372. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to Secretary of State Vance1


  • Caribbean Chiefs of Mission Conference (U)

Attached is a copy of the conclusions of the Caribbean Chiefs of Mission Conference, together with the President’s comments. Please note his observation that “this is a narrowly focused and inadequate approach—‛more federal government money and staff.’” (S)

Additionally, the President took issue with the implication of the first paragraph that the only alternatives for attaining our objectives are economic assistance and military force. He noted, “These are not the only two options.” (S)

Zbigniew Brzezinski


Paper Prepared in the Department of State2

Caribbean Chiefs of Mission Conference December 3–4, 1979


The Chiefs of Mission agree that we can best attain our objectives by economic assistance programs to meet the needs of its people, rather than by attempting to dominate the region by military force. Display of military strength is useful but must be carefully calibrated to ensure positive impact.3

In policy statements, ideological pluralism should be defined as embracing a commitment to democratic processes, human rights, and economic development in the country concerned. We should recognize [Page 928] that USG credibility is on the line by our own declarations of U.S. interest in our Caribbean “third border”, commitment to economic development, etc.4

The Chiefs of Mission agree that the Cuban challenge reflects an ad hoc and alert Cuban response to perceived opportunities in individual countries, rather than a fully-developed strategy of Caribbean subversion. The U.S. must counter these tactics by providing an alternative answer to Caribbean development needs. Both for visibility and as a gauge of our intentions, quick-disbursing, flexible development funds are needed for visibility projects which meet basic needs. In addition, we need economic assistance programs for middle-income countries. Our assistance policy should avoid rewarding our enemies while denying our friends. The Chiefs of Mission underline recipient countries’ desire for improved export markets and for foreign private investment. They conclude:

—that a contingency fund be established for meeting short-term developmental needs of high political priority;

—that development programs be made more visible and bilateral programs be considered for the English-speaking Caribbean. These programs are essential to our security interests because they provide an alternative to the Cuban model. They should be tailored to need, absorptive capacity and the recipient country’s desire to respond to the needs of its people. Close monitoring will be needed;

—that a study be undertaken on the feasibility of arrangements similar to the Lome Convention of the European Communities.5 A multi-year agreement might be negotiated with interested Caribbean countries involving the whole range of economic, cultural and social relations, including developmental loans and grants and possibly trade preferences;

—that private efforts be stimulated to meet short and long-term developmental needs and to facilitate private foreign investment. The efforts of private voluntary organizations should be encouraged and AID should strengthen its leadership role with these organizations;

—that multilateral efforts continue to be a major element in developmental policy and programs. The Caribbean Group should be supported and strengthened, especially in the fields of transportation, communications and energy. The Group also serves as a useful framework for consultations between the U.S. and the Caribbean countries;

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—that stepped-up programs be supported by additional personnel in certain posts who should be provided on a priority basis. The increased backstopping planned by ICA is welcomed, particularly expanded exchange programs and radio broadcasts on the medium bands; and

—that emigration is depleting essential human resources and creating complications in the United States. The Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy should focus on Caribbean immigration and examine the feasibility of a temporary worker program as a possible element of control.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 46, Latin America, 12/79–1/80. Secret.
  2. Secret. Carter wrote at the top of the page, “Cy, Zbig This is a narrowly focused and inadequate approach. ‛More Federal gov’t money and staff.”
  3. Carter underlined “economic assistance programs” and “military force” and wrote in the left margin, “These are not the only two options.”
  4. Carter highlighted this paragraph in the right margin.
  5. The 1975 Lome Convention led to trade and assistance agreements between the European Community and African, Caribbean, and Pacific states.