Carter Doctrine

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The Carter Doctrine was a policy proclaimed by President of the United States Jimmy Carter in his State of the Union Address on January 23, 1980, which stated that the United States would use military force if necessary to defend its national interests in the Persian Gulf region. The doctrine was a response to the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, and was intended to deter the Soviet Union—the Cold War adversary of the United States—from seeking hegemony in the Gulf. After stating that Soviet troops in Afghanistan posed "a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil," Carter proclaimed:

This last, key sentence of the Carter Doctrine, was written by Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Adviser. Brzezinski modeled the wording of the Carter Doctrine on the Truman Doctrine,[1] and insisted that the sentence be included in the speech "to make it very clear that the Soviets should stay away from the Persian Gulf."[2]

In The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, author Daniel Yergin notes that the Carter Doctrine "bore striking similarities" to a 1903 British declaration, in which British Foreign Secretary Lord Landsdowne warned Russia and Germany that the British would "regard the establishment of a naval base or of a fortified port in the Persian Gulf by any other power as a very grave menace to British interests, and we should certainly resist it with all the means at our disposal."[3]



The Persian Gulf region was first proclaimed to be of national interest to the United States during World War II. Petroleum is of central importance to modern armies, and the United States—as the world's leading oil producer at that time—supplied most of the oil for the Allied armies. Many American strategists were concerned that the war would dangerously reduce the U.S. oil supply, and so they sought to establish good relations with Saudi Arabia, a kingdom with large oil reserves. On February 16, 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "the defense of Saudi Arabia is vital to the defense of the United States."[4] On February 14, 1945, while returning from the Yalta Conference, Roosevelt met with King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia on the Great Bitter Lake in the Suez Canal, the first time a U.S. president had visited the Persian Gulf region. (During Operation Desert Shield in 1990, this landmark meeting between Roosevelt and King Ibn Saud was cited by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney as one of the justifications for sending troops to protect Saudi Arabia's border.)[5]

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