151. Message From President Carter to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev1

Dear Mr. President:

I am communicating with regard to the critical situation in and around Beirut,2 which has become so dangerous and intractable that I believe urgent measures must be taken by the international community, following on the October 4 appeal by the President of the Security Council and the Secretary General of the United Nations.3

I firmly hope that our governments can agree on the need to bring the present violence in Lebanon to an immediate halt, in order both to stop the tragic loss of life and to prevent a possible widening of the conflict. If the violence can be stopped, it should then be possible to begin to seek solutions to the problems which have beset Lebanon.

I believe that the international community, which has a legitimate concern over the future of Lebanon, must be directly involved in a permanent resolution of Lebanon’s problems, as well as in immediate steps to stop the violence.

I hope that the parties involved in the present fighting will agree to an immediate ceasefire, as a first step. My Government is prepared to support steps, including a Security Council resolution, which would call for a ceasefire, a separation of forces and humanitarian measures. We hope this would allow at least a beginning to be made in achieving a political reconciliation. I urge that your Government will support such steps.

I have also supported the efforts of the President of France4 to find a way out of the present crisis in Lebanon. Similarly, my Government [Page 475] has taken a positive attitude toward the efforts of Arab states, as expressed in the Arab Deterrent Force;5 we would welcome additional efforts by these states to bring about a real and lasting ceasefire leading to peace in Lebanon. I believe, however, that regional efforts must be coupled with involvement of the wider international community.

I have sent my views on the present Lebanese situation to President Assad. My Government has also urged Israel to exercise restraint and to counsel their contacts in Lebanon to comply with a ceasefire.

I assume that you will be discussing the Lebanese situation with President Assad during his current visit. For humanitarian reasons, to forestall a drift toward wider hostilities in the region and to create a situation which will allow the process of reconciliation to begin, I ask that you use your influence with President Assad to support the objectives advanced by France and to do so publicly.

I assure you, Mr. President, of my desire to work with you on this important matter. I stress the urgency of acting immediately on this matter to stop the bloodshed which increases hourly.


J. Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 4, USSR (Brezhnev Drafts/Letters), 4/77–9/80. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Peter S. Bridges (IO/UNP) on October 5. Sent via the hot line. Brzezinski sent the message to Carter under an October 5 covering memorandum, which read in part: “The situation in Lebanon is critical and we anticipate that there will be a call to convene an emergency meeting of the [U.N. Security] Council tomorrow.” Carter approved Brzezinski’s recommendation that the message be sent immediately over the hot line so that it would be “in Brezhnev’s hands at opening of business tomorrow [Moscow time].”
  2. Christian areas in Beirut continued to be targeted by Syrian forces during early October, resulting in high civilian casualties. See Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1979, p. 30007.
  3. The appeal, made by the International Committee of the Red Cross, called for a truce, which would allow for the evacuation of wounded individuals from the eastern portion of Beirut. See Yearbook of the United Nations, 1978, pp. 371–373.
  4. Reference is to diplomatic attempts led by French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing to get Syria to agree to a cease-fire.
  5. The Arab League created the Arab Deterrent Force, composed primarily of Syrian forces and under Syrian command.