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


  • Response to Thurmond’s Fears2

On the eve of your trip, Thurmond’s “sense of apprehension” is predictable, but not justified by the facts.

He is concerned that Panama’s Foreign Ministry Communique and its instrument of ratification circumvent the letter and the spirit of the Senate’s Treaty. This is not true.

First of all, the Communique is a statement of the government, but not legally binding like a treaty. Secondly, while it clearly expresses concern with certain reservations—notably DeConcini and Nunn—it does not repudiate or reject anything in the Treaty.

With regard to Panama’s instrument of ratification, it contains two understandings and a declaration. The first Panamanian understanding reaffirms the commitments of both countries to certain provisions regarding non-intervention contained in the UN and O.A.S. charters. The second provides that action to maintain the Neutrality Treaty be [Page 453] done in a manner consistent with the “principles of mutual respect and cooperation.”

The declaration states that Panama’s independence is “guaranteed by the unshakeable will of the Panamanian people,” who will reject any attempt at intervening in their internal affairs. We do not have any problems with these, and State has reviewed them with the Senate leadership, who also accepts them.

Thurmond makes three requests:

(1) That you make the instruments of ratification public immediately. Warren Christopher will brief the press on the documents at 11:30 tomorrow, but we intended to keep an embargo on the documents until the Friday3 ceremony, and the Panamanians prefer it like that. If you decide to release them immediately, we need to coordinate it with the Panamanians first, and they may be a little suspicious of our trying to move the timing forward. If we release the documents immediately, it is likely to generate some controversy in the U.S. and Panama and provide more time for the opposition to try to halt the trip.

Should we release them on Thursday after consulting with the Panamanians?4

Or on Friday?5

(2) That you refuse to sign the documents “without ironclad and public assurances from Panama that they have fully embraced” the Senate’s treaties. Thurmond evidently is unaware that in the act of signing of the Protocol of exchange by you and Torrijos, he formally accepts all the amendments and reservations in the Senate’s treaties.

(3) That you inform the American people of Panama’s assurances. If you think this request is necessary, we could just include a brief reference in your ratification ceremony statement that the exchange of instruments and the signing of the Protocol signifies Panama’s full acceptance of the Senate’s treaty and our full acceptance of Panama’s treaty. Should we include such a reference?6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Trip File, Box 13, President, Panama, 6/16–17/78: Cables and Memos, 6/14–16/78. No classification marking. Carter initialed and wrote on the top-right of the memorandum: “Prepare nice reply to ltr—based on your memo—LMS.”
  2. Thurmond’s June 13 letter expressing his concerns with the proposed exchange of the instruments of ratification relating to the treaties is attached but not printed. Carter’s June 16 letter in response to Thurmond is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Box 41, Pastor, Country, Panama, 6/15–30/78.
  3. June 16.
  4. Carter checked the “no” option.
  5. Carter checked the “yes” option.
  6. There is no indication of approval or disapproval of the recommendation, but Carter wrote in the right margin: “Let State do this—speaking for me.”