The Acting Secretary of State to the Embassy in Uruguay

No. 114

Sir: Reference is made to your despatch no. 546 of August 5, 1948 outlining and discussing “Uruguayan Relations with the United States, Especially with Reference to Existing Rio de la Plata Tensions”, which has been read with great interest. It is apparent that you have given this subject careful thought.

The Department’s specific observations concerning your recommendations are as follows:

As you are aware, Articles 3 and 6 of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, signed in Rio de Janeiro on September 2, 1947, make specific provisions regarding attacks and aggressions against any American state. The Department was pleased to learn of Uruguay’s ratification of the Treaty (your telegram no. 279 of September 4, 19481) and it now appears that, within a comparatively short period a sufficient number of American republics will have ratified the treaty to bring it into effect.2
In view of the specific provisions of Article 3, the opinion of Uruguayan officials, as stated in your despatch, that United States assistance would result from an armed attack on Uruguay, appears logical. However, it should be noted that Article 3 does not specify that assistance rendered prior to inter-American consultation, shall be armed assistance. Subsequent to consultation, assistance would take the form decided upon collectively, but armed force is subject to individual consent.
Article 6, referring to aggression other than armed attack, which affects the inviolability or the integrity of the territory or the sovereignty or political independence of any American state, provides for reference to the “Organ of Consultation”, and therefore the degree and manner of assistance is less clearly defined. I believe that this Government has in the past clearly demonstrated its desire to cooperate with the other American republics when there has been real evidence of aggressive economic action by a neighboring country. As [Page 746] you point out in your despatch no. 546, the United States promised supplies of wheat and salt to Uruguay in 1946 to relieve the apparent threat on the part of Argentina. Both wheat and salt were shipped to Uruguay at that time, even though Uruguay is not a normal export market of the United States for either of these products. The wheat shortage in 1947 was of a slightly different character and actually, in the opinion of the Department, did not materialize as an aggressive action. Under the IEFC allocation system, all countries were expected to use their normal sources of supply, and the price factor alone was not considered a sufficient reason to warrant a dislocation of the established procedures as the actual diversion of United States supplies allocated to European countries. Had there been an actual threat or serious pressure, action undoubtedly would have been taken to provide the necessary relief. This was done for Peru, Bolivia, and certain other countries when specific difficulties arose.
While it may well be that the present Argentine Government is seeking to extend its economic and political influence in South America, this does not necessarily justify an attempt by the United States to block Argentine efforts to strengthen its political and economic ties with the neighboring countries. There appears to be every reason, however, to anticipate a continuation and strengthening of friendly cooperation between the United States and Uruguay during the years to come. The mutual confidence which has existed between the two countries, as well as the traditional friendship and absence of any major controversies, strengthens this belief.
Although there have been certain instances resulting from decisions by autonomous agencies which are difficult for foreign officials to understand, it would appear that in general our record has been such as to indicate cooperative assistance on the part of the United States. The Department sees no reason why there should be any change in this respect. However, any statement that could be made to Uruguayan officials which would reassure them, would run a serious risk of being misunderstood by other friendly nations if it became public.
The Department welcomes your views on this basic problem which now is under discussion in connection with the drafting of a policy statement on Uruguay. At an appropriate time in the near future your views on the draft statement will be solicited. You may be sure that the considerations you outline in your despatch will be given careful attention. Until final approval of the policy statement, however, the Department considers it advisable to withhold further comment on this matter.
As outlined in the Department’s Circular Instruction of July 30, [Page 747] 1948,3 until new legislation may be enacted there is little that the United States can do to supply military equipment to any of the American republics. The United States will give sympathetic consideration to any Uruguayan application for arms export licenses and will be pleased to render every possible assistance to the Uruguayan authorities in any military equipment procurement program that the Uruguayan authorities may wish to initiate with private sources of supply in the United States.
The Department now is endeavoring to assist Uruguay to procure surplus planes from the Department of the Air Force, as the Embassy is aware. Furthermore, the Department of State and the Department of Navy will endeavor to assist the Uruguayan Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Aguiar, in every possible way for the success of his visit to the United States, should he finally decide to make the visit.
The Department is sympathetic to your suggestion that the Department of the Air Force be prepared to expedite the despatch of a Military Air Mission to Uruguay as soon as the mission contract shall be approved by the Uruguayan Congress. You may assure the Uruguayan authorities that every effort will be made in this connection. However, recent experiences with Uruguayan delays concerning this mission and with regard to a proposed Civil Aeronautics Authority Mission, create a natural reluctance to take any positive steps prior to Uruguayan approval of the Military Air Mission contract.
The Department is in complete agreement with you concerning the desirability of negotiating a new treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation with Uruguay. Indeed, as the Embassy has been informed, the Department is anxious to negotiate such a treaty. The Department further agrees that its text should be as brief and concise as possible. No doubt you have found the short Belgian draft, as contrasted to the longer Italian draft, useful in your discussions with the Uruguayans. (Reference the Department’s telegram no. 169 of August 30, 19484). Should your exploratory conversations in this regard be satisfactory, you may be sure that you will receive every assistance from the Department in order to achieve an early completion of this treaty.
As you suggest, United States willingness to meet an Uruguayan request for a loan from the Export-Import Bank would of course depend on the character of the transaction proposed by Uruguay. Also as you suggest, the Department’s general attitude in the premises ought to be and is sympathetic and friendly. The Department will endeavor [Page 748] to and is confident of obtaining prompt consideration of any Uruguayan proposal as well as a prompt reply.5

The Department appreciates your observations and recommendations and trusts that the foregoing will meet your agreement. The Department will of course be pleased to consider any further observations which you may wish to make in this connection.

Very truly yours,

Robert A. Lovett
  1. Not printed.
  2. The treaty entered into force for the United States December 3, 1948.
  3. For text of this instruction, see p. 218.
  4. Not printed.
  5. The Secretary of State informed the Embassy in Uruguay in telegram 222 of November 24, 1948, 1 p. m., not printed, that the Export-Import Bank Board of Directors had approved on November 17 a credit of $141,600.00 to assist the Industria Papeiera Uruguaya, S.A. to purchase United States paper-making machinery and equipment (811.516 Export-Import Bank/11–2448).