26. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Confidence is the Theme

On the eve of the second debate you decided that leadership was the theme. By focusing on it, you gave your presentation a coherence that your opponent lacked.

The underlying mood of the forthcoming Summit meetings is one of anxiety. That anxiety pertains to the quality of leadership, to the viability of the social systems, and to the West’s staying power particularly in the East-West competition.

In that context, I think you should very deliberately project two roles:

(1) By showing command of the issues, by displaying a genuine familiarity with the key problems, you will assure your colleagues that you are capable of dealing realistically with complex dilemmas;

(2) By projecting a sense of confidence about the future, you can both reassure and infuse your colleagues—as well as the publics at large—with a greater degree of optimism, something which they desperately need and something which only America can provide.

By suggesting that confidence be your underlying theme, I do not wish to suggest that you ignore the need for concrete action. Far from it; without concrete proposals the stress on confidence would become just “happy talk.” I do feel, however, that there is a danger of becoming ex [Page 80] cessively absorbed by detail and thus of not responding to the more fundamental crisis of confidence that pervades the West. In other words, it is the old issue of the trees vs. the forest.

I attach a sheet of paper on which some thoughts of a more general nature are briefly sketched out.2 They can be related to the needed advocacy of concrete actions. I also attach a useful article from today’s London Times which reinforces the points I am trying to make,3 as well as the pessimistic polls about East-West relations to which I referred at breakfast.4

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Trip File, Box 1, President, Europe, 5/5–10/77: Memos and Cables, 5/5–20/77. Confidential.
  2. Attached but not printed is an undated paper entitled “Some Themes on the Subject of Confidence.”
  3. Attached but not printed is an article by Hugh Hanning entitled “President Carter adopts the ways of the Ugly American.”
  4. Attached but not printed is an undated paper entitled “European Perceptions of Comparative East-West Military Strength.” The President’s Daily Diary contains no record of a May 6 breakfast meeting between Carter and Brzezinski, nor was a memorandum of conversation of a meeting found. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials)