107. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S.

    • President Jimmy Carter
    • Secretary of State Cyrus Vance
    • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • Philip Alston, U.S. Ambassador to Australia
    • Jody Powell, Press Secretary
    • Richard Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs
    • Michael Armacost, NSC Staff Member
  • Australia

    • Prime Minister J. Malcolm Fraser
    • Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock
    • Alan Philip Renouf, Australian Ambassador to the U.S.
    • A.T. Carmody, Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
    • Sir Arthur Tange, Secretary, Department of Defense
    • N.F. Parkinson, Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs
    • David Barnett, Press Secretary

President Carter: I would like to repeat what I said during the arrival ceremony about my gratitude to you for visiting the United States, and to affirm the importance of our historical ties. In all my travels, Australia has been one nation about whom I never have heard an adverse word. As an old submariner, I might add that I know how much our naval officers loved to stop off in your country. I regret that I never had the chance, but I hope to.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Indian Ocean.]

President Carter: There is one other issue we might discuss before lunch; namely, the Indian Ocean. We are meeting with the Soviet Union now in Moscow on this question. Paul Warnke’s instructions are to go no further than to stabilize the current situation before going on to consider any mutual reductions.2 We would hate to see the Soviets build up their naval strength in the Indian Ocean. For example, we don’t want them to introduce attack aircraft into the region. This is a subject we don’t know very well yet. We will be cautious in our discussions with the Soviets. We will take your views into account in formulating our policy.

Prime Minister Fraser: As you know, we are opposed to any arms race in the Indian Ocean. But we are also against any arrangements that would leave the USSR in a dominant position. We want close consultations with you on this subject. Beyond this, we are anxious to avoid any arrangements which might conceivably make it difficult for you to exercise your obligations under the ANZUS Treaty as a result of an Indian Ocean arms control agreement with the Soviet Union.

As I understand it, the French are actively engaged in the Indian Ocean and interested in this subject. Are their deployments in the Indian Ocean to be considered separately?

President Carter: I discussed this question with Giscard. In recent correspondence I suggested that he might wish to raise this issue with Brezhnev. I have no inclination to advise him, but it is a relevant subject for their discussion. Incidentally, the other question I raised was the comprehensive test ban. In any event I can assure you that we will be [Page 370] adequately cautious in our dealings with the Russians on this issue and we will see that we go over the precise language of any agreement with you before anything is signed.3

Over the past four years, the Soviets have been making progress with propaganda ploys on disarmament, Indian Oceans arms control, and human rights in the past. We have tried to take these issues away from them in a sincere way. When Cy Vance went to Moscow in March, we agreed to discuss this and a number of other issues with them seriously and we agreed to meet them halfway.4 We don’t know precisely what Soviet motivations are in raising Indian Ocean arms limitation.5

Prime Minister Fraser: There is no great difference between us on this question, provided we consult closely.

Zbigniew Brzezinski: Generally, I believe it is better not to get the French involved in these discussions, because the Soviets in that case would wish a trade-off between themselves and all others. It would be better for the trade-off to be strictly between these two major powers.

Secretary Vance: We will have a much better feel for this question after this week of talks. The Soviets have a very competent man heading their delegation.

Zbigniew Brzezinski: For starters, they have described Berbera as a “watering spot”.

Prime Minister Fraser: The Soviet Ambassador in Canberra told me that Berbera did not even exist.

President Carter: The Somalians have also said this. We have great concern about the entire Horn area of Africa. The situation there is apparently deteriorating. The Yugoslavs enjoy constructive ties with Ethiopia, and have been quite helpful. But the most hopeful change in recent months has been the more assertive and more constructive attitudes taken by the Saudis. They obviously have a great stake in peace, since in any serious disturbance they stand to lose the most. They have been very cooperative.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Indian Ocean.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 23, Indian Ocean: 1–12/77. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Cabinet Room.
  2. An unknown hand underlined this sentence beginning with “to go no further” to the end and drew a vertical line in the right-hand margin to highlight the paragraph.
  3. An unknown hand underlined this sentence beginning with “we will be adequately” to the end.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 99.
  5. An unknown hand drew parentheses in the left- and right-hand margins next to this sentence.