81. Memorandum From Stuart S. Janney and Paul L. Ahern of the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Management to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Management (Eagleburger)1


  • Foreign Policy Issues for Election Year 1976

The Ellsworth memo (attached)2 listed seven issues of importance to the 1976 Presidential campaign. They were as follows: Cuba, China, Cyprus, the Middle East, the Soviet Union and Disarmament, OPEC and broader themes i.e. social justice, human rights, redistribution of wealth and Lone Rangerism.

While the Ellsworth memorandum is a valuable starting point, we believe that his list is in need of expansion and modification. We believe that there are at least eighteen issues which will play a role in the election year foreign policy debate. They are as follows:

1. Style of diplomacyCarter will criticize the Ford/Kissinger foreign policy for excessive secrecy and charge that where mistakes have occurred they could have been prevented by placing greater trust in the judgment of the American people. This approach is similar to that employed by Carter in discussing domestic issues. Not only is it aimed at [Page 452] arousing public resentment at being left out of the process, but it is also designed to emphasize that foreign policy is not radically different from domestic policy and that a person who is competent in one can also successfully execute the other. The best response to criticism involving style is to emphasize how trivial such a charge actually is and to point out how clearly this indicates the lack of a viable alternative to present policy.

2. Arms sales—The Administration’s policy of utilizing arms sales to strike a balance of conventional forces in regions of the world has a negative political aspect. While it is unlikely that Carter can articulate a specific alternative to current arms sales programs without deeply offending the many constituent groups which depend on such sales and looking impractical at the same time, there is a political advantage to expressing general concern over arms sales. In interviews and speeches Carter has proposed greater consultation with other members of the Western alliance and with the Soviet Union to reduce arms sales and failing in that he has suggested through advisors the possibility of unilateral acts of restraint in arms sales. We should expect criticism of America’s role as the world’s leading arms merchant to appear in all of Carter’s foreign policy statements, but at the same time it is unlikely that a detailed counter proposal to present policy will emerge.

It may be advisable for the Secretary to express concern over the growing arms trade as an adjunct to a more detailed policy statement on nuclear proliferation (suggested in point 3).

3. Nuclear Proliferation—While the Administration has pursued opportunities for limiting the sale of technology which could be converted into weapons, it has failed to convey this record to the public. Contrary to fact, the Administration is pictured as callous to security, public safety and environmental concerns and oversensitive to the feelings of our allies who are engaged in selling dangerous technology to dangerous governments. Carter may have some difficulty articulating this view as he is so strongly committed to strengthening the Western Alliance.

Carter’s speech at the U.N. on nuclear proliferation3 was well received and consequently other speeches on this subject can be expected. The significance of Carter’s U.N. speech was not that he radically departed from present policy, but that he expressed more concern and more urgency than the Administration had previously expressed. The Secretary should consider giving a major address devoted entirely to the subject of nuclear proliferation in the near future.

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4. Overconcern as to Russian sensitivities—This broad charge has appeared in interviews with certain key Carter foreign policy advisers. The gist of it is that the United States in recent years has paid too much attention to how the Russians feel on a given world situation and that this approach has immobilized the U.S. They argue that it is time we told the Russians that except for matters of central concern to Moscow we are going to proceed unfettered by their feeling as to the merits of our policy. While this criticism is so broad as to have little relevance to actual policy making, it will in all probability touch a responsive chord with the American people, who throughout the primary season have expressed a general restlessness and dissatisfaction with détente.

5. Human Rights—This issue has many aspects. It embraces the problems encountered by Jews in the Soviet Union attempting to emigrate as well as political repression in South America and elsewhere. As to the Russian situation, Carter is opposed to the Jackson approach of publicly and directly confronting and embarrassing the Soviet Union on human rights and therefore, this potential difference of opinion has been muted. The human rights issue will focus instead on American policy toward such governments as South Korea and Chile. We anticipate that Carter will express greater willingness to impose economic and political sanctions on countries that engage in torture and other unacceptable political behaviour than has the Ford Administration.

