85. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1

[Omitted here are items unrelated to Central Africa.]

3. Congo Brazzaville Proposes Talks: The Congolese proposal to open talks on normalization of relations on May 9 in Bonn is a response to your message to late President Ngouabi2 which was delivered after his assassination.3 Congo’s UN Ambassador will be delivering this proposal to us formally tomorrow.4

In our reply, we will offer to meet in Bonn on May 30 since other commitments of our key people make it difficult to meet sooner.

Our willingness to move ahead in normalizing relations with the Congo may assist us indirectly in pursuing our negotiations with Angola. The two regimes are close.

4. Zaire: We are now in the process of formulating our positions on military assistance to Zaire for FY 78. As you know, the Congressional mark-ups for Security Supporting Assistance are taking place this week, and we can expect considerable opposition to a continuation of our previous military aid relationship with Zaire. We are attempting to devise a strategy that will allow us some flexibility in making future decisions with respect to both lethal and non-lethal equipment.5

After an extensive study of Zaire’s military capabilities and needs, it was decided in November of last year to offer Zaire a military “upgrade package” designed to equip and train a Zairian military force over a period of four years which would be capable of deterring external aggression, especially in the Shaba region. The recent events in Shaba have underscored the continuing importance of assisting Zaire in the development of such a force. The upgrade package consisted of 56 [Page 256] heavy armored cars, mobile artillery and a program to train and equip infantry for integrated mobile operations.6

Subsequently, the previous administration decided for political and psychological reasons to add 10 M–60 tanks to the upgrade package.7 Given the absence of a security justification for the tanks and the strong Congressional opposition we would encounter to providing them, we are eliminating them from the package. I nevertheless believe that we should attempt to retain some flexibility to provide Zaire with the other types of equipment in the original package and also to respond to any future requests we receive from the Zairians for emergency supplies. To do this, I intend to have Administration witnesses try to retain as much as possible of the $30 million in security supporting assistance requested in our FY 78 budget proposal for possible use in the development of such a mobile force. If this package were authorized, we could still, of course, continue our present policy of limiting sales to non-lethal items if circumstances in FY 78 so dictate.

[Omitted here are items unrelated to Central Africa.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 18, Evening Reports (State) 5/77. Secret. Carter wrote “To Cy, J” in the upper right corner.
  2. In telegram 58089 to Bonn, March 16, the Department requested that the Federal Republic of Germany transmit the text of a letter from Carter to Ngouabi, in which Carter proposed a move toward normalization of relations between the United States and Congo. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770089–0708)
  3. Ngouabi was assassinated on March 18. In telegram 2498 from Kinshasa, March 18, the Embassy reported that Radio Brazzaville had announced his death. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770094–1154)
  4. Carter wrote “ok” in the right margin.
  5. Carter wrote “Minimize Congressional restraints” in the right margin.
  6. Carter underlined “heavy armored cars,” “mobile artillery,” and “train and equip infantry,” and wrote “ok” in the right margin.
  7. Carter underlined “10 M–60” and wrote “no” in the right margin.