77. Memorandum From Secretary of State Haig to President Reagan1


  • U.S. Foreign Policy in 1982

Despite some unnecessary bumps, and some inherited shocks, I think we got off to a moderately good start in 1981. We placed foreign policy on a new footing, one based less on negotiation per se than on an approach comprising a U.S. effort to rebuild its economic and military strength and close cooperation with key friends and allies. Moreover, we have put Moscow on notice that Soviet and Soviet-proxy behavior which challenged world order would not go without response. In particular, we can point to an appreciably increased defense budget,2 security assistance legislation after a three-year drought,3 a positive vote on AWACS,4 a major (if tenuous) diplomatic achievement in Lebanon,5 and a new [Page 294] relationship with Pakistan—each required considerable effort, and each represented measurable progress.6

The purpose of this memorandum, however, is to look forward. It will examine the major strategic challenges we are likely to face in 1982, and point out what we are likely to have to do to meet them. It goes without saying that events in Poland—and our response to them—could alter much of the following.

Alliances: No single dimension of foreign policy will be as critical as our ability to manage our alliances. Central to this will be our relationship with Bonn, and with Schmidt in particular. Avoiding a major rift, while working to restore U.S. leadership within our alliances, must be a major, even often an overriding, goal. Poland could offer us a major opportunity if we handle it right. A serious falling out would not only distract us from our efforts to restore the strength and self-confidence of our alliances, but it would leave us ill-prepared to meet crises around the world at a time of adverse strategic trends.

Our era is not one in which the United States often can act alone to protect the peace. We no longer enjoy the economic, political, and military pre-eminence we did after World War II. To accomplish the far-reaching goals we have set for ourselves, we must have the active cooperation of our friends. As a result, we must not forsake “multilateralism” for “unilateralism.” Notwithstanding the latter’s attractions, increased unilateralism on our part will only exacerbate strains within our alliances, leading to their decay and to the demise of the order our alliances foster. The freedom of action and the ideological purity of unilateralism will no doubt attract adherents, and in certain crises there may be no alternative to our acting independently; as a general rule, though, we ought to continue to resist this nostalgic impulse.

In Europe, the principal requirement is to manage relations so that our INF deployment goes ahead as planned and that we avoid a Carter-style neutron bomb fiasco.7 The consensus in Europe to proceed remains fragile; our formulation of a more realistic relationship between arms control and defense policy is not widely shared on the Continent. We have captured the imagination of Europe by your proposal to eliminate U.S. and Soviet INF missiles, but disenchantment could build if there is [Page 295] no major progress towards an INF agreement.8 Because lack of progress will lead many in Europe to see the United States with its pristine zero option—and not the USSR—as the obstacle to arms control, we must retain flexibility in these talks and negotiate in good faith. Moreover, we must not only be careful in how we handle INF directly, but also in our dealings with issues (Poland, ERW, chemical modernization, START) which could affect public opinion and political will in Europe.

Similarly, and if Poland does not worsen, we must introduce a START position that is sufficiently fair and simple so that it can be readily understood by Western publics. There is an important distinction between INF and START, however. The prospects for realizing an INF agreement in the near term are dim; the balance of forces is so unequal that despite all the political will on our side the objective preconditions for an agreement could well be absent. By contrast, in START, the balance of relevant forces is such that the chances for a treaty are considerably higher, despite the great momentum of Soviet strategic programs.

The Middle East: True to its history, the Middle East continues to pose the greatest threat to peace. We could face a war in Lebanon, further clashes with Begin, and an autonomy process under Camp David which, in the absence of substantial progress before April, will be in grave trouble. As you know, I will soon be in Israel and Egypt to determine what can be done to foster the autonomy arrangements.9 Despite our best efforts, however, the prospects of realizing any substantial progress on autonomy early in 1982 are relatively small. We will also continue to disagree with our allies over policy towards this region. This should prove manageable (as it has been since the 1973 war) but could nevertheless grow more difficult as the year wears on.

