139. Editorial Note

On January 28, 1980, President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Zbigniew Brzezinski took part in a briefing for editorial page editors and writers on foreign policy issues. The briefing took place from 3:33 to 4:09 p.m. in the Old Executive Office Building. Brzezinski indicated in his opening remarks that he would emphasize three points:

“The first is that the constructive agenda that the President set for himself three years ago remains both still valid and binding in spite of the events that have transpired in the last few weeks and which do call for sustained response. When we assumed office we were deeply conscious of the fact that America was somehow becoming increasingly irrelevant to a world of very rapid change and there were many concerns that were apparently indifferent to us and yet were motivating much of mankind, and there were problems of a global type which needed urgent addressing: nonproliferation, development, food, regional conflicts, human rights.

“I want to stress that even though we have been necessarily preoccupied in recent weeks with matters of a more traditional type, a military challenge with strategic consequences, these issues still remain of importance to us and we will pursue them, for a very good reason. Unless we do so, we are going to be living in a world which will be more and more hostile to our values and more and more opposed to our interests. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our children, to try to shape a more decent world. I know it sounds maudlin and it sounds trite, but it is a central fact, that if this country is to preserve its well-being and its way of life, we have to shape a more decent world, a [Page 701]more cooperative world, and that in turn means addressing ourselves to the genuine and real concerns of the world that is now politically awakened, that is no longer controlled by a few empires based in Europe, that is genuinely organized politically.

“This is why the constructive agenda to which we remain dedicated is still binding and I stress that particularly because I know that I am seeing, as the person who in this administration is more preoccupied with the other things that I will be talking about in a second, and indeed I am and have been, because my job is national security, and these other things are an immediate danger to our national security. But I simply wish to put it to you that our national security also depends on shaping a more decent world, and this is something that concerns the President, that concerns me very deeply, and I know the Secretary of State has been very actively and successfully engaged in dealing with these problems, and I do not wish the inference to be drawn that we are now fundamentally altering our foreign policy. We are not.

“This being said, let me go on to the other two points. The first is that détente is indivisible. We probably will be facing before too long a Soviet peace offensive designed at dividing us from our allies, the West Europeans, the Japanese, from us. It should not work. In my judgment it will not work. There is no such thing as having détente with the Soviet Union in one part of the world and open competition and the use of force in another part of the world. This is something which I am sure our allies understand well, and I think that the Soviets will find the West, by which I mean essentially the industrial democracies, including Japan, to be united on this very fundamental issue.

“This doesn’t mean that we want to drive the West Germans, for example, into renewed Cold War intentions in an area of great sensitivity to them, such as Berlin and the flow of human beings across the German frontier. We have recognized the specificity of some of the countries concerned.

“But on the fundamental issues we feel and they feel that our common stakes are engaged and that we will not let a Soviet propaganda campaign divide us. But we ought to expect such a campaign. Indeed, it is beginning to surface.

“The final point which I want to stress is that security is increasingly indivisible. It may seem like an obvious point but it really isn’t yet, in practice. The fact of the matter is that there are three central strategic zones of importance to the United States: Western Europe, the Far East, and the Mideast. In two of these zones we have a permanent military presence and obligatory commitments. In the third one, the Mideast, we do not. We have neither. Yet in recent years all three have become almost equally important to us and of an interdependent im[Page 702]portance to us in the sense that jeopardy to any one of the three jeopardizes the other two and directly involves—and jeopardizes our own interests. We could not afford to lose Western Europe. We could not afford to lose the Far East and we cannot afford to lose the Mideast.

“So we have now a situation in which there are three central strategic zones, each of which is important to us, and a jeopardy to any one of those three means jeopardy to the other two and cumulatively to us. Yet we do not have security arrangements which fully reflect that reality. We do not have that. And we will not have them, in an identical sense, in all three regions. We are not aiming at a repetition of the European experience, for example, in the Mideast, a NATO-type alliance.

“But we are moving, clearly, towards an enhancement of our political and military presence in that part of the world in order to increase its security. That is an important strategic development and it reflects the notion that security is increasingly indivisible, and this being the case, there will be some pressures towards greater consultations within the Alliance and with our allies on these matters, and thus over time a more symbiotic relationship will develop in terms of political consultations, perhaps even some military arrangements between all three zones.

“We are far from it yet. The Japanese, certainly, are not even militarily engaged fully in their own defense so we can’t expect them to be engaged in the defense of the Mideast. The Europeans have enough on their own hands to assure the defense of Western Europe and we have some very active business that we are conducting with them such as theater nuclear force deployments. So they are not going to move into the Mideast to help us.

“Nonetheless, there is emerging now a greater sense of concern, a willingness to consult on security matters, a greater willingness to consult on economic aid to the Persian Gulf, West Asia and East region and thus in effect a new important historical trend is being set into motion, translating on the political/military plane to reality of the interdependence of the three security zones.

“So those are the three propositions which I would like to put to you very broadly and perhaps it may serve as a conceptual framework for the discussion we can now have on current developments or policies.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Schecter/Friendly (Press) File, Box 1, Brzezinski Briefings and Backgrounders (Press and Public): 1/80)