47. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Tarnoff) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • 1976–1980 Goals for US Foreign Policy

Our overriding goals are to make the world safer and more humane. There are thus three general concerns which animate our foreign policy:

—Pursuit of peace.

—Promotion of equitable economic development and well-being.

—Protection of individual rights.

These are long-term goals. What is most notable about your approach to foreign policy is precisely your emphasis on undertaking now so many major efforts aimed at the quality of life in succeeding generations.

This means a very ambitious and far-reaching agenda. Many of the beginning steps now being taken will not bear tangible fruit for some time to come. But unless we start now, there will be no prospect of success.


The pursuit of peace operates at several levels. Above all it involves the evolution of relationships with the Soviet Union. The opening [Page 200] months of the Administration have produced several areas of friction; to some extent this reflects Soviet difficulty in adjusting to the new style and emphasis of your Administration. There are also genuine areas of new contention—particularly on the theme of human rights. But the basic interests of both the US and USSR in avoiding crisis and tension remain unaltered.

Arms Control. SALT is the centerpiece of the process. We have found a framework for agreement and now must establish enough confidence between the US and USSR to achieve agreements that reduce, not merely limit, our strategic arsenals. Achieving such agreements is a major goal, as is a comprehensive test ban. We will also work on other detente and disarmament related issues, including an MBFR agreement, increasing East-West trade and all the issues involved in the Helsinki Final Act.

We would also hope, over the next four years, to reach better implicit understandings with Moscow of “rules of the game” governing Soviet and US activities in third areas. Explicit agreement might be found on the Indian Ocean.

A halt to the pace of nuclear proliferation and agreements on the reduction in conventional arms transfers by the major developed country suppliers are key complementary processes, as well as ends in themselves. We can legitimately hope to freeze the number of nuclear weapons-capable states at six, at least for the coming four years. Energy issues complicate our negotiations with our OECD colleagues on nuclear non-proliferation, and long-term progress will be slow and uncertain. We can hope to stabilize and possibly reduce the total volume of arms sales through strong negotiating efforts. Since Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel are the big three of the arms sales, peace in the Middle East will be the key to any longer-term substantial reductions.

In addition to curtailing the weaponry of war and US-Soviet conflict, we must work to contain regional, local, or civil wars which threaten to involve the great powers, or which could seriously weaken our friends. This means meeting security commitments and maintaining military strength, as well as exploring initiatives in various trouble spots as they arise. Hence a policy keyed to the following central points:

Middle East. Your talks with Arab and Israeli leaders have cleared the air for constructive discussion. Even recognizing the sudden complications of a new Israeli government, we have to build on that basis to explore mutually advantageous solutions, and launch negotiations for a lasting Middle East settlement. It is hard to be sanguine about a lasting settlement, but we must try to achieve one within the next year or so. At minimum, we must continue to try to avert another war.

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Africa. We have begun and should continue to achieve a peaceful resolution to problems in southern Africa. A peaceful settlement in Rhodesia and elections and independence for Namibia, both by 1978, and the beginning of a peaceful evolution toward greater social, political and economic equality and justice in South Africa itself are all high on our agenda. As a matter both of principle and practical politics, it is important to us that uncontrolled racial violence not develop in any of these areas. In the Horn of Africa there is serious potential instability and our policies will continue to aim at preventing warfare and limiting an expansion of Soviet influence.

Elsewhere. We will work with our NATO allies towards a mediated settlement of the Cyprus and Greek/Turkish problems in the Aegean and a resumption of our defense cooperation with Turkey; take a more active role in mediating inter-American state conflicts such as those between Belize and Guatemala; seek, from a possibly skeptical Congress, approval for the anticipated Canal treaty with Panama, which will protect our interest in a secure, open, and neutral Canal.

The world is unusually free of armed conflict at the present time. We will watch carefully the potential development of crises or conflicts in all areas with the objective of working toward their peaceful resolution. The North Korean posture toward our troop withdrawals from the South; Soviet actions around Berlin; a possible internal crisis in Pakistan; and internal political transitions in Yugoslavia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran will be particularly sensitive.

Stress on process, rather than on single events, is central to promoting our relations with more estranged nations. Aside from our ongoing pursuit of detente with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, we hope to establish formal ties with most, if not all, those countries with whom we presently have tensions or no relations: Vietnam, Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, Angola, North Korea, Mongolia, Albania, and others. Of these, China is the most important and we hope to have formal diplomatic relations with Peking within the next four years, with due consideration for the security of Taiwan.

No pursuit of lasting peace is possible without a firm foundation of economic and political strength among our allies. The Administration set the proper tone with the Vice President’s post-Inaugural trip to Western Europe and Japan,2 your meetings with key leaders in Washington, and the London Summit.

We must follow-up during the next four years with attention to several continuing concerns. Those include: (1) maintaining support for the process of European economic and political integration through [Page 202] backing for the European Community, more open and substantive consultations, and policies which help close the economic gap among OECD nations; (2) doing our part to assure a stronger and more effective NATO through such efforts as serious consideration of standardization and rationalization of equipment; and (3) encouraging those European nations, that face the possibility of Communist participation in their governments, to remain Western-oriented democracies.

