106. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Meeting with the President on Indian Ocean Arms Control


  • The President
  • Paul Warnke, Director ACDA
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Gary Sick

The President asked Mr. Warnke for a progress report on the CTB negotiations with the Soviets.2 He noted that his “most important” objective in the foreign policy field was to overcome the perception that he had failed to produce movement toward agreements with the Soviet Union and that detente was being undermined.

Mr. Warnke asked for the President’s views on what we should attempt to achieve in our meetings with Soviets. The President said he was uncertain about exactly what would come out of the talks, but he felt that we should work for a freeze of the present situation at least and seek Soviet views about whether some retrogression in military force presence would be possible. He would be willing to accept pre-notification of naval visits to the Indian Ocean. Dr. Brzezinski noted that the President had initialled the notes of the SCC meeting of June 143 and that those notes would provide written guidance for the talks in Moscow. The President agreed and indicated that it was his understanding that the US military had no objection to a freeze of the present situation. All agreed, though Dr. Brzezinski noted that the JCS objected to the word “freeze” and would prefer “hold” or “stabilization.” Mr. Warnke said the JCS would prefer to use annual averages of ship-days in order to be able to mass forces in the event of a crisis.

The President indicated that he believed Diego Garcia was of minimal strategic importance. However, before we give it away he would like to know what the quid will be on the Soviet side. Mr. Warnke mentioned that some believe the Soviets may propose a trade of Berbera [Page 368] for Diego Garcia, since their presence in Berbera is now rather tenuous, and this would be an uneven exchange. The President suggested that we might agree that there are some weapons which will not be sent to Diego Garcia.

Commander Sick noted that the greatest threat to the military balance in the Indian Ocean was the prospect of Soviet introduction of land-based strike aircraft. The Soviets have built an airfield and missile facility at Berbera capable of handling such aircraft, though it has not been used for that purpose to date. It would be useful if a freeze could be defined to include strike aircraft. The President agreed. Mr. Warnke pointed out that this might require us to accept restrictions on carrier deployments. Dr. Brzezinski noted that any complete withdrawal of military forces by the US and USSR would require us to withdraw more than the Soviets. However, we would be left in a better position in the end than the Soviets because of our friends in the area. The President agreed, noting that Australia, Iran and even India were basically friendly to us rather than the Soviets.

[4 lines not declassified] The President suggested that we might be able to agree on an exclusion for communications. He would have no objection to Soviet communications, and since we want to continue to be able to send US ships through the Indian Ocean, we should be able to communicate with them.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 25, Indian Ocean: SCC 8/24/77, 8/77. Top Secret. The meeting took place in the Oval Office.
  2. Reference is to negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union aimed at an agreement on a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The Partial Test Ban Treaty, signed in 1963, banned testing in the atmosphere, under water, and in space.
  3. See Document 105.