Memorandum by the Ambassador in Argentina (Bunker)2
Suggestions for Argentine Policy
i. why a review of u.s. policy toward argentina
Recent changes in the orientation of Argentine domestic and international policy appear to make appropriate a review of U.S. policy toward Argentina. Official Argentine policy during the last year has shown evidence of a shift toward almost exclusive attacks on the U.S. in place of the traditional interpretation of Argentina’s “Third Position” as equidistant between Capitalism and Communism. There are even some evidences of communist political influences in high government circles.
Argentine penetration in many levels of Latin American life under the guise of spreading Peronismo now appears to represent a more direct threat to hemispheric unity and democratic institutions than heretofore. This is particularly true because of the substantially increased program of Argentine propaganda in all of Latin America, a propaganda which often shows a striking parallel to that of communism. In addition, these activities are known to extend beyond Latin America and are particularly evident in the countries of the Middle East.
It now appears compelling to recognize that these efforts to extend Argentine influence are now fundamentally and aggressively anti-U.S. [Page 401] and represent a potential threat to the program of hemispheric unity. While it is not suggested that Argentina will succeed in establishing a large bloc of third position countries, it is evident that she has already been successful in building up small but vocal nuclei in almost all Latin American countries, willing and ready to support Argentine aims.
ii. basic conditions and assumptions surrounding a review of u.s. policy toward argentina
Certain fundamentals must be agreed upon in discussing a review of Argentine policy, viz.:
- Perón has the political support of the majority of the Argentine people.
- There is no substantial evidence pointing toward a change in the character of the government in the near future.
- Even in the event of a change, a new government would not necessarily be more favorably disposed toward the U.S., nor would its international objectives greatly differ from those of Perón.
- Argentine attitudes are influenced by certain national characteristics. These include a deep-seated nationalism, a jealous regard for Argentine sovereignty, a feeling of superiority over other Latin American nations, and a traditional envy of the U.S.
- From the viewpoint of Perón and his followers, communism does not threaten Argentine security.
- Peronismo has been built up in Argentina as an answer to the ideological threat of communism, but, at the same time, is designed to combat what they consider a more immediate threat: that of U.S. “imperialism.”
- Argentina is traditionally isolationist. This arises, in part, from a sense of security due to geographical position and the fact that she has never participated in, or materially suffered from, a major war. Her attitude parallels the isolationism which had long existence in the U.S.
- Perón’s recent pronouncements against sending troops outside Argentina violate the spirit of the Rio Pact.3
- Political relations with Argentina are complicated by economic conflicts arising from competition between U.S. and Argentine export agriculture, and by the absence of a sound trade structure so long as European currencies are not freely convertible.
- Argentine strength internationally derives principally from its importance as a food exporter; conversely, its great weakness is its dependence [Page 402] on imported fuels, chemicals, machinery and transport equipment.
- Argentine efforts to split Latin America will doubtless continue or be increased and may become more damaging to our interests.
- If we take no action in the (Latin American) fields in which Argentina is attempting to undermine U.S. prestige and sow disunity, the Latin American countries in which this is taking place can rightfully assume a lack of interest on our part.
It is evident that Argentina finds herself in direct or indirect conflict with certain U.S. aims and is less amenable to ordinary diplomatic negotiation than other Latin American countries. At the same time, it has become increasingly difficult for the U.S. to find a common ground of understanding with Argentina without seriously compromising the principles which the U.S. supports.
iii. what should be our policy objectives toward argentina
A. Political Cooperation
- Argentine collaboration in the maintenance of peace and international security especially in the Western Hemisphere, including genuine adherence to the Bogotá4 and Rio Pacts and the principle of hemispheric unity.
- Creation and maintenance of a favorable climate of Argentine public opinion toward U.S. and its policy.
- Obviate or counter that Argentine political penetration in many levels of Latin American life which is fundamentally anti-U.S. and furthers communist objectives.
- Stronger Argentine support for the democracies in international bodies (UN, ECOSOC, ILO, etc.).
B. Economic Cooperation
- Arrangements to encourage the production of and to make available strategic materials (such as tungsten and beryl) to the U.S. and perhaps other non-communist nations.
- Cooperation in controlling exports of critical materials to the Soviet bloc.
- Adoption of measures to encourage production and availability of agricultural products required by non-communist nations, at reasonable world prices.
- Development of mutually sound economic relations, including the assurance of non-discriminatory treatment of U.S. enterprise operating in Argentina and the settlement of arrears in financial remittances.