The key factor will likely be our relationship with Israel. Begin is politically safe, in 1982 and beyond. With him in office, it will be difficult to make progress on the Palestinian question. We should not shy away from a political confrontation over how to proceed, but we should try to ensure that it is the U.S., and not Israel, which chooses the subject and timing of any clash. In so doing, it will be important that we be willing to assume a higher profile in the peace process.

Southwest Asia: With AWACS behind us, Iran still unsettled (although unlikely to disintegrate in 1982), and with the results of recent defense budgets beginning to emerge, we ought to move our Southwest Asia [Page 296] strategy from the realm of rhetoric to reality. We plan to press firmly for host nation support in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman, and, to the extent possible, in Turkey and Pakistan. We should also protect those defense dollars dedicated to making the Rapid Deployment Force viable. In short, we must plan and program for the real geopolitical challenge at hand.

Libya: We have succeeded in sensitizing people to the Soviet proxy problem; now we need to follow up our words with actions. We should be willing to go forward with the economic measures planned for Libya if necessary. At the same time, together with other countries or alone, we should continue to prepare to respond to any provocation by Qadhafi.

Central America: 1982 promises to be a turning point for Nicaragua and for much of Central America. Our principal goal should be to frustrate the Sandinistas in their attempt to consolidate power. We should be wary of efforts by the Nicaraguans and their friends to engage us in a “dialogue;” this could hamper our ability to respond vigorously to such developments as Nicaragua’s acquisition of a new generation of Soviet aircraft. We should also continue to increase the pressures on Cuba and provide whatever economic and military assistance is needed to keep El Salvador and its neighbors afloat. The Caribbean Basin initiative will be a central element of our approach.

Africa: Our prospects here may be somewhat brighter. A success in Namibia should create major opportunities to improve our relations with Black Africa. Building a security relationship with Nigeria should become an objective. We should also work to strengthen our position in the Horn and in the Maghreb. More pessimistically, instability in Zaire is a real possibility next year, and here, as in many areas, the quality of our bilateral relationship with France will be decisive.

China: It is difficult to exaggerate what is at stake geopolitically in the China tangle. We must make a major effort to deepen US–PRC relations to reassure Beijing that we do not seek a two China policy, and take steps to institutionalize the US–PRC relationship through arms and technology transfers and regular strategic consultations. It is in our national interest to balance the honoring of our commitments to Taiwan with actions intended to further our strategic ties to Beijing.

The Soviet Union: Although our defense efforts may have begun to convince the Soviets that their window of opportunity will prove short-lived, they are unlikely to capitalize on their strategic advantages by challenging us too brazenly. The Soviets already have their hands full in Poland and Afghanistan, are nurturing a peace offensive in Western Europe and a stagnating economy at home, and continue to demonstrate an aversion to risk taking.

On our part, we should approach Moscow against a backdrop of military renewal, mixing consistent and reasonable public statements with frequent, firm and non-pugnacious private messages aimed at [Page 297] convincing Soviet leaders we are prepared to do business if they moderate their actions. At the same time, it may be possible to promote Soviet caution by creating a sense of unpredictability regarding possible U.S. behavior in selected circumstances. Otherwise, our relations with Moscow ought to be determined less by bilateral initiatives than by our overall foreign policy—maintaining alliance cohesion, promoting regional security, challenging Soviet proxies worldwide and the Soviets themselves in Afghanistan, moving closer to China and so on. We should avoid the extremes of too confrontational rhetoric on the one hand and cosmetic summitry on the other.

The most serious near term danger in East/West terms, however, is the Polish crisis. Clearly the Soviets will attempt to manipulate this Marxist failure in such a way that it converges with their already successful efforts to use the peace offensive and Europe’s nuclear mania to split us from our Western allies. We already see signs of a sweet/sour approach emerging between Europe and the U.S. respectively. We must also be alert to further strictly anti-U.S. (as distinct from anti-Western) challenges in Cuba and elsewhere designed to neutralize Europe, divert attention from Poland and demonstrate to the world U.S. impotence.

