[Page 98]

26. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • Weekly National Security Report #3

1. Opinions

Foreign Policy Design. Judging from press reactions—both domestic and foreign—there is considerable appreciation of your dedication to more effective and far-reaching strategic arms control; there is awareness of the depth and sincerity of your concern over nuclear proliferation; there is remarkably widespread support for your position on human rights, which has done so much to revarnish America’s moral credentials.

Moreover, through the various missions undertaken immediately after the inaugural (to Southern Africa, to the Middle East, to Panama, and to the Aegean) you have signaled clearly that the Administration will be activist, and that you yourself will be in the tradition of those presidents who have exercised a personally active leadership in foreign affairs.

However, I do not believe that at this stage the larger design of what you wish to accomplish has emerged with sufficiently sharp relief. I discern two immediate needs, both of which might well be corrected in your forthcoming foreign policy speech:

1. You need to express a more coherent vision of what we aim to accomplish, of what our priorities are, and of how you define the present historical era within which US foreign policy has to be shaped;

2. You need to convey to the public your awareness of the complexity of the problems that we confront; disappointments and setbacks are normal in international affairs and accomplishments tend to be the exception. We are setting in motion a process, and the public must be made to understand that the President and his associates un[Page 99]derstand that the problems we face will be with us for a long time to come, that there will be no easy solutions, and that the effort to build a more cooperative world framework will be tedious, painful, and frequently disappointing.

I think it is necessary to emphasize these themes especially because we are likely to confront two short-term dangers:

1. Given our disagreements with the French and the Germans over nuclear proliferation,2 and given the likelihood of some bitter disappointments with the British and the French over the Concorde,3 it is possible that in the short-term our relations with our principal allies may in fact deteriorate. Since this will be coinciding with the forthcoming summit, we should anticipate some rough sailing in alliance relations.4 This may be unavoidable but it is bound to produce some adverse comments, especially since we have put so much stress on giving priority attention to better relations with our friends. Your critics, both at home and abroad, will certainly emphasize such frictions as evidence of our inability to do what we said we would strive to accomplish. A more specific policy implication of the foregoing might be a more concerted effort on our part to try to minimize the negative fallout from both the nuclear proliferation and the Concorde problems, as well as more stress on those aspects on which we are in fundamental agreement with our allies.

2. Secondly, it is likely that in the foreseeable future our negotiations with the Soviets over SALT may prove more rocky and difficult than the public has been led to expect. The Brezhnev response to you might be a foretaste of some very hard bargaining, and it is quite conceivable that our first report to the American people on SALT negotiations will have to emphasize not areas of agreement but the reasons why we have been unable to agree.5 Indeed, one of the forthcoming paradoxes may be that Paul Warnke before too long will be engaged [Page 100]not in “selling” a SALT agreement to hard-nosed skeptics who will be accusing him of excessive softness, but that he will be justifying to his friends in the arms control community why it was impossible for the United States to accept disadvantageous Soviet terms. Such an ironical twist, incidentally, might make Warnke even more useful than you had expected!

All of the foregoing points to the proposition that the time is now ripe for doing precisely what you have determined to do: to deliver a formal, comprehensive, and systematic speech. In my judgment, it should be short on promises, it should be analytical, and it should seek to integrate the various strands discussed above into a broader approach.6

[Omitted here is information unrelated to foreign policy opinions.]

3. Concerns

Human Rights and AID. We are concerned that the issue of aid and human rights may get out of control next week. Deputy Secretary Christopher will testify on Monday before Humphrey’s Subcommittee on Foreign Assistance of the Senate concerning military assistance.7 We expect him to be pressured on the Philippines and Korea and possibly other countries.

On Tuesday8 Representative Reuss will begin hearings on our multilateral aid. He will be pressing for a commitment to use our influence in the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank and possibly the IMF to shut down economic development assistance to human rights violators.9 He is expected to specifically attack a paper mill project in Argentina (we cut our military sales credits to Argentina as a gesture of our concern about human rights in that country).

We have not yet established policy in these areas and we are concerned that the witnesses may be forced by the Congress to make policy ad hoc. This could have far-reaching consequences, not only with countries with whom we have important security relationships but also for the basic concept of multilateral assistance.

Efforts to use multilateral institutions in the human rights field have many pitfalls. Such a highly interventionist approach is directly contrary to the reason we have supported multilateral aid—in order to [Page 101]insulate economic development from politics. The less developed countries will react negatively. For example, countries that despise the regime in Chile nonetheless opposed our efforts to use the Inter-American Development Bank to bring pressure on the Chilean government.

