305. Information Memorandum From the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Solomon) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • Diplomatic Strategy for the Next Twelve Months

We face a year of major challenges in our foreign relations. Not only are the issues intractable on their own terms, but our room for maneuver will be increasingly constrained by two interrelated factors—time, and the American domestic political situation. Whatever the outcome of the 1988 election, a new Administration will take office in 1989. We have seventeen months remaining to complete the President’s agenda. In fact, the timeframe for active policy engagement is probably not much more than 12 months in duration i.e. until the candidates are chosen and the campaign begins in September 1988.

As the Presidential political race heats up. Domestic politics will increasingly impact on the Administration dealings with foreign governments and Congress. Inevitably the focus will shift over the next year from this Administration and its policies to speculation and anticipation of the policies of the Presidential candidates. Simply put by the spring of next year the Administration will find it increasingly difficult to generate the required public/Congressional support for major foreign policy initiatives, no matter how imaginative, if they are not grounded in current policy or so non-controversial as to command wide public/Congressional support, (or at least not to generate strong opposition).

This does not mean that we should feel paralyzed or that this is already a lame duck Administration. It does mean that we must adopt a sharply focused, concrete foreign policy agenda—one that has some realistic prospect for progress over the next year. This can be done. Major elements of the President’s agenda are still on the table and hold the prospect of significant progress. Further, several difficult issues have been in play for some time and they must be addressed vigorously if they are not to worsen.

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Following is a summary outline of the major foreign policy issues which we believe hold the greatest potential for progress in the next year, as well as those issues and crisis situations which will demand close foreign policy management by you and the President:

Arms Control—The US-Soviet Relationship: There is a reasonable prospect of progress on the arms control negotiations with the Soviets and a subsequent summit. If we succeed in the INF negotiations, make progress on START and pull off a successful summit this will be a central accomplishment of this Administration. If we fail, the management of the US-Soviet relationship as well as the international political fallout will demand careful handling.
Managing the Alliance: Whatever the outcome of our dealings with the Soviets, management of our NATO Alliance relationship will be of central concern. Policy decisions on significant Alliance issues—particularly conventional arms controland new directions for the Alliance will not wait on a new administration. Prospects for greater intra-European security cooperation will necessitate careful management on our part. Our bilateral relationship with the FRG—from arms control to German interest in launching a “second stage” of detente—will require special attention.
Persian Gulf: We are in a crisis situation in the Persian Gulf with no likely relief in the near term. There are no simple or easy solutions to our confrontation with Iran or the Iran-lraq war, but it remains in our interest to find ways to ease the confrontation in the Gulf. We must continue to marshal allied support for our own actions and look for transition arrangements that would reduce the threat to Gulf shipping and lower our own military profile in the region—in part by internationalizing a regime of security for shipping in the Gulf.
Central America: We will face major decisions in the near term on how to deal with the Central America. These will demand early policy decisions, and over the next year we foresee a period of major political tests requiring greater diplomatic flexibility on our part as well as a game plan giving more prominence to the diplomatic track while keeping the Contras in being and securing needed Congressional support.
Afghanistan: The Soviets are hurting in Afghanistan. We see a possibility that the continued military success of the resistance, coupled with more diplomatic pressure and, hopefully, greater pragmatism in the Gorbachev Kremlin may finally lead the Soviets to consider realistically ways of disengaging.
Dealing With the New Japanese Leadership: Nakasone steps down this fall; and our relationship with Japan is too important to allow a chill to set in or adrift in the relationship. Consequently, we will need close [Page 1402] constructive relations with Nakasone’s sucessor on the entire spectrum of problems in the relationship.
Middle East Peace Process: Given Israel’s contemporary political scene, it is unlikely that support can be mustered for an international conference in the coming 18 months. However, we must continue to associate ourselves visibly with active efforts to further the peace process and not lose the momentum that has been created in recent years.
Southern Africa: There is little prospect for dramatic change in the Southern Africa situation over the next year. At the same time we must remain actively engaged in bringing change in South Africa, as well as counter Soviet influence where it is already entrenched.
International Economic Issues: There are a surfeit of continuing economic problems demanding high level attention including the continuing effort against protectionism, improving the international economic climate, and debt repayment.
Foreign Affairs Resource Shortfalls: Threatening our ability to handle any of these major policy issues, and indeed the Department’s ability to function effectively, is the foreign affairs resource crisis. Unless we are blessed in the next month with a Congressional miracle, we will face major shortfalls in funding both for the Department and the foreign affairs budget. These budget reductions will threaten our foreign policy objectives across the board—Central America, Africa, the UN, base negotiations and key bilateral relationships. A major priority must be to restore sufficient funds to continue our foreign affairs programs. If we do not succeed we will not have the tools to do our job.

In summary, the verdict is still out on the Administration’s foreign policy record. If we can show success or significant progress in such areas as Central America, Afghanistan or in the management of the Soviet relationship, the balance sheet will be strongly positive. And by successfully managing the range of issues outlined above, the Administration will leave to its successors a strong record of foreign policy achievements.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/P Files, Memoranda and Correspondence from the Director of the Policy Planning Staff to the Secretary and Other Seventh Floor Principals: Lot 89D149, S/P Chrons AUGUST 1987. Secret. Drafted by Daniel O’Donohue, who initialed for Solomon.