Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series

This volume is part of a subseries of volumes of the Foreign Relations series that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the administration of Jimmy Carter. The subseries will present a documentary record of major foreign policy decisions and actions of President Carter’s administration from 1977 to 1981.

Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, Volume XXIII

The nine compilations included in this volume illustrate both the formulation of U.S. policy toward the Caribbean as a whole, and bilateral relations with fourteen countries: the Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica (independent, 1978), the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Saint Lucia (independent, 1979), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (independent, 1979), Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

In three cases, documents on relations with more than one country have been combined into a single compilation. One compilation covers the Eastern Caribbean states of Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which shared a single ambassador; another covers relations with Haiti and the Bahamas, which were linked by a refugee issue; and a third covers Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, because of the geographical proximity of the two nations.

Throughout Carter’s term in office, regional policy toward the Caribbean centered upon the smaller states of the Eastern Caribbean, such as Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, along with newly independent Dominica, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Nations like the Dominican Republic and Haiti were bigger than and linguistically distinct from the English-speaking states of the Eastern Caribbean and were dealt with separately. Cuba was considered a special case. Overall, the Carter administration’s regional approach was defined by the problems of the Eastern Caribbean, but there was significant disagreement about the size of those problems and the proper scope of the U.S. response. The goals of Carter officials were defined by two, often contradictory impulses 1) have the Eastern Caribbean states (many of which had populations of fewer than 100,000 people) work together as a group, and develop a regional identity, so they could attract more foreign investment and act as a stable, financially-secure bloc that [Page X] would resist Cuban influence, and 2) do so without a major investment of foreign aid from the United States; many Carter officials did not want to take on old British obligations and make an expensive commitment to a region which was not a priority for many U.S. policymakers.

The conflict between these two impulses emerged almost immediately. Robert Pastor, a member of the National Security Council Staff who advocated a large, multilateral aid package for the Caribbean, ran into strong resistance from Roger Hansen, an NSC staffer who was unsure whether the Soviets were serious about expanding their influence in the region.

Pastor’s pleas for more funding, however, received greater support from the NSC in 1979, after a series of events drew attention to security problems in the Caribbean. The scare of a “Soviet brigade” in Cuba turned out to be the result of an intelligence failure, but it nonetheless had significant implications for the region. The crisis, along with a Marxist coup in Grenada, drew the attention of policymakers who previously had not considered the Caribbean a priority.

Nonetheless, President Carter remained hesitant to commit a large amount of funding to the region, and in an October 1979 Presidential meeting, suggested his own regional policy, which emphasized limited public assistance from the United States, cast doubt on the importance of Cuban influence, and emphasized the role of the private sector.

Readers interested in U.S.-Cuban relations will find compelling documentation in this volume. The Cuban compilation looks in depth at the Carter administration’s efforts to normalize relations with the island nation. Additionally, readers interested in Carter’s human rights policy will find valuable information in the Dominican Republic and the Haiti and the Bahamas compilations.

Other key themes and events discussed in this volume include the debate over leftist non-aligned states such as Jamaica and Guyana, lengthy natural gas negotiations between the United States and Mexico, a military coup in Suriname, the independence of several Eastern Caribbean mini-states, the negotiation of naval base agreements in Barbados and the Bahamas, and the Department of State’s response to the Leo Ryan assassination and the subsequent Jonestown Massacre. The late 1970s were thus a time of political transformation for the Caribbean, and U.S. officials, often reluctantly, made decisions that would forever shape the region.


The editor wishes to acknowledge the assistance of officials at the Jimmy Carter Library, as well as Halbert Jones, Myra Burton, David Geyer, Carl Ashley, Adam Howard, Dean Weatherhead, Mandy Chalou, Thomas I. Faith, Stephen P. Randolph, John Fox, Margot Guti [Page XI] errez, Susan Weetman, Madeline Poster, John Poster, John Collinge, Michael McCoyer, Peter Hahn, Robert McMahon and Edward Brynn.

The editor collected and selected documentation and edited the volume under the supervision of Myra Burton, Chief of the Africa and the Americas Division, and Adam M. Howard, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series. Myra Burton and David Geyer, Chief of the Europe Division, reviewed the volume. Dean Weatherhead coordinated the declassification review under the supervision of Carl Ashley, Chief of the Declassification Division. Thomas I. Faith performed the copy and technical editing.

Alexander Poster