121. Memorandum From Gary Sick and Reginald Bartholomew of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Indian Ocean—Next Steps

Aside from delivering the political message about our views on the Horn, the two-week session on the Indian Ocean in Bern produced almost nothing.2 There was clarification of some points, and minor progress on a few marginal issues, but nothing of substance. This is likely to remain true until the Horn situation settles down. The Indian Ocean negotiations are now at a point where the peripheral issues have largely been cleared away and only the tough central issues remain. Further progress on these issues requires a sense of mutual purpose and mutual accommodation that will be impossible to achieve so long as the Soviet intervention in the Horn is actively in progress.

Moreover, additional “study” of these questions, when removed from the pressure of forward progress in the negotiations, is likely to inspire the worst in bureaucratic in-fighting and hair-splitting to the detriment of our position. In the absence of any deadline, each agency will lack the incentive to compromise and instead will devote itself to constructing rationales in support of its chosen position. By the time we get back to real negotiations, this could simply make it more difficult to lever the hardliners out of their entrenched positions.

RECOMMENDATION: Consequently, I believe that the entire Indian Ocean issue should be put on the back burner until things begin to clear up in the Horn. I suggest that we resist any calls for additional SCC meetings or extensive interagency study for the time being. If you concur, I can easily discourage any new initiatives in this area until things begin to look up.

Yes. Back burner.3


  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 23, Indian Ocean: 1–4/78. Secret. Sent for action. Inderfurth also initialed the memorandum.
  2. See Document 120.
  3. Brzezinski checked this option, and Aaron wrote “I agree DA” and drew an arrow pointing toward it.