63. Briefing Memorandum From the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Lord) and the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rogers) to Secretary of State Kissinger1

The Lesson of the New Dialogue

We face a curious paradox: our relations with Latin America have improved significantly in the past 18 months—yet the renewed “inter-[Page 345]American solidarity” promised at Tlatelolco in February 19742 remains as elusive as ever. In fact, the New Dialogue meetings themselves have been dropped, the MFM Working Groups disbanded.3

Underlying this paradox, we believe, is the fact that regionalism can no longer serve as the primary focus of US-Latin American relations. Our inability to translate generally positive bilateral relationships into a similarly positive regional environment stems from the ambiguity of the “special relationship” between Latin America and the United States, and the hemisphere’s growing diversity. So long as we approach Latin America primarily as a unit, we will engender a suspicious common front against us—and diversity will paralyze action.

This is not an insoluble dilemma. Regionalism does provide a convenient mode of interaction with the smaller countries and is an unavoidable and convenient rationale for specific initiatives. As a practical matter, however, the increasingly varied interests of the hemisphere’s more powerful countries—including our own—requires a mix of relationships tailored to specific needs and situations, most of which are not susceptible to “regional” solutions. Two of the most striking developments of the past decade—the rise of sub-regional politics and the proliferation of extra-hemispheric linkages—are a direct reflection of the growing industrial power and diversification of key countries, particularly Brazil and Mexico, which is driving them to seek capital, technology and markets in a manner reminiscent of 19th century European competitions.

The implication is clear: we should approach individual countries and groups of countries in Latin America in a differentiated fashion, placing greater emphasis on bilateral and sub-regional relationships, and attempting whenever possible to implement our global economic policies in a way that will engage Latin America’s new middle powers in productive commercial relationships and contain the inevitable conflicts their global emergence will entail.

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This conclusion is more easily stated than implemented. The classic instrumentalities of bilateralism in the hemisphere—US military and economic assistance programs—are not only declining and hedged with restrictions, but are either inappropriate or simply unavailable. The three countries where our interests are greatest: Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela, are rightly no longer eligible for concessional AID programs, just as they have received no grant military equipment since 1968. US responsiveness to their clamor for “trade, not aid” has been limited by competing domestic and international pressures. But we have also limited ourselves conceptually by searching for nonexistent “regional” solutions.

We thus face in Latin America a situation similar to the one you described in your September 1 Special Session speech:4 “no panaceas, only challenges.” But if we deemphasize regional multilateralism, we will limit the occasions for generalized confrontations. And if we focus instead on two or three pressing specific issues in addition to Panama and Cuba, such as resolving trade conflicts with Brazil, or developing positive interactions with the Andean Pact,5 we have a solid chance of consolidating the more favorable climate generated by your UN Special Session initiatives, which have great potential significance for many Latin American countries—whose growth, though substantial, remains fragile, and thus both vulnerable to uncontrolled fluctuations and susceptible to positive influence.

Your September 30 luncheon with Latin American Foreign Ministers in New York is a classic exercise in “regionalism.”6 But it, and your separate bilaterals, will move us in the right directions should you:

—specify our openness to implementing the Special Session approach in a manner beneficial to the concerns of particular Latin American countries and groups of countries;

—stress our interest in Latin America in contemporary rather than traditional terms (e.g., interdependence and trade rather than special relationship and aid); and

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—ascribe to the New Dialogue experience a major role in the development of the United States proposals at the UN Special Session, reemphasizing the need to work out hemispheric problems in global as well as regional fora.

Some details of such an approach are set forth at the conclusion of this memorandum following a review of some of the reasons that lead us to recommend it.

[Omitted here is the body of the memorandum.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Policy Planning Council (S/PC), Policy Planning Staff (S/P), Director’s Files (Winston Lord) 1969–77, Lot 77D112, Box 354, SEPT 16–30 1975. Confidential; Exdis.
  2. See Document 28.
  3. Lord and Rogers sent Kissinger a briefing memorandum on January 14 entitled “Why Has the New Dialogue Soured?” Characterizing the New Dialogue as “old wine in new bottles,” Lord and Rogers wrote: “Like all the earlier U.S. initiatives, it aroused some expectations which could not be met, at least in the short term. The New Dialogue was launched by a unique Secretary of State, one who had just assumed office fresh from enormous foreign policy triumphs. You asked the Latin Americans to tell you what was wrong with U.S. policy. They had fantasies that you would work some special magic to set wrongs aright. Culturally predisposed to believe in heroic leaders, the Latin Americans did not understand that in our political system foreign policy issues increasingly involve a process—usually lengthy—of negotiation and compromise between two branches and two parties.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 326, Department of State, Bureaus, Policy Planning, History Project, Selected Papers, Vol. 10 (Additional papers: European Affairs/Inter-American Affairs/Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs), 1973–76)
  4. Kissinger’s speech, entitled “Global Consensus and Economic Development,” was delivered to the Seventh Special Session of the UNGA by U.S. Representative to the United Nations Daniel Patrick Moynihan. At the time, Kissinger was in Israel for the signing of the second Israeli-Egyptian disengagement agreement. The text of the speech is printed in Department of State Bulletin, September 22, 1975, pp. 425–441.
  5. A trade bloc founded in 1969 by Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Venezuela joined the Andean Pact in 1973.
  6. Kissinger met with the Foreign Ministers during the regular U.N. General Assembly session. The text of his luncheon toast is in telegram 4648 from USUN, October 1. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File)