26. Minutes of Policy Review Committee Meetings1


  • Middle East Security and US Military Presence (S)


  • State

    • Secretary Cyrus Vance**
    • Warren Christopher (chaired 6/21) Deputy Secretary
    • David Newsom** Under Sec., Political Affairs
    • Harold Saunders Asst. Sec., Bureau of Near East. & So. Asian Affairs
  • OSD

    • Secretary Harold Brown (chaired6/22)
    • Charles Dayan* Deputy Secretary
    • David McGiffert, Asst. Sec., Intl. Security Affairs
    • Dan J. Murphy** Dep. Und. Sec. for Policy Rev.
  • JCS

    • Lt Gen William Y. Smith Asst. to the Chairman
    • Lt Gen John Pustay Asst. to the Chairman
  • DCI

    • Admiral Stansfield Turner
    • Robert Ames, NIO for Near East and South Asia
  • Special Trade Representative

    • Robert Strauss
    • Ralph Gerson, Special Asst., Office of STR**
  • ACDA

    • Spurgeon Keeny, Dep. Director
    • Barry Blechman, Asst. Dir., Weapons Evaluation & Control
  • Energy

    • Secretary James Schlesinger
    • Harry Bergold, Asst. Sec., International Affairs
  • White House

    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • David Aaron
  • NSC

    • Fritz Ermarth**
    • Robert Hunter*
    • Gary Sick
    • * Attended only 21 June
    • ** Attended only 22 June
[Page 87]


(21 June 1979—Deputy Secretary Christopher, Chair)

Mr. Christopher opened the meeting by referring to the discussion paper that State had prepared for the meeting2 and asked if there were any comments on the agenda.

Secretary Brown said there was a question of a division of labor between the two meetings. He suggested that the PRC examine the specific force levels on the following day, whereas today’s meeting would take a look at attitudes of various states and the role of military presence in U.S. Middle East relations.

Dr. Brzezinski wondered if it not might be just as well to cancel the meeting for this day and have a joint meeting tomorrow in view of the fact that Secretary Vance could not be present.

Secretary Brown said that we need to discuss how the security issue fits into the political situation.

Dr. Brzezinski said all right; there would be no decisions taken until the following day. He noted that he had to see the President before 2 o’clock.

Mr. Christopher summarized some of the points in the paper by noticing that the vehemence of the reaction to the Camp David accords had been greater than he had anticipated. It had now abated somewhat but not a great deal. Saudi Arabia may possibly try to find ways around their Baghdad commitments;3 however, that might be harder to do than had been anticipated. Saudi Arabia and Iraq were closer together than before. We need to try and [Page 88] improve our relations with Iran and improve our dialogue with Iraq. Only some momentum in the peace process will be able to lure people back into the process.

Mr. Saunders noted that the post-Baghdad grouping was not a natural grouping. The natural allegiances are working in our favor. He noted that our present cooperation with Saudi Arabia is as close on issues of security and the practical aspects of our relationship as it has been for some time. It is not unreal to expect over time a loosening of the Baghdad grouping and the reemergence of a relationship between Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other natural allies.

Ambassador Strauss noted that the paper prepared by State has been extremely helpful to him.4

Mr. Saunders noted that within the bureaucracy there was no great difference with regard to the relations among the various nations and what we hope to see emerge. On the subject of Iraq he noted that the Egypt/Israel treaty gave Iraq the chance to get together with other nations in the area and had reduced its isolation.

Dr. Brzezinski noted that the paper prepared by State was all right on an analytical basis, however, he wondered what recommendations it provided.

Mr. Saunders said that it was not a paper of advocacy rather it was only for discussion.

Dr. Brzezinski said we have to ask ourselves what is the nature of the internal and the external security problem and what should we do about both. Everyone says that Saudi Arabia has lost confidence in United States; they see the growth of Soviet power. This is true not only of Saudi Arabia, it is also true of Oman. Mubarak had noted the same thing with regard to Egypt’s military situation. We have a potentially explosive and disintegrating situation. If Bob Strauss can succeed, we can persuade others to join in the process. The question now is what to do about the sense of anxiety which exists in the region.

Secretary Brown noted that the Arabs are aware that there is no other power besides the United States which can offset the Soviets.