On more specific matters, we should try to defuse tension with the West Europeans and, where relevant, the Japanese on such issues as trade, nuclear proliferation, arms sales, human rights. Here, as in more general concerns, the key will be substantive prior consultations, sensitivity to real divergences in national interest and the realization that the US may have to modify some domestic and other diplomatic goals to retain good relations with our allies.


We will concentrate increased attention on economic issues—both involving the global economy and specific regions and problems.

That implies:

More and Better Management of Global Concerns. We will give higher priority to a range of transnational issues and revive momentum for international cooperation.

Projections for a food gap four or eight years hence persist, despite bumper crops this year. We are acting now to help assure increased food production (especially in developing nations), improved distribution of available food, and better nutrition, (both for the malnourished “Pepsi generation” of the affluent West and the undernourished needy of the Third World). We will hope specifically to have an international food reserve program3 in operation and to have set in motion major international efforts to increase agricultural production in South Asia and Africa within the next four years. A substantial increase in bilateral and multilateral aid is necessary to achieve these and other basic human need programs.

You have mapped out a National Energy Plan;4 organizations like the International Energy Agency are at work to assure cooperation [Page 203] among consuming countries. A major objective for this Administration must be substantial progress in energy conservation at home and abroad and an increase and diversification in sources of supply, with particular attention to safe development of nuclear technology. At the same time we will aim at limiting further major price increases by the OPEC states and at strengthening the coordination within the IEA to deal with any new embargo or restraints on production by the oil producers.

The priorities of energy must not obscure concern for the environment. Domestic and diplomatic efforts must and can be mutually reenforcing to help assure clean air and clean water. International conferences on clean water and desert control this year are setting priorities for the next decade and more in these areas.5 A “law of the sea” will also serve that end, as well as open new access to new resources.6 Our goal should be to get the kind of LOS treaty which will meet our real national interests, however, and not one which limits and restricts our access to the seabed resources.

New Relationship with the Third World. The UN system is increasingly the focus of our dialogue with the developing countries. We are trying to strengthen the effectiveness of the UN and its related agencies. There is some risk of domestic hostility in this effort, and we must work with Congress and the public to avert erosion of the US role in the UN and other multilateral institutions. We may want to fashion new forums for constructive discussion of shared concerns in finance, investment, energy, economic development, trade and commodities—lest discourse lapse into polemic at the General Assembly. We particularly want to negotiate agreements to stabilize prices of key commodities, possibly linked by a common fund.7

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More attention to basic human needs in economic development may both take the cutting edge off confrontation and—more importantly—help the invisible one billion poor of the world. At CIEC and OECD Ministerials, we opened the door for greater US and global emphasis on this human dimension of development.8 The US will provide substantial and effective amounts of foreign assistance, and we will urge other OECD countries, particularly Japan, to increase their development assistance. We will also intensify the process begun at the London Summit, CIEC and the OECD to urge the Comecon countries, particularly the USSR, to become more constructively involved in North-South and development efforts. We will also expect the LDCs to make the tough policy decisions to implement a human needs strategy. The US will adopt policies on multilateral trade and technology transfer issues which benefit the LDCs (or at least the poorest among them) at the same time as they benefit us. We also favor organization of international institutions dealing with resource transfers to enable the LDCs to have major roles in negotiations on international development issues. We will also increase our focus on women and the disproportionate deprivation of opportunity they too often endure, both in considering the ways in which our resources are used abroad and in the nomination of candidates for UN agency positions.

An important objective of this, as of previous administrations in the last decade, must be to promote family planning and population limitation in areas of high growth. There is often little we can do about this problem but our concern, technology, and support should be offered to anyone who needs it.

More Coordination and Cooperation Among the Trilateral Economies. We will make little progress on global concerns or the related North-South Dialogue without sustained economic growth among OECD industrial nations. The roster of objectives is as vital as it is familiar: helping the world trading system work better, via successful conclusion as soon as possible of the Multilateral Trade Negotiations; improving operation of the international monetary order through general guidelines on exchange rates and expanded financial facilities (perhaps in both the IMF and the OECD); and giving more serious consideration to a clearer global framework for investment. Important as these efforts at systemic reform are, we must concentrate particularly on problems that have direct impact on our own citizens: unemployment, inflation, and urban malaise.

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Provision of basic human needs brings us directly to promotion of internationally recognized human rights. US policy must thus stress the broad scope of economic, social, political, and civil rights.

Implementation of a human rights policy requires both consistency in our fundamental objectives and flexibility in how we deal with specific circumstances. Our goal should be a clear improvement in the practices of as many countries as possible, countries which at present are failing in their observance of the most fundamental human rights. We will engage other nations in the effort—both on a bilateral basis and through multilateral organizations such as the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and international financial institutions.

Underpinning all these specific objectives is the need for enhanced public confidence in our foreign policy. Without this support, we will be unable to achieve these goals.

