226. Intelligence Information Cable1

TDCS DB–315/01339–71


  • Malta


  • Early March 1971


  • Remarks of Malta Labour Party Leader Dominic Mintoff on Relations with NATO and his Attitude Towards the United States and Soviet Mediterranean Fleets


  • [less than 1 line not declassified]


  • [5 lines not declassified]

1. The following remarks were made in early March 1971 by Malta Labour Party (MLP) leader Dominic Mintoff in the course of conversations concerning MLP foreign policy in the event of an MLP victory in the forthcoming Maltese parliamentary elections.

2. Since time immemorial Malta has been exploited as a strategic base by a succession of foreign rulers. Now, in a corner of the world bedeviled by power politics and warring ideologies, Malta is taking its first steps toward self-determination. Much time will be needed to convert the island’s fortress economy into peace-oriented productivity. Malta’s main problem in the 1970’s is to bring this transitional period quickly to an end. Malta’s territory and population are so small that any substantial physical presence of the armed forces of any other country not only obstructs the orderly development of the island’s economic life, but also undermines its sovereignty. For example, the establishment of a United States Air Base on Malta would turn Malta into the handmaiden of the United States Air Force. Even the current sporadic visits of the United States Sixth Fleet have already caused economic and political distortions impossible to imagine by people who live in larger lands. It is therefore evident that however much Malta might feel ideologically drawn to the West, she cannot afford to make long-term commitments in which a large portion of her territory or economy are [Page 741] devoted to the defense needs of the United States, NATO, or any Western state. This observation applies with even greater force to the Soviet Union and China.

3. Further, it should be in the Western interest to abolish the NATO base on Malta. The Sixth Fleet has been expressly designed to operate without bases, and according to the United States State Department, United States warships come to Valletta Harbor only as a goodwill gesture to boost Malta’s tourist trade. The West has every interest in preventing the USSR from establishing a base on Malta; and the sooner Malta learns to live without a base, the sooner it will be impossible for the USSR to cajole the Maltese into giving her such facilities.

4. However, it is not yet possible for Malta to survive without the employment afforded by the British base and the subvention given by the United Kingdom for the base. This is why the MLP intends, on taking office, to negotiate with the United Kingdom the revision of the present defense and financial agreements to meet the changed requirements of the two countries. For Malta to get rid of the base in the foreseeable future, she needs additional economic aid. For the United Kingdom to enjoy a base in the central Mediterranean for a definite number of years, she must be willing to pay adequate compensation.

5. In the MLP’s view, an agreement with the United Kingdom would not entitle all NATO members, and particularly not the Italians, to identical rights. This stand would mean that NATO would have to set up its southern headquarters on neighboring Italian soil. However, it would not prevent Malta from having separate talks with some NATO states for identical facilities with an identical duration as those negotiated with the United Kingdom. An agreement could be reached also with NATO in which, against compensation, NATO would be given ample time to prepare alternative and better accommodation for its present very small southern headquarters.

6. Field dissem: None.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 622, Country Files—Middle East, Malta, Vol. I. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]; Controlled Dissem; [handling restriction not declassified]; Background Use Only.