19. Memorandum From Richard Pipes of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Allen)1


  • Thoughts on Linkage (U)

I agree, in principle, with Carnes Lord’s memorandum of February 13 (attached): it is difficult to see how U.S.-Soviet accords of 1972–1973 could provide viable ground rules for superpower relations. They may certainly be used to embarrass the Soviet Union. But the Soviet Union is in a position to exploit much more effectively this particular propaganda weapon by telling the Allies that such a declaratory policy is merely camouflage to conceal American unwillingness to engage in negotiations and fresh proof of U.S. lack of constancy and serious purpose. That is, while we, by pursuing this line, could tarnish the Soviet image, they could turn it into an effective means of further splitting the Western alliance. (C)

One might more usefully divide general U.S. policy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union along the following lines:

1. Declare that a significant improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations requires Soviet adherence to the accepted norms of international behavior of the kind that the Soviet Government itself has formally subscribed to on numerous occasions, including in the Helsinki Accords; but that

2. Specific agreements with the Soviet Union are possible in any event provided that they are based on genuine reciprocity and are capable of being implemented and verified. (C)

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I do not agree with Carnes Lord that we must not condemn Soviet imperialism in the Third World out of concern that we may be charged with “hypocrisy and double standards” in El Salvador. In El Salvador we have neither troops nor secret services, as the Russians do in South Yemen, Angola or Ethiopia: we are merely trying to prevent the imposition, from the outside, of yet another dictatorial regime. This, in my vocabulary, is anti-imperialism. (C)


Memorandum From Carnes Lord of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Allen) 2


  • Thoughts on Linkage (U)

Secretary Haig’s reported remarks to Ambassador Dobrynin on linkage of arms control and other agreements and Soviet international behavior involve some fundamental policy issues and problems which require attention.3 Unless the Secretary’s position is suitably qualified and moderated, it could cause avoidable damage to important U.S. interests. (C)

The Secretary’s position seems to be to hold the Soviets to a strict interpretation of the Basic Principles of Relations statement of 1972 and the Agreement on Prevention of Nuclear War of 1973, and make any kind of agreement in arms control or trade contingent on compliance with them. Apparently, he would consider Soviet activities in Africa as well as Afghanistan in violation of these agreements. There are several issues here:

—Is it not desirable to distinguish between kinds of Soviet intervention in the Third World? The invasion of Afghanistan is qualitatively more serious than Soviet actions in Africa both by its magnitude and its illegitimacy (ill-disguised invasion as distinct from assistance to real governments). (C)

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—Is it not desirable to distinguish between kinds of agreements? Some arms control agreements (particularly SALT but also MBFR) have a large political dimension and are of necessity linked with the international behavior of the parties; others are largely technical in character, can be useful to the U.S. under almost any international circumstances and have very low political salience (for example, the nuclear accidents agreement of 1971 or a prospective anti-satellite warfare agreement). (C)

—Is it not desirable to avoid reviving expectations that the Soviets will ever agree to a code of international conduct forbidding all assistance to “national liberation movements,” or that if they did agree (as in the early 1970s) it would be worth anything? There may be some political mileage to be gained from redefining “detente” in this way and using it against the Soviets, but they have been much more adept than we in that game, and it is arguably better simply to bury the idea. (C)

—A blanket rejection of negotiation with the Soviets unless they renounce all activity in the Third World will cause considerable turmoil among the West Europeans, and could accelerate the split between the U.S. and its allies on defense, arms control and other East-West issues. (C)

—A blanket condemnation of Soviet intervention/interference in the Third World is double-edged: it can be used to condemn U.S. involvement in El Salvador, for example, and in general exposes the U.S. to charges of hypocrisy and double standards. (C)

In general, undiscriminating opposition to Soviet imperial activities is liable to weaken the U.S. case against any particular move by the Russians. It seems especially important to stress the uniqueness of the Afghan intervention: it is not business as usual for the Soviets—or for the U.S. (the Vietnam analogy obscures the fact that we were invited in by a real government). This suggests the thought that further arms control negotiations (at any rate in the major areas) should be linked to a resolution of the Afghan situation, but not to Soviet withdrawal from Africa. The larger point is that the U.S. should concentrate its fire on those cases where the Soviets are in flagrant violation of international law and custom, while opposing other Soviet activities in their own terms (i.e. counter-intervention in Africa, Latin America, etc.). This course should be both more effective with third countries and more difficult for the Soviets. (C)

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Pipes Files, CHRON 02/06/1981–02/18/1981. Confidential. Sent for information.
  2. Confidential. Sent for information. Copied to Schweitzer and Kramer. Nance forwarded the memorandum to Pipes under an undated handwritten note: “Dr. Pipes—Before this paper goes in to Dick, request you give us your thoughts.” An unknown hand wrote “2/17/81” beneath Nance’s signature. (Ibid.)
  3. See Document 16.