6. The Face of Foreign PolicyCarter will argue that the Ford/Kissinger foreign policy has been overtaken by world events and conditions. He will argue that the strategic thinkers who were predominant in foreign policy in the past should give way to those with an understanding of economics, the environment and problems of overpopulation. The Secretary should not wait for Carter to acknowledge the sensitivity that the Administration has displayed in dealing with these issues over the last several years. The Secretary should take every opportunity to emphasize that indeed economics, environment and population are of paramount importance and that they are treated as such by the Ford Administration.

7. Cooperation with Congress—The Carter nomination is in large part a product of the American people’s exhaustion with issues. The public is not looking for an ideologue. Those who supported Carter during the primaries were willing to accept a candidate who was less than a one-hundred percent champion of their particular interests or viewpoint, but who as a result represented a unifying force with appeal to other constituencies. An easy way for Carter to further capitalize on the public’s exhaustion with issues and willingness to accept generalities in place of specifics is to indicate that a Carter Presidency could cooperate fully and effectively with Congress as opposed to the present Administration with its record of vetoing over 50 pieces of legislation.

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8. Dealing with Russia—The politically sensible way to address Angola and other examples of Russian aggression is to charge that the Administration failed to confront the Russians with their unacceptable behavior at an early enough stage in the process so that the Russians could have modified their behavior without substantial embarrassment. Carter has, in fact, criticized the United States for acting too late in Angola and then threatening too much. He promises to go to the Russians confidentially in the very earliest stages of a potential international crisis so that each side can modify its position in a way which will preserve the peace.

9. OPEC—This is not yet an issue in the campaign, but there is every reason to expect that it will be shortly. Ford is vulnerable to the charge that he has paid excessive attention to the sensitivities of Iran and Saudi Arabia and failed to exert maximum pressure on those countries and other members of OPEC to lower the price of oil. Carter’s most effective approach would be to combine criticism of U.S. efforts to lower the world oil price with charges that we have also neglected human rights and too aggressively pursued arms sales. Clearly these issues merge in the Middle East.

10. SALTCarter is likely to place major emphasis on the Administration’s failure to follow up the Vladivostok Agreement with a satisfactory SALT II agreement. Carter will use this issue to strengthen ties with the liberal community without unduly antagonizing the Jackson wing.

Carter will attempt to make two complementary points:

First on substance, he will criticize the Administration for a failure to bargain with the determination and unity necessary to achieve a suitable agreement. He will repeat his pledge to work until the threat of nuclear destruction has been removed from all nations.

Second, he will fault the Administration for a failure to deliver on its promises. He will depict the SALT process as one of overpromise and underperformance.

If SALT marginally favors outside critics such as Carter, it also offers the Administration a most promising opportunity to demonstrate dynamic and competent leadership. The American people appreciate the importance of arms limitations, and a renewed effort ought to be made to convey the Administration’s record to the American People.

But more important are the incalculable political benefits to be gained through a SALT II agreement. The polls have consistently shown that the Secretary and the President receive high ratings for their efforts to achieve world peace. Since Carter has brusquely dismissed the Reagan arguments on this subject, the door will be open after the Republican Convention for an agreement. Carter would criticize such an agreement at his political peril.

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11. North-South Dialogue—It is unlikely that Carter will make specific criticisms of Administration proposals (U.N. Speech, UNCTAD, etc.) or that he will advance a detailed program of his own during the campaign. However, in this area as in others, his comments will focus on style and nuance instead of substance i.e. criticizing the Administration for a “poor attitude” in dealing with the LDC’s. He may charge that the U.S. has failed to adequately consult with our allies on North-South questions (e.g., the Nairobi vote),4 and to show adequate concern for the poorest of the poor.

There are several steps which can be taken to ensure that the Administration gets the best of whatever argument may take place on this subject.

First, Administration statements should emphasize that the United States leads in proposing workable solutions to the problems of hunger, population control, and economic development, that the Communist world is essentially irrelevant to this debate, and that our positions eschew rhetorical bombast for a clear understanding of economic and moral interests. It should be stated that the U.S. has not participated in these international conferences reluctantly but rather willingly and committed to maintaining a productive dialogue between the industrial world and the LDCs.

