811.34553B/5–1346: Telegram

The Ambassador in Portugal (Baruch) to the Secretary of State

top secret
us urgent

419. To Hickerson from Culbertson. O’Malley called Kuter and me to his office late Saturday.23 After reiterating his pessimistic view of results to be expected from current negotiations he outlined an alternative solution.

This alternative consisted of British invoking ancient treaty24 and bringing us into Anglo-Portuguese airdromes under complete British cover. We would naturally pay the bills. Problem of US appropriations for such a deal appears to us to be insurmountable. We passed off this approach with statement that we did not wish to consider at this time so abject a failure in current negotiations.

Concerning achievement of current objectives we deduced only one new angle from O’Malley’s conversation with us. O’Malley stated that Mathias had remarked to him that US history and political structure did in fact permit statements or understandings that might be acceptable to Portuguese in lieu of old fashioned bilateral offensive-defensive treaties. Mathias indicated he had in mind the present Santa Maria Agreement.

Kuter and I have been thinking for some time that an approach along the following lines may stand a slight chance of a favorable reaction from Salazar:

“If you will accept in substance the terms of our ‘working paper’ the Govt of the US will accept in substance your requirement for US-Portugal understanding and cooperation as set forth as the point of greatest political importance in your memorandum for second conversation with Mr. Culbertson and General Kuter. When an agreement [Page 976]in principal is reached along the lines of our ‘working paper’ a national policy statement substantially as follows will be issued by the President of the United States:

The US is bound under UNO to preserve the peace of the world. Under that obligation the US would view aggressive action against Portugal as a major threat to the peace of the world and would invoke action by the United Nations whether Portugal was or was not a member. Furthermore the US has and will continue to respect the sovereignty of the Govt of Portugal over all components of the Portugal Empire. The agreement between Portugal and the US for joint activities at Portuguese airbases in the Atlantic further strengthens this policy and further cements the ties between the Portuguese and the Americans.”

You will note that this is very little more than a normal release upon the signing of our proposed agreement although it may be given especial weight by the Portuguese.

Please give us your considered views of the practicability of such an approach. Our Ambassador encourages the belief that if you find this plan feasible it may go a long ways toward bridging the gap between Salazar and ourselves. If not viewed from Washington as impracticable please clear and forward the word for word public statement of his policy which we might present to the Portuguese. We would prefer to handle coordination with UK from this end. [Culbertson.]

Baruch
  1. May 11.
  2. Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Alliance between England and Portugal, signed at London June 16, 1373. For text, see British and Foreign State Papers, vol. i, p. 462.