yet time after time we would then make additional concessions.2

The latest example pertains to the ALCMs: as a major concession we told the Soviets that we would accept the limit of 35 as an average. The Soviets countered with 25. We immediately offered 30 as a compromise. The Soviets are now talking of a figure of between 25 and 30 as the outcome, despite our accommodation on the definition issue.3

Indeed, Cy put the new definition to Dobrynin earlier this week on the assumption that this would solve all the remaining issues—an assumption Dobrynin led us to suspect is true. The opposite has happened, and the Soviets are even reopening some old issues.

I am convinced the Soviets want a SALT agreement, and I think there is a good probability that we could have obtained one some months ago had we been prepared to establish credibly the position that we are no longer able to make further adjustments and that we can wait.4

[Omitted here is material unrelated to SALT.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Subject File, Box 29, NSC Weekly Reports #81, 6–12/78. Secret. At the top of the first page, Carter wrote: “Zbig—You comment as though you’ve not been involved in the process, & that everyone else has been wrong except you. J.”
  2. Carter wrote “SU does the same” in the margin next to this paragraph.
  3. Carter wrote “only symbolically important” in the margin next to this paragraph.
  4. Carter wrote “B.S. We’ve waited 2 years” in the margin next to this paragraph.