Dr. Brzezinski said there are certain implications in the State Department paper with which he probably could not agree. Specifically, he pointed to the end of page 8 which notes that an increased U.S. presence would be seen by Moscow not as recouping a loss but as creating a new and different imbalance which may in turn require redress. He noted that although he could not argue with the way in which this was worded, nevertheless, it could be taken to imply that our policy [Page 89] could do little or nothing about the security situation with regard to the Soviets.

Secretary Brown said you could take that implication even further and suggest that we accept the fact that the Soviets are going to be dominant in the region.

Dr. Brzezinski noted that the President at Vienna had spelled out in some detail the vital interests of the United States to President Brezhnev.5 He specifically mentioned the Middle East as an area of vital interest to us. Brezhnev replied that it was the U.S. habit to single out certain areas as vital in their importance to us in order to justify doing what we wanted to do. However, it is clear that the Middle East is in fact vital to the United States and it is not vital to the Soviet Union.

Secretary Schlesinger said he wanted to address the longer term aspects. Without Middle Eastern oil the Free World as we know it is through. Our great value to the Middle East states is the protection that we can provide against the Soviet Union. For many years there was a presumption of U.S. dominance in the region which was sufficient even without any tangible evidence of instruments of power. Lately however, after Iran and other events in the region, there is a growing perception of U.S. weakness which is compounded by the lack of visible instruments of power in comparison to the overhang of Soviet power in the region. In view of the changing psychology of the countries of the region we must preserve our security position. He feared that unless we establish something akin to a stable balance in the region that it will slip under Soviet domination. We should have no illusion about the importance of visible instruments of U.S. power to counterbalance the presence of Soviet power. Oman wants us to come into the region partly to replace the protection which they previously got from Iran. He recalled the long discussions and problems we had with respect to building a base on Diego Garcia some years ago.6 He has had long talks with Saudis. Just because the countries of the region don’t ask us to come in does not mean that they don’t want us there. He had had three or four hour conversations with Yamani and asked him what we should do with respect to the security situation in the region. Yamani had said, “Don’t expect me to say that we want a U.S. military presence in the region.” He then asked him about a naval presence. Yamani had replied that he would expect it to be welcome, however, he could never say that publicly. The Saudis expect that we [Page 90] will be able to take action unilaterally to protect them to establish a military balance in the region. The Saudis would welcome the establishment of a permanent naval presence by the United States in the region.

Amb. Strauss wondered in view of the extensive communications we have with the region that we could get nothing better than a wink across the table on an issue of this importance to us.

Dr. Brzezinski said that many in the Arab world fear that if they ask us to come in the fact would leak and their request would become known and then we wouldn’t do it and they would end up with the worst of all possible worlds.

Secretary Brown said the Arabs fear the Soviet Union, but in fact an invasion by the Soviets is not the most likely scenario. In fact the intervention by the Cubans or internal subversion within some of those countries is a worse and more realistic scenario. If asked why the United States is putting military forces into the Middle East, they are likely to think of their use in terms of the internal threat to their governments which is greater. They will wonder whether we are planning to use these forces against the Soviets or against the Arabs for something like taking over the oil fields. Hence, their reluctance to say that they wanted U.S. military presence or to be openly in favor of it. Although we all talk about the Soviet menace, there is no way the United States can guarantee we will not use these forces against them.

Dr. Brzezinski noted that in order to give assurances that we will not use these forces against them but against the Soviets we must move simultaneously on the peace process. However, the United States should also give a clear statement that we regard the Middle East as the third vital region in the world along with Western Europe and Japan. He disagreed with Secretary Schlesinger that we should be seeking balance. He thought that the correct objectives would be preponderance of U.S. military capability.7 However, he recognized that we must proceed sequentially and that we would have to get to a permanent presence via an increased presence over what we have now.

Secretary Schlesinger noted that when we send a carrier into the region they know that this could be used against them. However, a permanent presence creates a shift in the balance in the region vis-a-vis the Soviet Union.

Secretary Brown noted that permanent in this case could mean a presence at all times but not always the same units.

Mr. Christopher asked Admiral Turner for his views on the reactions of the regional states.

[Page 91]

Admiral Turner summarized the paper very briefly which had been prepared by CIA on the subject.8 He noted that with regard to a military presence the Arab states “want to feel it, not touch it.” Thus, the closer you get to having an actual U.S. presence in their ports, on the ground or on their air bases the less they want it.

