200. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • NSC Weekly Report #86

[Omitted here is material unrelated to China.]


Normalization with China obviously carries with it the risk of Soviet over-reaction and miscalculations in both Peking and Moscow. We are now directly in the middle of a very delicate balancing act—one which is complicated by the fact that both Brezhnev and Deng are old and we could, even in the next few years, see significant governmental changes in both countries.

There is also a ripple effect. The Germans, for example, are already nervous that the Soviet response to our playing “the China card” will result in the Russians playing “the German card.” By this they are evidently concerned that pressure could be brought on Berlin or that some other aspect of Soviet-West German relations could be adversely affected.

Thus, it is extremely important for allied solidarity as well as global stability for this three-cornered relationship to be handled with the utmost care. From a political standpoint it is important to maintain momentum with both Peking and Moscow. I believe this means that you should plan on emerging from both the Deng visit and the Brezhnev visit with concrete plans to visit both China and the Soviet Union before the 1980 election. (You should make some tentative scheduling decisions on this even before you meet with Deng.)

Such summits in Peking and Moscow will not only enhance your own prestige but serve as a focus for structuring our relations with both China and the Soviet Union over the next 18 months. They will provide both reassurance of a continuing relationship with both countries and positive incentives for both to maintain a measure of restraint in their mutual relations.

My second recommendation is that you take more direct command of our relationship with the Soviet Union. You should insist on [Page 738] tight personal control of all actions affecting our relationship with the Soviet Union. You have taken this approach in regard to the Middle East and China with significant success. There is a potential for great disarray, given the different ideological views in your Administration. We cannot afford this disarray any longer, but it is likely to intensify in the absence of better discipline.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to China.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 42, Weekly Reports (to the President), 82–90 (12/78–3/79). Secret; Eyes Only. At the top of the page, Carter wrote, “Zbig—Interesting. J.”