Press Briefing in Plains, Georgia
Governor Carter. This will be the last issues session this week. We intend to schedule others for future learning processes for myself and Senator Mondale.
Today we had a joint discussion about foreign affairs. We emphasized the point that we are trying to learn as much as we possibly can about the interrelationship between our nation and others so that we can present to the world a foreign policy that is understood by the American people, which is predictable, and which has an acknowledged purpose, which can have bipartisan support, which can regain the trust of other nations in our country and which can accurately represent the character of the American people.
We had specific discussions about the African nations, and particular emphasis today throughout the discussions on the developing nations of the world. Those who have been most sadly neglected in our own nation's emphasis in the past few years under Presidents Nixon and Ford and Mr. Kissinger. I think this is the first time, certainly, that any Presidential candidate has ever spent so much time studying the particular problems of the developing nations, but there is a very legitimate reason for it because of the past neglect and because of the importance—the crucial nature—for the future. We discussed our relationship on an East-West basis specifically, of course, with the People's Republic of China and with the Soviet Union. We discussed the Middle East and the Mediterranean area, and within the special framework of the developing nations discussion, in addition to Africa we discussed countries in our own hemisphere.
We also tried to analyze the proper interrelationship derived from the Monday meeting between correlating defense policy establishment and foreign policy—our political interrelationship with other countries. We discussed some creative approaches to SALT II talks and we were particularly concerned in the Middle East in emphasizing the fact that without a complete confidence in our own government position on the Middle Eastern question, within Israel, that there can be no, or very little, possibility of an ultimate settlement in the Middle East. In other words, we have to have a consistent, unshakable, unchanging commitment of support for Israel, and with that understanding and acceptance within the Israeli nation that we can have a good hope for peace in the Middle East
We also discussed our relationship with South Africa, and Rhodesia, with an understanding that there would be no yielding on our part on the issue of human rights and majority rule.
The other point that we did discuss was South America. The fact that we should get away permanently from an attitude of paternalism or punishment or retribution when some of the South Americans didn't yield to our persuasion. There was a great revelation, to me at least, that within the Third World nations, the developing world, the unique leadership role that has been played by Mexico, Venezuela, and other Latin American leaders. I think the Latin American nations must be treated as individuals. They must be recognized as far as their own worldwide leadership capabilities of influence. And to treat them in a paternalistic manner, or just in the hemispheric relationship, would be a mistake. Perhaps Senator Mondale would like to add a point or two, and then we'll answer some questions.
Senator Mondale. One of the other matters discussed was the very crucial importance of establishing and maintaining an ongoing high-level consistent relationship with our traditional allies in Western Europe, in Japan, and in Canada. This is the bedrock of American foreign policy, and that the administration ought to have that in mind at the highest level of priorities at all times. I think that is a crucial part of any kind of foreign policy that represents the best interest and ideals of the American people.
We also talked about the crucial need to put a ceiling, not just on strategic arms where we think much lower ceilings are clearly needed, but also a similar ceiling on the arms transfer of tactical armaments.
Right now, as you know, the United States is the leading arms sales country in the world. But in order to put that kind of restriction on the transfer of arms, there must be an agreement reached between the Soviet Union, between other countries such as West Germany, England, which sell armaments, but also with the consuming countries, because this is a matter which arms purchasing nations around the world have a direct interest. And it would be our hope that we could move toward some international agreement between those who sell arms and those who buy arms to bring a dramatic reduction in the amount of the tragic, expensive, arms sales that go on in the world today.
Q. Governor, did you carry forward in any more specific detail today the ideas that you expressed earlier in the foreign policy addresses?
Governor Carter. No, a lot of these people have helped me in the past in the preparation of those speeches. One that we did talk about quite frequently was my speech in New Jersey on the Middle East and the fact that this was an adequate expression of my concern at this point. We did discuss some failures of the Ford and Nixon Administrations in dealing with the European nations, in dealing with the Latin American nations, and I've expressed some corrective action there. The excessive sales of American arms overseas, the failure in Cambodia, the failure in Angola, and the failure in Cypress. And how to avoid similar mistakes in the future. We are planning— Pm planning, to make additional foreign policy speeches in the future on world food supplies, on East-West relationships (that is our relationship with the Peoples Republic of China and the Soviet Union) and also between ourselves in the Northern Hemisphere and the developing nations in the Southern Hemisphere. There may be other particular subjects that I will choose, but those three speeches are already in preparation.
