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


  • U.S. Policy to Grenada and the Eastern Caribbean (U)

David Aaron chaired a mini-SCC meeting today with representatives from State, Defense, JCS, CIA, AID and OMB to discuss the situation in Grenada and how the US should respond to it. The group addressed three questions: (1) What should we do with respect to Grenada to keep it from becoming a Cuban client state? (2) How can we reduce the likelihood of Grenada-like coups occurring elsewhere in the Eastern Caribbean? and (3) What are the implications of Grenada for the Caribbean as a whole, and what should our reaction be? (S)

The Problem. After seizing power in Grenada, Maurice Bishop promised free elections, but since then, he has taken few steps in that direction. Instead, he has sought and received Cuban and Guyanese military support and Jamaican technical assistance to “consolidate his revolution.” It is clear that the Cubans and probably the Jamaicans and Guyanese had advance knowledge of the coup, though they probably didn’t know exactly when it would occur. An opposition has begun to form within Grenada, but it still is embryonic. (S)

At the same time that he has strengthened relations with the three Caribbean governments of the left—Cuba, Jamaica, and Guyana—he has tried to maintain ties with the more moderate states. In fact, he has recently invited members of the West Indies Associated States to visit Grenada for talks, but these states are very worried that they could be the next victims of violent coups. Bishop has also shown a certain eagerness to criticize the US for trying to “bully” him. In the future, it is quite likely that Bishop will try to retain control of the island by whatever means necessary and will look increasingly to Cuba for support. (S)

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Objectives. With respect to Grenada, we have two sets of objectives which relate to its internal political development and its external relations. Internally, we would prefer a Grenada that (1) observes basic human rights and releases its political prisoners; (2) permits free, preferably Parliamentary, elections soon and also permits the emergence of an opposition party and press; (3) respects private property and promotes a climate that will permit foreign investment and encourage tourism; and (4) does not excessively arm or militarize the island. With respect to Grenada’s external relations, we would prefer: (1) that its ties with Cuba be primarily diplomatic and not very warm (more like Barbados’ ties with Cuba than Jamaica’s or Angola’s); (2) that it not be used as a military or political training base for radicals in the Caribbean; and (3) that it maintain its closest relations with the Commonwealth Caribbean (and within that, with Barbados and Trinidad) and also with traditional allies like Canada, the U.K., Venezuela, and the U.S. (S)

With respect to the eastern Caribbean, we want to promote their economic development and provide the security support and assistance which will prevent any further coups in the area. With respect to the overall Caribbean, we should continue to promote regional economic cooperation through the Caribbean Group, but we should add a political and security dimension which will mean relatively greater support for the moderate countries like Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. In pursuing these objectives, we want to encourage Barbados and Trinidad to take the lead while we consult fully and, to the extent possible, work in tandem with the U.K., Canada, and Venezuela. We presume we share these objectives with all three countries, but we should promote an awareness of shared objectives by a continual dialogue with these countries. (S)

Recommended Strategy. It was the consensus of the mini-SCC that:

(1) We should work closely with Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago (T/T), and the West Indies Associated States (WIAS), share information with them, and encourage them to take a firm public position on the need for free and early elections in Grenada. (S)

(2) We should work closely with Canada and the U.K. and encourage increased assistance by them to the region. In consultations on the Caribbean with the British and Canadians next week, we will explore a range of proposals, including a regional Coast Guard or security force, regional training of police and defense forces, naval visits, and FMS credits to increase the security of the region.2 (S)

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(3) We should prepare a statement to be issued at the Department of State which points out that we are in fact providing economic assistance to the region (Caribbean Group), but that we are concerned that the new Grenadian government has not taken any steps to fulfill its pledge of free elections.3 At the same time, we will try to get some information placed in newspapers in the area on a background, non-attributable basis on the arms and assistance provided by Cuba and Guyana to Grenada and on the fact that it was received before the US, U.K., or Canada had an opportunity to respond to similar requests from Grenada. (S)

(4) We will convey our concern to Jamaica and Guyana about recent developments in Grenada and express our interest that they try to encourage Grenada to have free elections. We should also ask them about their associations with the Grenadian government. If they assist Bishop in the consolidation of a one-party, authoritarian state, that will affect our relations with them.4 (S)

(5) For the time being, we will approach Grenada through Barbados and other countries in the region. We are also exploring ways we could be helpful to the emerging opposition in Grenada. (S)

(6) We discussed the specific recommendations which were attached to the background paper (and are at Tab A),5 and there was no objection to the recommendations. With regard to economic aid, IMET, or FMS, OMB suggested, and others concurred, that we begin to plan for FY 1981. In the present, we should seek to re-program funds to the Eastern Caribbean (though not necessarily to Grenada), and to energize existing pipelines, but not to seek any supplementals. (S)

If you approve, we intend to begin implenting those steps.6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Files, Chron, Box 11, El Salvador 3–10/80. Secret. Sent for action. A cover sheet attached by Dodson reads, “David/Les, Pastor tells me you expect this and that he will, instead of a Summary of Conclusions, do a decision memo to the agencies after the President’s approval, OK?” At the top of the page, Aaron wrote, “ZB—I do not believe this has to go to the P. Pastor should do a one paragraph evening note on our strategy.” Pastor’s note is attached but not printed. Another attached note reads, “return to I.L.—make copy for me. Instead one paragraph evening note sent. Subsequently, cables were cleared. No further memo necessary.”
  2. See Document 361.
  3. No Department of State statement was found. In telegram 1865 from Bridgetown, May 12, the Embassy transmitted the text of its press release regarding free elections on Grenada. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790215–0644)
  4. On May 2, Ambassador Lawrence met with Jamaican Prime Minister Manley regarding Grenada. Manley claimed that Cuban interest in Grenada was fleeting and temporary, and that he had learned of Cuba’s intentions directly from Castro. (Telegram 3191 from Kingston, May 3; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790202–0505) On May 28, after a series of postponements, Ambassador Burke met with Guyanese Prime Minister Burnham. Burham stated he did give arms to Grenada, but that the weapons were old and obsolete. (Telegram 2379 from Georgetown, May 1; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790245–0138)
  5. Attached but not printed. See footnote 8, Document 318.
  6. There is no indication of approval or disapproval.