294. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant and Counselor, National Security Council Staff (Rodman) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Carlucci)1


  • Presidential Priorities and Initiatives

In your meeting with the senior staff in the Sit Room on Friday, February 27, we discussed compiling a list of priority issues and possible new initiatives that would define a meaty foreign policy agenda for the coming months.2 The staff has provided some good ideas, which I have pulled together in the attached paper.

Somewhat arbitrarily I have grouped them into three categories:

Top Priorities: These are the obvious “big issues,” including areas where the President wants to leave a strong legacy (SDI, freedom [Page 1298] fighters), as well as other issues of major importance where we are fending off disasters (e.g. trade and protectionism). The Venice summit3 and arms control are under this heading as well.
Other Positive Initiatives: These are other issues on which we are in a position to take important positive initiatives if we choose. E.g., Berlin,4 Andean Summit,5 African hunger.
Other Decisions and Issues: These are a third tier of issues on which the USG has to fight for important programs (or against other harmful actions) in the Congress. E.g., the 150 account,6 Biden-Levine.7

In addition, there is a different kind of “priority” that was discussed at our Friday meeting: the President’s need to “win one somewhere.” He needs to reestablish his political clout with the Congress; right now they’re not afraid of him up there. The best candidate may be winning on the $40 million for the contras; also, any deal that may be struck that assures more durable SDI funding.

Omitted are some important issues on which we have policies in place that need to be maintained (e.g., Third World debt strategy, strategic forces modernization, counterterrorism policy, defense management reform) but which do not call for new initiatives at the moment.

Bill Cockell, Fritz Ermarth, Jose Sorzano, Jim Kelly, Hank Cohen, Steve Danzansky, Bob Dean, and Bob Linhard concur.8


That you review the attached and use it in briefing the President.9

[Page 1299]

Tab A

Paper Prepared by the President’s Special Assistant and Counselor, National Security Council Staff (Rodman)10



These are the obvious “big issues.” Some are priority objectives; others are issues on which we are fighting off potentially harmful Congressional actions; some are a combination of both:

We want to institutionalize the SDI program and leave behind a U.S. defense strategy reoriented toward strategic defense. This includes: fighting for increased funding in the Congress and for the bipartisan support that will sustain it over the long term. It means satisfactory resolution of the debates with the Congress over the correct ABM treaty interpretation, a vigorous test program, and a possible decision on incremental deployment.
  • One possible initiative (if opposition from Cap Weinberger can be overcome) would be a bipartisan Presidential commission on defense stability, with some Congressional membership and non-governmental experts to help develop a national consensus on the positive role of strategic defense. Or make use of the existing Long-Term National Strategy Commission, which has a good support staff and mix of people, for this purpose.11
We also want to institutionalize support for the freedom fighters as a lasting legacy. This means:
  • in Central America, winning durable bipartisan support for the contra program, for aid to the region’s democracies, for a sensible diplomatic track, and for additional pressures on Nicaragua and Cuba (as the NSSD paper is examining);12
  • in Afghanistan, maintaining the considerable bipartisan support we have, ensuring the $4.02 billion 6-year aid program for Pakistan, [Page 1300] doing more to assist the Resistance politically as well as militarily, stepping up pressure on the Soviets, working on confidence-building between India and Pakistan, and nurturing our own relations with India. The NSSD will cover many of these issues.13 A Vice Presidential trip to South Asia in April or May may be useful.
  • in Angola, making some decisions (as per the NSSD) that would step up military, political, and economic pressures to disabuse the Soviets, Cubans, and MPLA of any notion that time is on their side;14 and
  • in Cambodia, stepping up our support for the non-Communist resistance while keeping ASEAN in the lead, and continuing to work with ASEAN and the Chinese toward a political solution.
The Venice Economic Summit will highlight the strong ties with our most important allies on political, security, and economic issues. Among other things, this meeting will attempt to tackle head-on the crucial areas of trade and protectionism, particularly in agriculture. But undoubtedly, security issues will also be addressed, and a visible consensus will strengthen our hand with the Soviets.
On trade and protectionism, the main battleground may be the U.S. Congress. Major protectionist legislation in the U.S. could trigger a new cycle of protectionism in the EC and Japan, and dampen trade and growth. Similarly it would choke off Third World export earnings and thereby compound the debt problem with its threat to the international financial system.
  • Our competitiveness approach will help us fend off protectionist pressures; likewise a vigorous role of U.S. leadership in the Uruguay round of GATT negotiations,15 as well as any progress made at Venice.
  • The Nakasone visit in April will require careful preparation, including Congressional groundwork, so that neither alliance issues nor trade problems are seen as worsened.16
Arms reduction and the other issues in U.S.-Soviet relations will continue to be issues of major political importance, not only in the U.S. but in the Western alliance. A satisfactory agreement on INF or START which does not jeopardize SDI would be a major achievement and vindicate this Administration’s realistic approach. Other negotiations (e.g., CW, conventional arms) need to be managed carefully.

