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


  • Relations with Portugal—State Taking Collision Course

I want to be sure you are aware of two actions taken yesterday by State which could have a negative effect on our relations with Portugal and raise questions in Lisbon concerning the President’s intentions.

Under Secretary Richardson called in the Portuguese Ambassador yesterday to inform him that the Justice Department intends to prosecute a US company for violating the Rhodesian sanctions regulations.2

This is a criminal action charging that the company imported chrome from Rhodesia after the effective date of the sanctions. It is anticipated that the company will defend the suit by offering in evidence official Portuguese documents issued in Mozambique which state that the chrome had left Rhodesia and entered Mozambique before the date of the sanctions. To counter that, Justice will introduce evidence showing that the official documents were fraudulent.

Many months ago, the Portuguese brought this matter to State’s attention pointing out that such action—which calls into question an official document and implies that the Portuguese assisted in circumventing the sanctions—would damage US-Portuguese relations. In explaining the decision to prosecute, Richardson noted that the matter had been carefully reviewed and that Justice was asked to deter public action until after the Portuguese elections. Ambassador Garin said this action would cause “unpleasant consequences.”

The second issue concerns the fact that the US Mission to the UN recommended yesterday that we vote for a paragraph in a Southern Rhodesia resolution which condemns the policies of South Africa and Portugal for continuing to have relations with Rhodesia. After intervention by Winston Lord and me, State is expected to instruct the Mission to abstain on that provision. Winston is sending you a separate memo explaining this issue in greater detail.3

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Both these matters should be viewed in the light of the President’s meeting on April 19 with the Portuguese Foreign Minister Nogueira in which Nogueira pleaded for better understanding of Portugal’s African policies, noting there had been no bilateral exchange of communication since 1961. The President assured him that his was a new administration with a completely open mind, and that he did not want his administration to continue using doctrinaire views.4

I do not necessarily take issue with the substance of State’s decision in the chrome case, but I am disturbed that—although the issue was kicking around State for many months—we learned of it only after the event through the Evening Reading and an information copy of an outgoing reporting telegram (attached at Tab A). The Southern Rhodesian resolution matter points up the fact that State had apparently not gotten the point to the Mission that the voting patterns of the past eight years are no longer sacred.

I think it would be useful if you would speak to Richardson and remind him the President has made clear he wants a fresh approach toward Portugal and her African policies, and that the White House should be kept better informed on this matter in general, and that White House guidance should be sought whenever it appears that we might have to adopt a harsh posture toward Portugal.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 701, Country Files—Europe, Portugal, Vol. I. Confidential. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the first page reads: “HAK has seen. Nov. 5, 1969.” Copies of this memorandum were sent to Roger Morris and Winston Lord of the NSC Staff.
  2. Reported in telegram 184314 to Lisbon, October 31, attached at Tab A, not printed.
  3. Not found.
  4. See Document 254.