11. Report Prepared in the Department of State1

No. 785



The developments that have led to the present degree of tension among the West Coast countries of South America extend back over a century. Peru’s current efforts to establish itself as the dominant West Coast power have alarmed its neighbors and have provided a South American foothold for the USSR, which has become Peru’s major supplier of arms since 1973.

Analysis of the available evidence leads to the following conclusions:

—Peru has and will maintain for some time arms superiority, but it will be unable, in our judgment, to effect a definitive shift in the balance of power on the West Coast because (a) it lacks the economic and human resources, and (b) there is no real, imminent, external threat.

—Peru’s arms program will nevertheless spur a costly and divisive arms race with its neighbors and could eventually lead to armed conflict.

—US influence and leverage in this situation is reduced—sharply in comparison with the past. Nevertheless, countries which feel themselves threatened (Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador) look for protection first to the United States and second to the Organization of American States (OAS).

—The roots of any solution over the mid- to long-term lie in South America itself:

—through the efforts (including self-restraint) by the states most directly concerned (i.e., Chile, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia);

—through the efforts of leading South American states (e.g., Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela); and

[Page 47]

—with US support (if not leadership).2

[Omitted here is the body of the paper.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Trip File, Box 29, Mrs. Carter, Latin America and the Caribbean, 5/30–6/13/77: 3/24/77–6/16/77. Confidential. Drafted by Hyman and Estep. Forwarded to Brzezinski under a May 5 covering memorandum from Pastor, who recommended that the report be sent to Mrs. Carter in preparation for her trip to the region. Brzezinski approved the recommendation. (Ibid.) An attached NSC Correspondence Profile indicates that Inderfurth “apparently” forwarded the report to the First Lady. (Ibid.)
  2. In the May 5 covering memorandum to Brzezinski, Pastor wrote: “In a conversation I had at the CIA a couple of weeks ago, several Andean specialists said that one of the factors contributing to the instability of the region is the absolute certainty that the U.S. would not get involved even if the Peruvians launched a preemptive strike. [less than 1 line not declassified] the U.S. would not and should not get involved, [less than 1 line not declassified] if we could just find a way to introduce a doubt in the minds of the Peruvian military, they might be a little more reluctant to do anything rash. Mrs. Carter’s trip to the region provides just such an opportunity.” (Ibid.)