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


  • US Policy in the Eastern Caribbean (U)

In addition to the people-to-people initiative, which is getting underway slowly, my staff has been working with State to develop a coherent governmental policy to the English-speaking nations of the Eastern Caribbean. It is in this area, which includes ten nations and two territories which will be independent soon, that political tensions are most likely to be exploited by Cuba. Almost all of these nations are small, with populations less than 120,000, and with limited resources. (S)

While we are still fleshing out the details of our strategy, we have agreed on the outlines:

Economically, we are seeking a balance between bilateral aid programs with each of the islands and the multilateral World Bank-coordinated Caribbean Group, which has sought in the last two years to mobilize additional economic aid to the region, to guide these nations [Page 932] toward sounder macro-economic policies, and to encourage greater regional cooperation. (S)

Politically, we are seeking to send a clear message to the region that we will give our greatest support, assistance, and attention to those governments which remain unequivocally committed to: parliamentary democracy; sound and progressive economic policies; non-intervention; and balanced foreign policies. US assistance and attention to each government should be carefully calibrated according to these criteria so that we can be certain that our message is clearly understood. We will not undermine any government in the region, but we also will show much less support for those governments that violate human rights, damage their own economic prospects by radical rhetoric or unsound economic policies, align completely with the Cubans and/or against the US, or interfere in the internal affairs of other nations. We believe this approach is most likely to encourage moderate trends in the area. We will also look for other ways to identify and support democratic, modernizing forces in the area. (S)

Militarily, we are increasing port calls and exercises in the region in order to enhance the security of moderate governments. We are increasing military training and are working closely with the British to assist in the development of a regional coast guard and a police academy, based in Barbados. We also will be looking at whether to modify existing legislation to permit us greater flexibility to assist police forces in the region, to provide more concessional credits under FMS, and to permit the Seabees to assist more rapidly and more often in responding to natural disasters as well as to other needs. We are also examining whether to develop a quick-response police capability to come to the rapid assistance of any government that is threatened by Cuban or radical, violent groups.2 In developing this capability, and in other operations in the Caribbean, we will seek to involve reserve units from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and seek to imbue in all of these units a better understanding of the political and cultural sensitivities and the economic conditions of the nations in the Eastern Caribbean. (S)

Psychologically, we are seeking ways to transmit more effectively our message, our goals and concerns, to the region through an expansion of Voice of America and ICA programs. One of our problems in the past has been the ease with which the Cubans have put us on the defensive, and we are therefore looking into ways to turn this around. [Page 933] The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and recent Cuban activities and statements make this easier to do. (S)

These elements sum to a coherent overall approach to the region which will guide the government as we develop specific policies. Of course, it is important to tailor the overall approach to the unique characteristics of each nation. (S)


That you approve this strategy for addressing the issues of the Eastern Caribbean and for improving our relationships there.3 (U)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 46, Folder: Latin America, 12/79–1/80. Secret. Printed from an uninitialed copy.
  2. In a January 28 memorandum to Brzezinski, Pastor outlined the security strategy involving the Seabees and a quick-response police force. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Box 28, Latin America, 1–2/80)
  3. Neither option is checked. Owen commented in a memorandum to Brzezinski on January 30, “I have initialed the memorandum, but I want to make clear several caveats,” adding “These four ideas need much more study to say the least.” Owen concluded, “these ideas need more thoughtful analysis, and the President’s sign-off should not prejudge them.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 46, Folder: Latin America, 12/79–1/80)