250. Memorandum From the Special Representative for Economic Summits (Owen) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Friday Breakfast

1. Bill Miller called up in considerable agitation about the question of the President’s attendance at the annual IMF/IBRD meeting September 30. The schedulers say that the President will be in town that day, but he will be busy catching up and so would not have time to speak to the Bank/Fund meeting.2 Bill believes that the President’s failure to open this meeting, as he and other Presidents have done in the past, would:

a) have highly adverse consequences for our relations with developing countries, particularly in view of our recent negative position in the UN debates on North/South negotiations. It would be seen by them [Page 748] as a deliberate snub, and would weaken our ability to secure their continuing support on the PLO issue in the Bank and Fund;3

b) would also sit poorly with the industrial countries, and produce critical comments from some of the European finance ministers, since the US President has traditionally opened these meetings, and these comments would be reported in the US press.

There could also be snide editorial comment in the US press, i.e., that the President was too busy campaigning to attend this key international meeting.

2. I said to Bill Miller that I would report his concern to you. Cooper is asking Muskie and Christopher to raise this issue at the Friday breakfast.4

3. I attach a memo which you have seen, but which did not reach the President, outlining a Presidential speech to the annual meeting that could do us a lot of good, domestically as well as abroad.5 Appearing on TV welcoming an international meeting of 130 Finance Ministers, and telling them about successful US economic and energy policies, would give the President a chance to appear statesmanlike and Presidential—a world leader in action. We could produce a speech that would cover this ground and that would take about ten minutes.

4. I share Bill’s concerns. I can also understand the scheduler’s view that it’s simply not possible. But I’d feel more comfortable if the President was briefed about the issue in advance, so that he wasn’t surprised if a spurt of criticism (such as he got for not attending the Tito funeral) ensued—& could decide for himself what to do.6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 26, Friday Breakfast: 3/78–12/80. No classification marking. Sent for action. Brzezinski wrote at the top of the page: “done—OK. ZB.” An unknown person wrote below Brzezinski’s note: “H.O. reports that Miller has raised this with the P. who seemed receptive but Miller still wants the issue raised at b’fast.”
  2. In a September 19 memorandum to Carter, Owen suggested some themes for a speech by Carter at the annual joint meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Washington. (Carter Library, Records of the Office of the Staff Secretary, Presidential File, Box 206, [9/22/80—Not Submitted—DF]) Phil Wise recommended not forwarding the memorandum, writing on a White House memorandum requesting his comments: “The P has no time to prepare for such a speech nor does he gain politically from it.” (Ibid.)
  3. On September 19, a majority of IMF members voted down a proposal to admit an observer from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to the forthcoming joint IMF-World Bank meeting. (Juan de Onis, “Aid Bank And I.M.F. Bar P.L.O.,” The New York Times, September 23, 1980, p. D1)
  4. Carter breakfasted with his foreign policy advisers on Friday, September 26, from 7:33 to 8:56 a.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary)
  5. Attached but not printed is Owen’s September 19 memorandum to Carter; see footnote 2 above.
  6. Owen added “—& could decide for himself what to do” by hand. Carter did address the IMF-World Bank meeting on September 30; for his remarks, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, 1980–81, Book III, pp. 1972–1974.