Ambassador Strauss wondered whether it was feasible to even discuss an option 1 which would be to work out something with the Soviets on a cooperative basis.9

Secretary Brown noted that the Soviets have nothing to gain by cooperating with us in the region. Fighting in that region would not hurt them unless it lops over into other areas of our relationship. They have had black eyes in the area before that did not stop them from coming back and trying again and did not affect their vital interests.

Mr. Christopher said that we have no common interests with the Soviets in the region which would provide the basis for a mutual approach. He asked with regard to the internal and external threats to the Arab states how a U.S. presence would affect the development of the internal process.

Admiral Turner replied that an external naval presence would not have a heavy influence on the internal threat in Saudi Arabia for example. It would not for instance deter the PLO from meddling if they decided to do so. However, an on-shore presence such as the U.S. Air Force on Saudi air bases would have a much bigger impact on the internal situation.

Secretary Brown summarized the relationship as: the bigger the presence of the United States the greater the advantages and the disadvantages. An increased presence gives us more capability to deal with problems but it also is a bigger irritant to the regional states since they fear it would not be used against the Soviets but against them. There is no difference among the group on that fact. However, some of the CIA evaluations with regard to the reaction of regional states to a U.S. military presence is more negative than he would have made it in his own evaluation.

Secretary Schlesinger said that sequencing is extremely important. Jumping in totally with a large force would result only in bad reactions, whereas a gradual increase would build confidence as it went. Since a naval presence is the least controversial it should be the first U.S. presence to be introduced. The sensitivities are such that anything that [Page 92] we do now will raise their concern. Later he felt that a U.S. Air Force presence in Oman might be desirable.

Secretary Brown noted that despite the talk about sensitivity to our naval presence we have just completed six months of a very high level of naval presence in the region and as far as he could tell the results were positive not negative in terms of regional reaction.

Secretary Schlesinger said that with regard to the thought that U.S. forces might be used internally in the Arab world, if that served to deter forces which are contrary to our interests that would be a good result and one to be desired.

Secretary Brown noted that our security relationship with regard to military planning and supply has moved forward rather effectively. In fact he thought it got more credit in the region than it really deserved.

Secretary Schlesinger interjected that that perhaps tells us something with regard to their expectations of our ability to perform.

Secretary Brown agreed and added that we need to be able to respond more quickly to requests preferably from an existing stockpile of military equipment. Previously we have stayed away from this issue since we cannot get Congressional approval. We will have to consider establishing something in the nature of an excess stockpile of U.S. equipment which could be used for this purpose on short notice if required.

Mr. Christopher wondered what role would be played by Israel in the event of an Arab conflict or an internal Arab dispute.

Dr. Brzezinski noted that for example in the case of a conflict between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Israel would become involved at some stage and relieve the pressure on Saudi Arabia without the existence of any formal military or political relationship. He believed that some of the Arab states might subconsciously regard this as a deterrent on the actions of their enemies but that the thought would never receive any overt expression. In short, he felt that Israel was a stabilizing factor in the region. Objectively it was there as an element in the power equation, however, it is not something that can be talked about. He noted that it is also essential that the United States beef up Egypt’s military capabilities and that the Department of Defense is working on that.

Secretary Brown noted that Mr. Perry was just back from a visit to Egypt where he discovered that the Egyptians have a substantial technical capability to build their own arms, however they need capital and managerial help. From what we have been able to tell they seem to have adopted the worst of both the Soviet and U.S. systems.

Dr. Brzezinski noted that there is a developing relationship between Egypt and China on Defense. Despite Chinese disclaimers this in fact [Page 93] enlists China on the side of the Camp David accords. They deny this but that’s the effect that it has. He believed that all of our actions on the security side are futile unless there is parallel progress on the Camp David accords. If there is no progress on the negotiations, United States forces will acquire a negative cast. We must have progress in the negotiations sufficient to convince the friendly Arab states that the Egypt/Israel treaty was in fact a first step of a negotiating process which over time has the possibility of resolving contentious issues.

Ambassador Strauss wondered what time-frame should be applied to the need for progress.

Dr. Brzezinski said about six months. By the end of this year we should see some progress or else the Arabs will see that we are engaged in a charade.

Secretary Schlesinger said that he is not convinced of the detrimental effect of a U.S. military presence in the case of no progress on the Arab/Israel side. A presence does give the impression of power and does assist in the security of the region. Returning to the original subject he said that the Saudis are not hypocritical, rather they are divided internally and are desperately weak. They do not see their role as telling a superpower how to do its job, but they do expect and hope for security. They fear that we will not provide it in a crunch.