C. Military Cooperation
- Assurance that Argentina will carry out agreements of IADB and Rio Pact.
- Provision of effective measures to avoid repetition of Argentine behaviour during World War II, when Argentina was the hemispheric center of our enemies’ espionage and propaganda.
iv. what is it that argentina seeks from us
Any discussion of accord with Argentina must take into consideration Argentina’s objectives in relation to the U.S. regardless of how unrealistic some of them may seem to us. Among the more apparent of these are:
- Recognition as a world power, and as the leader and dominant power of Latin America.
- a. Personal recognition of Perón and Evita. b. Recognition of Perón as a world leader, c. Recognition of his program of Peronismo.
- More favorable U.S. press on Argentina.
- U.S. support in Falkland Islands and Antarctic issues.5
- A statement by U.S. that the existence of European colonies in the Western Hemisphere is contrary to the principles of the hemisphere.
- Recognition of Argentine CGT by democratic international labor bodies and as a leader of organized labor in Latin America.
- “Fair” economic treatment, which may include:
- Larger allocation of scarce products and materials.
- Establishment of a ratio guaranteeing parity between prices of commodities exported and imported.
- Acceptance by the U.S. of the principle of “just” wages to labor in Latin America as the basis for price-fixing in U.S. purchases.
- Guarantees against declining purchasing power of Argentine dollar holdings.
- Extension of non-governmental credits.
- Cessation of alleged “intervention” of U.S. government in “manipulating” world commodity prices.
- Membership in additional committees of the International Materials Conference.
- Military Aid6 and equal participation in formulation of Western Hemispheric defense.
It appears impossible for the U.S. to concede complete fulfillment of all or even most of such Argentine objectives. Nevertheless, possibilities exist for some accord. But any policy which contemplates direct negotiation leading toward agreement with Argentina should be based on hard quid pro quos.
v. limitations affecting our policy
Certain limitations of a generally tactical nature must be recognized in considering a policy toward Argentina:
- Although it should not be allowed to influence long-range policy, U.S. public opinion is currently unsympathetic to Perón and Argentina. The Department could not successfully impose a policy which would ignore this.
- The economic concessions which the U.S. could make to Argentina are minor and, moreover, are circumscribed by the Department’s limits in influencing other agencies concerned.
- Any psychological attack on Argentina or on the Argentine influences in those countries where she seeks to undermine the U.S. must necessarily be restricted by considerations of the U.S. policy of non-intervention and of the important requirement to preserve the inter-American system. Any activity which could result in dividing Latin American opinion, would further Argentine objectives.
- Any obvious psychological attack within Argentina itself is strictly limited.
- The countries surrounding Argentina, which are generally concerned at her interference and intentions, tend to support us and should have knowledge of our support of them. There are indications that, assured of our support, they would make important contributions to a psychological counterattack against Argentina.
- Argentine strength for her propaganda offensive against us lies in certain advantages accompanying dictatorship: centralized control of the press and other media, of policy, etc.; but weakness is also present in the form of vulnerability to suspicion, to rumor, fears of plots and internecine war.
vi. suggestions for a policy toward argentina
- Any recommendations for a policy toward Argentina must consider
probable Argentine tactics, based on her probable aspirations. As
[Page 405] Argentina seeks to
enlarge her world position and prestige; to establish herself as
leader of a neutral bloc of countries not limited to Latin America,
holding a Third Position between communism and
“Capitalist-Imperialism;” and as a leader of Latin America with
sufficient support to oppose U.S. influence, she will probably:
- Use any means she can afford, and which are permitted her
by U.S. passivity to:
- Undermine the U.S. position in Latin America
- Attract potential “neutrals” to her Third Position
- Establish a nuisance value to obtain favorable treatment.
- Let more pretentious national aspirations await a time when the U.S. is otherwise occupied, the Inter-American system disrupted, and such balancing power as Brazil could be safely opposed.
- Argentine aspirations constitute a positive and continuing threat to U.S. objectives and policies. It therefore appears necessary to undertake measures which will nullify Argentine activities insofar as they oppose our own.
- While continuing a generally correct policy toward Argentina, it
is suggested that:
- We begin to use every profitable opportunity to counter strongly Argentine anti-U.S. propaganda and political penetration of Latin America. A successful tactic might well be to foster opposition to Argentine tactics by third countries, even including those outside the Western Hemisphere.
