366. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy0


  • U.S. Policy re Portuguese Territories and U.S. Strategy in UN Security Council

The Problem

The difficult decision we must make in the Security Council session on Portuguese territories in Africa will have far-reaching effects on overall United States foreign policy interests. Basically, we will be faced with the choice of:

Pursuing our present policy;
Moving to a stronger and more vigorous anti-colonial stance, but recognizing that there is greater risk of deterioration in United States-Portuguese relations.

Should we elect the first course of action, we are likely to have serious difficulties in the Council and will almost certainly find that within several months our position will be almost universally understood as one of support for Portugal against Africa.

The second course of action would incur increased risk of a deterioration of our relations with Portugal, but would strengthen our position [Page 569] on the colonial issue throughout the non-Communist world, increase our influence and diminish opportunities for Communist settlement of the hard-core problems of the southern third of Africa. It would probably be applauded by those who are fighting for equal rights for Negroes here at home.

Policy Considerations


African Interests

After years of advocating moral suasion and peaceful evolution and opposing coercive measures, such as sanctions and ostracism, our moderate approach has not moved Portugal toward acceptance of self-determination. At the recent Addis Ababa Conference of African Chiefs of State, the Africans made clear their determination to see an end put to Portuguese domination of its African territories, one way or another.

African diplomatic pressures are increasing on the United States as foremost among those countries (the United Kingdom and France are the others) believed to have it in their power to effect a peaceful change in Portuguese policies. The avowed intent of the Africans is to force us either to bring about an acceptable solution or choose between Portugal on the one hand and Africa on the other.

Ambassador Korry has reported from Addis Ababa on his talks with many African Chiefs of State and Foreign Ministers, “it would be a fatal error in my view to believe that the summit merely produced resolutions.” The African walkout at the ILO and their action in barring Portuguese participation at the UNESCO Education Conference confirm this. He went on to say that failure of the United States to take positive action with respect to Portugal “could negate our material aid and political gains of the past year (in Africa).” Sekou Toure is sending a personal letter to you making essentially the same point. Recent actions such as Congolese recognition of the Angolan Government-in-Exile, Liberian intention to expel Portuguese nationals, and the United Arab Republic and Ethiopia breaking of relations with Portugal show the determination of the Africans. There are indications that the Communists will make a major effort to exploit this issue to compensate for their failures in the Congo, Guinea, Algeria and elsewhere in Africa.

Such friendly and responsible leaders as Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast, Balewa of Nigeria, Adoula of the Congo, and Nyerere of Tanganyika have told us that their ability to resist pressures for a radical, violent solution will depend in good part on the extent to which they can show that the United States is moving with them in an effort to reach a peaceful and evolutionary solution. They cannot publicly take issue with Ben Bella and the African Liberation Committee in Dar-es-Salaam as to the necessity for armed action. We believe that these individuals and a number of other African leaders as well are willing to settle for less than [Page 570] their public positions if the Portuguese make some move soon in admitting the principle of self-determination and initiating meaningful steps toward that end.

Moreover, the explosive and widely-publicized developments in our own racial situation give even greater significance to the position that the United States elects to follow during the Security Council session domestically as well as internationally.


European and NATO Interests

On the other hand, the United States has a number of interests in common with Portugal, a NATO member which owns the Azores. We seek to maintain close relations with Portugal despite our strong disagreements with its colonial policy. Too sharp a break with our past position may cause Portugal to decide to terminate our use of the Azores, to adopt a policy of non-cooperation with or even withdrawal from NATO, and to cancel the Radio Free Europe broadcasting agreement. We believe the course of action proposed in this paper carries the risk that one of the above steps might be taken by Portugal, but we believe it can be implemented so as to minimize the possible adverse reaction of the Portuguese. However, at the same time it is prudent that we consider on a contingency basis any alternatives to the Azores which may exist. The United Kingdom indicated to Assistant Secretary Cleveland its willingness to make the Azores a matter of NATO wide discussion if necessary.



