66. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to Vice President Mondale1


  • Policy Toward Algeria

Our policy toward Algeria in recent years has consisted of building on the strength of our mutual economic interests, which are quite extensive, in order to engage in an increasingly serious political dialogue on issues such as the Middle East, third-world economic [Page 176] demands, and the Sahara conflict. We have tried to keep our political differences from affecting our economic relations, and we have wanted Boumediene to feel that he has an alternative to exclusive and heavy reliance on the Soviets. On the whole, this policy has served us fairly well, although the political dialogue that we have sought has never really gotten off the ground.

As you know, Boumediene is now gravely ill. A U.S. medical team arrived in Algiers on Sunday to offer emergency assistance,2 but the prognosis is not good. If Boumediene is replaced, there is likely to be a period of confusion in Algeria since there is no obvious successor. The Foreign Minister and the Interior Minister are both possible candidates and we have established a reasonably good working relationship with the former.

During any succession struggle, we will want to use our influence to strengthen the hand of the moderates. This means sticking with our policy of formal neutrality on the Sahara conflict for the moment, cooperating normally in economic and technical spheres, and continuing to express interest in an ongoing political dialogue. Until we see what the new leadership looks like, it will be difficult to develop a more finely-tuned policy. If Boumediene dies, a high-level U.S. representative might head the delegation to the funeral and could carry a Presidential message to the new leadership.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 3, Algeria: 1/77–11/80. Confidential; Outside System. Sent for information.
  2. Sunday, November 19. In telegram 3339 from Algiers, November 24, the Embassy reported on Boumediene’s status: “Although Boumediene is still in a coma, ‛his situation is better than ever’ and good enough that the doctors have decided that the risks of surgery outweigh the possible benefits at least for now.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780485–0133)