253. Memorandum From Vice President Mondale to President Carter1


  • Possible Restriction of Grain Sales to the Soviet Union

I very much hope that you will decide not to reduce grain sales to the Soviet Union. I believe it is in our interest to gain the cash sales—and it is all cash—from these sales to the Soviet Union and to maintain this market in future years which has a very beneficial impact on our economy and on the dollar. Sales of food for cash to the USSR takes hard currency from them to develop a stronger consumer economy with higher protein components for their consumers. All of this is good for us. If you feel we must do something in the grain area, I would hope at the most we would terminate our agreement for sales in excess of those already contracted. Some 17 million tons are already under contract—the remainder (i.e. up to 25 million tons) has not yet been contracted. It would hurt far less if we could do that. We might then follow Harold Brown’s suggestions that the difference between the 17 million tons and the approved 25 million tons be made available on concessional terms for use in countries such as Bangladesh that are having serious nutritional problems. I think that this would be viewed by the farmers as moving with proper concern for their needs and be seen in the world as a responsible decision.

If you look at the list of actions that we’ve taken and will take in regard to this matter, it is pretty impressive.

1. Defer SALT

2. Recall Ambassador from USSR

3. Reduce Soviet diplomatic presence including expelling some Soviet agents and restricting travel. I think we also ought to review whether we can block Russian occupation of their new Embassy here in Washington—something that they want very much.

4. Suspend opening of Kiev and New York consulates.

5. Step up VOA broadcasts

6. Stall consular review

7. Reduce numbers of Soviet visitors

8. Require equal numbers of media representatives

9. I hope we would really go after the Olympics—I don’t see why that is sacrosanct.

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10. Reduce U.S. participation in selected exchanges.

11. Establish a permanent military presence in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.

12. Let MFN lie.

13. Postpone commercial and civil aviation talks—limit commercial expansion.

14. Substantially tighten export controls—a significant move.

15. Tighten rules on Soviet fishing

16. The moves that we’re making before the UN Security Council and hopefully thereafter the General Assembly.

17. Tightening COCOM rules

18. Substantially expanding the types of technical and defensive assistance available to the People’s Republic of China.

19. Ending all international aid to Afghanistan.

20. Substantial aid to Pakistan.

21. Broadened resources for the CIA and for Foreign Aid.

22. Add to that the steps we’ve already taken to increase the Defense budget and the decision taken in LRT–NF

It seems to me that all these steps make a most significant response to the outrageous invasion of Afghanistan.

I realize that you have to make this decision without regard to politics. But if corn were to drop 10 cents or more a bushel—and the estimates are that it would drop more at first and then slowly stabilize—and wheat were to drop 20 cents a bushel—and the farmers were to realize, as they will, that the chances of a future market in the Soviet Union had been basically and fundamentally damaged and that a lot of this market would be picked up by the other wheat and bean producers around the world, that the reaction would be very, very tough politically in Iowa, in Minnesota and in Ohio and throughout the grain-producing areas of our country. Because of that, this decision could undermine your ability to persevere in a strong and unified assault upon the Soviet Union with a unified nation behind you. To me, there is something particularly grubby about using food as a weapon and the use of it could damage us in the international community as well. I might also point out that we did not use the food weapon in the case of the holding of American hostages and I believe to do so now would also raise questions as to how the differences in policy might be justified. I try very hard not to be a hair shirt for you, but I feel very strongly about this matter and have therefore written this memo.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 82, USSR: 1/1–8/80. “Top Secret” is handwritten on the memorandum. Printed from a copy that does not bear Mondales’s initials. The initial “C” is written in the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum, indicating that Carter saw it.