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


  • Malta—Recent Developments, Next Steps

I. Introduction. To break State out of its passive approach to the Maltese problem you recently called Mr. Irwin2 to remind him that the President personally wants the UK-Malta negotiations to succeed. We have already seen an initial reaction to your call; on Saturday, Marty Hillenbrand called in the British DCM to stress the importance the US attaches to the negotiations.3

We are at a point now in the UK-Malta negotiations—as the following paragraphs indicate—where we may find it desirable to take one or more of the following actions on fairly short notice:

1) reassure the Maltese, via Bob Ellsworth, that we intend to follow through in good faith with our economic survey of Malta’s short-term and long-term economic needs;

2) accordingly, be prepared to send an appropriately manned US financial team to Malta, with White House-cleared instructions;

3) send a message from the President to Heath, and perhaps to Mintoff, urging one or both to reach agreement.

II. Recent Developments. On February 15, Malta’s Ambassador to the United States, Attard-Kinswell, saw Secretary Rogers.4 He said that Malta would need five million pounds on a one-time basis in addition to the 14 million pound UK(NATO) offer. Rogers asked him why, considering that it had been agreed to make the length of a new UK-Malta agreement 7½ years rather than 7, with retroactive payment from October 1971, making it possible for Malta to receive a total of 9.25 million pounds by April 1, 1972. Attard-Kingswell did not have a clear answer (and Mintoff’s position on this one-time cash is still not completely clear). Attard-Kingswell also asked the US to urge the UK to be more [Page 778] forthcoming in efforts to resolve UK-Malta bilateral issues, currently blocking a new agreement: employment levels, rates of pay for Maltese in uniform, extension of the Luqa runway, UK control of Luqa, customs duties problems, and ownership of a submarine cable. Rogers said that the US has no knowledge of these bilateral issues and does not intend to get involved.

On February 17, Mintoff sent a message to Heath setting forth the Maltese positions on the various issues under negotiation, and suggesting that a meeting between the two Prime Ministers might help to bridge the gap. On February 21, Heath sent a reply (without bothering to consult with the US) saying that the UK still wishes to reach agreement with Malta, but that the gap remains wide, and that Mintoff will have to accept the 14 million pound offer as the basis of a new agreement. Heath said he would not rule out a further meeting with Mintoff, but that it would be important to have a lower-level preliminary meeting to iron out some of the differences.5

Mintoff read this message to Ambassador Pritzlaff during the latter’s farewell call on February 22.6 Predictably, Mintoff expressed disappointment at Heath’s cool tone and said he felt any meeting would have to be at the top. He added that he was disappointed that Attard-Kingswell’s mission to the United States had not produced results. He also spent some time discussing the unacceptability of the UK’s position on two bilateral issues—pay of uniformed personnel and level of employment. Briefly, these issues are as follows:

—Uniformed personnel—there are two categories, first Maltese in UK forces not serving in Malta (approximately 1,000 Maltese in Cyprus). Mintoff wants them to receive the same pay as UK forces. The UK is willing to increase their take-home pay to the UK level, but it does not want to increase the pension benefits (this presumably because of the demands it would produce from other foreigners serving with UK forces). Second, Maltese serving with UK forces on Malta. The UK currently pays them on local pay scales; Mintoff wants them to be paid on the UK scales; the UK has indicated willingness only to conduct a pay review (which would probably result in a cost-of-living percentage pay adjustment).

—Level of employment. The British want to reduce the 6,000 man Maltese labor force on UK payrolls to 4,400 by March 1973. Mintoff is [Page 779] willing to have the force reduced to 4,300 by 1975. (This is a very important issue for Labor party leader Mintoff); he is vulnerable to the Nationalist opposition if he produces a UK-Malta agreement that results in a sizeable labor force cut during the coming 12 months. It is quite possible, however, that with proper encouragement from the US, the UK and Malta could agree to a compromise 1974 date for the labor force reduction, perhaps phased over the coming two years.

