242. Memorandum From A. Denis Clift of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • US–UK Talks on Malta

On January 4, Prime Minister Heath suggested in a message to the President that the US and UK should undertake an urgent and thorough bilateral review of the Maltese situation.2 This was agreed to, and on January 6 a UK team headed by Deputy Under Secretary Sir Thomas Brimelow came to the State Department for talks with Under Secretary Alex Johnson and other State Department representatives (Bob Ellsworth and Hal Sonnenfeldt were also present).

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January 6 Meeting

Brimelow generally took a hard line on the undesirability of increasing the cash being offered to Mintoff in the UK(NATO) package. He was less adamant about other NATO members holding out the prospect of additional bilateral aid to Mintoff. He emphasized the UK’s belief that the only reason Mintoff wants more money is to permit him to straighten out the Maltese economy so that he can get rid of the British. He did agree that if the UK pulls out, it is probable that the Soviets will move into Malta eventually.

The US side introduced a proposed formula for increasing the UK(NATO) package from ₤9.5 million to ₤13 million (Tab B), the US contribution to be ₤750,000 pounds (with an additional ₤1 million to be held in reserve by the US for a possible bilateral contribution to Malta). Brimelow said that he did not believe that ₤13 million would be enough for Mintoff, but that he would advise London of our proposal and seek instructions.

January 7 Meeting

Brimelow again met with Alex Johnson on January 7. His instructions from Lord Carrington, which he provided to Johnson (Tab A–2) were to the effect that the UK could not agree to increasing the NATO package. He made it clear that unless Mintoff lifts his negotiating conditions and other ultimata, the British plan to withdraw and they hope to do so in a peaceful and orderly fashion. Johnson said that this scenario would appear to rule out any possibility of an agreement, including possible efforts by other NATO members to negotiate bilaterally following British withdrawal.

Johnson emphasized the importance of British presence to our mutual primary objective of denying Malta to the Soviet Union. Brimelow said that the UK Ministers would be working on the Malta problem over the weekend and he would make sure that the problem of denial to the Soviets was included in their considerations. Further to assist the UK in its weekend deliberations, Johnson provided Brimelow with a copy of a draft telegram (Tab A–1) which State had hoped that the UK might be able to agree to. (With the understanding, following the second day of talks that we were not planning to send it out because, as yet, we were not in agreement with the UK.)

It was agreed that there would be no mention of the US–UK talks to other countries. It was further agreed that the up-coming meeting of the North Atlantic Council on January 11 will be crucial. Johnson told Brimelow that the US wants to discuss the possibility of increasing the UK(NATO) package with other NATO members, and that State was planning to call in the German, Italian, Dutch, Belgian, Danish and Norwegian Ambassadors for this purpose. Brimelow saw no UK objections to this provided that the discussions were based on past and fu[Page 772]ture NAC meetings and not the US–UK talks. He was assured that the talks would not be mentioned. We also informed him that we would not approach the government of Malta prior to the January 11 NAC.

Next Steps

Following the second meeting with the British, Johnson drafted the message to the White House (Tab A) (with the understanding that we would pass it for him, with a copy to Secretary Rogers). Included at Tab A–3 is a proposed message from the President to Prime Minister Heath drafted by Johnson, Getz and myself, and coordinated with Ray Price. Briefly, the message thanks Heath for sending Brimelow, again stresses the importance of maintaining the British presence, and expresses the hope that the UK will find during its deliberations prior to the January 11 NAC that it can agree to a proposition, such as that advanced by the US, increasing the UK(NATO) offer to Mintoff. (Johnson discussed US tactics and the contents of this message with Secretary Rogers by telephone and received his approval of the substance of the message.3

I recommend that the President approve the proposed message to Prime Minister Heath. Brimelow gave the impression that the UK will need to be persuaded by the other members of NATO if it is to consider altering its position for the up-coming NAC. The President’s message, together with the results of our consultations with other NATO members and approaches that they may choose to make to the UK should all help to bring home to the British the importance NATO attaches to their following the negotiations through to a successful conclusion.


That you seek the President’s approval of the message to Prime Minister Heath at Tab A–3.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 622, Country Files—Middle East, Malta, Vol. II. Secret. Sent for very urgent action. The tabs are not printed.
  2. A copy of Heath’s message is ibid., Box 764, Presidential Correspondence, United Kingdom Prime Minister Edward Heath.
  3. The phrase “of the substance of the message” was added by hand.
  4. A handwritten note below the text reads: “Henry:—I talked with Alex Johnson after the meeting. He emphasized that our problem now is getting the UK to agree to stay in. He is now convinced that they really want to get out hopefully without a messy situation on their hands on Malta. The UK will be considering its position for the NAC this weekend. I recommend you seek the President’s approval of the message to Heath. If you approve we will send directly tonight.—RTK[ennedy]”. No indication of a Presidential decision was found.