149. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1

[Omitted here is information unrelated to Panama.]

Panama. It is anticipated that Senator Allen will bring to a vote next Monday2 a so-called “killer” amendment to the Neutrality Treaty, providing as follows:

“. . .That the military presence of the United States in what was the Panama Canal Zone on September 7, 1977, shall be continued beyond December 31, 1999, if the President of the United States deems it necessary for the defense of the Canal or the maintenance of the neutrality thereof and shall prior to December 31, 1999, so certify to the Government of Panama.”

Such an amendment is incompatible with the concept of the Treaties, and we will want to pull out all the stops to defeat it. Warren has talked to Senator Byrd about the device of using a palatable “understanding” to help defeat an unacceptable amendment.3 To that end, [Page 385] we are considering suggesting to one of the uncommitted Senators (perhaps DeConcini) that he state during the debate that he will offer at the appropriate time an understanding along the following lines:

“That Article V does not preclue the two Parties from negotiating, in accordance with their respective constitutional processes, an Agreement providing to the Republic of Panama after the year 2000 such U.S. military assistance as the parties might consider desirable to carry out their mutual responsibilities under Article IV to maintain the regime of neutrality of the Canal, and the United States shall initiate discussions with the Republic of Panama on this subject not later than one year before the expiration of the Panama Canal Treaty.”

[Omitted here is information unrelated to Panama.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 19, Evening Reports (State), 2/78. Secret. Carter initialed the memorandum and wrote: “Cy.”
  2. February 27.
  3. In a February 28 memorandum to Carter, Moore, Beckel, and Thomson reported that Byrd had successfully moved to table the Allen amendment. (Carter Library, Congressional Liaison Office, Bob Beckel’s Subject Files, Box 227, Panama Treaty—Status Reports, 1/27/78–9/19/78 (CF, O/A 425))