259. Telegram From the Department of State to All Diplomatic Posts, the Embassy in Pakistan, and the Embassy in Libya1

15459. Subject: Presidential Message on Olympics.

1. (C-entire text)

2. Embassy is requested to deliver ASAP to chief of state following message from President Carter. Recipients should be asked to hold the message in confidence until 1 pm Washington time January 20. FYI. President will announce his decision at that time in the course of his appearance on “Meet the Press.” End FYI.

3. Begin text. On January 20, I am sending the attached letter to the President of the United States Olympic Committee informing him that I cannot support United States participation in the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, the capital city of a nation whose invading military forces are occupying Afghanistan. I am requesting that the committee work with other National Olympic Committees to seek the transfer or cancellation of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games unless the Soviet Union withdraws its troops from Afghanistan within the next month. If the Soviets do not withdraw and the Games are not transferred or cancelled, I am asking that the United States Olympic Committee not participate in the Games in Moscow, and, instead, work with other nations to organize alternative Games.

4. I hope that you will urge your own Olympic Committee to take similar action. I believe that such action is necessary to support the position of the United Nations General Assembly, to convince the Soviet Government and people of the world’s outrage at Soviet aggression in Afghanistan and to deter future aggression.

5. Please hold my action in confidence until after 1:00 pm, Washington time, January 20.

6. Begin text of letter. To Robert Kane;

7. As President of this nation and as honorary President of the United States Olympic Committee, I write to advise you of my views concerning the Games of the XXII Olympiad scheduled to be held in Moscow this summer[Page 744].

8. I regard the Soviet invasion and the attempted suppression of Afghanistan as a serious violation of international law and an extremely serious threat to world peace. This invasion also endangers neighboring independent countries and access to a major part of the world’s oil supplies. It therefore threatens our own national security, as well as the security of the region and the entire world.

9. We must make clear to the Soviet Union that it cannot trample upon an independent nation and at the same time do business as usual with the rest of the world. We must make clear that they will pay a heavy economic and political cost for such aggressions. That is why I have taken the severe economic measures announced on January 4,2 and why other free nations are supporting these measures. That is why the United Nations General Assembly,3 by an overwhelming vote of 103 to 18, condemned the invasion and urged the prompt withdrawal of Soviet troops.

10. I want to reaffirm my own personal commitment to the principles and purposes of the Olympic Movement. I believe in the desirability of keeping government policy out of the Olympics, but deeper issues are at stake.

11. In the Soviet Union international sports competition is itself an aspect of Soviet Government policy, as is the decision to invade Afghanistan. The head of the Moscow Olympic Organizing Committee is a high Soviet Government official.

12. The Soviet Government attaches enormous political importance to the holding of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, and if the Olympics are not held in Moscow because of Soviet military aggression in Afghanistan, this powerful signal of world outrage cannot be hidden from the Soviet people, and will reverberate around the globe. Perhaps it will deter future aggression.

13. I therefore urge the USOC, in cooperation with other National Olympic Committees, to advise the International Olympic Committee that if Soviet troops do not fully withdraw from Afghanistan within the next month, Moscow will become an unsuitable site for a festival meant to celebrate peace and good will. Should the Soviet Union fail to withdraw its troops within the time prescribed above, I urge the USOC to propose that the Games either be transferred to another site such as Montreal or to multiple sites, or be cancelled for this year. If the International Olympic Committee rejects such a USOC proposal, I urge the USOC and the Olympic Committees of other like-minded nations not [Page 745] to participate in the Moscow Games. In this event, if suitable arrangements can be made, I urge that such nations conduct alternative games of their own this summer at some other appropriate site or sites. The United States Government is prepared to lend its full support to any and all such efforts.

14. I know from your letter to me and your meeting with Secretary Vance and Lloyd Cutler of your deep concern for the men and women throughout the world who have trained tirelessly in the hopes of participating in the 1980 Olympic Games. I share your concern. I would support the participation of athletes from the entire world at Summer Olympic Games or other Games this summer outside the Soviet Union, just as I welcome athletes from the entire world to Lake Placid for the Winter Olympic Games.

15. I have the deepest admiration and respect for Olympic athletes and their pursuit of excellence. No one understands better than they the meaning of sacrifice to achieve worthy goals. There is no goal of greater importance than the goal at stake here—the security of our nation and the peace of the world.

16. I also urge that the IOC take a further step to eliminate future political competition among nations to serve as hosts for the Olympic Games. I call upon all nations to join in supporting a permanent site for the Summer Olympics in Greece, and to seek an appropriate permanent site for the Winter Olympics.

17. The course I am urging is necessary to help secure the peace of the world at this critical time. The most important task of world leaders, public and private, is to deter aggression and prevent war. Aggression destroys the international amity and good will that the Olympic Movement attempts to foster. If our response to aggression is to continue with international sports as usual in the capital of the aggressor, our other steps to deter aggression are undermined.

18. The spirit and the very future of the Games depends upon courageous and resolute action at this time. I call for your support and your help in rallying the support of the other Olympic Committees throughout the world. s/Jimmy Carter. End text of letter.

19. For London: Ambassador Henderson4 informed the Secretary today that HMG has decided to follow the same path as we have. London should be sure that FCO is aware of our intentions and should pass FCO a copy of the President’s message for their information, telling them that we are seeking wide support for our action.

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20. For East European Posts: You should inform your host government, as you feel most appropriate, at a senior level in the Foreign Ministry of the President’s decision.

21. For Havana: The above is for your information; no action required.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P870143–1334. Confidential; Niact Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by the White House; cleared by Vest, William Harrop (AF), Morris Draper (NEA), Roger Sullivan (EA), William Bowdler (ARA), Nelson Ledsky (H), Raymond Seitz (S/S), and Seton Stapleton (S/S-O); approved by Vance. Sent for information Immediate to Berlin, Bucharest, Budapest, USINT Havana, Moscow, the White House, Prague, Sofia, Rangoon, Vientiane, USUN, USNATO, Kabul, U.S. delegation to MBFR talks in Vienna.
  2. See footnote 5, Document 252.
  3. The U.N. General Assembly called an emergency session, January 10–14, to deal with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. For a description of the UNGA meetings, see Yearbook of the United Nations, 1980, pp. 299–302.
  4. Nicholas Henderson, British Ambassador to the United States.