[Page 1301]


The President’s visit to Berlin should be the occasion for not only a major speech on East-West relations in Europe but also an important diplomatic initiative on lowering barriers in Berlin. We are working with State on a possible initiative; Ambassador Burt is strongly supportive. We need to accelerate this work because intensive consultations with the UK, France, and FRG are essential before the President can broach any kind of detailed proposal in a speech.
In the Middle East peace process, we have an NSSD and draft NSDD that will guide our strategy.17 There are no home runs to be hit, but we have a sensible strategy of shaping the conditions that could eventually make a negotiation possible:
  • continuing consultations with Israel, Egypt, and Jordan and among them (including visits here by Hussein and Mubarak, Whitehead visit to Cairo),18
  • support for Jordan’s West Bank/Gaza development plan, which strengthens the King’s hand vs. the PLO,
  • a possible trip by Secretary Shultz to the area in May or June after Hussein’s visit.
The Iran-Iraq war calls for more efforts to rebuild confidence in us by the Gulf States and Iraq, helping in various ways to bolster the security of those threatened by Iran, and maintaining steady pressures on Iran. This includes:
  • the possible use of U.S. military resources to assist freedom of navigation (FON) in the Gulf, keeping the Strait of Hormuz open, continuing contingency talks with the Saudis and the Gulf States, and proceeding with modest arms sales. (An important Presidential statement has already been issued,19 contingency talks and planning for FON have begun, and arms sales have been requested).
  • Next steps include approaching the UK and Gulf States on FON, fighting for the arms sales in Congress, continuing diplomatic efforts in the UN Security Council to help end the war, and enunciating our Gulf policy in any Presidential speech on the Mideast.
Planning is proceeding on an Andean Summit on narcotics and terrorism. Our ambassadors in the region believe this is a good idea which will be supported by the five key regional leaders (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela). Finding a venue will be a delicate task but manageable.
  • Ideally, we would aim for a regional “action plan” committing participants to greater cooperation and effort against trafficking, which could also stimulate more collaboration against terrorism.
  • At a minimum, the event would dramatically raise consciousness in the region of the political importance of the problem as a threat to democracy as well as to public health and safety.
A Presidential initiative to combat hunger in Africa is ready to be launched. Last year the President asked an interagency Task Force, chaired by NSC and OPD, to reexamine our aid programs for sub-Saharan Africa to ensure they were efficiently organized to promote economic growth and private-sector development.20 A new program, representing the consensus of the 15 departments and agencies involved, outlines steps to reorient our aid efforts and mobilize the parallel efforts of other donors to stress structural and policy reform in recipient countries—to maximize the effectiveness of whatever levels of aid are available in this era of scarce resources.21
On South Africa, no immediate pressures face us, but the Anti-Apartheid Act will cause us to revisit the sanctions question later this year.22 There is risk in a passive posture and advantage in the President’s preempting the Congress and taking the initiative back into his own hands. The key issue now is the political dimension: our hope to see a political negotiation begin in South Africa that produces a peaceful democratic solution. The NSSD is considering our options:
  • The U.S. may want to declare itself in favor of a framework or set of principles for resolving the South African “power sharing” dilemma. These need not be detailed prescriptions but a set of standards (democracy, constitutional freedoms and guarantees, minority rights, etc.) by which we will judge the outcome and the positions of [Page 1303] the parties, thus putting the ANC as well as the South African government on the spot.
  • We could do this alone or with our allies.
  • A Presidential speech could be the vehicle. Like the September 1, 1982, speech on the Middle East23 it might not bring immediate results but could help define the agenda for all subsequent consideration of the subject, transcending the sterile sanctions debate and put our balanced definition of the issues front and center.
Another possible initiative with a long-term purpose would be to propose wholesale revisions in the National Security Act, to rationalize the USG governmental structure in, particularly, the intelligence field (including a Joint Congressional Committee), to strengthen the laws protecting official secrecy, etc.24
A Presidential “State of the World” message to Congress would be an opportunity to furnish a broad, sophisticated overview of our foreign policy complementing the National Security Strategy Report of January.25 It would attempt to be more than a laundry list of regional and other topics; it should include an analysis of basic trends and an articulation of basic objectives, to make clear what the Reagan Administration really represents and to describe, in effect, the legacy the President wants to leave behind.


