258. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary Brown’s Plenary Meeting with Yugoslav Defense Secretary Ljubicic


  • Yugoslavia

    • Federal Secretary for National Defense, General of the Army Ljubicic
    • Ambassador to the US Belovski
    • ColGen Kadenic, Chief of Center of High Military Schools
    • LtColGen Kadejevic, Chief of the Department for Education and Training
    • MajGen Popovic, Chief of the Department for Procurement of Armament and Military Equipment
    • Col Popovic, Interpreter
    • Col Vuckovic, Military, Air and Naval Attache
  • US

    • The Secretary
    • Under Secretary for Policy Resor
    • Assistant Secretary (ISA) McGiffert
    • Deputy Assistant Secretary (Eur & NATO) Siena
    • LTG Graves, Director, DSAA
    • MG Bowman, Director, European & NATO Affairs
    • RADM Hanson, Military Assistant to the Secretary
    • Mr. Babione, OUSDR&E
    • Mr. Bader, Deputy Director, European & NATO Affairs
    • Col Roche, Defense Attache, Belgrade
    • Mr. Guild, DSAA Assistant for Yugoslavia
    • Cdr McVadon, ISA Assistant for Yugoslavia

After warmly renewing acquaintances, Secretary Brown asked General Ljubicic to assess the last year of the relationship and suggested that this was also a time for progress. General Ljubicic said he welcomed this visit, his first to the US; and characterized Brown’s 1977 visit to Belgrade as contributing not only to military cooperation but also to all fields of US-Yugoslav relations.2 (During his toast at dinner that evening he invited Brown back to Belgrade.) He said the visit by General Jones in May was very helpful and visits like it permit US officers to see the “Yugoslav reality” and to meet senior Yugoslav officers. Ljubicic recalled that he and Brown said in Belgrade that the military relation[Page 849]ship could not expand to its fullest overnight, but he said there has been progress.

Brown acknowledged the value of personal visits, but noted that Yugoslavia’s specific requests for military equipment were a very important aspect of the improving relationship. He said that in response to Yugoslav requests the USG has given approval except when there were overriding policy considerations, such as the involvement of sensitive technology. Brown stressed that the US favored this cooperation for political and military reasons, not for economic benefits. He explained that he believed an independent, unified and strong Yugoslavia contributed to world peace.

Ljubicic stated firmly that Yugoslavia would remain independent and nonaligned and was a factor contributing to the stability of the balance of power in that area of the world. He cited signs of unrest between the big powers and said that deterioration of US-Soviet relations affected Yugoslavia. Yugoslavs, he said, did not want the balance upset. He expressed confidence in US statements supporting a strong and nonaligned Yugoslavia, but noted that we must be concerned with the details that make it so. (This is the closest Ljubicic came to a complaint about US reluctance to release certain weapons to Yugoslavia. He left the complaining to a member of his entourage; and even that separate meeting of MG Popovic and LTG Graves lacked the expected polemics. Popovic renewed the requests for all equipment which had been denied, reviewed the status of many current actions, and expanded their shopping list moderately. He added, inter alia, requests for consultations and information on Stinger, Viper, hydrofoil vessels, and postgraduate and specialists training in armaments, munitions and quality control fields.) Ljubicic described a “distrust” of the US in Yugoslavia because Yugoslavs have known pressure from both sides; the distrust should be eliminated because good relations were sought sincerely, not for “technical” reasons.

Brown acknowledged that US-Soviet relations were central to many situations in the world. He commented that “everyone says he is peace-loving,” but that US actions have shown that we have sought independence and stability for all nations. US relations with Yugoslavia were important regardless of the nature of US-Soviet relations, Brown explained. He said that a secure Yugoslavia was important not only as a matter of friendship but also for self-interest. Brown pointed out that steady improvement in the relationship was the goal and that the “wild swings” of the past should not recur. Brown reflected that a secure Yugoslavia would have the effect of improving relations between Yugoslavia and its neighbors.

Ljubicic then described unfavorable aspects of Yugoslavia’s relations with its neighbors. He said relations with Greece were declin[Page 850]ing, although Yugoslavia had no territorial dispute with Greece, only a desire that the Macedonian minority in Greece have the same rights as other Greek citizens. (This unexpected revelation could have been a sop to Ambassador Belovski—a Macedonian—who was beside Ljubicic or as a preface to comments later in the visit indicating concern about possible establishment of a NATO headquarters in Greece.)