General Smith commented that a strong military presence is in the U.S. interest in the region whether things go for the better or worse in the negotiations.

Dr. Brzezinski replied that if internal radicalism continues to grow in the region our military force is not utilizable to halt that process.

Secretary Brown added that our ability to dominate the Arabs by force is probably less than they think it is.

Secretary Schlesinger noted that there are two general areas that we are involved in: first, is the negotiations on the Camp David accord and that is not going well at the moment and is not received [perceived?] as successful by the Arabs; the second area is that of security. If we can’t have both tracks going well at the same time, we should at least have one of them and give them reason to favor one side over the other.

General Smith added that if the Arabs cut off the oil flow the United States would need force to be able to deal with it.

Dr. Brzezinski said that the radicals will not cut off the oil instead they will reduce the supply and raise prices. We are seeing an example of the kind of effects politically that they can have today in the actions of the Japanese who are avoiding helping Sadat. Manipulation of the oil supply creates new political attitudes on the part of Western Europe and Japan who rely on the oil supply and it reduces their ability to act politically.

[Page 94]

Ambassador Strauss said that if the flow of oil should be cut off that would be the worst possible case for Israel. If people were forced to choose oil as opposed to Israel, there is no doubt to how they would choose. The question is how can that message be transmitted effectively to Begin.

Dr. Brzezinski said the message perhaps could be relayed indirectly. Mr. Begin shares antipathy to the Soviets. You could begin talking to him about the effect of the growth of the Soviet and radical Arab presence and activities in the region on the Free World. He believes in the concept of the Free World. He was particularly responsive when the President talked to him with regard to our collective stake in keeping the Soviets out of the Middle East. Dr. Brzezinski did not see the danger as having a Soviet flag flying over Riyadh. Rather the danger is to have a government in Riyadh that is like the government in Baghdad. Over the last year our Arab friends have been shaken in their confidence about our reliability. We have built them up and let them down.

Secretary Brown referred to the talks he had with the Arabs during his visit to the region, noting that all of them were delighted regarding the security actions which we were taking with respect to the Soviets.10 Moreover, our actions during the Yemen crisis have them believing that we are able to produce on the security side.

Admiral Turner commented that it is dangerous to persuade them to lean too much on us, only to be disappointed in the end when we cannot do all that they expect.

(22 June 1979—Secretary Brown, Chair)

Secretary Brown: A specific item we must take up first is Congressional notification on additional support for the Saudi F–15s and for the Saudi National Guard programs. I don’t think there is a problem here.

Secretary Vance: There is a problem. We are talking about $1.4B, aren’t we? Let’s split the request to lower the cost.

Secretary Brown: We can submit the National Guard portion now. That is about $1.2B.

Secretary Vance: That is too much. We might have prospects of getting half that. What we have heard on the Hill is not encouraging. We might lose the vote.

Secretary Brown: But we cannot tell the Saudis that we cannot get it through Congress. That would be politically bad.

Secretary Vance: It would also be bad were we to lose the vote.

[Page 95]

Secretary Brown: Why is there such opposition to assistance to the Saudi National Guard?

Secretary Vance: We urgently need more consultations on the Hill now. Then we can make a final decision after the President’s Tokyo trip.11 We have to be sure of the votes.

Secretary Brown: The attitude on the Hill is that the Saudis ought to produce more oil. People in the gas lines are beginning to see a connection between Saudi Arabia and oil. There is probably a growing reluctance to cast votes that represent a slap at the Saudis.

Secretary Vance: White House, State, and DOD people should meet today to plan prompt approaches to all the key figures on the Hill.

Secretary Brown: We are talking about both pieces, the National Guard and the F–15s.

Secretary Vance: David McGiffert should contact Frank Moore to start this up.

Secretary Brown: Yesterday the PRC discussed political conditions and requirements for US military presence and actions in the area. We should discuss actions other than military presence first. Actions now in train should go forward, e.g., our bilateral security association with Egypt. These must be reflected in the FY–81 budget proposal. I don’t see much need to discuss this.

Secretary Vance: Agreed.

Secretary Brown: Then let’s proceed. We should consider establishing a special contingency stockpile of equipment to support time urgent assistance efforts. Should DOD explore this concept?

