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313. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • Assessment of US Arms Transfer Policy (C)

Cy and Harold have forwarded an assessment of the arms transfer policy established in PD–13 (Tab A).2 They conclude that the policy should be retained, since it supports our national objectives in arms restraint and has resulted in a coordination process that ensures a wide range of factors are taken into account in all major arms transfer cases. (C)

However, the Secretaries do note that, despite measurable restraint on the part of the US, the total volume of worldwide transfers has not diminished. As a result, they intend to recommend in the near future that no further unilateral reductions be made in the current arms transfer ceiling unless there is progress in our multilateral restraint efforts. They also caution that a number of decisions may be required shortly involving exceptions to PD–13. (S)

I agree with the Secretaries’ assessment. Given the high political stakes involved, now is not the time to step away from the policy, or to conduct a fundamental policy review. However, you could suffer domestic and international political damage if you continue to be perceived as consistently withholding US arms from markets that the Soviets and other suppliers are quick to fill. The fact of higher sales worldwide since the issuance of PD–13 makes it appear that the end result of US unilateral restraint is the encouragement of increased sales by other countries. (C)

Therefore, without abandoning PD–13, we need to take steps that will signal to the Soviets and others that we are reaching the limit of our patience with their total lack of cooperation in global arms transfer restraint. You will receive a series of follow-on memoranda suggesting specific steps that might be taken, beginning with the Secretaries’ forthcoming memorandum on the FY 80 ceiling. (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Defense/Security, Box 2, Conventional Arms Transfers. Secret. Sent for information. In the upper right-hand corner, Carter wrote “Zbig—I won’t be eager to change the policy. J.”
  2. See Document 312. On September 11, Brzezinski sent a letter to Brown and Vance informing them that Carter had read their memorandum. He wrote “You should be aware that he [Carter] added a note to me, ‘I won’t be eager to change the policy’.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harold Brown Papers, Box 78, 1977 Arms Transfer/FMS Policy)