Ljubicic said the Italian government failed to curb the increasingly active opponents of the recent Italian-Yugoslav agreement on borders. He complained of Italian troops disposed toward Yugoslavia, of their intercepts of Yugoslav military communications, and of Italians “entering into” Yugoslav military communications. Ljubicic characterized it as a small quarrel between neighbors, but said there was no reason for Italy and Austria to do this. He said greater cooperation with Austria, Greece and Italy were sought and that the Yugoslavs were ready to offer proof that there is no reason for suspicion. He then described the dispute with West Germany over the issue of extradition of the captured terrorists. Turning to the US, he noted Yugoslav appreciation for US attitudes on Yugoslavia and the contacts and communications between President Carter and Tito. He said this diminished distrust, but some forces existed in the US which could undertake actions against Yugoslavia under some conditions.

Brown reaffirmed Ljubicic’s appraisal of the Carter-Tito contacts and said Carter had sought Tito’s advice in delicate situations. He agreed on the value of cooperation in countering terrorism. He said that a recent conversation with the Italian Minister of Defense3 convinced him that the Italians wished to cooperate in countering terrorists. He expressed the belief that the Greeks had no fear of a military threat from a strong Yugoslavia. Brown reflected that some residue of distrust existed from earlier decades, but that it was decreasing and should not be important for the future.

Ljubicic said that Stane Dolanc would visit Greece to clarify questions and establish normal relations. He told Brown that he appreciated Brown’s views on Italy and Greece and that he would invite the Italian and Greek defense ministers to Yugoslavia. Regarding electronic reconnaissance, he said, smiling, that the US should provide the devices to Yugoslavia so they could listen.

[Page 851]

Brown said that curiosity was universal, and that if countries stayed away from other countries territories, listening need not be seen as unfriendly.

Ljubicic , with a serious expression, said that Yugoslavia would not use such equipment to conduct reconnaissance against these countries. He then said that, if the Soviet Union were excluded from the Middle East, Soviet efforts would be more intense in areas around Yugoslavia. He suggested that already the Soviets somehow were behind Bulgarian actions that irritate Yugoslavia.

Brown said that Yugoslavia’s military needs were recognized and asked about the status of the evaluation of the TF–30 engine for possible use in the Yugoslav Eagle aircraft. Ljubicic recited the history of the Yugoslav request for a high technology engine (but gave no hint on the progress or possible outcome of the evaluation). He said that Yugoslav experts should come to the US as part of the evaluation, because, if the engine were selected, the US and Yugoslavia would need to enter into large-scale cooperation. In response to a question from Brown on the type of cooperation he had in mind, Ljubicic said, if the TF–30 suits their needs, they would like to build it. They would purchase several engines, and then buy the license and documentation to permit production in Yugoslavia with US assistance. Brown , in questioning further whether the Yugoslavs were suggesting that they produce the entire engine themselves, explained that some components were difficult to make and that there were difficulties with US policy. He said there were many components which the US would consider for Yugoslav manufacture and that assembly and testing of the engine could be considered. He explained that even these possibilities would require careful review in the USG and an exception to policy which only the President could grant. Brown asked that Ljubicic put together the specifics of their request for consideration by the USG.

Ljubicic asked if the group from Yugoslavia could have all the data on the engine, whether anything is secret. Brown said all information would be made available. (Senior Defense Security Assistance Agency representatives explained later to General Popovic and Major Stankovic, the assistant attache who deals with FMS, that requests for information beyond the limits of the present export licenses must be submitted to the Department of State for USG consideration, but that the answers would be given as quickly as possible.)

Brown said the USG would have to see how many components could be manufactured in Yugoslavia. He said that turbine blades were very difficult to make. Ljubicic said that the Yugoslavs were making turbine blades with the British, who are satisfied with Yugoslav practices. Ljubicic said that entering into arrangements for production of the Orao II aircraft—not just the engine—would open up a big field [Page 852]and produce a significant increase in bilateral cooperation. Brown did not answer this point, but noted that the group of Yugoslav aircraft engine experts was to arrive soon and that he wanted to press forward for the present with that aspect of the TF–30 question.

