534. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Packard) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2
- NSSM 86—Panama Canal
This memorandum responds to your request for our comments on the response to NSSM 86 enclosed with your memorandum of April 14th.
By way of general background, we believe that there are two basic considerations that should be taken into account when examining the specific issues covered in the response to NSSM 86. First, we must expect that the Panamanian Government will try to reopen, from time to time, whatever new treaty arrangements might be reached now, with a view towards gaining additional concessions. (I have in mind particularly the duration provisions of any new arrangements.) Second, there are essentially three points that should be considered nonnegotiable: (1) effective U.S. control over Canal operations, (2) effective U.S. control over Canal defense, and (3) the continuation of these controls for the indefinite future (a departure from the 1967 negotiations).
As a practical matter, it would seem wise to hold preliminary discussions with the Panamanians before entering formal negotiations. The preliminary talks would give us an opportunity hopefully to develop a conducive negotiating climate and, more importantly, a chance to determine whether the Panamanians’ negotiating posture is such that we could expect to achieve new treaty arrangements acceptable to both sides (including the U.S. Congress).
Our views on the specific issues identified in the response to NSSM 86 are attached as Enclosure 1.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff are in general agreement with the views expressed herein. In accordance with your request, their views are attached.
My staff has informed me that a Memorandum to the President may be forwarded without a meeting of the National Security Council being necessary. I am reserving the option of requesting a meeting of the National Security Council to consider the NSSM 86 study until after we have had the opportunity to review the comments submitted by the other agencies.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–216, NSDM files, NSDM 64. Secret. Attached but not published is an April 23 memorandum from Moorer to Laird.↩
- The Department of Defense recommended that the U.S. Government maintain exclusive control over the Canal and assume total responsibility for defense of the Canal. Attached is a 2 page paper titled “Views of the Department of Defense on the Issues Outlined in the Response to NSSM 86.”↩