131. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Maj. Gen. Ernesto de Melo Antunes, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal
  • Amb. Joao Hall Themido, Portuguese Ambassador
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

[The press entered for photographs. There was a discussion of the Kissinger Antunes meeting in Bonn in May and Antunes’ first visit to the United States. The press then left.]

The President: How long will you be here?

Antunes: I will be returning right away. There are many things pending in Lisbon. I am staying over a day, though, because you are kind enough to receive me.

The President: That was good of you. We have a great interest in developments in your country. We are encouraged by what has happened recently. We congratulate you on the strong stand that you and your associates have taken and we think it is very important to the West.

Antunes: Thank you. I am sure you know there are important things afoot and I am eminently aware of the importance of this to the West and I know you are aware of the role that I and my associates have played in the building of democracy. I want to assure you that we will continue.

The President: We want to support that in the proper way, and we agree the Portuguese people want to support that democratic development.

Antunes: Regarding those sentiments of the Portuguese people. I am convinced that the capacity of the Portuguese people is adequate to the task, and I think the sentiments of the people will be correctly confirmed in the coming elections. I think the people will justify the confidence of the West.

[Page 324]

The President: I was pleased by the vote last spring and I was pleased to see that the most recent Cabinet was limited in Communist participation.

Secretary Kissinger is meeting with you again later today,2 but I want to say now that we are increasing our assistance to you, both for the refugees and to rebuild your economy.

Antunes: With regard to participation of Communists in the government, the recent prolonged crisis has revealed that the Communist Party does not represent the aspirations of the people. In another vote I am convinced they would get only 6–7%. The minor role they have in the government represents that minor role.

We appreciate your announcement of economic help. We are very grateful. But you should know that our needs are enormous—both as a result of the past government and the recent revolutionary governments. I will be talking to Secretary Kissinger about this.

The President: We are pleased to be able to help. We plan to help further with the evacuation of refugees, and I understand that this is on the basis that you will not leave military equipment in Angola, when you leave, for the MPLA.

Antunes: We are very grateful for the refugee assistance. It has been valuable, and anything you can do will be a vital help in stabilizing the situation in Portugal.

I already told your Ambassador that we won’t help any of the factions in Angola, so we won’t leave any equipment at all, based on our policy of neutrality among them.

The President: We deplore the fighting. Is there any prospect of a settlement prior to the independence date of November 11?

Antunes: As I said to the UN, our position remains in favor of a conference of the three movements, together with us and representatives of Africa chosen by the three, to settle the situation in accordance with this conference. There should be a settlement which would provide national unity and therefore there should be a government [Page 325] formed which can receive these powers. This is our last effort in Angola, but I am optimistic now, even if a political solution is achieved as a result of this conference. I think civil war will continue.

Kissinger: Do you think Neto is a Communist?

Antunes: I think he is pretty close, although it is difficult to classify him as an orthodox Communist. We all are aware of the support he has received from the Soviet Union and other Socialist countries, primarily from the Soviet Union.

The President: What about Roberto and Savimbi?

[Secretary Kissinger leaves the meeting at this point.]

Antunes: In regard to Roberto, he has no solid political background. He is easily corruptible and dependent on Mobutu. Of the three factions I would say Savimbi is the most intelligent, the most able and the strongest politically. Some question his political judgment. He has played on all sides and has switched supporters from outside. I think he will end up losing popularity because of these actions. But at the present moment he has considerable support from Zaire and Zambia, while Neto, because of his bull-headedness, has lost some of that support.

The President: They have all been involved in decolonization?

Antunes: Yes, so all of them have been involved in fighting against the Portuguese regime.

The President: With the refugees leaving, do they have the capability of running the economy?

Antunes: From what I know of Angola—and I am familiar with it in depth—we will see administrative and economic chaos. They don’t have the numbers needed to maintain it.

The President: What will happen to Cabinda?

Antunes: Cabinda is now characterized by a separatist tendency, aided by native Cabindans, supported by Zaire and Congo-Brazzaville. So it will probably be separated, with grave consequences to Angola because of its economic value.

The President: We are very sympathetic with what you are doing, and I hope you will convey our support for what your group is doing and we will do our best to help. What you are doing is in the best interest of the West, and free societies around the world.

Antunes: Thank you for your expression of support. Our struggle is truly a difficult one. We will go the whole route to achieve a free society. We are facing a real struggle against obstructionist groups and we need all your help.

The President: This meeting with you is much more encouraging than the one I had in Brussels with Goncalves. It appeared then that the [Page 326] will of the Portuguese people was not being expressed. We will help all we can and I give you my very best wishes and those of the American people.

Antunes: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to say how much I appreciate your receiving me and your offer of help. This has been a fruitful dialogue which should lead to new cooperation.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 6, Ford Administration. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting lasted until 1:05 p.m. (Ibid., Staff Secretary’s Office) All brackets are in the original.
  2. During Kissinger’s meeting with Melo Antunes at 3 p.m. that afternoon, the two men discussed the issue of military equipment left behind in Angola in some detail. Kissinger said: “Our concern is that the MPLA has received considerable amounts of Soviet equipment. We are very concerned that if the other Africans see that the Soviet Union can be this effective such a long distance away, it will affect the whole African situation, even though Angola may not be directly involved. We therefore hope very much that you will not make available to the MPLA the arms that you leave behind. We are strengthening Savimbi and the FNLA and I agree with what you said to the President this morning about this being a formula for civil war. But at a minimum we do not want the communist-supported side to win, and this has certain parallels with Portugal.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 274, Memoranda of Conversations, Chronological File, August–November 1975)