Many of these are damage-limitation efforts that have to be made, though some are third-order issues worthy of attention and possible new initiatives.

The 150 account remains a key priority. State has created a public diplomacy effort but the problem calls for increased Presidential involvement. Possible efforts include creation of an NSC-led Function 150 Committee to coordinate administration policy, and a Presidential meeting with a group of leading CEOs to engage them in generating public and Congressional support for our programs.
Congress is moving ahead rapidly to dismantle essential export controls and the Administration needs to stick to its agreed schedule for providing our own alternative legislative package. If we fail to act quickly, Congress will dictate the legislative outcome. The Bonker subcommittee will mark up its legislation as part of the trade bill on [Page 1304] March 18; we should aim at sending up a letter by March 13 including an Administration legislative package and proposed regulatory changes.26 The NSSD exercise has made progress toward an Administration position.27
The Biden-Levine bill on arms transfers is a challenge to the President’s authority to conduct foreign policy and would be a devastating blow to our position in the Middle East in particular. A vigorous White House-led campaign against Biden-Levine is needed to forestall the legislation; it is also an essential part of our effort to restore our credibility among our Arab friends. A veto threat will assert Presidential leadership.
  • At the same time, we must continue a deliberate Congressional notification strategy for pending arms transfers to show our friends we are a reliable supplier and to show Congress we are pursuing a vigorous foreign policy while conducting adequate consultations.
The NSC staff is working on a SecDef proposal to develop a strategy to counter the European left’s assault on NATO defense requirements.28 This study will include a look at how NATO strategy might be updated to capitalize more effectively on technological advances that could help offset Warsaw Pact numerical superiority.
Legislated restrictions on Presidential authority in foreign and defense policy should continue to be opposed as a matter of principle and to highlight the damage done. The restrictions on ASAT testing and CW production are an example. (FCC plans to speak out more on this general theme.)
An effort to restore our UN funding would capitalize on the President’s success in pressing the UN to make major procedural reforms which give the U.S. a much greater role in determining UN policies. This is something the President can now take credit for and it deserves more publicity.
  1. Source: Reagan Library, African Affairs Directorate, NSC Records, Subject File, Presidential Initiatives 1987. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. No record of this meeting has been found.
  3. See footnote 14, Document 289.
  4. The President was scheduled to visit Berlin, June 11–12, to attend its 750th anniversary celebrations and meet with Kohl. The President’s June 12 speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin is printed as Document 303.
  5. Reference is to a proposed summit involving the five Andean leaders and Reagan.
  6. Reference is to budget function 150 appropriations, which allocated funding to finance the operations of the Department, USIA, and BIB.
  7. Reference is to the Arms Export Reform Act of 1987 (S. 419 and H.R. 898), introduced by Biden and Levine, in the Senate and House, respectively, on January 29. The bill specified that a majority in each house would need to approve most weapons sales, “except to close allies.” For additional information, see John H. Cushman, Jr., “Arm Wrestling, as It Were, With White House,” New York Times, January 28, 1987, p. B8.
  8. Rodman initialed concurrence for all officials listed here.
  9. Carlucci did not approve or disapprove the recommendation.
  10. Secret.