In recent weeks we have confirmed to the UK the importance we attach to treatment of the United States in the “international aspects” language of any new UK-Malta agreement: We wish to be treated as a third country, but we do not wish to be mentioned by name in any exclusionary language. We insist on this point for the following reasons: We are the second largest contributor to the NATO package; it would be very hard to justify any US contribution to the US Congress if US forces are explicitly excluded from Malta in a new agreement; and, while we have not pressed the point in recent months, we want to keep open the option of resuming Sixth Fleet visits to Malta as a result of US-Maltese bilateral negotiations following successful conclusion of the UK-Malta negotiations.

On another front, Italy’s outgoing Prime Minister Colombo has sent a letter to the President (being staffed separately)7 urging the US to advise Malta now of the amount of economic aid we are prepared to give Malta following conclusion of a new UK-Malta agreement. Finally, on February 22, Bob Ellsworth was contacted by the Maltese UN mission and informed that Attard-Kingswell would appreciate any further information about the level and type of US bilateral assistance Malta might expect.8

The pressures of time are again coming to bear on the negotiations—in summary, the UK has said that it must begin laying off Maltese workers by February 25 (at the same time telling us that this may not be necessary); the negotiations have come a long way, but there are still problems; the UK’s cool treatment of Mintoff is not helping; and Mintoff is unhappy with the subordinate, passive role being played by the United States.

III. Current US Position. The United States seeks a new UK-Malta agreement that explicitly excludes Warsaw Pact forces from Malta. We wish to be treated as a third country in any such agreement (i.e., the UK and Malta would both have the right to say No to visits by any third [Page 780] country forces). We are prepared to send a financial team to review Malta’s needs following conclusion of a UK-Malta agreement.

IV. Next Steps. I think we must give a very hard look at the type of bilateral offer we are prepared to make to Malta; we should rethink the chairmanship of the US financial team; we should give the Maltese some assurances with regard to our offer; and we should be prepared to send messages to Heath and Mintoff.

—The US Bilateral Offer. Following his mission to Malta, Bob Ellsworth informed Mintoff in a letter of thanks dated December 129 that “the President will be glad to send financial and other experts to Malta in order to be prepared to be as helpful as possible, when the Malta-UK defense agreement is finally concluded on a satisfactory basis. You will understand I am talking about your short-term problems as well as your long-term problem.” (Short term problems means cash). On January 22, Ellsworth sent another message to Mintoff10 informing him that the US wished to clarify the situation reached in the negotiations “before making firm plans concerning our financial experts so that their stay in Malta will be most helpful.” (The UK had asked the US not to send the team at that time.) In delivering this message Pritzlaff, under instructions, informed Mintoff that the experts’ visit would have to await conclusion of a new agreement and, because of the increase in the US contribution to the NATO package, our team would probably be focussing on the long-term rather than the short-term aspects of Malta’s economic problems—i.e., no cash.

The question arises: Considering Malta’s repeated inquiries, should we be more forthcoming about our proposed assistance at this point, and should we emphasize that we are still considering short-term assistance as well as long-term? I do not think we can go into our proposed assistance in detail at this point. This will have to await the results of the financial team’s visit following conclusion of the UK-Malta agreement; and we will want to use our bilateral offer, if possible, to negotiate resumption of Sixth Fleet visits—i.e., we can’t offer you cash and economic assistance unless we can show the Congress that we have received something in return. I do think, however, that a message should go from Ellsworth via State to Mintoff or Attard-Kingswell this week reassuring the Maltese Prime Minister that the US plans to look at both Malta’s short-term and long-term problems. (We would, of course, inform the UK of this message.) This may be the nudge required to keep Mintoff [Page 781] negotiating with the UK. A message along the lines of the draft at Tab B would do this. If you agree, we can recommend this language to State.

