When Jimmy Carter became president in January 1977, he took office with the stated objective of making both US domestic and foreign policy more humane and morale. The ambitious foreign policy objectives would be reached through addressing global issues such as human rights, economic development in third world countries, environmental problems and reduction of world-wide transfers of conventional weapons. During the presidential campaign and his first year in office, Carter committed himself to trying to reduce the world’s arms trade. This policy was planned to be realized through unilateral measures and multilateral negotiations, and by rationalizing the Executive Branch’s arms transfer decision-making process.
The Administration worked out a conventional arms transfer restraint policy presented in May 1977 as Presidential Directive 13 (PD-13). PD-13 set out six unilateral control mechanism designed to reduce American sales of military material. The restrictions applied for all weapon importing states except NATO members, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.
The thesis focuses on two main questions: a) to what extent was the arms transfer restraint policy followed up in practice; and b) if it was not fully implemented, why?
Carter hoped that unilateral restraint combined with multilateral negotiations and comprehensive agreements would result in other weapon producing states following USA’s lead. Because the arms transfer restraint policy was planned based upon both unilateral measures and multilateral negotiations, the thesis looks at both aspects of the subject. How they affected each other, and to what extent the unilateral arms control measures rested upon success in negotiating multilateral restraint regimes. The only major arms supplier the Carter Administration managed to involve in serious discussions on the topic was the Soviet Union. The Conventional Arms Transfer Talks between the two superpowers lasted from December 1977 to December 1978, when they broke down without producing any agreements. These talks were not only important in themselves, but were also consequential because the West European weapon producers had based their willingness on participating in multilateral agreements upon Soviet seriousness in reducing their weapon sales.
Because the Administration’s efforts at engaging other arms producing countries in arms transfer reductions were unavailing, and were abandoned in late-1978, the focus is on the implementation on the unilateral policy. In eight case studies, the thesis examines the Carter Administration’s arms transfer policy toward Egypt, Iran, Israel, North Yemen, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Korea, Taiwan and the whole of Latin America. U.S. arms transfer policy to these countries and regions during the Carter Presidency are discussed in relation to how they corresponded to the policy spelled out in PD-13, and how they differed in respect to previous presidents’ policies.