The collective effect of attending to peace, economic development, and individual rights is a new design for American diplomacy, drawn from the values and standards of the American people. It is a far reaching outline for action—clear in some areas, needing more definition in others.

There is overlap and interaction among our goals. Pursuit of peace through US-Soviet agreement on strategic arms, for example, depends in part on American domestic confidence that our policy reflects our traditional concern for human rights. Our goals regarding conventional arms sales, human rights, nuclear proliferation, and energy may collide in very complex ways when applied, for example, in the Middle East.

Diplomacy also deserves public dialogue. A shift from secrecy to raising issues for discussion with the Congress and the people before making decisions is already evident. In time, it should strengthen public support, buttress Congressional backing, give credence to calls for allied consultation, and educate the American people on the trade-offs between some short-term costs and longer-term objectives.

Finally, diplomacy succeeds most surely when it takes into account domestic priorities. Conflicts and contradictions are inevitable in the sorting out of goals—whether for foreign or domestic policy.

To be effective, we must weigh such obvious trade-offs as increasing economic aid for the LDC’s at the apparent expense of our own citizens or decreasing arms transfers at the possible cost of closing US factories and adding to our own unemployed. There are also opportunities for positive reinforcement of our domestic and diplomatic goals: through creative international initiatives on such problems as our cities, youth unemployment, basic human needs, food, and energy.

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Because the interplay between domestic and diplomatic goals is so clear and because it suggests at least as many opportunities as problems, I conclude with a suggestion. You might wish to allot at least one Cabinet session each quarter to an assessment and projection of where our diplomatic and domestic goals interact and how we can best minimize the damage from frictions and capitalize on the connection.

Peter Tarnoff
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office File, Outside the System File, Box 63, Goals: Four Year: 4–7/77. Confidential. Lake sent an earlier version of the memorandum to Vance under a June 27 action memorandum. In it, he noted: “The President apparently asked some time ago, in a marginal note, for a memo from you on our four year policy goals. The White House asked for it again last week. Neither the White House Staff nor S/S have a record or copy of his request; we are not, therefore, sure of exactly what he wanted.” Lake then explained that S/P attempted to “describe such goals in an overall framework” to avoid a “flat listing” that would turn complicated issues into a “simple scorecard.” (National Archives, RG 59, Policy and Planning Staff—Office of the Director, Records of Anthony Lake, 1977–1981: Lot 82D298, Box 1, Misc: re Issues & Priorities ’77) Notations on Lake’s action memorandum indicate that the Department reworked the four-year policy goal memorandum as a memorandum from Tarnoff to Brzezinski and sent it to the White House on June 28. (Ibid.) Although Brzezinski did not initial this copy of the memorandum, he did transmit another copy of the memorandum to the President under a July 5 cover memorandum, commenting: “As you can see, it does not advance our thinking on this subject much beyond the more comprehensive NSC paper which was prepared on this subject.” Carter wrote on the memorandum: “Let Cy assess your more comprehensive goals. J.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office File, Outside the System File, Box 63, Goals: Four Year: 4–7/77) The previous paper is Document 36.
  2. See footnote 1, Document 16.
  3. In a statement submitted to the Subcommittee on International Trade of the Senate Committee on Finance on July 13, Katz indicated that the U.S. delegation to the June 1977 International Wheat Council (IWC) meeting in London had proposed a “coordinated system” of grain reserves. For Katz’s complete statement, see Department of State Bulletin, August 22, 1977, pp. 265–267.
  4. On April 18 at 8 p.m., the President, in an address to the nation broadcast live on radio and television, discussed the energy crisis facing the United States. He noted that the response to the energy problem constituted the “moral equivalent of war,” and went on to describe the “fundamental principles” informing the administration’s national energy plan. For the text of the President’s address, see Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 656–662. Two days later, the President delivered an address before a joint session of Congress. In it, he asserted that the Executive and Legislative branches must “work together even more closely to deal with the greatest domestic challenge that our Nation will face in our lifetime. We must act now—together—to devise and to implement a comprehensive national energy plan to cope with a crisis that otherwise could overwhelm us.” Carter referenced the seven goals—designed to reduce energy consumption and to increase the uses of alternative sources of power—outlined in his televised address and recommended that Congress “adopt these goals by joint resolution as a demonstration of our mutual commitment to achieve them.” (Ibid., pp. 663–664) The full text of Carter’s address, as well as a fact sheet on the energy program, are ibid., pp. 663–688.
  5. The UN Water Conference took place in Mar del Plata, Argentina, March 14–25. The UN Conference on Desertification was scheduled to take place in Nairobi, Kenya, August 29–September 9.
  6. See footnote 5, Document 24.
  7. Presumable reference to commodity proposals introduced at the fourth UNCTAD conference, held in Nairobi, Kenya, May 3–28, 1976. Delegates adopted an Integrated Program for Commodities (IPC), with an objective of stabilizing commodity prices. The final resolution also called for a conference to develop a Common Fund for Commodities (CFC). For additional information on UNCTAD IV, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, 1973–1976, Documents 301, 304310.
  8. See footnotes 3 and 5, Document 41.