236. Paper Prepared for Secretary of State Vance1

Excerpts from Remarks by Prime Minister Muldoon

March 16 on arriving at Sydney Airport

“Well, I haven’t yet got to grips with Mr. Carter and I don’t think that Mr. Fraser has either. We both want to go over and meet him. I mean he is the President of the most powerful country in the world; he is also a peanut farmer from Georgia. Now we would hope that in due time he would absorb the realities of America’s role in the world, and Americans cannot retreat from their global responsibilities.”

April 8 on returning to New Zealand

“He (Mr. Carter) talks about human rights, a moral foreign policy. . . . What does he mean?” Mr. Muldoon said in an interview with the New Zealand Press Association after returning from a seven-nation tour.

“Is America going to declare war on every government that is infringing human rights. . . . ?”

April 18 television interview

“The point that I wanted to make and the point that I make again is that it is a very, very long step from Plains, Georgia to the White House. And I think President Carter realizes that as much as anyone does. And certainly every head of State that I saw around the world in the last month expressed to me privately the same kind of apprehension to a greater or lesser degree that I’ve been expressing in simply listening to the initial foreign policy statements of President Carter.”

“What many people worry about . . . is that President Carter’s foreign policy was learned, as he has said himself, from the Tri-Lateral Commission . . . concerning itself with the United States, Japan and Western Europe and being composed of senior people, influential people from those three areas . . . those three countries, if you like, taking the European Community as one. And there are those . . . and I’m one of them . . . and I believe Prime Minister Lee is another, who wonder whether, in absorbing the foreign policy aspects of Japan, the United States and Western Europe and their inter-relationships, President [Page 775] Carter is yet adequately knowledgeable about the Indian Ocean, about Africa and as far as we’re concerned, about the South Pacific. That’s one of the question marks that’s very much in my mind at the present time.”

“I don’t think he’s adequately expressed himself on the Indian Ocean. You see, he clearly favoured . . . and he gave two options . . . a de-escalation of strategic weapons in the recent SALT talks. They collapsed. They collapsed ignominiously and his latest statements have been, ‘yes, we’ll have another go’, but if the Soviets don’t want to come to the Party then ‘we’ll’ move to build up our strength. Now, he’s got an either-or policy and I’m not going to say that his policy is wrong but after trying to get the SALT talks off the ground, failing, he’s now saying we’ll have another try and if they don’t succeed, well, you watch out Soviet Union, we’ll just go and build up our weapons and we have the capacity. So his views in the Indian Ocean, I think, have clearly to be spelled out more clearly and in more detail than has been the case yet.”

April 19 speech2

“In Sydney a few weeks ago at the commencement of a journey which took me to seven different countries in three weeks, I made a comment which was widely publicized back home in New Zealand. I said that President Carter was the most powerful man in the world. He was also a peanut farmer from Georgia. Various political writers, opposition politicians, and even some of those most omniscient of journalists who have graduated to leader writer, have purported to see something derogatory in the plain statement of fact. Let me put it another way—it is a mighty long jump from the little town of Plains, Georgia, where brother Billy is a beer drinking petrol station attendant, and sister is a peripatetic evangelist to the White House in Washington, D.C., even if the journey was made by way of the Governor’s mansion of the state of Georgia.”

“President Carter will be in office for at least four years. Most of the heads of government that I have met in recent weeks would, I think, like to see him take a little time to settle down and get the feel of the international scene from his new position in the White House, before moving too far or too fast. It appears clear, however, that the American domestic political situation makes it necessary for him to establish himself in the eyes of his own people. The dilemma is obvious.

“I have spoken frankly to you about a situation which is of vital importance to the future of this country.

[Page 776]

“There may be some who would say that I have been too frank. Last year I was equally frank regarding our relationships with the Soviet Union, and I believe that a frank appraisal of these vital situations is what a country expects of its Prime Minister. Certainly, it is what this country is going to get so long as I am Prime Minister.

“To sum up then, there is widespread concern among the friends of the United States as to the policies of the new Administration. There is no reason at this time, however, to believe that as the new Administration settles down those policies will not evolve in a manner that is helpful to the continuing task of the preservation of the free world.”

June 12 comments in London

“London (AP)—New Zealand’s prime minister yesterday described President Carter’s human rights campaign as ‘abortive’ and said selective application of sanctions against countries that infringe civil rights is not ‘morally credible.’

‘So far one feels that they’ve been abortive,’ Robert Muldoon, the prime minister, said of Mr. Carter’s efforts in an interview. ‘He’s fired the shots, but it’s difficult to see where they landed.

‘You are not going to get the Soviet Union to change their attitude to political prisoners and political persecution simply by talking about it in public,’ Mr. Muldoon said, referring to the administration’s support for Soviet dissidents. ‘In fact, I don’t think you’re going to get it at all.

‘There is no reason why you shouldn’t try, but you simply have a repressive regime, and you’re not going to restore individual liberty to the Soviet Union while that regime is there,’ he said.”

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 56, New Zealand. Unclassified. Sent under a June 22 covering memorandum to Vance, in which Holbrooke wrote, “Attached are excerpts from New Zealand Prime Minister Muldoon’s various offensive statements.”
  2. See Document 233.