20. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • PRC Meeting on Cuba—August 3, 1977

The Policy Review Committee met on August 3, 1977, to review U.S.–Cuban relations since the issuance of Presidential Directive/NSC–6 (which authorized a first round of negotiations),2 and to decide on the approach we should take in future discussions. I have attached at Tab A3 a summary of the minutes of the meeting. Let me summarize below the principal conclusions agreed to by the participants and state the principal area of disagreement. That disagreement raises important domestic and international issues.


1. The Interest Sections which will be opened on September 1, 1977, should be the principal medium for holding discussions with the Cubans.

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2. During September and October, we should be willing to consider proposals from the Cubans while continuing a step-by-step approach. We would increase technical cooperation with Cuba on law enforcement matters and encourage sport, cultural, and scientific exchanges. We would also continue to press for release of U.S. prisoners, the repatriation of U.S. citizens with their Cuban families, and for expanded visitation rights for divided Cuban families. However, we should avoid appearing overeager.

3. After this exploratory phase, we would resume the initiative in exploring limited package deals. In this regard, there was disagreement among the agencies over how to pursue the issue of Cuba’s activities in Africa.

4. State, Treasury, and Commerce believe that at the beginning of the talks we should state that we assume Cuba will show restraint in its military activities in Africa and that over time there would be a reduction of these activities. Progress toward normalization of relations would be inhibited if this assumption did not hold, but the U.S. would offer to restore scheduled transportation links with Cuba and to lift the embargo on the shipment of food and medicines to Cuba while permitting shipments of specified amounts of certain Cuban products to the United States. In return, we would expect the Cubans (a) to release U.S. political prisoners, (b) to repatriate U.S. citizens with their Cuban families, and (c) to allow increasing visits of divided Cuban families.

NSC, DOD, and JCS feel that for international and domestic reasons we should not lift any part of the embargo until Cuba demonstrated also some tangible restraint on its activities in Africa.

5. The key issue: Should we condition a partial lifting of the embargo also on their taking some visible and concrete steps toward restraining and reducing their activities in Africa?

DOD, NSC, and JCS recommend YES.4

State, Treasury and Commerce recommend NO.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, 1977–1981, Box 184, PRC 029 Cuba, 8/3/1977. Secret. Sent for action. Carter initialed the first page, and a stamped notation reads, “The President has seen.”
  2. See Document 9.
  3. Tab A, not attached, is printed as Document 19.
  4. Carter checked and initialed this option.