The totality of U.S. interests argues strongly for a further step forward, analogous to our action in the Security Council on Angola in March 1961 and our support for the UN operation in the Congo. It also seems clear that the best time to take the forward step is when the Security Council meets late in July. Whatever action we take at that time will have a maximum impact, enabling us to extract more initial mileage by a smaller step than would otherwise be the case.

We have prepared a set of policy recommendations for actions to be taken on the issue of Portuguese territories at the United Nations beginning with the Security Council. These recommendations are designed to preserve the opportunity for a peaceful solution, to protect U.S. interests in Africa and to seek to minimize the danger of a sharp break with Portugal. Although they are not sufficient to produce a solution, they seem to offer a balanced way of handling the present phase.

Courses of Action

A. Preparatory to the Security Council


Demarche to the Government of Portugal

We should make a high-level effort: (a) to convince Portugal to acknowledge publicly the principle of self-determination for the Portuguese [Page 571] territories and to undertake early discussions with African and nationalist leaders on this basis; (b) to indicate the difficulties we foresee in the Security Council and the need to find an appropriate alternative to Chapter VII sanctions; and (c) to foreshadow the position the United States is likely to take in the Council.

Ambassador Stevenson and Assistant Secretary Cleveland found considerable support for this view in their recent talks with several of our NATO allies, including the British and the French. While the United Kingdom is skeptical about the effect of any further demarche, it is encouraged and the French impressed by a report from Haile Selassie that General Franco has told Salazar he could not go along with Portuguese colonial policies. Moreover, the Brazilians are giving serious thought to pressing the Portuguese to liberalize their policies. For our part, we should do everything possible to encourage our friends to persuade the Portuguese to make a constructive move.


Discussion with African Leaders

We should discuss with a broad range of African leaders our policy toward Portugal’s territories in Africa and our position on this question in the Security Council. These discussions should take place in the capitals, at the United Nations, and in Washington. The four African Foreign Ministers (Tunisia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Madagascar) who have been selected to represent the African case in the Security Council should be invited to Washington for discussions with the Secretary and possibly yourself before the Security Council meeting.

B. In the Security Council

In the expected event Portugal remains unwilling to recognize publicly the applicability of the principle of self-determination to its African territories, we should pursue our broader national interests in the Security Council, making sure that Portugal clearly appreciates our intentions. The United States should initiate or support a resolution containing four basic elements:

A reaffirmation of our support for the timely exercise of self-determination in Portuguese territories;
A call upon Portugal and all other interested parties to seek a peaceful solution in accordance with the Charter, making clear that negotiations must be directed toward establishing a timetable within which this principle will be exercised, and that negotiations should include nationalist leaders from Portuguese territories and other African leaders;
A request that the Secretary-General designate a special representative (rapporteur) for the Portuguese territories who would help facilitate such talks and otherwise assist the parties concerned; and
A request that all member states refrain from providing Portugal any arms for use in the Portuguese African territories and otherwise refrain from actions rendering more difficult the peaceful and timely achievement of self-determination in the Portuguese African territories.
[Page 572]

We have supported most of the above elements in previous resolutions either in the General Assembly or the Security Council. The new features would be their combination in a hortatory (Chapter VI) Security Council resolution, the inclusion of a call for nationalist leaders to participate in negotiations directed toward establishing a timetable for self-determination, and a partial arms embargo paragraph. This latter element would “codify” in a Security Council resolution our present arms policy. The United Kingdom sees no problem with such a provision. We have previously voted for a general provision to this effect in the General Assembly in January, 1962 which reads:

“Requests all States Members of the United Nations and members of the specialized agencies to deny Portugal any support and assistance which may be used by it for the suppression of the people of Angola.”

We believe it is possible to develop a consensus among the majority of the Security Council along the above lines which would be acceptable to the United States. At the same time, our taking the lead in developing such a forthcoming resolution should enable us to ensure that no unacceptable resolution calling for sanctions under Chapter VII of the Charter or expulsion of Portugal from the Organization will receive the minimum seven votes required for adoption.

Dean Rusk1
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 10 PORT/UN. Confidential. Drafted by Oakley and Sisco and cleared by Cleveland, Burdett, Meeker, Williams, and Kitchen.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.