243. Memorandum From the Director of the International Communication Agency (Reinhardt) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Response to Presidential Directive on OPEC Oil Price Increase

In response to your memorandum of October 17, 1979,2 you should know that the International Communication Agency is giving increased attention to the potentially disruptive effects of sharp oil price increases on the world economy and, more particularly, on the Less Developed Countries. Energy supplies and energy costs are a continuing high priority of USICA media. An analysis of the major issues for over[Page 769]seas posts is being prepared, and it will stress the points in your memorandum.

Two notable examples of our media coverage to date were:

—VOA took advantage of the anniversary of the 1929 crash to compare, in a news analysis, industrial workers harshly affected by the ’29 crash with the worst potential victims of the present energy-dominated economic cycle—the developing countries.

—On October 27th, Under Secretary of the Treasury Anthony M. Solomon spoke at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Seminar on U.S.-European “Perspectives for the 1980s.” Our wire service focused on the energy aspects of the Under Secretary’s remarks and his statement that the U.S. has been alone in encouraging OPEC to exercise price moderation and maintain or expand oil production levels.

In the coming days and weeks, USICA media will stress the following themes regarding oil price increases:

—The recent round of price hikes, in addition to having a destabilizing effect on the still-shaky international economy, is having an especially debilitating effect on the developing world. These countries are dependent on growth to underwrite their national commitments to development and to keep their debt-laden financial structures from collapsing.

—The U.S., a major consumer of energy, has made significant cuts in its consumption as it pledged at the 1979 Tokyo Summit. These efforts show that the U.S. is acting responsibly and has the right to expect that other international players exercise as much responsibility and restraint.

—The world community finds itself in its present predicament, not because of the actions of one single group, but because of a number of interrelated and rarely complementary actions or events. The more important factors affecting the situation are well-known but worth repeating: an increasing demand for petroleum products throughout the world in the face of decreasing known reserves; nationalism, the “me-first” attitude; irrationalism, as evidenced by recent events in Iran; and waste. This all graphically leads to the conclusion that any solution of the problem will require the cooperation of all countries—developing and developed, planned and free-market economies.

These themes will be stressed in media programming and other activities which will include:

—The international visitor program will arrange, where possible, meetings between foreign visitors who are involved in energy-related matters and appropriate officials in the White House, the State Department, the Department of Energy, the Department of Treasury and other concerned U.S. government agencies to discuss U.S. energy policy and [Page 770]concerns. Our media services will interview these visitors as appropriate.

—Our media services will also interview Agency-sponsored American speakers who have lectured abroad on energy-related subjects. Specific emphasis would be put on foreign audiences’ energy concerns and reactions.

—Other U.S. Government agencies will be asked to give us the information to demonstrate how these price increases are affecting the world economy and particularly the developing world. It will be this attributable information—briefings, testimony and backgrounders—which will make our case credible and keep the issue active.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Special Projects File, Box 13, Henry Owen, Chron: 11/1–5/79. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 241.