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


  • Your OAS Speech

Attached is your OAS speech which Jim Fallows and Bob Pastor worked on.2 It incorporates comments we received from the State Department today, and I think you will find it a useful description of the state of our relations with Latin America at this time.

Under Secretary of State Newsom has raised just one point in dissent, and I wanted to bring it to your attention. He is concerned, on pages 4 and 5, that we may be over-extending ourselves in the peacekeeping area, pledging our involvement in three extremely diffi [Page 136] cult disputes.3 He is concerned that we may be raising expectations that could not easily be satisfied.

Of course, you have made all of the points in those two pages either in private conversations with each country’s leaders, or in letters to them. I believe there are several important reasons why you should publicly state your position:

—First of all, all of the countries in the region are looking for our leadership and have asked for our help.

—Secondly, for the first time, you make clear that the “hard decisions can only be made” by the parties concerned; we will only be helpful to that effort.

—Thirdly, these issues, particularly Bolivian access, are among the Hemisphere’s most important since the Canal Treaties were ratified.4 Bolivia has obtained a seat on the United Nations Security Council and plans to take its case to the United Nations in every possible form, just as Panama had done. It would be to our interest to be put on the record at this time.

—It would enhance your moral standing in the Hemisphere since everybody acknowledges the goal of Bolivia’s getting access to the sea; they only disagree on how to do that.

—Lastly, the 100th anniversary of the War of the Pacific has been causing anxiety tremors throughout the region for the last two years, and this is likely to increase as we approach 1979. Your public statement of concern—like Mrs. Carter’s visit—will be a sign of U.S. interest in stability in the region and peaceful resolution of that dispute.

State is concerned that our offer of help is open-ended, and is therefore reluctant to make it. I believe that the time is ripe for such a statement, and it would be viewed as perhaps the most important part of your statement. I therefore recommend that you keep the relevant passages in; if you find Newsom’s concern warranted, you could accommodate it by merely deleting the final sentence on page 4 and the first full paragraph on page 5. I do hope, however, that you will retain that portion of the speech, since I think it is one of the most valuable parts of the speech.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 58, Organization of American States, 5/77–1/81. Confidential. Brzezinski wrote “6–20–78” and “10:19 pm” in the top right-hand corner of the memorandum.
  2. An outline of the speech, dated June 19, is attached but not printed; the text of the speech is not attached. Carter’s remarks at the opening of the OASGA on June 21 are printed in Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 1141–1146.
  3. The three disputes were “Bolivian access to the sea, the Honduras–El Salvador border dispute, the future of Belize.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, p. 1142)
  4. The Senate ratified the Neutrality Treaty on March 16 by a vote of 68 to 32. On April 18, the Senate ratified the Panama Canal Treaty by an identical margin.
  5. In the speech, Carter stated: “I pledge today my Government’s willingness to join in the effort to find peaceful and just solutions to other problems.” He further stated: “The difficult decisions in their region can only be made by Bolivia, Peru, Chile. But we stand ready with the Organization of American States, the United Nations, and other countries to help find a solution to Bolivia’s land-locked status that will be acceptable to all parties and will contribute to the permanent peace and development of the area.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book I, pp. 1142–1143)