Q. We've heard all week that you've talked about how you desire to establish some kind of predictability in government—in economic policy and foreign policy—you were criticized during your term as governor as being intractable—do you think there is a danger of locking yourself into a policy that may be dictated by events that you can't foresee.
Governor Carter. I don't believe so, I think the best way to be predictable is first of all to have a clearly understood policy that has been worked out through direct bilateral negotiations with individual nations and also which is understood by and hopefully supported by the American public and also the Members of Congress and other leaders. All these elements that I just described to you as prerequisites for predictability are now absent.
Q. Why would a country like, for example, Saudi Arabia, which buys arms, because it doesn't manufacture them and thinks it needs them, be interested in signing up for a treaty that would restrict the transfer of tactical arms?
Governor Carter. Well, that's a point that Senator Mondale made, but I don't think that he was talking about the consuming nations agreeing among themselves particularly, to refrain from buying weapons. I think the initiation has got to be from us, hopefully with the joint cooperation of the Soviet Union, the European nations and others who sell arms. That would have to be the first step. And then as we agree to reduce the rate of delivery of arms overseas, then through bilateral relationships, or by decisions based on the furtherance of our own foreign policy, we could decide which nations would have the greatest reduction in arms sales from us to them.
Q. You have a China expert here—Professor Oksenberg. And the Chinese Government has seemed to be saying recently that they want closer relationships with the United States but there hasn't been much movement in that direction. Was anything discussed about possibly bringing about closer ties to China?
Governor Carter. Yes. We discussed the fact that since the initial opening up of direct relationships between our nation and China as a result of President Nixon's visits, and Secretary Kissinger's visits, that the relationships have probably become stalemated or even deteriorated to some degree. We did discuss at some length the special problem that derives from the competition between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, and how our increase in friendship or sales policy toward the People's Republic would affect our relationship with the Soviet Union, and the fact that we had to be careful and to have this relationship well understood either through private information or through public statements. But I think we do have an opportunity to increase our friendly relationships with the People's Republic of China within that framework.
Q. About Southern Africa—since it seems to be one of the problems that demonstrates the limitations not only of American power but even of influence. It's all right to deplore apartheid but after that, what could you do that's useful. There's a great debate as to whether you press too hard or maintain reasonably friendly relations with the Republic of South Africa. Which way is your thinking tending?
Governor Carter. We've had a national policy over a span of several administrations that supports the concept of majority rule in all nations of the world, including our own. I think we also have an increasing awareness of a crisis developing in Rhodesia. I think to a lesser extent in South Africa. I think that we ought to recognize as one aspect of the question the multinational interest in the southern part of Africa in dealing with South Africa.' Because there is to a substantial degree, the nations surrounding South Africa are dependent, economically speaking, on the progress made in South Africa—economically. Second, South Africa has unwarranted influence in that region on other countries, in some respects. They have a major role to play in the resolution of the Rhodesian crisis.
I don't know the answer to what we ought to do, specifically.
We ought to try to shape our own policies in accordance with what is best for the majority of people in individual nations. We should continue to constrain our relationships with South Africa to encourage the move toward majority rule. We should use South Africa's good offices in trying to resolve the Rhodesian question which might be of a more crucial nature in achieving a majority rule, and overall, never forget that in Africa, in particular, we've got the overriding question of human rights which still has a long way to go.
I think our country has established through its own experience in race relationships, and particularly in the South, an understanding of this very sensitive issue. How to deal with black and white people within the same community so that both the blacks and whites will be well served. There is no doubt in my mind that in the South, although we feared the elimination of segregation or apartheid here, that the results of this elimination of racism—racial separation—has been good for both black and white people. And with that special knowledge in our own country I think we might be a help in Africa in the resolution of that question. I don't know how to answer your question better than that. I think that in general, is what we want to do.
Q. Can you give us some ideas of the innovations you have in mind, the innovative approaches you have for SALT?
Governor Carter. No. I'm not qualified to give information about specific aspects of the SALT talks. I understand that we have had good progress made in the SALT talks with the major problem being the backfire bomber and the cruise missile. And I think that is generally accepted knowledge—that's not confidential information. Other than that statement I don't know how to give the technical mechanisms by which the SALT II talks might be improved. But I'm not qualified to answer your question—that's my problem.