Secretary Schlesinger: This is a good idea, long overdue. We have been held back by fears of another Vietnam.

[Page 96]

Secretary Brown: Of course Congressional approval will have to be secured. We are talking about shortening the lead time on deliveries from years to weeks. DOD will explore this. As regards US military presence, the DOD paper lays out four options—the status quo, moderate increase, a near continuous US presence without more carriers, and a continuous major presence. These are four points on a multidimensional continuum. We want views about where on that continuum we ought to be. We discussed political pros and cons yesterday. Today we should get opinions on the appropriate military level. I would like to end the meeting with a charge to DOD to explore in detail and recommend action within a narrower part of the spectrum of possibilities.

Dep.Sec. Christopher: The first point is that we cannot assume political benefits from augmenting our military presence without considering local sensitivities. This is not just a unilateral US matter. We have to consider reactions in various parts of Africa and throughout the Middle East and guard against overloading the political circuits with presence, port visits, and activities ashore.

Secretary Brown: Our carrier task forces have not involved activities ashore.

Mr. Newsom: There has been a requirement for staging reconnaissance and logistics flights to support carriers. P–3 flights were deemed necessary for the safety of our carriers. This required landing rights in Oman and Djibouti.

Secretary Brown: Such landing rights are involved in any case. It does not matter whether we put one, two, or three carriers a year into the area.

Dep.Sec. Christopher: Because of the inevitable impact ashore, even of naval activities, State believes we ought to concentrate on improving our capability to surge forces into the area and emphasize joint exercises with local countries, contingency plans, and consultation with our Allies to increase their support and involvement. Our level of military presence should be established flexibly on a case-by-case basis. A surge capability is the main requirement.

Ambassador Strauss: What is meant by a surge capability?

Secretary Brown: This means essentially shortening the time it takes to introduce military forces into the area from outside. This is not the same as maintaining a constant military presence in the area. In some situations, who gets there first is important. In any case, surge capability is measured in terms of weeks, not days.

Secretary Vance: Is there merit in upgrading the airport in South Egypt, Berenice, as Sadat has proposed?

Secretary Brown: This could be quite expensive and might not give us much additional capability quickly. We want to move aircraft and supplies more quickly through existing facilities. Sadat has already offered to make such facilities available on a contingent basis. It looks like he is trying to get an upgrade of Berenice as the price of something he has already offered.

Gen. Smith: Berenice is too far away anyhow.

Dr. Brzezinski: Surge capability is not equivalent to presence. Enhancing our surge capabilities certainly makes sense. It demonstrates our interest and our potential willingness to act. Surge capability is necessary, but insufficient. We must remember fundamentals. This [Page 97] region is vital to the US. It is not vital to the USSR.12 This region is insecure and perceives an erosion of US capability and willingness to defend it. We must move forward on two tracks, promoting positive political developments favoring the moderate Arabs, and also demonstrating our willingness to defend vital US interests. This will take more than a surge capability, which represents potential for involvement. We must also have increased real capability on the scene. We must establish presence on the order of DOD’s Option 2, perhaps, in time, but not too rapidly, moving toward Option 3.13 We must accept the reality of an ambivalent attitude toward our presence on the part of the Arabs. We must demonstrate to the Arabs that we mean it when we say their region is vital to us. We must also demonstrate this to the Soviets. At the Summit the President told Brezhnev that the Middle East is vital to us. Brezhnev scoffed saying, “The US always declares a vital interest where it wants to do something.” Option 2 is the right way to proceed and is compatible with increased surge capability. Neither local presence of the sort we are discussing nor improved surge capability is adequate by itself. Improved surge capability backs up increased presence.

Secretary Brown: In principle, we could either increase presence or improve surge capability.

Dr. Brzezinski: That would not be adequate.

Sec. Schlesinger: We must consider the long-term thrust of our policy. We must recognize that the balance of power in the area is unfavorable and perceived to be so. Our interests require new and visible means to respond to major aggression. Our actions will have to be unilateral at first. We cannot expect people in the area to stand up and applaud our presence until we have demonstrated our resolve and capability to be there in strength. If we don’t make the necessary repairs in the military balance in 5–10 years, the resources of this area will come under Soviet domination. We must create a situation in which we are expected normally to be present. Occasional appearances and surge capability will not do the job. Moving naval forces into the region, which takes two weeks from Subic Bay, may often generate a signal we don’t want to send. I favor something between Options 3 and 4.

