201. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Lunch with President of Romania


  • Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser
  • Nicolae Ceausescu, President of Romania

SUMMARY. During lunch Secretary Vance and Dr. Brzezinski discussed with President Ceausescu the status of the North-South dialogue and how most effectively to include the socialist countries, particularly the Soviet Union, in that dialogue; the future leadership of the Soviet Union and U.S. relations with China. In the latter discussion President Ceausescu urged early normalization and indicated that China would play a much more important role in world affairs. Secretary Vance and Dr. Brzezinski explained the domestic situation and the need for pursuing priorities in U.S. foreign policy. END SUMMARY.

Secretary Vance asked President Ceausescu his views on how to proceed on the North-South dialogue. Ceausescu said that the current situation does not hold much hope, that developing countries need to play a larger role and the socialist countries in particular should be more deeply involved. Secretary Vance agreed. Ceausescu said that developing countries are not playing a sufficient role. He knows because Romania is a developing country. He said that the United Nations mechanism is good for discussion of North-South issues but needs improvement. If we wish to overcome the present economic crisis it is necessary that all countries work actively to improve not only their production capacity but their satisfaction of consumer needs. Secretary Vance observed that the most pressing item in the North-South agenda is the establishment of the Common Fund because of its symbolic and its substantive nature.

The Secretary then asked what the President would recommend as ways of achieving greater participation from the socialist countries in the North-South dialogue. President Ceausescu said that the socialist countries, particularly the Soviet Union, have underestimated the prob[Page 624]lems of the developing countries. Romania has had many debates with the Soviets on this point. The Soviets see it as a heritage of colonialism and not a problem of development. There is some validity to the Soviet position but it is his view that the Soviet Union will eventually play a more active role on the North-South problems. Secretary Vance asked how this could be achieved. Ceausescu replied that when these matters are discussed by the United Nations it is a helpful way to involve the Soviets and socialist countries. Secondly, when the developing countries play a more substantial role in the development of concrete programs and initiatives, the socialist countries will be put in a situation in which they must respond.

Secretary Vance said that he thought that the United Nations should be used to stimulate socialist country participation and he thought perhaps the capital “Overview Committee”2 would be a good vehicle. He believed that if the developing countries were to press the Soviets and other socialist countries into a more constructive role, it would be more acceptable to the Soviets than if the United States were to do so, since the Soviets could consider our efforts a source of confrontation.

Ceausescu replied that the developing countries want to keep the issue in the United Nations and it would be desirable for the developed countries to support developing countries’ initiatives. The developing countries need help from the developed countries, particularly in modern technologies but they need also to work more effectively among themselves. Ceausescu then said the United States for its part will have to look to world needs. General Motors, for example, can no longer expand production for American consumers but must project its technical and production capacity to finance world needs.

Soviet Leadership—Dr. Brzezinski then asked the President for his estimate of the younger leaders around Brezhnev and what policies they might follow. Ceausescu replied in gest that he did not see many young people around Brezhnev. Then he added, more seriously, that there are some relatively younger people who will have to play a role but it was difficult to talk about individuals. Dr. Brzezinski asked the President who had struck him as particularly effective in the second rank in the Soviet leadership. President Ceausescu repeated that it was hard for him to talk about individuals. He asked, rhetorically, who could have predicted five years ago that Hua would become the leader of China. Dr. Brzezinski said, of course, no one can predict but the [Page 625] question is will the next leadership in the USSR look to widening cooperation with the West or will it become more nationalistic and expansionist. This is a very important question that does not relate just to personalities. President Ceausescu expressed his conviction that the general trend in the world is toward cooperation and toward raising living standards. No leadership, he added, can ignore the aspirations of the large masses of its people to satisfy their needs.

China—Secretary Vance asked whether the President believed China was prepared to play a more constructive role in the world. He said the Chinese had told him when he was visiting there that they would have to be very sparing in their role in Third World development. President Ceausescu replied that one should realize that China has its own problems. It is one third of the world and has limited capacity to help those beyond its borders. Yet, he added, China will play an increasingly important role in world affairs.

Secretary Vance agreed saying that he hopes they will also play a more active role in the United Nations where they have at times appeared to withdraw from debates. Dr. Brzezinski said that the Chinese have displayed in their history periods of withdrawal and rejection of the world and other periods of projection and deep involvement. Hua’s recent speech implies a broadly gauged ambition to a development program based on technological development which suggests a much greater and a long-term Chinese involvement in the world.

