28. Editorial Note

President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Zbigniew Brzezinski provided a background briefing to the press at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York the afternoon of March 17, 1977, in advance of President Jimmy Carter’s address before the United Nations [Page 107]General Assembly that evening. After a short introduction by Associate Press Secretary Jerry Schecter, Brzezinski indicated that he would describe the nature and basic purpose of the speech, outline the conceptual structure, and draw attention to specific themes:

“Insofar as the first point is concerned—the nature and basic purpose of the speech—it is seen by us as a basic effort to define the President’s broad agenda for the future. It is not designed per se to advance specific proposals, though it does, as I will note subsequently, contain proposals. But it is primarily to set the framework of directions, to define the broad aspirations of the Administration in the field of international politics.

“In so doing, he has chosen this particular forum for his address in order also to underline his fundamental support for the institutions of the United Nations, for multilateral international cooperation. That was a very deliberate choice of the setting for his first major address in foreign policy.

“In the course of this address, he also wishes to outline his substantive priorities.

“And the speech, as you all know from having read it, focuses on three substantive priorities of his foreign policy—namely, the issue of arms control; secondly, the issue of North/South economic development; and, thirdly, the issue of human rights.

“In talking about the basic purpose and the fundamental thrust of the speech, let me make two additional points. The President has already demonstrated, by sending Vice President Mondale on his trip, that his basic focus is on close international cooperation, in the first instance, with our principal allies but, beyond that, with the international community as a whole. And secondly, the President in this speech, as well as in his other statements, has already reasserted the basic role of the President as the articulator of foreign policy and this he has done quite consciously and, in so doing, is also assuming the traditional role of the President as the public educator on policy issues. And his statements on foreign policy, this one as well as others, are designed also to enlighten public opinion, the public at large, on the nature of the fundamental problems that we confront and the kind of solutions which patiently, prudently, have to be sought in dealing with these problems.

“Let me secondly now say a word or two of the structure, the conceptual structure of the speech as it is perceived by us. It is essentially based on five fundamental parts.

“The first is an explicit affirmation of the President’s recognition of the essential intractability and complexity of international problems, his recognition that there are no easy solutions to existing difficulties—that the process of dealing with them will be a prolonged one, requiring sustained commitment from the American people.

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“Secondly, the speech expresses the need for international cooperation in dealing with these problems. It takes as its point of departure the premise that while the United States can actively serve as an energizer, it cannot solve these problems by itself and that wider international cooperation is needed. And, in so doing, the President engages in a brief tour d’horizon of the fundamental areas in which international cooperation is either to be expected or is needed.

“And then, thirdly, he goes on to outline the three substantive priorities to which I’ve already made reference: arms control, economic development, and human rights.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Schecter/Friendly (Press) File, Subject File, Box 1, Brzezinski Briefings and Backgrounders (Press and Public): 1–9/77)

For the text of the President’s speech, see Document 29.