Q. A further question about arms sales. In the absence of an agreement between the purchasing and the selling nations, are arms sales a proper instrument of American foreign policy—can we afford not to sell arms, conventional arms, abroad?
Governor Carter. We can certainly afford to reduce our sales of arms abroad. I think in the last 10 years we have increased arms sales from about $1 billion a year to about $12 billion per year. And my hope would be that we could get a multinational agreement to limit arms sales to reduce the threat of war. In the absence of that agreement, my next preference would be a series of bilateral agreements, and in the absence of that kind of progress, then I would not hesitate as President to assess unilateral reduction of arms sales overseas, making decisions on individual countries in the way that I thought best, and that the Congress thought best, to effectuate our adopted foreign policy.
Q. Do you have anything further on the kinds of constraints you were talking about placing on South Africa?
Governor Carter. I'm not qualified to give those statements now. I wish you would let me wait until I make my North-South speech. We are working on some of those things, and I could name two or three but they may not be the most important ones. I'm not trying to avoid your question. I just don't want to list a partial series of actions to be taken.
As you know, as Andy Young pointed out inside—and he's made several trips to South Africa—the changes that took place in the South were brought about substantially by the interrelationship of government and the private sector. The South never integrated its schools as long as the pressure came strictly from HEW.
But once the business and professional community decided, specifically say in Atlanta, that this was a good thing, economically and socially, for black and white people—when that occurred—there was an alleviation of tension and a movement very rapidly toward the resolution of the racial problem in the South. And obviously the heavy investments that we now have by the private sector in industrial opportunities, and in banking, for instance, is a possible mechanism that we might use jointly with government to help bring about that kind of persuasion. But that would be one of the illustrative points that would be beneficial in my opinion.
Q. You said in the past that you wanted to establish a relationship with Vietnam to provide a full accounting for MIA's. I understand that Senator [ric] Montgomerys congressional committee that has been set up to look at this problem concluded just this week that our MIA's were probably dead. In other words, they drew a line. Are you prepared to believe that now we ought to proceed on that basis? And how would that effect your thinking?
Governor Carter. I would insist that there would be an additional accounting. The fact that someone is dead to me is not adequate so long as the Vietnamese government has information about how that person died and where they died and where they might be buried. I think the major concern among those families who have members who are missing in action—and we have many of them in Georgia, as you know, because of our heavy concentration of military bases—is the uncertainty about it. And when I'm satisfied that the Vietnamese Government has made a complete accounting of those who are missing in action, whether they be alive or dead, that would be the prerequisite that I described.
Q. Would you expect the Vietnamese to know in every instance? In many cases, they wouldn't know either.
Governor Carter. I understand that. I said to the extent that I'm convinced that they have given us the information they have. That would be a subjective judgment that would be required.
Q. Are you also interviewing people for possible positions in your administration if you are elected?
Governor Carter. No, I'm not interviewing anybody for possible positions if I'm elected and I don't intend to make that sort of interview at all between now and the election day. Obviously as I meet with people who give me advice on defense, or welfare, or tax reform or foreign affairs, I assess their qualities and their knowledge and their methods of expressing themselves, their compatibility with me and so forth, and that would be one of the mechanisms that I would use to decide ultimately whom I might chose to help me in various positions, but I'm certainly not in a role of trying to choose anyone yet.
Q. Four of the last Presidents, including the present one, were all Members of Congress, and while there complained bitterly about excessive use of executive privilege. Once they got into the White House, they defended it. You complained about secretiveness from Secretary of State Kissinger. Is it possible to define the limits of executive privilege, so that Congress would not have to resort to subpena every time there's a contest?
Governor Carter. Yes, I noticed today that there was in the news a movement toward the passage of a sunshine law. I think the House has now passed a weaker version of the sunshine law compared to what the Senate did. I favor the very strong Senate bill that was passed. In fact, an even stronger one. And by Executive order, early in my administration I will open up as much as I can the Executive Branch of government to public scrutiny. It's a commitment that I've made and I will carry out that commitment enthusiastically.
Jimmy Carter, Press Briefing in Plains, Georgia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347627