168. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1
- Oral Message from Brezhnev
The enclosed oral message from Brezhnev is designed to induce you to influence the Western Europeans not to sell any arms to the Chinese (the translation is by the Soviet Embassy;2 am asking Cy for an official US translation of the Russian text). In addition to sending a copy to Cy, should I send a copy to Harold?[Page 504]
My initial reactions are as follows:
1) If we accommodate the Soviets, both we and NATO will have bowed—for the first time—to Soviet pressure.
2) We would be engaging in a blockade of China to the benefit of the Soviet Union, and this would destroy the chances of any collaborative US-Chinese relationship.
3) It is noteworthy that the Soviet Union armed China when China was hostile to the US, and it has ignored all your expressions of concern regarding Cuban and Soviet arms in Africa as well as elsewhere.
4) The Soviet Union also rejected any linkage between its conduct in Africa and SALT, but it is hinting at linkage between our relations with China and SALT.
5) In the light of the above, I recommend that you ask Cy, Harold, and me to draft an ambiguous response, suggesting that this matter, as well as others, is something that can be discussed at the Summit, in the context of reciprocal efforts to improve US-Soviet relations, and without prejudice to the right of every state to acquire purely defensive weaponry.
- Source: Carter Library, Plains File, President’s Personal Foreign Affairs File, Box 4, USSR (Brezhnev Drafts/Letters), 4/77–9/80. Secret; Eyes Only. Carter wrote in the memorandum’s upper right-hand corner, “Pers[onal] File. J.” Carter, in his memoirs, quoted his diary entry written after receiving this letter from Brezhnev: “On the 27th I got a very discouraging letter from Brezhnev, showing that they [the Soviets] are almost paranoid about the People’s Republic of China and demanding that I prevent our Western allies from selling any defensive weapons to the PRC. We’ll delay for a few days before giving him an answer. . . . Had an excellent meeting with Cy Vance. He spent the night with us at Camp David, and I went over a broad gamut of foreign affairs questions with him. He and I agree that the most significant responsibility we have is to balance our new friendship with the PRC and our continued improvement of relations with the Soviet Union. . . . As we moved toward a most-favored-nation relationship with the PRC, we must face the need to do the same thing with the Soviet Union.” Ellipses in the original. (Keeping Faith, p. 201)↩
- Brzezinski placed an asterisk here and wrote “it’s poor” at the bottom of the page.↩
- Secret; Eyes Only. Printed from an unofficial translation.↩
- Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.↩