73. Memorandum From Stephen Larrabee of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Proposed Radio Liberty Broadcasts to Soviet Muslims (C)

Attached at Tab A2 is a memo from State outlining their strategy for implementing the December 11 SCC decision authorizing them to investigate the possibility of leasing transmitter time in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and possibly Jordan for Radio Liberty programs beamed at the Soviet Muslim populations. (C)

There are existing short-wave transmitters powerful enough to reach Soviet Central Asia in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. Jordan has no short-wave transmitters capable of reaching Soviet Central Asia and therefore has been dropped from consideration. (C)

State argues—correctly in my view—that we ought to make our first approach to the Saudis in order to capitalize on their strong sense of responsibility for Muslim peoples and to offset any Saudi reaction, should we later turn to the Israelis. While there may be some reluctance on the part of the Saudis, State believes that a well-prepared approach, explained as an information effort aimed at oppressed co-religionists could overcome these hesitations. They recommend that the BIB send a senior representative to talk to the Saudis and explore the possibility of leasing transmitter time. (C)

If the Saudis prove unwilling, State recommends approaching Egypt next. They caution, however, that Egypt may be wary of agreeing to another highly visible bilateral project at a time when they are trying to mend their fences with the Soviets. (C)

State thinks Israel should be approached only as a last resort, and that the decision should be reconsidered if this is the only option. They feel any broadcasts from Israel could be exploited by the Soviets to blunt the impact of our effort directed at the Muslim populations. In particular, the Soviets could portray the broadcasts as evidence of a joint US-Zionist conspiracy. Embassy Tel Aviv shares this concern. [Page 221] It feels that the potential advantages do not outweigh the negative consequences which they see as following from such cooperation with Israel. (C)

While Embassy Tel Aviv’s and State’s concerns have merit and deserve careful consideration, it is questionable in my view whether they are of sufficient weight to require abandoning the whole project in Israel. For many years it was argued that RFE broadcasts to Poland could not succeed if they were broadcast from West Germany. However, in the end locating the stations in Munich did not really impair the effectiveness of RFE’s Polish broadcasts. While the two situations are not entirely comparable, the RFE experience does suggest that the location of the transmitters is less important than the content of the programming. (C)

At any rate, we need not make this decision now. Our first priority should be to investigate the possibilities of leasing transmitters from the Saudis and Egyptians. If this fails, we can assess the pros and cons of approaching Israel later. At the very least, prior approach to Saudi Arabia and Egypt will cushion their reaction if we do eventually decide to approach Israel. (C)

State has been in touch with the BIB, which is prepared to move ahead along the lines indicated above and to send a mission to the area in the coming weeks. (C)

RECOMMENDATION: That you approve the basic approach outlined above.

Approve3 As amended Disapprove

Brement concurs.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 112, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Voice of America: 10–12/79. Confidential. Sent for action.
  2. A December 22 memorandum from Tarnoff to Brzezinski is attached but not printed.
  3. Brzezinski approved the recommendation and wrote at the top of the memorandum “Move fast.”