22. Letter From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter 1

Dear Mr. President:

I have the greatest respect and admiration for you and it is with a heavy heart that I submit my resignation. It has been a privilege and a high honor to serve you and our nation. I look with pride and satisfaction at the many actions and new directions which have marked our foreign policy under your leadership. The Panama Canal Treaty, the Camp David Accords, the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China, the strengthening of our military forces and our alliances, the negotiation of the SALT II Agreement, the Zimbabwe settlement,2 and the new thrust and direction given to our relations with the nations of the Third World are several of these major steps.

I know how deeply you have pondered your decision on Iran.3 I wish I could support you in it. But for the reasons we have discussed I cannot.

You would not be well served in the coming weeks and months by a Secretary of State who could not offer you the public backing you need on an issue and decision of such extraordinary importance—no matter how firm I remain in my support on other issues, as I do, or how loyal I am to you as our leader. Such a situation would be untenable and our relationship, which I value so highly, would constantly suffer.

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I shall always be grateful to you for having had the opportunity to serve. I shall always have for you the deepest respect and affection, and you know you can count on my support for your continued leadership of our nation.

Respectfully yours,

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Agency File, Box 18, State, 1–4/80. No classification marking. The letter was handwritten by Vance.
  2. The Panama Canal Treaty was signed on September 7, 1977. For the statement of understanding, see “U.S.-Panama Statement of Understanding,” Department of State Bulletin, November 7, 1977, pp. 631–634. The Camp David Accords were signed on September 17, 1978. For the text, see “A Framework for Middle East Peace,” Department of State Bulletin, October 1978, pp. 1–11. The Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty was signed on March 26, 1979. For the text, see “Egypt and Israel Sign Treaty of Peace,” Department of State Bulletin, May 1979, pp. 1–15. The Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations Between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China was signed on January 1, 1979, thus normalizing relations between the two countries. For the text of the communiqué, see “East Asia: U.S. Normalizes Relations with the People’s Republic of China,” Department of State Bulletin, January 1979, pp. 25–26. The SALT II Agreement was signed on June 18, 1979. For the text of the treaty, see “SALT II Treaty and Related Documents,” Department of State Bulletin, July 1979, pp.4–47. The Zimbabwe Settlement, also known as the Lancaster House Agreement, was negotiated from September 10 to December 15, 1979. For the text, see Keesing’s Contemporary Archive, Vol. XXVI, 1980, pp. 30165–30177. For a description of the U.S. role, see “Policy Issues: Zimbabwe” in Department of State Bulletin, April 1980, pp. 2–4.
  3. A reference to the planned hostage rescue attempt conducted on April 24. See Document 21.