Brown said he wished to know the GOY decision on the US proposal for a joint US-Yugoslav Defense Working Group. He recalled that they (Brown and Ljubicic) had met twice with a year’s interval. He suggested that more frequent meeting of the staffs could lead to progress, but would not substitute for meeting between the Secretaries. The Defense Working Group would promote cooperation in areas requiring attention to detail. Ljubicic replied, “We fully accept your suggestion to establish this commission.” Experience with other countries had been successful with groups headed at the “assistant state secretary” level, or at the level the US side wished, he explained. He said the group could meet when necessary, but at least once a year, with the first meeting in Belgrade, or in Washington if the US wished. Brown said that the first meeting should be in Belgrade before the end of the year. Ljubicic said, “I quite agree.”

Brown raised the subject of disposal of old US-origin military equipment. He explained that the USG has decided that Yugoslavia need not purchase the reversionary rights on MAP equipment. This decision, he continued, meant also that the USG need not ask other countries receiving US MAP if they were interested before allowing Yugoslavia to dispose of the equipment. He emphasized that a written request to the USG was required before the GOY disposed of the equipment.

Ljubicic said that the Yugoslavs were grateful to the USG and people for the MAP equipment and that he was satisfied with the “solution” just explained. He said Yugoslavia made one mistake: “the tanks to Ethiopia.” He speculated that if they had asked maybe more could have been given to Ethiopia. Belovski laughingly interjected, “Jointly!” Ljubicic said the equipment was obsolete and plans were to scrap it. Brown noted that his remarks on equipment disposal were not a criticism, only an explanation of procedures. Ljubicic assured him that the Yugoslavs did not want to cause problems with the US Congress or anyone else.

Brown asked if Ljubicic had other things to raise. Ljubicic said he would not burden Brown with the long list of equipment requested (Brown agreed the list was very long); however, he (Ljubicic) had a few questions. He asked about rocket fuels and explosives. Brown said he thought the Thiokol and Octogene problems had been resolved. Ljubicic said that Admiral Mamula, the chief of their navy, would come to the US at the “beginning of next year” to clarify navy needs. Brown said he would be very welcome. Assistant Secretary McGiffert reminded Ljubicic of an October deadline for the Sparrow missiles associated with [Page 853]the antiship missile defense system. Ljubicic said they were interested in rockets fired from submarines (probably reference to ASROC).4 Brown mentioned again that production will stop on the version of the Sparrow missile which has been offered. Ljubicic said they would like to have an Air Force team visit Yugoslavia to discuss air-to-ground missiles. He said his longest list of items is in the field of electronics but that could be discussed by General Popovic and his counterpart.

Brown proposed that they adjourn, but Ljubicic said he wanted to explain their position on credits. He said they would not ask for “state credits”; if credit were necessary, commercial credit would be obtained for individual items purchased from individual firms. If credit were not available, he said, they would pay cash. Brown recalled that in the discussions in Belgrade credits had been prohibited but that now the policy had been changed so modest credits for Yugoslavia could be sought from Congress for the next fiscal year. He said that if commercial credits were preferred, however, the US would not press a government loan on them. Ljubicic said this question had been decided in Belgrade, but that, if bigger arrangements were entered into, they would reconsider. Brown said they would talk more about the loan question at lunch, and the meeting ended. (The question was not raised at lunch, but Major General Bowman raised the issue several days later. Ambassador Belovski took the lead in responding and said it was not worth the effort this year; they would wait until they really needed some money.)5

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Europe, USSR, and East/West, Larrabee Subject File, Box 68, Yugoslavia: Military: 11/77–12/78. Secret. Drafted by McVadon on October 2; approved by Siena on October 10. The meeting took place at the Pentagon.
  2. See Document 246.
  3. Italian Minister of Defense Attilio Ruffini traveled to Washington September 11–12 to sign an MOU on defense procurement at the Pentagon. Ruffini met with Brown on September 11, and discussed the need for greater industrial collaboration, improvement of community relations where bases are located, and assistance for security services. (Telegram 240901 to Rome, September 21; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780388–0266)
  4. Anti-submarine rocket (ASROC) is an all-weather, all sea conditions, anti-submarine rocket.
  5. The discussions were continued in Belgrade on December 11–12 by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Affairs James Siena and Assistant Federal Secretary of National Defense for the Military-Economic Sector Colonel General Dusan Vujatvic. The two agreed on a memorandum of understanding on the formation of the Joint Committee for Military-Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation in the Field of Military Technique and discussed several weapons systems the Yugoslav military expressed interest in. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Europe, USSR, and East/West, Larrabee Subject File, Box 68, Yugoslavia: Military: 11/77–12/78) See Document 261.