113. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • Indian Ocean Talks

The Soviet delegation arrives September 26 for the second round of discussions on Indian Ocean arms limitations. A decision is required on the nature and extent of the proposal which we will present to them.

The SCC has met twice in the past month to examine the issues. There is disagreement on every major issue. Before summarizing the options and the nature of the disagreements, a brief background would be useful.


At the present time, we have a military advantage in the Indian Ocean. Diego Garcia is politically secure, while Soviet use of facilities at Berbera is politically tenuous. We are able to deploy aircraft carriers into the area and have established a pattern of exercise deployments of land-based aircraft to certain littoral states in conjunction with CENTO and ANZUS exercises, while the Soviets have never deployed land-based strike aircraft to the region and lack air support for their naval forces. The present levels of Soviet naval deployments do not constitute a significant threat to the oil lanes, and, in a crisis, we could surge substantial forces into the area more rapidly than the USSR. Thus, an agreement which effectively stabilizes2 the current situation would formalize a situation which favors us,3 both politically and militarily.

There is no basis to assume that the present situation will necessarily continue in the future. Soviet construction of a major runway and missile storage and handling facilities at Berbera, plus the periodic introduction of naval reconnaissance aircraft into Somalia, must prudently be interpreted as a signal of Soviet intentions to develop a more capable military presence at the mouth of the Red Sea. This interpretation is strengthened by the history of Soviet port construction [Page 383] and military association with North Yemen in the 1950s, South Yemen in the 1960s, and the extensive use of anchorages in international waters before Berbera became available in 1972.

Likewise, the Soviets have expressed considerable concern about the possible future U.S. deployment of B–52s and SSBNs into the Indian Ocean capable of striking the Soviet Union from the south. Consequently, the basis for any agreement limiting military activities in the region must rest on an exchange of assurances regarding future activities. [2 lines not declassified]

The SCC agreed to reject Soviet requests to establish specific limits on the operations of U.S. carriers (except in the context of general limitations on ship deployments) and to reject their argument that we should “take into account” the presence of our allies and U.S. bases in adjacent areas.

Basic Options and Positions

[Each agency has provided brief written statements of its positions on the options and the desirability of a submarine ban, at Tab B.]4

Option I General Declaration of Restraint:

JCS supports.

Neither side will substantially alter recent levels of military presence without due cause; avoid any inference that SSBNs and B–52s would not be deployed there.

Option II General Declaration of Restraint:

State/DoD support.

Ships limited to approximately current levels; [3 lines not declassified];5 Soviets will not deploy land-based aircraft to region.

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Option III

Explicit Agreement:

Numerical limits on naval ships [4 lines not declassified]; use of facilities constructed in the future limited to routine port calls; specific restrictions on deployment of land-based strike aircraft (including B–52s); SSBNs permitted under numerical ship limits.

State/DoD would accept as a follow-on to successful negotiation of Option II.

ACDA would accept as opening position if Option IV is rejected, with Option II as a fallback.

Option IV

Explicit Agreement:

ACDA supports.

Essentially the same as Option III with the addition of a ban on submarines and quantitative limits on use of port facilities.


In the SCC discussion, I was able to get agreement from State and Defense that they could accept an approach based on Option II as the initial objective of our negotiations, with Option III as the ultimate goal. ACDA strongly favors a submarine ban (Option IV), but if that is not approved would “uncomfortably” be willing to accept Option III as our opening position, with Option II as a fallback. JCS was unwilling to budge from Option I. My own view is that the JCS position simply represents a rejection of the concept itself. The issues have been aired extensively, and further narrowing of differences would require an NSC meeting.

I believe that an approach based on Option II, then moving to Option III, would be the best of the alternatives available to us. I attach at Tab A a proposed guidance paper on those lines, with one further modification designed to bridge the gap between ACDA’s position on submarines and the JCS concern about specific assurances on strategic systems. Option II calls for [4 lines not declassified].

[The working group discussion paper is attached at Tab C6 if you wish to refer to the specifics of each option; however, you do not need to read it.]

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RECOMMENDATION: That you approve the draft guidance at Tab A.


As amended.

Should be considered by the NSC.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 89, SCC 030, 9/14/77, Indian Ocean. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. Sick sent the memorandum to Brzezinski under a September 17 memorandum requesting that Brzezinski sign it. All brackets except those that indicate text not declassified are in the original.
  2. Carter underlined the word “stabilizes.”
  3. Carter underlined the words “favors us.”
  4. Not attached.
  5. Carter underlined the preceding phrase and wrote in the right-hand margin: “ok J.C.”
  6. Not attached.
  7. Carter checked this option and initialed. Below the options, he wrote: “Will be willing to hear arguments if necessary. J.” The draft at Tab A, not printed, is identical to the final guidance printed as Document 114.