Dr. Brzezinski: The Soviet Union is building up permanent facilities at Dalakh. It is inconceivable that we should hesitate building up our permanent presence when they are doing this.

Secretary Brown: What about the Indian Ocean Talks?

[Page 98]

Mr. Keeny: ACDA supports State in favoring concentration on surge capability. In the short term we must consider local political reactions. In the long run we have to consider the possible effects of reducing our capability in Europe and the Far East.

Secretary Brown: We have had near continual presence for the last six months. In the longer run we ought to draw naval assets from the Mediterranean rather than from the Far East. This would mean one less carrier in the Mediterranean and one more in the Indian Ocean. In my judgment, a major conflict with the Soviets would oblige us to take our carriers out of the Mediterranean anyway, or at least to move them westwards.

Dep.Sec. Christopher: I support Option 2 but in somewhat different terms than Zbig does. We have to be specific about what we are going to do and to consider the political costs.

Ambassador Strauss: Are we talking about force changes with prior announcement, or is it a quiet change, observed but unannounced?

Dr. Brzezinski: This is an important question. We can announce our policy or we can seek to be less vocal about it. I lean toward the second course. Public statements create reactions to the statement, quite apart from the action. We must think this through.

Secretary Vance: I agree. Dramatic pronouncements, e.g., a Carter doctrine or the formation of a fifth fleet, would be a mistake.

Mr. Aaron: Therefore, there should be no debriefs or leaks out of this meeting.

Dr. Brzezinski: Leaks are less dramatic and less binding than pronouncements from the President.

Secretary Vance: I agree with David Aaron, no leaks or pronouncements.

Dr. Brzezinski: We have to be realistic about the likelihood of leaks. The problem is what course of action to take. First, we should decide for sustained deployment of carriers, and, second, we should explore the possibility of getting a regular anchorage for them near the Arabian Peninsula or off Somalia. Oman is willing and Somalia is eager to see us nearby.

Secretary Brown: On the matter of surge capability vs. presence, it should be noted that truly effective intervention capability requires land forces. They, in turn, require local training and local prepositioning of equipment. In this sense, real surge capabilities run into political constraints more rapidly than do naval deployments, which can be undertaken more or less unilaterally.

Admiral Turner: The key political consideration is the likely reaction of moderate Arab opinion. The moderate Arabs want to be protected, but they are most concerned about domestic threats and domestic [Page 99] attitudes. They fear our military measures will be clumsy and possibly directed against them and their oil. The degree of local acceptance of US military presence will be crucially influenced by further success in the peace process. Radicalization of moderate states is the greatest threat. We need major improvements on the West Bank. Short of that, even Oman will not accept such things as US anchorages.

Ambassador Strauss: What I am hearing is that we have got to use our political muscle in the peace process before or in parallel with military measures aimed at the overall security situation.

Mr. Keeny: Regarding the Indian Ocean Talks, it will be difficult to proceed with those talks if we are also significantly increasing our local military presence. Admittedly this is not an overwhelming argument against increasing presence, but we have to consider it.

Secretary Brown: Remember that the Soviets are developing a facility at Dalakh.

Mr. Keeny: We may be headed for higher levels of military presence on both sides, and have to conduct the Indian Ocean Talks on that premise.

Secretary Brown: Our past proposals in those talks surely preclude Option 3 in the DOD paper, and may severely constrain what we could do under Option 2.

Mr. Keeny: We may have to change our negotiating position to permit higher ceilings. In any case, it would be unwise to move on the Indian Ocean Talks, as we agreed at the Summit, until we have a clear idea what we are going to do about deployments.

General Smith: As you know, the JCS have never been enthusiastic about the Indian Ocean Talks. The real constraints on increased presence and improved surge capability have to do with our total resources and commitments elsewhere. We favor augmenting MIDEASTFORCE and increased periodic naval deployments, augmented by Marines and land-based air if possible.

Dep. Sec. Christopher: In refining deployment plans under Option 2 we must remember to consider the impact on Africa. We don’t want military actions to intensify polarization there along US-Soviet lines.

Secretary Brown: Reactions in Africa are likely to vary in different regions. Egypt, an African country, tends to favor increased US presence.

General Smith: I want to repeat that resource constraints oblige an evolutionary approach.

Mr. Aaron: What are the costs of increased military presence?

[Page 100]

Secretary Brown: We judge the dollar costs to be relatively modest, on the order of several tens of millions of dollars.