Finally there is a serious conflict of values. Do we deprive people of jobs and economic progress because their governments suppress human rights?10

We need time to sort these issues out. I will be sending you a PRM for your signature next week on the overall subject of human rights.11 I believe Administration witnesses should be instructed to inform the Congress that you have directed an urgent study of actions we can take in the field of human rights and ask for time before having to take a position on how and whether various assistance instruments might be employed by this Administration.

On a separate point, your desire for a modest increase in US economic assistance is running into problems on the Hill. You may want to use your Cabinet and Leadership meetings next week to emphasize your support of this program. Frank Moore supports this idea.

4. Reactions

Human Rights. Bukovsky’s courtesy call at the White House received front-page and prominent inside-page coverage overseas.12 Accounts in West European newspapers carefully detailed that photographs were permitted only with Mr. Mondale and that you limited your time to the Soviet dissident to ten minutes. In Paris, Le Figaro referred to the “skillful protocol adopted” which, it said, was “obviously intended to humor Moscow.” France-Soir quoted the President as telling Bukovsky that he would defend human rights “not only in the USSR but in the whole world.” The Times of London reported that “the impact of the occasion was indisputably diluted, doubtless by direct Presidential order.” Coverage in the Italian press appeared to be somewhat more dramatic than elsewhere but did not vary much in substance from treatment in other European countries.

Notwithstanding the Bukovsky visit, the foreign press played the human rights issue as definitely broadened in focus beyond the Soviet Union. It is not clear where this feeling comes from, since, in fact nearly [Page 102]every statement has dealt with the Soviet Union, but the reaction is very helpful indeed—“Carter has hoisted the flag of human rights. His involvement is not selective or accidental. It is general and indivisible and applies to all continents and political systems. . . .” (Bonner Rundschau, Bonn) “he intended to keep speaking out against violations of human rights wherever they occurred in the world” (London’s Daily Telegraph).

Japan: “High-Risk Presidency”. Tokyo’s influential Sankei published an editorial evaluation of the Carter Administration’s first month in office. Noting that although “boldness and danger live together,” it said that both the domestic and foreign policies of the new President have been marked by an “astonishing dynamism” which raises doubts about a tendency toward an excessive idealism unlikely to mesh with reality, unlikely to produce practical results. Some Americans are, therefore, calling Jimmy Carter’s a “high-risk Presidency.”

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 125, Weekly National Security Report: 2–4/77. Top Secret; Sensitive. Both Carter and Mondale initialed the memorandum. Brzezinski later explained that he had “initiated, approximately a month after his [Carter’s] inaugural, the practice of sending him a weekly NSC report. It was meant to be a highly personal and private document, for the President alone. It contained usually some additional intelligence information or reports on policy implementation, as well as an occasional summary of more incisive papers written by NSC staffers, and frequently the report was opened by a brief one-page-long editorial piece by me, entitled ‘Opinion.’” (Power and Principle, p. 65)
  2. Reference is to U.S. concerns about the proposed French sale in March 1976 of a uranium reprocessing plant to Pakistan and the German sale in June 1975 of a nuclear reactor and plutonium technology to Brazil. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–15, Part 2, Documents on Western Europe, 1973–1976, Documents 334 and 289, respectively. Mondale expressed U.S. opposition to Schmidt during his January trip to Europe and Japan (see Document 16).
  3. Presumable reference to issues related to landing rights for the Concorde—a supersonic airliner—at U.S. airports.
  4. Reference is to the economic summit meeting of the heads of state and government of the United States, Canada, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, scheduled to take place in London May 7–8; see Document 38.
  5. Presumable reference to Brezhnev’s February 25 letter to Carter, in which he criticized Carter’s approach to arms control. The letter is printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Document 12.
  6. The President wrote in the left-hand margin next to this paragraph: “Plan for 3/17 at UN.”
  7. March 7. See Document 27.
  8. March 8.
  9. For additional information concerning Reuss’s proposed bill governing the U.S. vote in international financial institutions regarding loans to nations engaged in human rights abuses, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Document 20.
  10. The President wrote in the left-hand margin above this paragraph: “We should try to address in UN speech—see campaign speeches” and drew an arrow from this statement to the paragraph.
  11. Reference is to PRM/NSC–28, which Brzezinski sent to the President on May 20. It is printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Document 46.
  12. See footnote 3, Document 21.