231. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Pritzlaff Recommends Immediate Aid for Malta

As you are aware, Ambassador Pritzlaff has informed State that he believes Mintoff’s deadline for a solution to his immediate cash problem is August 6 or sooner, and Pritzlaff recommends that the US should act now to provide Mintoff with the two–three million pounds (approximately $4.8–7.2 million) he requires to meet Malta’s cash flow needs for the next 60–90 days. 2

At the same time Pritzlaff believes that the UK must tell Mintoff within the next 24 hours when its negotiating team will return and when its counter offer will be made. He thinks that Mintoff will reject [Page 747]the 6.5 million pound offer, being contemplated in NATO, collapse the negotiations and turn to the Libyans. He believes, however, that Mintoff would not reject a ten million pound package, and that such a package would provide the basis for further negotiations. He thinks timing is crucial, that Mintoff may try to jump to the Libyans at any time.

State informs us that AID may be able to find the $4.8–$7.2 million on short notice in the AID Administrator’s contingency fund if AID agrees to lift the Foreign Assistance Act restriction it has been imposing on Malta because of earlier visits to Cuban and North Vietnamese ports by the Maltese-registered ship Timios Stavros. Since this ship has not visited a Communist port since August 1970, it should be possible to lift this restriction.

Other reports would seem to confirm Ambassador Pritzlaff’s assessment of the crucial timing involved—the fact that Mintoff may take precipitous action. Pritzlaff’s recommended action, however, would have the US unilaterally putting money into Malta without exacting from Mintoff an understanding with regard to NATO and Sixth Fleet visits that is of importance to US interests. Unless we have the NATO/Sixth Fleet strings in some way attached from the very beginning we run a major risk of not being able to achieve our objectives in Malta.

In an effort to protect our interests, I think we should tell Mintoff immediately that we are prepared to help him with his near-term financial crisis. If we take this move, it might be wisest to be as forthcoming as possible, i.e., $7.2 not $4.8 million. This will take the pressure off Mintoff, and will clearly demonstrate our seriousness. In offering Mintoff this aid, we should take care to identify it as bilateral support—not to be confused with UK negotiations. At the same time we should emphasize the importance we place on working out a satisfactory arrangement for Sixth Fleet visits. We should emphasize the importance with which we view the NATO-assisted UK negotiations, impress on Mintoff that he must give the UK and NATO the time they require to develop a negotiating package, that they are working in good faith to develop such a package, and that we want to reach a satisfactory solution to his broader financial problems.

A decision is immediately required as to who will inform Mintoff that we are prepared to aid him. The logical candidates are Ambassador Pritzlaff or former Ambassador Feldman. Pritzlaff is on the scene, abreast of developments and could move immediately, I do not know where Feldman is or how informed of developments he is. If he is abreast of developments, no matter where he is, he could contact Mintoff immediately by telephone and follow up as soon as possible with a visit.

Dick Kennedy has requested Jim Schlesinger to identify possible sources for approximately $8 million on an urgent basis. I think we [Page 748]should proceed on the assumption that we can find the money. State may suggest that we try to get other NATO nations to help solve the immediate financial problem—i.e., get the UK, FRG and Italy to chip in on the $4.8–$7.2 million within the next day or two. I think this would be a mistake; we should keep the multinational focus on development of the broader NATO-assisted UK negotiating package (keeping in mind that we may wish to call on the AID funds to fatten that package if necessary). However, we will have to inform the British that we are providing Mintoff with short-term assistance—emphasizing that this is not meant to replace the UK negotiating package.

Recommendations

1. That General Haig ask Alec Johnson to have Mintoff informed immediately that US is prepared to assist him.3

Feldman to inform Mintoff

Pritzlaff to inform Mintoff

2. That General Haig ask Johnson to advise British of the step we are taking.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 622, Country Files—Middle East, Malta, Vol. I. Secret. Sent for urgent action.
  2. Pritzlaff’s recommendations were contained in telegram 802 from Valletta, August 2. (Ibid.) Kissinger annotated the NSC copy of the telegram: “What are we doing?” The handwritten date “8–8–71” appears below this.
  3. Kissinger checked the Approve line beneath the two options, and the date “8–8–71” was written below. A copy of the message to Pritzlaff approving an approach to Mintoff was forwarded to the State Department on August 4. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 622, Country Files—Middle East, Malta, Vol. I)
  4. No indication of Kissinger’s decision is on the original.