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


  • NSC Weekly Report #102

1. NSC Activities

Soviet Union and China

(I attach separately my memcon with Dobrynin.)

I met on Tuesday with the Chinese DCM and on Thursday with Dobrynin.2 The Chinese simply promised to transmit to Beijing my renewed expression of interest [less than 1 line not declassified]. In order not to sound too eager, I indicated that I was restating our proposal, which we view as mutually beneficial because I wanted Deng to know that our interest has not waned in any manner [less than 1 line not declassified].

However, I doubt the Chinese will come across. No matter how often we tell them the initiative is mutually beneficial, [less than 1 line not declassified]—and that they are not eager to do. This is why we will have to insinuate gently that cooperating [less than 1 line not declassified] means the beginning of a process pointing to some form of limited security cooperation.

[Page 895]

That raises a wider issue. On rereading the Vienna protocols, I was struck by how intransigent Brezhnev was on regional issues.3 In spite of your forceful statement, the Soviets simply gave us no reason to believe that they will desist from using the Cubans as their proxies, even though they continued to try to extract from you a promise that we will be sensitive to their concerns in our dealings with the Chinese.4

Accordingly, in the months ahead, I think we have every reason to believe that the Soviets will continue to transform Cuba into the strongest Caribbean and Central American military power, thereby further enhancing the revolutionary dynamism of a region close to us; that they will continue to supply and politically exploit the Cuban proxy in Africa; and that they will step up their pressure on Saudi Arabia (and we have growing evidence of South Yemen becoming a Soviet regional military warehouse).

Whether in Africa or in Central America, our central task at this historical juncture is to try to steer inevitable changes (be they toward black majority rule in Africa, or to end right-wing dictatorships in Central America) into moderate directions. Translating revolutionary change into politically moderate outcomes is a very difficult task, and that accounts for some of the dilemmas that the U.S. now confronts.

Moreover, we will only be successful if at the same time we can reduce the Soviet-Cuban inclination to exploit these transitional difficulties against us. Words alone will not do it, and you gave the Soviets in Vienna the needed admonitions. We are now at the point, however, that we need to tell the Soviets that the time is ripe for some tangible demonstration that they favor cooperation over more competition; this involves concretely and explicitly the imposition of Soviet restraint on the Cuban military buildup and on international Cuban military activities. If there is no visible indication of such restraint within a reasonable period of time, I think the United States should begin to consider seriously the possibility of entering cautiously into a limited security arrangement with the Chinese. We would be foolhardy to rush into a [Page 896] fullscale relationship for it would prejudice the chances for a lasting détente with the Soviet Union, but we are not going to have a lasting détente if in the meantime Soviet actions produce a massive right-wing domestic reaction in the United States.

We thus owe it to ourselves, as well as to the Soviets, to indicate to the Soviets that we may in fact have no choice but to counter their moves by going further in our relations with the Chinese—something that Deng Xiaoping obviously was trying to promote during his February visit here. To give credibility to our hint to Moscow, we ought to consider transferring some ambiguously sensitive technology to China, and parallel that with some serious discussions with the top Soviet leaders about long range trends in world affairs, as indicated in the last paragraph of the Dobrynin memcon.5

[Omitted here is material unrelated to China.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Material, Subject File, Box 42, Weekly Reports (to the President), 102–120, (7/79–12/79). Top Secret; Sensitive. A handwritten “C” at the top of the page indicates that Carter saw the memorandum.
  2. No memorandum of conversation of a July 3 meeting with the Chinese DCM was found. The memorandum of conversation of the July 5 meeting with Dobrynin is attached but not printed.
  3. SALT II was signed by Carter and Brezhnev in Vienna on June 18. Records of the discussions in Vienna are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXIII, SALT II, 1972–1979, and Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union.
  4. According to Carter’s notes of his private meeting with Brezhnev on June 18, Brezhnev told him, “I would like to pursue the idea that in case of an attack on either of us from a third nation, the other will pledge to mount a joint rebuff.” The Soviet leader continued, “I want to speak about China. We have no objection to normal relations between your two countries, but it would be a serious mistake for anyone to use Peking’s anti-Soviet attitudes to the detriment of the Soviet Union. We observed with great concern that China’s first action following recognition by the United States was an attack on Vietnam. Their smiles and bows were certainly not compatible with this violation of stability in Asia. They seem to want the United States to cover their political rear.” Carter later commented, “Brezhnev talked about China at length and with great feeling. It was obviously the centerpiece of his presentation to me.” (Carter, Keeping Faith, pp. 258–259)
  5. Carter wrote, “I agree” in the margin next to this paragraph.