89. Editorial Note

On June 19, 1978, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance testified on U.S.-Soviet policy before the House Committee on International Relations. Fourteen members of the committee had sent a letter to President Jimmy Carter requesting that the administration clarify its policy toward the Soviet Union in light of recent statements made by Vance, the President, and President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Zbigniew Brzezinski. (Bernard Gwertzman, “Vance Urges Effort by U.S. and Russians to Reduce Tensions: Asserts Carter Backs View,” The New York Times, June 20, 1978, pages A–1, A–12) Vance began by thanking the committee for affording him the opportunity to address the issues contained within the letter. He continued:

“There is perhaps no more important question on which we must consult than the entire range of U.S.-Soviet relations. I use the word ’range’ advisedly. For it is very important, as we deal with these critical issues, that we recognize a fundamental reality of this relationship: That it is not a relationship with a single dimension but with many; that even as we have sharp differences, as we inevitably will, there are many other areas in which we continue to cooperate and to seek useful agreement; and that to view U.S.-Soviet relations from the perspective of a single dimension is to run the risk of failing to identify our interests carefully and to act accordingly.”

The Secretary noted that the President’s June 7 address at the U.S. Naval Academy commencement exercises (see Document 87) outlined and described the elements of U.S policy toward the Soviet Union. Vance highlighted three points: the maintenance of military, economic, and political strength; the pursuit of treaties and agreements crucial to peace and security; and mutual conduct in global affairs. Regarding [Page 429]this last component, the Secretary suggested that he intended to address it “in its African context, where interest is presently focused.” Commenting that he would devote greater attention to the specifics of the policy in an address the next day, Vance explained that the administration’s strategy “is based upon an affirmative and constructive approach to African issues: helping African nations meet their pressing human and economic needs; strengthening their ability to defend themselves; building closer ties throughout Africa; and assisting African nations to resolve their conflicts peacefully.” (Department of State Bulletin, August 1978, pages 14 and 15)

On June 20, Vance addressed the annual meeting of the U.S. Jaycees, who had convened in Atlantic City, New Jersey. After highlighting the importance of the African continent in human, economic, and political terms, the Secretary referenced his July 1, 1977, address (see Document 50), noting: “I said that we can be neither right nor effective if we treat Africa simply as an arena for East-West competition. Our Africa policy has not changed. Its objectives remain forward looking and positive.” After summarizing the objectives as ones that prioritized commitment to social and economic justice, resolution of disputes, respect for nationalism, support for defense needs, and respect for human rights, Vance explained how the administration had applied them to issues of the greatest concern in Rhodesia, Namibia, the Horn of Africa, and Zaire. He then discussed the objectives in greater detail:

“—We will rely on our strengths—our trade, aid, economic, and cultural ties—which have developed over the years. To these we have added our common commitment to social justice and human development. These are the most enduring elements in the relationship between Africa and America. They bind us to nations throughout the continent.

“It is essential to the success of our policies that Africans know that we share their goal of economic development. This means increasing trade and investment in ways that benefit both Africa and the United States. And it means continuing to increase our aid to African nations. We will do so because there is genuine need, because it is important to our own economic well-being, and because it will strengthen the independence of African nations.

“—Our strategy is to work with others in Africa and beyond for the peaceful resolution of disputes. We can help African nations avoid human suffering and prevent the diversion of resources from human development. Moreover, a potential conflict resolved is a conflict of which others cannot take advantage. We will help to strengthen the effectiveness of the United Nations and regional organizations such as the Organization of African Unity which can play a vital role in [Page 430]working for peace. Ultimately, it is Africans themselves who will bring peace to their continent.

“—We will continue to respect the growing spirit of African national independence because it is important to economic and political progress and because Africans will firmly resist yielding their hard-won independence to outside powers. The history of the last 20 years demonstrates that fact.

“—It has been our policy since the beginning of the Administration to consider security requests from African nations with legitimate defense needs. Our friends in Africa must know that we can and will help them to strengthen their ability to defend themselves. Any increase in American military assistance will be done prudently and will be consistent with this Administration’s policy of seeking arms restraint and concentrating our assistance on economic development.

“—In private and public, we have emphasized our concern about the nature of Soviet activities in Africa and we have been in contact with European, Arab, and African countries and members of the nonaligned movement who share our concern. We have pointed out to the Soviets the problems which their activities pose for Africa and for our overall relations. Our actions will continue to be consistent with our commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes and with due regard for the concerns of those African countries affected.

“—In Africa as elsewhere, we will work along with others of all races to foster respect for individual human rights. We believe that civil and political liberties and the right of each individual to basic necessities, such as decent health care, education, and food, should be respected throughout the continent.

“The strategy we are pursuing is a realistic approach that emphasizes our strengths and encourages an evolution of events that is in both Africa’s interests and our own. It is a strategy that has earned the support of African leaders throughout the continent.

“We do not ignore that there is a residue of suspicion among some Africans who have fought against colonialism that our policy is simply a tactic and not a reflection of a genuine commitment to African needs. Only time and our continued demonstration that we mean what we say will meet this problem.

“We are convinced that an affirmative approach to African aspirations and problems is also the most effective response to Soviet and Cuban activities there. Any other strategy would weaken Africa by dividing it. And it would weaken us by letting others set our policies for us.

“Our nation and the nations of Africa have much in common. We struggled hard for our independence, and we intend to remain free. We [Page 431]are blessed with great human and natural resources, and we intend to develop them fully. We are committed to racial justice, and we intend to achieve it in our lifetime. And we share a common vision of Africa’s future—where African hopes and dreams for a better life and for peace have become a reality.” (Department of State Bulletin, August 1978, pages 10–13)

The Department of State transmitted the text of Vance’s address to all African diplomatic posts and Copenhagen in telegram 156252, June 20. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780260–1134)