13. Memorandum From Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Gardner, and Henry Owen to President-Elect Carter1

This memorandum contains our recommendations for action in ten key areas of foreign policy and national security where we believe action should be taken in the six months between election day and May 1, 1977. In each of these areas, we have divided our recommendations into two parts—decisions you will have to face (e.g., because of legislative requirements or already scheduled international negotiations) and further decisions we recommend as being in the national interest. In preparing this memorandum, we have drawn upon the “option papers” supplied by Jack Watson as well as our own independent study and analysis.

[Omitted here are an introductory paragraph and the table of contents.]

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1. In the first three months after the Inaugural you will have the unique opportunity—given the likelihood of broad popular and Congressional support—to set U.S. policy on a new course. This will require:

(a) Public enunciation of your overall concept and direction.

(b) Adoption of specific actions on pressing issues.

(c) Seizing the initiative in several policy areas in order to foreshadow and advance your overall strategy.

2. Four issues stand out as the most urgent of all:

(a) The need to put the East-West relationship on a more stable basis;

(b) The need to set in motion a process pointing toward a comprehensive Middle Eastern settlement;

(c) The need to initiate comprehensive and constructive North-South negotiations;

(d) The need to contain the arms race and to rationalize our defense posture.

3. In your State of the Union Address2 you will have the opportunity to sketch out the broad outlines of the foreign policy that you intend to follow. In that Address you should explicitly reassert the traditional role of the President as the formulator and articulator of U.S. foreign policy—making clear that henceforth the United States will speak to the world through you. We recommend the following themes:

A. The depth, extent, and pace of global change is ushering us into a new era of either global cooperation or fragmentation.

B. The United States has no choice but to be engaged in a protracted architectural process to reform and reshape the existing international system. Unlike the years 1945–50, this calls not for assertive American leadership but for more subtle inspiration and cooperation on a much wider front. The new international system cannot be confined to the developed countries but must involve increasingly the entire international community of more than 150 nation-states. That community, in addition to the traditional problems of war and peace, now confronts global problems never before faced by mankind.

C. That in the above context you set the following priorities for the United States:

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i. To enhance and deepen our collaboration with our friends in the industrial world—countries which share our values, have political systems similar to ours, and which because of their wealth have a special burden of responsibility to the rest of mankind.

ii. This cooperation should focus not only on improving prospects in the industrial world but on making it more possible for the new emerging states to enhance, through self-reliance, their own internal progress.

iii. In the foregoing context, we shall seek cooperation on the global problems with the communist countries, while striving to reduce areas of conflict and to codify more precise rules of reciprocal restraint—notably through strategic arms limitations and reductions and through agreements on regional restraints.

This speech would initiate a new phase in U.S. foreign policy, going beyond the Atlanticist/East-West Cold War framework of the years 1945–1976. The regional and functional recommendations that follow are designed to set such a foreign policy in motion.

[Omitted here are Part Two: Relations with Advanced Industrial Economies; Part Three: East-West Relations; Part Four: Relations with Developing Countries; Part Five: The Middle East; Part Six: Defense; Part Seven: Arms Control; Part Eight: Foreign Economic Policy; Part Nine: International Development; and Part Ten: Multilateral Organizations.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Subject File, Box 41, Transition: Foreign Policy Priorities, 11/76. No classification marking. Sent to Carter under a November 3 memorandum from Brzezinski, Gardner, and Owen, indicating it contained the “foreign policy priorities for the first six months.” Another copy of the memorandum is in the Minnesota Historical Society, Mondale Papers, Vice Presidential Papers, Counsel and Deputy Chief of Staff Files, Transition Files, Transition Notebooks. In addition to this memorandum and overview memoranda prepared by Ball, Sorensen, Warnke, and Vance, CarterMondale Policy Planning Group members Lake and Schaffer prepared 42 separate foreign and defense policy options papers. Copies of these papers are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office File, 1976–1977 Transition File (Anthony Lake), Box 112, Options Papers: Foreign and Defense Policy (Originals): Undated [I], [II], and [III] and in the Minnesota Historical Society, Mondale Papers, Vice Presidential Papers, Counsel and Deputy Chief of Staff Files, Transition Files, Transition Notebooks.
  2. Presumable reference to the inaugural address, as Carter did not deliver a State of the Union address in 1977. For the inaugural address, see Document 15.