118. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • SCC Meeting on Indian Ocean, January 24, 1978

The SCC on the Indian Ocean met on January 24th2 to develop guidance for the next round of talks with the Soviets, currently scheduled for February 7–17 in Bern, Switzerland.3 The JCS argued strongly that the meeting should be postponed. However, I concur with the majority view that we should proceed with the somewhat abbreviated talks as currently scheduled, with the understanding that Paul Warnke would use the occasion to deliver a stiff message of U.S. concern about Soviet activities in the Horn of Africa.

All the members of the SCC agreed that the U.S. delegation should table in this round a revised draft text of an agreement setting forth the U.S. position. The new text makes no new concessions to the Soviets, but simply represents a more effective statement of our position on a number of issues.

The JCS and DOD believe that the text of any agreement [1 line not declassified] since this would establish an undesirable precedent and limit our future flexibility. [3 lines not declassified] However, they would be willing to forego inclusion of such a phrase in our position for this round, and I believe this would be consistent with our strategy of taking a very tough line in the forthcoming talks.

With regard to the deployment of land-based aircraft, all agreed that we should continue to press the Soviets to provide a description of their past deployments of bombers, fighter-bombers, and interceptors to the Indian Ocean area which is as restrictive as possible.

During the last round we suggested to the Soviets that it might be useful to have a clause in the agreement permitting exceptions to restrictions in the event of evacuation of nationals or natural disasters. State and ACDA would like to table this clause with our draft text. [Page 397] The JCS and DOD are nervous about the size of the loophole that would be created and prefer to wait until the Soviets have given us their considered view of the idea. I see no harm in waiting for the Soviet reply before tabling our text.

In the last round we proposed that both sides ban all submarine support facilities from the Indian Ocean. The Soviets objected on the grounds that they have had a tender present in the past and it is essential to support their non-ballistic submarines. The SCC agreed that our present position is inconsistent with the notion of “stabilization.” Paul Warnke would like authority to concede this point in the forthcoming talks. The JCS and DOD believe that we should delay in conceding this point until we can use it to get an appropriate quid. In view of the tough line we are taking in this round, my recommendation is not to concede the point at this stage.

Nine other recommendations by the Working Group were essentially technical in nature and not controversial. They were unanimously accepted by the SCC, including the use of the phrase “heavy bombers” in place of “strategic aircraft” to bring our draft text in line with the wording of the SALT agreement.

If you concur, I will issue guidance to the U.S. delegation in accordance with the recommendations I have made above.4

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 91, SCC 054, 1/24/78, Indian Ocean—Arms Control Negotiations. Secret. Sent for action. An earlier version of the memorandum, including draft guidance for the next round of talks, is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 26, Indian Ocean: SCC 1/24/78: 1/78.
  2. No minutes or Summary of Conclusions of this meeting have been found.
  3. For a summary of the talks, see Document 120. For a summary of the previous round, see Document 117.
  4. Carter checked the Approve option and initialed below the options.