Ceausescu replied that China’s present plans will lead it to become a very powerful country. As to Chinese reservations expressed in the U.N., the United States must realize that the Chinese cannot accept a certain degree of “dictat” within that body. Also it is not by chance that Chinese recently signed an agreement with the European Community to insure an adequate flow of modern technology since it was unable to get the assurances from other quarters. On that note, President Ceausescu urged that the United States move toward complete normalization of relations with China.

Secretary Vance said that President Carter and the United States are committed to complete normalization of relations with China on the basis of the Shanghai communique. Ceausescu said that a long time has elapsed since that communique. Secretary Vance agreed. He said that action must be taken in the not too distant future but the timing must take into consideration the other pressing matters currently on our platter in foreign relations. Ceausescu said that the decisive role in normalization rests with the United States and some of these problems should not be solved at the expense of others.

Secretary Vance said that the first item on our agenda is Panama, both because of our relations with Panama and because of our relations with the entire developing world. Ceausescu replied that he thought [Page 626] the treaty was very important but it should not prevent the United States from tackling important problems such as those of the Far East and China. In fact, approaching these together would be complementary.

Secretary Vance agreed but said the United States has many things before it such as the numerous problems of Southern Africa, SALT negotiations with the Soviet Union and the whole situation of economic issues including the multilateral trade negotiations. He said one of the criticisms of the President is that we are trying to do too many things at once. President Ceausescu said he had no intention of entering into a criticism of the United States domestic affairs. Dr. Brzezinski replied that a unique form of American hospitality is to invite criticism.

Dr. Brzezinski then said that in relation to China, Soviet relations with China are good in form and bad in substance, while U.S. relations with China are good in substance and bad in form. Dr. Brzezinski said that he prefers the United States’ approach to relations with China. Ceausescu said that this may be true but it should not stop the U.S. from solving problems. He cited a well known Romanian proverb (sic!) that “one should never put off for tomorrow what one can do today”. He added that the favorable conditions of today can also be lost tomorrow. Dr. Brzezinski said that normalization with China in of itself is not enough but we must seek a wide communality of interests which are more important and which we are at the present time trying to establish. Ceausescu replied that there is already an area of common interest. Dr. Brezezinski replied that there was indeed such an area and it is the same common interest that we have with Romania. Ceausescu repeated that these problems should not impede normalization with China.

Dr. Brzezinski said that the problem is fundamentally domestic. Elements particularly in the Republican Party are worried about any decisions affecting the future of Taiwan. President Ceausescu said that the Republican Party could hardly be blamed for the present situation with regard to our relations with China. He said Americans will not oppose but most surely support a policy directed toward wider cooperation with China. He speculated that, for the Democratic Party, normalization of relations with China would in the long run be positive not negative. Secretary Vance said he agreed. Dr. Brzezinski said he agreed also as long as we get Panama, SALT and the energy program out of the way first. Secretary Vance stressed that normalization does not have to be put off indefinitely.

Concluding Toasts—Secretary Vance said that he was deeply honored to have President Ceausescu in the Department of State again. He looked forward to meeting with the Foreign Minister and other [Page 627] ministers.3 He said that President Ceausescu had commented that our relations have made good progress and that we should now work on broader issues to seek wider cooperation. Secretary Vance agreed with this and said we will continue to benefit greatly from President Ceausescu’s advice and leadership. He looked forward to working with President Ceausescu in the months and years ahead.

President Ceausescu replied that he was pleased to be for the third time having lunch in this same room in the Department of State and to be here at this time with Secretary Vance. He welcomed the opportunity to exchange with Secretary Vance views on some critical matters. President Ceausescu said that Romania attached particular importance to its relations with the United States and will do everything within its power to move forward on the basis of the principles which he has enunciated. He said events of the past year have included some complex problems and these call for even broader cooperation by large and small countries alike and that the middle and small size nations have an important role to play. He said that he hoped that relations, already well expanded with the United States, could develop further and he hoped that Secretary Vance, Dr. Brzezinski and their colleagues would collaborate to achieving this end. He expressed his thanks to Secretary Vance for making him and his colleagues feel at home and called for good cooperation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, Vance EXDIS MemCons, 1978. Confidential; Exdis. Drafted by Luers; approved in S/S on April 19. The meeting took place in the Madison Room at the Department of State.
  2. On December 19, 1977, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 32/174 establishing a Committee of the Whole—the “Overview Committee”—with the mandate to look at the world economic situation as a whole, and to review and encourage progress being made elsewhere in the North-South dialogue.
  3. Vance met with Foreign Minister Stefan Andrei following the lunch with Ceausescu. See Document 202 and footnote 2 thereto. A summary of the meeting was sent to the President in his Evening Reading on April 12. (Telegram Tosec 40003/94668 to Bucharest, April 13; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840163–0169)