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


  • NSC Weekly Report #144

1. Opinion

Though it is still the honeymoon period, I thought you would be pleased to know that relations between Muskie and myself (and State and NSC) seem to be evolving very well. On substance, we have had no real disagreements, and the one or two minor substantive issues that came up were resolved amicably, e.g., the Middle East speech and the Gromyko letter.2

We had a minor flap involving David’s3 role in preparing the political summit, but this, too, worked out to mutual satisfaction sub[Page 106]stantively and procedurally—e.g. Chris4 delegated to David the task of negotiating out the draft Communique.

Muskie has a good political sense. He factors in the public’s attitudes to a far greater extent than Cy did and has a keener sense of Congressional problems and opportunities.

He also strikes me as being more secure; and at SCC meetings, for instance, he does not convey the impression of resenting my chairmanship. (I often had the feeling that Cy did, and sometimes he even let it come through.) He also readily agreed to my suggestion that SALT discussions be handled by Earle-Dobrynin5 and not on the Secretary of State-Dobrynin level.

I expect the press, and perhaps some staff, will do what they can to stimulate conflict—but somehow my feeling is that it will continue to work out OK.

[Omitted here is information unrelated to the Brzezinski-Muskie relationship.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Box 127, Weekly National Security Reports: 5–7/80. Secret. A handwritten “C” indicates that Carter saw the memorandum. In his memoir, Brzezinski discussed Carter’s organization of his administration: “Ultimately every decision-making system is a creature of the President, and each President has his own distinctive style. Carter’s was perhaps formally the most centralized of all in the postwar era, even though that did not prevent some internal and even public disputes. Nonetheless, it was a system and a process that actively involved the President and his Cabinet-level advisers in day-to-day deliberations and intensive participation in foreign policy decision making. Further, it enabled President Carter toward the end of his term (October 9, 1980) to state quite accurately and with obvious pride: ‛There have been Presidents in the past, maybe not too distant past, that let their Secretaries of State make foreign policy. I don’t.’” (Brzezinski, Power and Principle, p. 74)
  2. A reference to Muskie’s June 9 speech before the Washington Press Club. See the Department of State Bulletin, July 1980, pp. 3–5. For the text of the letter to Gromyko on Afghanistan, see Document 282 in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union.
  3. David Aaron.
  4. Warren Christopher.
  5. Ralph Earle, Chief of the United States Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.