156. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Christopher to President Carter1


  • Exception to PD–13 for Sale of Helicopter-Mounted TOW Missile Capability to Kenya

Last February the Kenyans gave us an extensive list of weapons they wished to obtain. The list included helicopters armed with wire-[Page 412]guided anti-tank (TOW) missiles. The Joint State/Defense Survey Team which went to Kenya in April concluded that one of Kenya’s most pressing defense needs is for an air cavalry brigade composed of helicopters armed with such weapons. The team found that this capability would provide the speed and mobility required to respond to attack along Kenya’s lengthy frontiers.2 On July 5 the Policy Review Committee (PRC) endorsed the survey team’s recommendation.3 The Kenyans have now confirmed their desire to proceed with this purchase, valued at $44 million.

For reasons set forth below, we believe approval of this request would require making an exception to one of the prohibitions in PD–13,4 your arms transfer restraint directive. The PRC has recommended that such an exception be made, and I am now seeking your approval of that recommendation.

The relevant provision of PD–13 states:

“The United States will not be the first supplier to introduce into a region an advanced weapons system which creates a new or significantly higher combat capability.”

We have previously informed Congress that the determination of what is “advanced” will vary from region to region. We believe a helicopter-mounted TOW missile capability is an advanced system with respect to sub-Saharan Africa, for the following reasons:

—the U.S. has not previously provided a helicopter borne anti-tank missile system to any African country. (The TOW itself has been provided to Ethiopia, Tunisia, and Morocco.)

—we have no evidence that the Soviets have yet provided such a system in sub-Saharan Africa, although they are providing this capability to Libya and Algeria. (They have provided a ground-based system to Ethiopia, Libya, Angola, and Uganda.)

—the Europeans have not provided this capability in sub-Saharan Africa, though the Kenyans are exploring French sources.

One of the grounds for an exception under PD–13 is that a friendly country needs the weaponry in question to offset quantitative and other disadvantages in order to maintain a regional balance. We believe the transfer to Kenya of helicopters armed with TOW missiles satisfies this criterion. Kenya is more supportive of American and moderate international political objectives than any other East African country. At the same time, Kenya’s neighbors, especially Ethiopia, have formidable tank forces which create an imbalance in the region. A helicopter-[Page 413]mounted TOW capability would help Kenya defend against this external threat and thus reduce the imbalance. The nature of the terrain along Kenya’s borders and the large distances that must be covered to defend the lengthy borders make this weapons system the most cost-effective deterrent.

Approval of this transfer would be welcomed by Kenya as a clear sign of U.S. support for its territorial integrity. It would particularly appreciate the gesture at this time in view of President Kenyatta’s recent death.

We would assist in the financing of this sale and have taken account of it in the FY 79 arms transfer ceiling plan.

There may be some Congressional criticism of the sale, on grounds that it is contrary to the Administration’s arms restraint policy.

In order to minimize the effect of granting this exception, we would suggest that there be a caveat making it explicit that the exception results from the unique circumstances in which Kenya finds itself and shall not have precedential value in deciding whether exceptions to PD–13 ought to be made with respect to other arms transfers to countries in the region.


That, subject to the caveat just noted, you authorize an exception to PD–13 for the sale to Kenya of helicopters armed with TOW missiles. If you approve, the Defense Department will begin discussions with Kenyan officials to develop the necessary Letters of Offer and Acceptance and will subsequently provide Congress with the necessary certification under Section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 43, Kenya: 1/77–1/81. Secret. Carter initialed the memorandum and wrote “ok” in the upper right corner.
  2. See Documents 149 and 150.
  3. See Document 151.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 151.
  5. Carter checked the “Approve” option.