Mr. Keeny: I am suspicious of your cost figures. I’d bet the real dollar costs come out higher.

Secretary Brown: You are probably right, but they’re sure to be small as compared to our stake in Middle East oil.

Dr. Brzezinski: Maybe we need another PRC meeting to consider a refinement of Option 2, including costs, etc.

Secretary Brown: I take it from this meeting that DOD is tasked to develop a concrete plan for augmented presence within the range of Option 2, to include specific steps, rates of deployment, etc.

Dr. Brzezinski: This should then be submitted to the President, along with possible variations and indications as to the degree of support for specific actions.

Secretary Brown: The President can decide where in the general spectrum of possibilities he wants our deployments to come out.

Dr. Brzezinski: The President needs some sense of the tangible costs of his choice.

Secretary Vance: The key issue in any deployment policy along the lines of Option 2 is the rate at which we increase our level of presence.

Secretary Brown: We will develop that.

Dr. Brzezinski: So we are talking about a plan within the confines of Option 2, what it means concretely, what disagreements there are among us.

Mr. McGiffert: Isn’t there some confusion here? As presented in the paper, Option 2 is relatively specific. Is it the pace of implementation that is of concern?

Secretary Brown: It is a question of pace, of which combinations of force elements (e.g., carriers, Marines, surface units and tac air), of possible base requirements, and of the relationship to surge capability.

Mr. Aaron: Don’t we need shore access for both Marine units and tac air?

Secretary Brown: Shore access is not absolutely necessary for Marines to be deployed to the area.

Mr. McGiffert: Options 2 and 3 are comparable in their impact on our commitments in other theaters. They do differ in their impact on carrier deployments.

Ambassador Strauss: This discussion reinforces the impression I am getting that we must move more quickly on the peace talks and get some progress by the end of this year at the latest.

Secretary Vance: Progress is definitely needed earlier than the end of the year.

Ambassador Strauss: I have got to step up my plans, then. I will be moving full steam by 30 June.

[Page 101]

Sec. Schlesinger: We must see deployment decisions as the first step in a sequence of actions that improve our military posture in the Middle East/Persian Gulf area. We should tell the President what the ultimate objective is.

Secretary Brown: We can make deployment decisions now and be more tentative as to what steps might follow later.

Sec. Schlesinger: We really do need a longer-term military strategy for the area and, if he is able, the President would be advised to decide on one.

Dr. Brzezinski: Once we have established a strong sense of direction, there is nothing wrong with letting some aspects of our strategy evolve. We may need a specific Presidential Directive that links increased military effort and increased efforts in the negotiations. But this is part of a dynamic process that can evolve.

Sec. Schlesinger: If it is our view that the importance of our interests in the area requires a preponderance of power, something better than an equilibrium with the Soviets, then we must present that to the President.

Secretary Brown: The Soviet Union can react to, and possibly offset, what we do.

Dr. Brzezinski: The President deals with the reality of the situation, which is the overwhelming importance to the West of this region. Force ratios must reflect that reality.

Sec. Schlesinger: We may by implying military activities for which we lack the requisite resources. That remains to be seen.

  1. Source: Carter Library, RAC SAFE39C–17–55–4–7, C03341983. Top Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See footnote 5, Document 24.
  3. Reference is to the summit of Foreign Ministers from 18 Arab states and the PLO which was convened in Baghdad March 27–31, in order to sanction Egypt for concluding its peace treaty with Israel. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. IX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, August 1978–December 1980, Document 242.
  4. President Carter nominated Robert Strauss as his Personal Representative to the Middle East peace negotiations on April 24.
  5. The summit in Vienna took place June 16–18. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Documents 199208.
  6. Reference is to the expansion of the U.S. Navy facility on Diego Garcia. Documentation is published in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–8, Documents on South Asia, 1973–1976.
  7. An unknown hand underlined the portion of this sentence beginning with the word “would.”
  8. See footnote 7, Document 24.
  9. Strauss is presumably referring to the options in the Defense Department paper, summarized in Document 24.
  10. See Document 20.
  11. Reference is to Carter’s trip to Tokyo June 24–29 to attend the G–7 Economic Summit and to meet with Prime Minister Ohira.
  12. An unknown hand underlined the three sentences beginning with the word “We” and ending with “USSR.”
  13. The Defense Department options are summarized in Document 24.