274. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown and Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1


  • Military Assistance for Egypt

You asked2 about the possibilities for enhanced military assistance for Egypt. We conclude that it is important for the United States to move beyond the immediate program of assistance agreed during the Treaty negotiations.

As you know, during Mubarak’s June visit we undertook to develop3 a longer term (five year) military assistance plan with Egypt. We are now preparing for the first round of talks in Cairo on this plan,4 with the aim of completing the plan by October 1st. In the planning process we will be reviewing Egypt’s force structure and missions as well as equipment requirements. It will be our aim to encourage Egypt to make reductions in its force structure and to limit equipment requirements to those needed for replacement and modernization of obsolete or unsupportable Soviet equipment. We will severely discourage force expansion.

Moreover, wherever possible, we will encourage Egypt to make the most of the Soviet equipment it has now, and will offer technical assistance for this purpose.5 We are looking at ways to help Egypt’s de [Page 891] fense industries adapt and maintain, and otherwise keep operating Soviet equipment now in the Egyptian inventory. A DOD team has already visited Egypt for this purpose. We expect to have specific proposals by October 1st.

Nevertheless, some new equipment will be a continuing requirement, and we should be prepared to continue our financial and material help. In this regard we will be considering further FMS credits at about the $500 million per year level, beginning with the FY 1982 budget. This is the financial guide we propose to use in our long-term planning for Egypt. Such an approach would begin a program of regular military funding aid for Egypt outside the peace package. This aid would be similar, to but less than, the annual aid to Israel.

We may have a problem with the public and Congress regarding an enhanced program. If we should propose to provide $500 million a year in further FMS credits beginning in FY 82, critics may argue that our one-time package was authorized for the period through FY 82. In addition, Israel might argue that our total economic and military assistance programs for Egypt would be approaching parity with Israel’s and, therefore, might seek new increments for itself. We believe these are manageable problems.

We have also considered the terms on which FMS credits are offered. At present we have agreed to finance military purchases over a 30 year period, with an initial ten year grace period on principal, but we believe that debt service will be a growing problem, depending on how quickly, if at all, the economy prospers. It is preferable that military equipment be given second priority after Egypt’s economic development needs.

So far as equipment releases are concerned, Egyptian requests for modern tanks, antitank helicopters, and advanced fighter aircraft could run into regional balance or arms control problems on the Hill. While our sale of such articles to Egypt may not be advisable now, we may have to consider them in the longer term. The Egyptians would see any joint planning which omits such equipment as a serious indication that the U.S. will not support Egyptian force modernization. The consultations we plan will give us an opportunity to channel Egyptian desires in directions we can politically manage.

Our longer-term planning will take place within our previously stated policy that the U.S. is prepared to provide a substantial amount [Page 892] of Egypt’s military equipment needs, but not all. Egypt should be encouraged to develop perhaps smaller but nevertheless significant supply programs with Europeans and others to complement our own activities.

In carrying out this policy, we need to begin conditioning both Congress and the public to the fact that Egypt has legitimate defense requirements in addition to needs for support in its economic development program and that both of these aspects of our effort serve U.S. national interests and are closely intertwined.

In our judgment, U.S.-Egyptian defense relationships are developing in productive ways, although the supply of equipment is naturally not as extensive, as inexpensive, or as fast as Egypt desires.

—We will deliver before October 6 the first of the F–4 aircraft, plus other equipment and, if Egypt makes a firm decision, a Gearing Class destroyer. These first deliveries are a high priority for Sadat and we have made every effort to make them available in time for this politically important date.

—We are exchanging a number of expert military teams on Egypt’s high priority items, such as air defense.

—We have defined with Egypt the equipment priorities and delivery schedules for the full $1.5 billion already agreed.

—We are starting work on the longer term plan decided above. While this will not initially provide commitments for financing and delivery, it will continue the military dialogue and help to cement defense relationships between our two countries.

In addition we earlier promised Sadat and Kamal Ali that we would welcome the opportunity for close defense consultations. To that end we would expect to have annual meetings at the Defense Minister level and periodic staff consultations during the year.

We believe we are well started on the road to enhanced defense relationships with Egypt. We will have to consult closely with Congressional leaders as we go along.

  • Cyrus Vance
  • Harold Brown
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC 330–82–0205, Egypt 1979 Jan–July. Secret. A typewritten notation in the upper left-hand corner of the memorandum reads: “orig[inal] hand carried to the WH by S.”
  2. See Document 262.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 260.
  4. A delegation led by McGiffert began four days of talks on the Egyptian supply relationship on August 11. McGiffert met with Sadat, Mubarak, and Ali in Alexandria, August 11, for a discussion of regional security concerns, a meeting Sadat described as “the start of a real cooperation between Egypt and the U.S. based on a mutual understanding and a mutual strategy.” (Telegram 16352 from OMC/Cairo, August 13; Washington National Records Center, OSD Files, FRC 330–81–0446, DEM Memcons/Reporting Cables) McGiffert had an earlier meeting on August 11 with Mubarak and Ali. The memorandum of conversation is ibid. The delegation’s technical discussions with Egyptian military officials which culminated in the Egyptian presentation of an equipment “priority” list (estimated at $10–12 billion) is summarized in telegram 16584 from Cairo, August 15. (Ibid.)
  5. In response to a June 22 request from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, the Central Intelligence Agency produced a July 29 research memorandum evaluating the Egyptian military’s need for maintenance on its Soviet-supplied weapons systems. The memorandum concluded that the economic sanctions imposed by the Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, “will seriously delay Egypt’s plans to reequip its armed forces with new weapons and will force Cairo to seek still more Western help to repair or retrofit existing Soviet equipment. Although such assistance could enable the Egyptians to prolong the useful life of such equipment beyond previously scheduled retirement dates, such measures will do little to reduce Egypt’s growing arms imbalance with not only Israel but also with Syria, Iraq, and Libya.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Support Services, Directorate of Intelligence, Job 81T00031R: Production Case Files, Box 1, Folder 64, Response to State’s Request for Information on Western Retrofitting of Soviet Military Equipment in Egypt)