177. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of Dr. Brzezinski’s Conversation with Morton Abramowitz, U.S. Ambassador to Thailand


  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Mort Abramowitz
  • Nick Platt, Staff Member, NSC

Ambassador Abramowitz told Dr. Brzezinski that the Vietnamese were determined to reduce significantly, if not destroy altogether, Pol Pot’s forces in Cambodia. Our intelligence indicates that they have requested data on Thai military dispositions along the Cambodian border. In the course of attacking and pursuing Pol Pot, the Vietnamese are likely to violate Thai territory, and perhaps tangle with Thai forces. At that point, American policy will be tested, and the United States will be under pressure to do something. (C)

Ambassador Abramowitz also said that Vietnamese successes against Pol Pot were likely to inspire the Chinese to make another attack of some sort on Vietnam. While this was occurring, famine will be spreading in Cambodia, refugees will pour across the Thai border, and the flow of boat people from Vietnam will resume. All of these events—Vietnamese offensive in Cambodia, border violations in Thailand, Chinese military pressure on Vietnam, famine and refugee flows—were likely to occur between November and January. They would coincide with an intense period of political activity in the United States at a time when the United States was politically unable to absorb more refugees. (C)

We should look ahead and develop options to deal with these contingencies. He did not favor the despatch of aircraft carriers or military flag-showing exercises, since we would not be able to follow through. He did favor development of a modest contingency military assistance package ($40–50 million) for use if needed. On Cambodian aid, Ambassador Abramowitz felt that the Administration had been [Page 626] reticent, and that a special Presidential message was required. He hoped that the Pope’s visit2 might provide an occasion for a statement. (C)

Dr. Brzezinski agreed that the situation was most worrisome and that the Administration had moral responsibilities in Cambodia and toward the refugees. He instructed Mr. Platt to organize discussions within the government on policy options for the United States involving relevant officials from State, Defense, Intelligence, and the NSC. (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject File, Box 34, Memcons, Brzezinski, 9–12/79. Confidential. The meeting took place in Brzezinski’s office.
  2. Pope John Paul II visited the United States October 1–7.