Second, to enhance the image of determination and continuity, the Administration should sound confident and forwardlooking in announcing plans for participation in international fora during the campaign, in the key December meetings, and beyond. A show of confidence in the merit of our proposals will demonstrate our determination to follow through on our efforts. Any position which is attacked both by the Wall Street Journal and by Carter must have something to commend it to reasonable people who are interested in seeing real progress.

12. Bargaining Chip DiplomacyCarter avoided the traditional liberal position on the use of the ABM as a bargaining chip in his recent interview with the Times.5 While he was critical in the most general terms, he refused to rule out the possibility that, as President, he might be forced to use the same device himself. This is significant, coming from a candidate who has shown no reluctance to promise to “never ever” do many other things if elected.

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13. Defense Spending—We do not foresee that this broad issue will have much impact in the general election, so long as Carter sticks to vague appeals to cut the “fat” from the defense budget in relatively small amounts ($5–7 billion).

As the Reagan campaign fades, it is likely that the issue of defense spending will remain in the news only to the extent that the President stresses his support for a strong national security system.

14. Africa PolicyCarter will find it difficult to criticize U.S. policy and the Secretary’s efforts to solve the conflict in Southern Africa subsequent to the victory of the MPLA in Angola. He may, however, focus on U.S. Africa policy in the period 1969–1975 and allege serious neglect. He may use Angola as an example of how he would deal differently with the Russians (see item 8), but these points are not likely to have any major impact—especially in light of the Congressional cutoff of aid to Angola.

15. Byrd Amendment—This is a promising opportunity for Carter to draw a distinction between his style of leadership and Ford’s. He can question the commitment of the White House to the Lusaka policy in light of the Administration’s failure to press for repeal of the Byrd amendment6—so that the issue becomes one of competence to deliver on our promises quite apart from the merits of repeal itself. Furthermore, the Secretary’s strong presence in the formulation of this policy, and the White House’s hesitancy at the time of the Texas primary will allow Carter to use this issue, to raise, at least tacitly, the question of Ford’s own leadership ability in foreign affairs.

Therefore, politics as well as the merits of the African policy favor a major repeal effort in the Congress this fall. A serious lobbying effort can be successful. There is a new awareness of where long-term American interests really lie, even among the steel companies who are beginning to see the handwriting on the wall for the Smith regime. The large Democratic majorities will realize that, in light of their platform and other statements of policy, they have a major stake in a successful attempt at repeal.

Repeal of the Byrd Amendment this fall would be to the President’s political advantage since it would be a clear example of forceful and determined leadership on the part of his Administration. It would also tend to rebut Carter’s argument that the nation needs a Congress and a President of the same party (see point 7, supra).

16. Cyprus—The current stalemate offers Carter an opportunity to charge a lack of effective leadership on the part of the Administration. While he is severely limited in offering specific alternatives, he can at[Page 457]tempt to attract the support of AHEPA, other interested Greek Americans, and the liberal community at large, by reminding those groups of Administration insensitivity to their concerns at the outset of the crisis. We can expect that Carter will downplay the complexity of the Cyprus situation, and use the issue mostly as an example of Administration failure to press aggressively for a solution which is based on American interests and fundamental human rights.

The Cyprus issue need not be a political liability for the Administration. For this to be the case, the Administration must signal to the American People that the Greeks and Turks are currently negotiating in bad faith. Few realize the extent of the antagonism between the various groups in the dispute. The public impression that the missing factor necessary for a solution is a more determined American effort should be squelched as soon as possible. Strong statements by the Secretary or the President to this effect are overdue.

With regard to the DCA’s with Greece and Turkey and the implications for NATO, the Administration must educate the American people to view the Cyprus situation from the perspective of our broader security interests. Carter, for all his talk of better cooperation with allies, will probably avoid mentioning the NATO implications of Cyprus; but the Administration should hit hard at this point. American interests in the southern flank of NATO must be brought more effectively to the public’s attention—and the basic faults of Makarios, the Greeks, and the Turks should be exposed—so that any attempt by Carter to portray this problem as one of poor Greek Cypriot refugees suffering because of American recalcitrance can be effectively rebutted.

