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

SUBJECT

  • Malta—Mintoff’s Reported Irritation at US Aid Offer

In the intelligence report at Tab A,2 a Maltese Cabinet member is reported as saying that Prime Minister Dom Mintoff was, in fact, very irritated with the US bilateral aid offer extended in July, considering it too little, too late and not in keeping with Malta’s needs.

Mintoff is reported to have told aides that the small offer and the restrictions planned on its use—i.e., the $5 million development loan—confirmed his belief that the United States did not seriously wish to help Malta. The offer, he said, was especially galling when compared to the FRG, PRC and Italian offers, “the latter now willing to do anything Malta asks. In comparison, the United States should have given several tens of millions of dollars as an outright gift.” Further, Mintoff said he would give nothing to the United States in return for its aid, especially visiting rights for the Sixth Fleet.

If accurate,3 this report is, of course, the exact opposite of what Mintoff has said publicly. On July 19, he announced to his Parliament that “the Government of Malta wishes to show publicly its great appreciation for this offer which the Government of the United States is making . . .,” going on to thank the President and Bob Ellsworth by name, as well as the members of the US Aid mission.

It is possible that Mintoff’s reported irritation may be nothing more than a passing outburst in keeping with his fulminant personality. If, however, he is genuinely displeased with our offer of assistance:

—he has probably since been sobered by Senator Proxmire’s criticism of US aid to Malta, criticism that went unnoticed in the United States but that was carried by Reuters and picked up in the Maltese press;

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—it points to the soundness of the US decision not to tie the aid offer to Sixth Fleet visits but rather to make the offer on its own merits—concluding the final step in the UK(NATO)-Malta negotiations—and leaving the Sixth Fleet issue for another day.

From the tone of his remarks, it would appear that Mintoff had not flatly ruled out Sixth Fleet visits before he had our aid offer in hand. I doubt that he has ruled out such visits even now.

Of Mintoff’s many interests, two are of particular significance in the context of this memorandum:

1) He would greatly value being received either by the President or yourself. On August 25, Embassy Valletta reported4 Mintoff as saying that he had not made up his mind about attending the UN General Assembly this fall, that he did not wish to go just to be seen but that he was fully prepared to go if something useful could be achieved—i.e., an appropriate reception in Washington.

2) He is forever on the lookout for new sources of revenue for Malta.

In my opinion, we would be best advised not to respond to his hints for an invitation, keeping business on a low-keyed, as-normal basis via Embassy Valletta. This should provide Mintoff with the opportunity to reflect both on this “neglect” and on the potential millions of dollars in revenue to Malta that would come with the resumption of Sixth Fleet visits.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 622, Country Files—Middle East, Malta, Vol. II. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. A note on the first page reads: “HAK has seen.”
  2. Intelligence Information Cable TDCS DB312/03690–72, August 15, not printed.
  3. In telegram 1502 from Valletta, August 30, the Embassy indicated that it believed the report to be inaccurate. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 622, Country Files—Middle East, Malta, Vol. II)
  4. Telegram 1472 from Valletta, August 25. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 MALTA)
  5. Haig wrote at the bottom of the memorandum: “HAK—I agree for present but we must keep a watchful eye on situation H.”