Accomplishing all or even most of the above will require an enormous amount of skill, tenacity, and good fortune. Success is also likely to depend upon three other factors closer to home:

Budgets: It is clear that government spending will come under pressure, and that defense and security assistance will be prime targets. But we must preserve these programs which provide the foundation for much if not all of what we seek to do. Your help—for example, a speech later this month explaining to the Congress and the American people the critical contribution our economic and security assistance efforts make to U.S. national security worldwide—would prove invaluable.

The Interagency Process: The emergence of a strengthened and capable NSC staff will prove a major asset, and one which will be welcomed.10

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Profile: Lastly, there is no substitute for a role that only you can fulfill; namely that of educating the public through speeches and appearances, and building support in Congress for our policies. I look forward to working with you, Cap and Bill Clark in this endeavor.

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S Files, The Executive Secretariat’s Special Caption Documents: Lot 92D630, Not for the System Documents January 1982. Secret; Sensitive. Not for the System. Drafted by Haass, cleared by Burt and Stoessel. Bremer sent the memorandum to Clark under a January 11 covering memorandum, writing: “The Secretary asked that it be handled personally by you with the President due to its sensitivity.” (Ibid.) Under a January 13 covering memorandum to the NSC staff, Bailey forwarded a copy of Haig’s memorandum, requesting that staff members provide Bailey with “any substantive comments” on it. (Reagan Library, European and Soviet Affairs Directorate, NSC Records, Subject File, Haig, Secretary of State (5 of 8)) Pipes’s January 15 response to Bailey is printed as Document 78.
  2. Reference is to the Department of Defense Authorization Act (S. 815; P.L. 97–86; 95 Stat. 1099), which the President signed into law on December 1, 1981. The bill authorized $130.7 billion for defense expenditures in FY 1982, $419.4 million above the administration’s request. (Congress and the Nation, vol. VI, 1981–1984, p. 205)
  3. Reference is to the Foreign Assistance and Related Programs Appropriation Act (H.R. 4559; P.L. 97–121; 95 Stat. 1647); see footnote 7, Document 67. The legislation was the first regular foreign aid bill signed into law since 1978. (Congress and the Nation, vol. VI, 1981–1984, p. 136)
  4. See footnote 10, Document 67.
  5. Presumable reference to the July 24, 1981, ceasefire.
  6. The International Security and Development Cooperation Act (S.1196; P.L. 97–113; 95 Stat. 1519; 22 U.S.C. 2151) amended the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (P.L. 87–195) to permit the extension of security assistance to Pakistan. It also allowed the President to waive for Pakistan, until September 30, 1987, the Symington amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (adopted on August 3, 1977), which banned aid to nations dealing with nuclear enrichment technology. (Congress and the Nation, vol. VI, 1981–1984, p. 134) In addition, Congress approved the administration’s proposed sale of F–16 jets to Pakistan; see footnote 6, Document 67.
  7. See footnote 9, Document 10.
  8. Reference is to the “zero option” Reagan discussed in his November 18, 1981, remarks before the National Press Club; see Document 69 and footnote 8 thereto.
  9. Haig was in Cairo, January 12–14, and Jerusalem, January 14–15, to discuss the peace process with Mubarak and Begin, respectively. He returned to Jerusalem, January 27–28, and Cairo, January 28–29, to discuss prospects for Palestinian autonomy talks with Israeli and Egyptian officials, respectively. Documentation on these discussions is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XIX, Arab-Israeli Dispute.
  10. On January 4, Allen resigned as the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs. The President replaced Allen with Deputy Secretary of State Clark. On January 12, the White House released Reagan’s statement on the NSC structure, which read, in part: “The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, in consultation with the regular members of the NSC, shall be responsible for developing, coordinating, and implementing national security policy as approved by me. He shall determine and publish the agenda of NSC meetings. He shall ensure that the necessary papers are prepared and—except in unusual circumstances—distributed in advance to Council members. He shall staff and administer the National Security Council.” (Public Papers: Reagan, 1982, Book I, pp. 18–19) Additional documentation regarding NSC reorganization is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. II, Organization and Management of Foreign Policy.