17. Western Alliance—Recent Bicentennial visits by political leaders of the Western Alliance and by Queen Elizabeth7 have reduced, if not eliminated, this issue. The best response to Carter comes from foreign leaders who note that relations between the U.S. and their country have never been better.

18. Terrorism—Republicans and Democrats are now rushing to embrace Israel following Entebbe.8 Of more importance is whether the Democrats will convince Americans that the Administration has talked much but done little to halt terrorism. It would be politically wise to preempt Carter in proposing international action against terrorists.


As you know, the public opinion polls show Carter with the largest lead in the history of public opinion polling for this stage of a [Page 458] Presidential campaign. While we can expect erosion in this lead, there is still every reason to view Carter as the strong favorite to win the election in November. This has an important ramification for present U.S. foreign policy and the role that the Secretary can play in the fall campaign. On the one hand if the Republicans are to remain in office it is important for every member of the Ford Administration to vigorously attack Carter and to emphasize differences between the Ford record and what Carter proposes. On the other hand, so long as the polls favor Carter the Secretary dramatically weakens his ability to conduct United States policy by emphasizing differences between Ford and Carter on foreign policy. So long as other governments expect a change of Administrations in January, they will be reluctant to deal with a lame duck Secretary unless they perceive his foreign policy to be bipartisan in nature. This places the Secretary in a dilemma. It is necessary for him to act the partisan in order for Ford to be reelected, but it is also important to preserve his influence with other governments by appearing nonpartisan. The course that the Secretary eventually charts between these conflicting demands will have an important effect on his relationship with the White House over the next few months and, of course, on the election.

We believe that the conflicting demands of partisanship and non-partisanship on the Secretary can best be met by an activist approach to foreign policy in the Fall. Campaigns have not traditionally been a good time for substantive accomplishment, but this campaign is significantly different. Present U.S. policy toward the major unresolved issues i.e., SALT, Middle East, and Southern Africa is virtually unchallenged. The reason for this is that Carter has not found a significant body of dissent to those policies. Since apparently present policy is approximately what the American people want, it makes good political sense to give them more of the same and in the process reduce Carter to “me tooism.”

This will be a more pleasant way of spending the Fall months than bickering with an increasingly nervous White House over the Secretary’s level of partisanship.

  1. Source: Department of State, Files of Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Lot 84D204, Chron—July 1976. No classification marking. Not initialed by Ahern. Eagleburger wrote a note to Kissinger on July 27 on the first page of the memorandum: “FYI: Worth reading. We’ll do more on this sort of thing by the end of the week.” Kissinger’s Executive Assistant Richard Aherne returned the memorandum to Eagleburger under a July 26 covering memorandum, describing it as “good and comprehensive.” Aherne warned, however, that it did not consider the possibility that Carter would seek the repeal of the Byrd Amendment shortly after the Republican National Convention to be held in Kansas City August 16–19. The Democratic National Convention was held in New York July 12–15.
  2. Eagleburger wrote “(attached)” by hand here, but the referenced memorandum is not attached and was not found.
  3. Carter addressed the United Nations on nuclear energy and world order on May 13. For the text of this speech, see The Presidential Campaign, 1976, Volume 1, Part 1: Jimmy Carter, pp. 183–194.
  4. At the UNCTAD IV meeting in Nairobi May 3–6, a resolution on a study of the U.S. proposal for an International Resources Bank was defeated. For more information, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, 1973–1976, Documents 304305. See also Document 77.
  5. The interview was held June 24 but not reported until July 7. (Leslie H. Gelb, “Carter’s Foreign Views Fit Liberal Democratic Mold,” New York Times, July 7, 1976, p. 1) Excerpts from the interview were published in the same issue.
  6. See footnote 9, Document 49.
  7. Queen Elizabeth II paid a State visit to the United States July 6–9.
  8. The reference is to the Israeli commando raid mounted to free hostages held at Entebbe airport in Uganda July 3–4.