409. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Protocol I of the Treaty of Tlatelolco (U)

(S) The Department of Defense has reviewed the draft decision memorandum2 on U.S. Adherence to Protocol I of the Treaty of Tlatelolco and prefers Option One with further study to determine the legal and operational implications, particularly for U.S. transit rights in the geographic area of the Treaty.

(S) The DOD does not support the premise that U.S. adherence to Protocol I would not affect the right of U.S. warships and aircraft to conduct transits, port visits, training exercises, and patrols within the Caribbean area. Freedom of navigation which is fundamental to our national security could be jeopardized by adherence to this protocol. The precedent of accepting limitations on U.S. sovereignty over U.S. territory, plus constraints on operational use, deployments, and contingency options in the Caribbean is inadvisable at this time.

(S) To encourage Soviet adherence to Protocol II, the Secretary General of the Latin America Nuclear Weapons Free Zone organization (OPANAL) recently made a new proposal. The new OPANAL formu[Page 1039]lation3 would interpret the treaty as “prohibiting” transit of nuclear weapons through the treaty territory. This interpretation, if accepted, would prohibit transit of U.S. nuclear weapons in the treaty area under Protocol II (Tab D).4

(U) When other requirements for full entry into force of the Treaty of Tlatelolco are fulfilled, the U.S. should re-examine its policy regarding U.S. adherence. Presently there appears to be no compelling reason to accept constraints on U.S. freedom in the Caribbean.

(U) The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff concurs in this matter.

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Records, FRC 330–84–0067, Latin America MWFZ, April 1977. Secret.
  2. See the attachment to Document 406.
  3. Telegram 80379 to Mexico City, April 9, explained that “While we support OPANAL efforts to encourage Soviet adherence to Protocol II, we are concerned by formula reportedly proposed to Soviets by OPANAL Secretary General Gros Espiell as possible basis for such adherence (i.e., interpretative statement that Article I of Treaty of Tlatelolco prohibits transit of nuclear weapons through the territory encompassed by the Treaty). Proposed interpretation,” the Department of State contended, “would be inconsistent with position on transit issue taken by states which participated in negotiation of Treaty of Tlatelolco as well as by us.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770124–1121)
  4. Tab D is not attached.