150. Despatch from the Embassy in Portugal to the Department of State 1

No. 464


  • Embassy Telegram No. 378, March 6, 19562


  • Initiation of Formal Negotiations on the Azores

As reported in the Embassy’s telegram No. 378 of today’s date, formal negotiations looking toward the satisfaction of our new military requirements in the Azores and toward the conclusion of a new defense agreement to take the place of the Agreement of 1951 were initiated yesterday.

The approach was made through two channels. In the first place I wrote a covering letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a copy of which is enclosed,3 transmitting to him our draft of a new defense agreement.4 At the same time I furnished him with copies of the drafts of a new technical agreement with appropriate technical schedules.3 Originals of the latter documents were simultaneously delivered to the Minister of Defense by Brigadier General Harold Smith, “acting in behalf of the United States Secretary of Defense.”

The purpose of this dual approach was to endeavor, as was done in the 1951 negotiations, to keep as many of the problems as possible on a strictly military level and try to limit the political discussions to the defense agreement itself. This will not please the Foreign Minister, who indicated to the Secretary of State last December5 that he thought this whole matter should now be handled on the political level. We have never accepted this line of argument and will do our best to maintain our position to the fullest extent possible.

I wish to add one brief word of explanation of my decision to transmit the draft of the new agreement to the Foreign Minister in writing rather than to launch the negotiations with him in person. In 1951 Dr. Paulo Cunha took the leading part in rejecting our proposal that our peacetime rights in the Azores should be for a longer period than five years. I feel that he is certain again to favor only an extension for a fixed and minimum period of time. I did not wish to give him the opportunity on the first day to express his views on this point, since if he did so it would only make it more difficult for him to recede later [Page 455] on. Since the Defense Minister has indicated to us privately that he is prepared to support an extension covering the life of the North Atlantic Treaty, it seemed prudent to make it possible for him to argue this point first with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and also with Dr. Salazar before the Embassy was exposed to a blast from Dr. Paulo Cunha. In other words I wanted this point to be fought out first within the bosom of the Portuguese Government rather than across the table with me. In this way when the Foreign Minister sends for me to discuss the drafts it is my hope that he will then be speaking from a concerted Portuguese Government position rather than expounding his own personal views and prejudices.

As reported in the reference telegram, the Defense Minister has indicated that he should be in a position to renew the discussions on a military level in about two weeks’ time, and as soon as we get word I will again ask General Smith to return to Lisbon. At the moment there is no indication of when the Foreign Minister will be ready to proceed with the discussions on a political level.

James Bonbright
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 711.56353B/3–656. Secret.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid.)
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not found in Department of State files.
  5. Not printed.
  6. See Document 148 and supra.