811.20 Defense (M) Portugal/1490: Telegram

The Minister in Portugal ( Norweb ) to the Secretary of State

1371. The Brazilian Ambassador has informed me of his conversation of yesterday evening with Dr. Salazar regarding the suspension of shipments of wolfram to Germany. The conversation was timed to coincide with the announcement of the impending departure of the first contingent of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force to the European theater of operations.

In requesting Salazar for such a suspension, he emphasized that it was the first and only request which the Brazilian Government as a belligerent had made of Portugal. During the interview Salazar displayed very strong feeling and condemned bitterly the British press and radio campaign against Portugal and in particular Vansittart67 declaration that Great Britain should denounce their alliance with Portugal. He pointed out that Great Britain had consistently stated [Page 103] that they desired Portugal to remain neutral and now were executing a volte-face in attempting to force Portugal into the war. The recent agreement with Spain was, in his mind, most humiliating to that country and would have an unfortunate effect on Anglo-Saxon relations for years to come. Salazar recalled that while Germany, at a time when other nations were less considerate, had supplied Portugal with her necessary requirements and had always paid for her purchases in gold bars, Great Britain had furnished a minimum of material and had only paid her adverse balances through sterling balances.

He added that the United States had been more reasonable than Great Britain and had supplied such material as it could, and had refrained from press attacks on Portugal. (The importance of this latter view should not be overemphasized as this setting off of Britain against America is one of Salazar’s favorite techniques.) He also pointed out that Russian question was one that was ever-present in his mind and had to be taken into consideration when any action disadvantageous to Germany was contemplated.

It was necessary he continued to take foregoing into consideration when discussing wolfram in terms of human lives. A total embargo on wolfram to both belligerents would not be fair in his consideration, and as a neutral he could not completely cut off supplies to Germany. The best he could do would be to consider the Brazilian request which he admitted had taken him completely by surprise and keep in mind the Brazilian interest in the eventual solution. He concluded by stating that an out-and-out declaration of war against Germany would be better than being drawn into the war because of wolfram. After the interview Salazar apologized for his display of strong feelings, which the Brazilian Ambassador stated came as a revelation to him.

Ambassador’s impression is that in addition to his irritation against British, Salazar is harried by internal problems, in particular the dissatisfaction and unrest of general population which has resulted from present inflation. He is, however, primarily concerned with preservation of Portuguese neutrality rather than with fear of Germany, and Brazilian Ambassador took occasion to point out to Salazar that neutrality, as he conceives it, has no place in the world today. Ambassador felt that we should maintain our present pressure on Salazar and concert our future action. He is hopeful that Salazar will show a more conciliatory attitude, but he does not believe that we can achieve a total embargo on shipments to Germany unless we are able to buy Salazar off. On this his idea is to offer him possibility of acquiring shipping tonnage after the war if not at present.

It is my impression that the démarche by Brazilian Ambassador has strengthened Allied position on wolfram problem. He presented his [Page 104] request to Salazar in a very forceful manner and apparently hopes that he will be the friendly intermediary through whom settlement of this problem is effected.

I suggest desirability of having Aranha instruct Ambassador here energetically to follow up this initial approach.

Sent Department; London as No. 202; Algiers as No. 148 for Murphy; to Madrid by courier.

  1. Baron Vansittart of Denham, Chief Diplomatic Adviser to the British Government, 1938–41.