7. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1

1. Panama Canal Negotiations: I am encouraged by the progress that we are making in preparing for the Panama Canal negotiation. At the PRC meeting this morning2 we agreed to recommend to you that:

a. The Tack-Kissinger principles should be reaffirmed as the basis for further negotiations;3

b. We should commence negotiations within the first two weeks of February;4

c. We should accept the year 2000 as the termination date of the treaty;5 and

d. We should not attempt to hammer out our final position before starting negotiations, but should have our negotiators explore on a what-if basis what the Panamanians would be prepared to give on the remaining issues if we agreed to the year 2000.6

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All of these recommendations will come to you for decision promptly in a Presidential Decision Memorandum.7

After my meeting next Monday with Foreign Minister Boyd,8 I recommend that we publicly reaffirm the Tack-Kissinger principles9 for dealing with the Panama Canal talk and state that our negotiators will resume negotiations in the first or second week of10 February.

I was most favorably impressed by the Chiefs’ attitude this morning. George Brown is prepared publicly to support the Administration’s position and the Chiefs’ willingness to help with Congress, press and public opinion will be essential to achieving the broad national support that we must obtain.11

I spoke with Cranston. Cranston has contacted all 17 Democrats who signed the Thurmond resolution last time and has commitments from 15 to delay, at least until the progress of the new negotiations can be evaluated. This includes, for example, Harry Byrd and Jim Allen.

Cranston believes Thurmond will not introduce the resolution unless he has one-third of the Senate plus one—enough to block the Treaty. He therefore recommends that you not call anyone at this time.12

The last procedural question I am wrestling with is to try to find a way to get Sol Linowitz on board as Co-Negotiator without having the Senate hold formal hearings on his nomination that would quickly turn into a wide ranging debate on the Panama issue of the kind that we should avoid for the time being.13

[Omitted here is information unrelated to Panama.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 17, Evening Reports (State) 1/77–2/10/77. Secret. A note on the document reads: “The President has seen.” Carter initialed the memorandum and wrote: “cc: Vance.”
  2. See Document 6.
  3. Carter wrote: “Tack out traded Kissinger to begin with” under this sentence. For the Tack-Kissinger principles, see footnote 10, Document 3.
  4. Carter wrote: “ok” under the sentence. Negotiations resumed February 15.
  5. Carter wrote: “ok” under the sentence.
  6. Carter wrote: “Be tough” under the sentence.
  7. Carter wrote: “ok” under the sentence. In a January 27 memorandum to Carter, Brzezinski indicated that a presidential directive was not necessary because further discussions in the PRC would be scheduled after Vance met with Boyd on January 31. (Carter Library, National Security Council Institutional Files, Box 59, PRC 770001—1/27/77—Panama)
  8. See Document 9.
  9. Carter underlined the phrase “publicly reaffirm the Tack-Kissinger principles” and wrote “Why?” in the right margin. On a copy of the Tack-Kissinger principles, Carter commented on principles 2 and 8. Regarding the elimination of the concept of perpetuity and the establishment of a fixed termination date, Carter wrote: “with mutual defense commitment—unilaterally implemented.” Regarding the possibility of new projects to enlarge canal capacity should the canal not be able to handle demand, Carter wrote: “should not promise new canal to be in Panama.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 17, Evening Reports (State) 1/77–2/10/77)
  10. Carter underlined the phrase “resume negotiations” and wrote “ok” in the right margin.
  11. Carter wrote: “C” in the margin.
  12. Carter wrote: “good” in the right margin.
  13. Carter wrote: “discuss Sat. mtg.” in the right margin.