If we are to do this, however, it is important to make sure that there is agreement within the US on the level of bilateral cash assistance we are prepared to offer Mintoff in return for satisfaction of certain US interests. In Mr. Irwin’s memorandum of November 13, 1971, to the President,11 the Under Secretaries Committee recommended that the US add no more than 1.75 million pounds to the US contribution which then stood at 2.25 million pounds—a total of 4 million. The US contribution presently stands at 3.67 million pounds, and State accordingly is proceeding on the assumption that the US is restricted to approximately .33 million pounds, or $800,000, in terms of additional bilateral cash available for Malta. If we are to make a meaningful bilateral cash offer to Mintoff I think it will have to be at least one million pounds, or $2.4 million dollars. I believe you raised the possibility of additional US money for Malta during your recent conversation with Irwin. AID will have to be directed to plan on earmarking at least an additional $1.6 million if the US is to have the option of offering Mintoff an additional one million pounds bilaterally. It might be best for you to discuss this with Irwin by telephone prior to the sending of the Ellsworth “reassurance” message later this week. Talking points are at Tab A.

The composition of the US financial team should be drawn-up and agreed to so that the team can be directed to go to Malta as soon as a new agreement is reached, or before an agreement is reached should this be deemed tactically desirable. At present State plans to have the team headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Springsteen. I think this is a serious mistake because of the reaction we can anticipate from Mintoff when he learns that a middle level political officer is heading the US financial team. The purpose of the team, in State’s language, is “to acquaint itself with the Maltese economy, its financial problems, and development plans, programs and progress made to assist the United States Government in assessing what self-help efforts the Government of Malta might undertake and what the U.S. Government might consider doing in the way of bilateral assistance.” I have no objection to George Springsteen’s being on the delegation, but the team should be headed by financial/assistance type if it is to be credible. We have already informally questioned State on this matter. I do not think any formal White House action is required now, but, if you agree, I will again informally suggest to State that a person with financial credentials should head the US team.

Finally, as it appears that we are approaching still another crisis stage in the negotiations, we should be thinking about a Presidential [Page 782] message to Heath (and, perhaps, Mintoff) urging compromise on the issues still outstanding to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion. If you agree, I will advise State that it should be thinking about the contents of such a message or messages.

Dick Kennedy concurs.


1) That you tell Irwin that a brief, reassuring message from Ellsworth to Mintoff would appear to be in order, considering Malta’s repeated inquiries and the current play of the negotiations.

2) At the same time, that you tell Irwin that the President continues to want the option of a bilateral cash offer to Mintoff, once the UK-Malta negotiations are successfully concluded (talking points at Tab A).12

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 622, Country Files—Middle East, Malta, Vol. II. Secret. The attachments are not printed. Haig wrote: “OBE” at the top of the page.
  2. See Document 245.
  3. No record of this February 19 discussion was found.
  4. Reported in telegram 27288 to Valletta, February 16. The two men discussed monetary details of the settlement. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 15 MALTA–UK)
  5. These exchanges were summarized in a February 29 message from Heath to Nixon. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 622, Country Files—Middle East, Malta, Vol. II)
  6. Priztlaff reported on this meeting in which Mintoff expressed his negative reaction to Heath’s February 21 communication in telegram 443 from Valletta, February 22. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 15 MALTA–UK) Pritzlaff departed Malta on February 24. John Getz presented his credentials on March 9.
  7. A copy of the February 22 message is ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 756, Presidential Correspondence, Prime Minister Andreotti Colombo successor. Colombo resigned as Prime Minister before the White House could draft a reply. A copy of a reply message sent to the new Prime Minister, Andreotti, is ibid.
  8. No record of the meeting was found.
  9. Transmitted in telegram 23683 to Valletta, December 12, 1971. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 622, Country Files—Middle East, Malta, Vol. II)
  10. Apparently the message transmitted to Mintoff in telegram 12684 to Valletta, January 22. It declined Mintoff’s invitation to a January 24 meeting. (Ibid.)
  11. See footnote 4, Document 237.
  12. Haig wrote below the Approve/Disapprove lines: “Need to reassess in light of action already taken & London talks w[ith] Mintoff. This is excellent work and responsive to what we’re all trying to get done. AH”.