- The interest of Latin American countries should be aroused to the danger to them and to Latin American unity. Each country should be encouraged to adopt its own measures to oppose Argentine penetration.
- As a corollary, the U.S. should be more positive and aggressive in advocating improved living standards and welfare programs among the American Republics, through others’ efforts as well as through our aid. Accomplishments rather than U.S. expenditures should be publicized in dealing with Point IV and other U.S. aid. Efforts should be made to prevent marking our assistance with a dollar sign, as has been frequently done, and which places us on the defensive when expenditures elsewhere are larger. Initiative in advocating welfare programs should more often be ours in hemispheric organizations, but not necessarily through the financing of projects. Our public relations should endeavor to seize credit which now redounds to Latin American oratory.
- The Department should enlist the cooperation of the U.S. trade union movement and, through it, the ORIT, in a closely coordinated plan of counter measures in each individual country, designed to neutralize Argentine anti-U.S. activities.
- Coincidentally with the counter measures suggested above,
a more effective working relationship should be established
between the U.S. mission and the Argentine government. The
time seems to be approaching when such relations will be
possible. The most fruitful would be between Perón and the ambassador.
Personal characteristics which [Page 406] appear desirable for establishment of
effective personal relationship with Perón include:
- A personality which can win his friendship, personal admiration and respect.
- Personal prestige.
- If possible, a conversational knowledge of Spanish.
- Ambassador Bunker possessed all three of these to a high degree, but for other reasons, including the disturbed period of Argentine elections and the prolonged illness of Sra. Perón, close personal relations with the President were not appropriate.
- The primary points of which it is necessary to convince
Perón, as a
preliminary to further understanding include:
- Sincerity of the U.S. purpose
- Consistency of U.S. motives
- U.S. willingness to be as friendly with Argentina as Argentina permits.
- Through the Ambassador to Perón, through the Argentine Ambassador in Washington, and by every means opportunity affords, the importance should be stressed of shifting Argentina’s propaganda attack on the U.S. to an attack against communism. The sizeable Argentine propaganda machine now used to attack the U.S. could be continually and profitably employed if directed against Moscow.
- The more positive policy toward Argentina suggested here should not be limited to the Argentine Desk; it should be hemispheric (receive support of all ARA Desks and Missions), being coordinated from Washington both toward Argentina directly and toward all offices in the ARA area generally.
- The final point of these suggestions is reserved for personal discussion by Ambassador Bunker, with proper Department personnel.
Drafted shortly before Ambassador Bunker’s departure from Buenos Aires on Mar. 13, 1952, after his appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Italy. The memorandum was submitted to Mr. Miller, who had copies circulated to officials within the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs during April and May. No indication of the drafting officer is contained in the source text.
Ambassador Bunker was succeeded at Buenos Aires by Albert F. Nufer, who was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Argentina on May 29, 1952. Ambassador Nufer arrived in Buenos Aires on July 16, and presented his credentials on Aug. 14.↩
- Reference is to the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Pact), opened for signature at Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 2, 1947, and entered into force for the United States, Dec. 3, 1948; for text, see Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) No. 1838, or 62 Stat. (pt. 2) 1681.↩
Reference is to the American Treaty on Pacific Settlement (Pact of Bogotá), signed at the Ninth International Conference of American States, held at Bogotá, Mar. 30–May 2, 1948, but not submitted to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification, and thus never entered into force for the United States; for text, see Ninth International Conference of American States: Report of the Delegation of the United States of America With Related Documents (Department of State Publication 3263, Washington, 1948), p. 186, or Annals of the Organization of American States, 1949, p. 91.
For documentation concerning the Ninth International Conference, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. ix, pp. 1 ff.; for documentation relating to the unwillingness of the United States to ratify the Pact of Bogotá, see ibid., 1949, vol. ii, pp. 419 ff.↩
- For documentation concerning U.S. policy with respect to the Antarctic, see volume i .↩
- In a memorandum of conversation with Col. Thomas W. Sharkey of the Department of Defense, dated Feb. 5, 1952, Henry Dearborn of the Office of South American Affairs stated that Colonel Sharkey had inquired whether, in view of Argentine interest in obtaining grant military aid from the United States, the Department of State might wish to reconsider its opposition to discussion of the matter with the Argentines. Mr. Dearborn further stated that he had informed Colonel Sharkey, in part, that “on the basis of information now available we would almost certainly not favor any change” in the U.S. position at the time. (735.5 MSP/2–552)↩