  11. Presumable reference to the NSCDOD Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy, co-chaired by Iklé and Wohlstetter. The Commission’s final report was released in 1988; see Discriminate Deterrence: The Report of the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy, January 1988 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1988).
  12. NSSD 2–87, “Central America,” issued January 22. The NSSD is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XV, Central America, 1985–1988.
  13. Presumable reference to the study being prepared in response to NSSD 1–87, “Afghanistan,” issued January 22. The NSSD is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXXV, Afghanistan, November 1985–February 1989.
  14. NSSD 3–87, “Southern Africa,” issued January 22. The NSSD is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXVI, Southern Africa, 1985–1988.
  15. See footnote 3, Document 276.
  16. Nakasone was scheduled to visit the United States, April 29–May 5. Documentation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXXI, Japan; Korea, 1985–1988.
  17. NSSD 4–87, “Middle East Peace Process,” issued January 22.
  18. Whitehead met with Mubarak in Cairo on March 1. Documentation regarding the meeting is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XIX, Arab-Israeli Dispute.
  19. The administration issued two statements on the Iran-Iraq war on January 23 and February 25. Both statements underscored the desirability of maintaining the free flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz and the necessity of supporting the self-defense of allies in the region. For the text of the statements, see Public Papers: Reagan, 1987, Book I, pp. 46 and 181.
  20. NSSD 3–86, “U.S Support for Economic Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa,” issued September 19, 1986, established the terms of reference for the review of U.S. economic programs and policies. The NSSD is published in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XLI, Global Issues II, Document 255.
  21. In a statement released on March 11, Fitzwater indicated that the task force charged with undertaking the interdepartmental review specified in NSSD 3–86 (see footnote 20, above) had completed its work and recommended a plan of action in order to help end hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa. For the text of the statement, see Public Papers: Reagan, 1987, Book I, pp. 236–237.
  22. See footnote 3, Document 279.
  23. See Document 116.
  24. Reference is to the National Security Act of 1947, which Truman signed into law on July 26, 1947. The Act established the National Security Council, which met for the first time on September 26 of that year. For additional information, see Foreign Relations, 1945–1950, Emergence of the Intelligence Establishment, Documents 196–240.
  25. See Document 290.
  26. Reference is to H.R. 3 (H. Rept. 100–576), introduced in the House by Gephardt on January 6. Bonker was the chair of the House Subcommittee on International Economic Policy.
  27. NSSD 7–87, “National and Multilateral Strategic Export Controls,” issued January 30. It is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XLIV, Part 2, National Security Policy, 1985–1988.
  28. Telegram Tosec 10168/8631 to Shultz in Nairobi, January 10, transmitted the text of an action memorandum from Ridgway to Shultz. In it Ridgway referenced a December 30, 1986, letter from Weinberger to Shultz (attached as Tab 2 of the memorandum), in which Weinberger “expressed concern over the emergence in Europe of ‘defensive defense’ and what he saw as a new generation of alternative strategies for the defense of NATO.” Ridgway continued, “He proposed that an appropriate interagency group be tasked with developing a coordinated strategy for meeting this challenge.” She indicated that the Department agreed “with DOD that more needs to be done on the public diplomacy front, but we believe this can be pursued through existing interagency arrangements.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, [no D number])