16. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher) to the Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations (Bennet)1


Following up on our corridor conversation, I am returning the attached memorandum2 regarding the Panama Canal Strategy, in the thought that you may wish to consider it in light of the following developments and comments:

1. The resignation of Foreign Minister Boyd may cause some changes in the details, if not the overall approach, of our negotiating strategy. For example, I have heard a rumor that the Panamanians are now talking about ultimate United Nations approval of any agreement that is reached. This would be a major complication.

2. It seems to me to be difficult and perhaps risky to have very many conversations on Capitol Hill until the new negotiating team returns from its initial conversations, and gives us an initial indication of the current position of the Panamanians. It would be most unfortunate to persuade some of the doubtful Congressmen on a given hypothesis only to find that our negotiating posture has changed. You will know best about this, but it might not be desirable to do more than general backgrounding and “conditioning” until we get further information.

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3. As I mentioned, I have reservations about the style of the proposed letter to the President,3 and as a footnote I might mention that the term “fireside chat” apparently is a casualty of cold winter and fuel shortage.

In any event if you wish, I am inclined to think that there is time for you to reconsider this package and present it to Cy when he returns from his Middle Eastern trip.4 However, should it be useful, I would be glad to meet with you or consider it before then.

  1. Source: Department of State, Principal and S/S Memoranda for 1977, Lot 79D31, Box 1, Principal Memoranda, July–September 1977. Confidential.
  2. Not attached.
  3. Not found.
  4. Vance was in the Middle East February 15–21. Bennet and others forwarded the strategy paper to Vance on March 2. See Document 24.