215. Memorandum From Michel Oksenberg of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Reflections on Our Sino-Vietnam Meeting

We spent the bulk of our time carefully crafting our démarche to Moscow.2 That is how it had to be. Yet I felt as if I were engaged in an exercise of futility, given Gromyko’s response to Toon’s presentation on the Deng visit.3

I get the sense from Iran, Afghanistan, and Vietnam that the Soviets are feeling their oats and are projecting a mood of almost disdain for the U.S.

We must think beyond the realm of démarches to the range of actions toward the Soviet Union and toward China, as well as in the Middle East and South Asia, that will add up to a coherent pol-icy. We are in the midst of perhaps one of the most serious moments for U.S. foreign policy in many years where we face these grim prospects:

—The continued political disintegration of Iran, with the Soviet Union over a period of months irresistibly drawn to this major target of opportunity;

—Sino-Soviet military conflict, even at a low level, which would demonstrate to the Chinese leaders that their American opening has bought them little security;

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—A protracted Sino-Vietnamese conflict, which inevitably would adversely affect American confidence in the normalization process;

—Unraveling of the American position in the Middle East.

What we need is a lengthy analysis of all the moves available to us—and I do not mean words or trips—for shaping an effective response to the challenge. The moves could be partially military, partially economic, partially adjustments to our human rights or military sales policies. We must also be willing to address the issue in a forthright manner of linkage, and recognize that what we do in one place will affect what happens in another.

Pivotal in all of this is our Soviet policy—how we can introduce a note of restraint in Moscow during the coming months.

I am not an expert on the Soviet Union, Zbig, but I just wish to emphasize to you that you bear the central responsibility in the U.S. Government for presenting to the President in rapid fashion a coherent strategy. And if it necessitates taking on Marshall Shulman directly, you have to do it now, because time is running out on us.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 9, China (PRC): 1–3/79. Secret. Sent for information. A stamped notation at the top of the page reads, “ZB has seen.”
  2. See Document 214.
  3. Foreign Minister Gromyko told Ambassador Toon, “What interests us is the main political question: How the USG conducts itself in regard to a government that is preparing for war and proceeds on the basis that war is inevitable, to a country which officially calls itself the enemy of the Soviet Union and which seeks to push the US and its allies toward some kind of confrontation with the USSR. Its credo is enmity to the Soviet Union, and it subordinates improvement of relations with the US to that belief. That is the official aim of the present Chinese leadership; it is with that aim that Deng went to the US, and he presented it to the President, the Congress, the press—to everyone. We are more than surprised that official Washington gave him the opportunity to present this position, surprised that Washington went along that road. China with the help of Deng has taken the US along with him.” (Telegram 3717 from Moscow, February 14; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number])