257. Telegram From the Embassy in Portugal to the Department of State1

187. Subj: US policy toward Portugal. Ref: CA–116.2

Summary: My basic reservation re instructions in CA–116 follows: If Portuguese military losses in Africa (proportionately comparable to [Page 808] ours in Viet-Nam), four year tour of military service, and absorption of half of budget by military expenditures do not suffice to change Portuguese policy, I do not see how my arguing the case with Caetano can do so. Rather I advise continuing present efforts to develop our rapport and dialogue, closely exploiting evolving GOP policy, on matters where our interests coincide and leading gradually to inclusion of Portuguese Africa. For time being we should rest our case as friend of Portugal on need and advantages of increasing pace of “autonomy”, thereby giving her friends grounds for defense of Portuguese efforts.

1. I have some serious reservations about instructions contained in CA–116. In this connection I wish respectfully to express belief that spread and diversity of problems arising from Portugal’s continuing colonial position in Africa require that USG develop policies transcending, as much as humanly possible, our intramural differences in Department as well as in field.

2. Little would be accomplished now or in foreseeable future by an approach at highest GOP level. This has been tried without success by previous Ambassadors and by US special emissaries—including the offer of economic aid as quid pro quo for action on self-determination. However Portuguese consider that their essential national interests are at stake in Africa. It is difficult to imagine how GOP could be persuaded to change these policies by verbal expressions by the American Ambassador when they are not moved to do so by the infinitely more compelling pressure of (a) military losses fully comparable with ours in Viet-Nam, (b) by high proportion (about 45 percent) of national budget going to military and security expenditures (at least 59 percent of this spent overseas), and (c) by the minimum four-year duration of military service.

3. The net result of the new suggested approach would undermine the goodwill which has begun to accrue to US as a result of GOP’s high regard for President Nixon personally and of greater moderation in our UN speeches as well as our two abstentions in Security Council, plus local efforts to increase rapport across the board. In the existing climate to initiate a rhetorical dialogue with Caetano based on an exegesis of his remarks to me could only be counter-productive.

4. Caetano’s attitude towards the territories since my discussion with him (Lisbon 1613)3 has hardened as a result of rightwing-military pressures demonstrated on October 6 and 7, 1969 when Caetano was called to task for his “over-liberalism” re overseas policy. Even if Caetano were sincerely inclined towards moderation, the potent rightwing-military/civilian oligarchy—led by President Thomaz to [Page 809] whom Caetano is directly responsible—would not permit a shift in this ingrained national policy.

5. Our best judgment is that Caetano will continue to progress prudently towards “autonomy” for the African territories because of (a) his conviction that lack of social and economic progress lie at heart of the rebellion; (b) his desire to shift some of the financial burdens to the territories and (c) because it is quite clear that personally Caetano does not share the extremists’ conviction that Portugal would be lost without her “ultramar.”

6. On evening January 17 during after dinner conversation new Foreign Minister Rui Patricio expressed himself re Africa in general terms quite similar to Caetano’s last summer. Not only does this provide pleasant contrast with his predecessor Franco Nogueira but it is also an interesting preliminary indication since some observers have inclined to view that Patricio is closer to President Thomaz than to the Prime Minister.

7. While CA–116 views black Africa as trending towards more hostile attitude against Portugal, the expenditures in human and material resources and the strains imposed by the extremely lengthy terms of military service remain politically manageable. Furthermore for the time frame immediately ahead of us, a clearly dominant majority of the Portuguese leadership feels confident about security prospects and economic developments. This is specially true re Angola which is viewed as on verge of profitable takeoff which should ease budgetary strains (on basis, of course, of present level of insurgent activity). While there is muted popular weariness with the African wars, this is still readily controllable.

8. Other basic consideration which deserves to be kept in mind is that for foreseeable future political choice facing Portugal is alternative between Caetano’s cautious moves towards liberalization and a return to Salazarist rightwing. It is not an option of Caetano or democracy, at best still several years away. As a matter of fact I suggest that we should be thinking in terms of conceding something to Caetano (and new Foreign Minister Patricio) so as to strengthen moderates against ultras. Should Caetano’s greater reasonableness not appear to be of some advantage to Portugal in its relations with USG, the hand of his opponents would be strengthened.

9. Yet another important issue in overall situation is the Azores base where we continue on a rent-free basis which situation we see no point in disturbing unless confident of achieving commensurate advantage in return.

10. While I hesitate to add this point because of its possible implications of “blackmail”, still it is a fact which should also be kept in mind that as of present moment and for foreseeable future alternative to [Page 810] Lisbon rule in Africa is not, in our opinion, independent black republics. Instead, it is spectrum of uncertain and unstable possibilities ranging from geographical and tribal conflicts and secessions to those in which Portuguese white settlers of Angola and Mozambique, in actions necessarily condoned by Lisbon, would seek some form of protection from South Africa and Rhodesia and adjust their racial policies to their security needs.

11. What then could we do to “help the cause of progress” if we put on ice new proposal of a USG move to “lean on” the GOP towards instant liberalization?

12. First of all, I would advise that we continue using every opportunity to stress in a friendly fashion importance of Portuguese moving as fast as they can so as to give their friends abroad arguments and reasons to help Portugal.

13. More specifically I would propose taking advantage of current era of relatively good feeling so as to broaden and firm up a basis of eventual development and broadening of a dialogue with GOP. To this end we should establish a pattern of cooperation with GOP when our interests coincide in Africa. I have in mind the fruitful exchanges of several months ago during the border tensions with Zambia. I am also thinking of any assistance we could render, in close collaboration with our Embassies in black Africa (especially bordering on Portuguese territories), to foster contact and dialogue between Portugal and black African states and/or between GOP and rebel leaders. Likewise I am thinking of assistance which we could render on Portuguese prisoners held in Guinea by PAIGC4 and conversely on plane and boat held by Portuguese. Might we not also make a contribution to further improvement of relations between Congo-Kinshasa and GOP?

14. I cannot however agree with suggestion that Lusaka Manifesto5 be used as point of departure in discussing Portugal’s African problems. While I do not contest Department’s assessment that African leaders were sincerely attempting a moderate approach, mere fact that GOP feels so strongly that Manifesto is a violent document masked in moderate language destroys value of such an approach.

15. In conclusion I would hope that by gradually establishing ourselves as frank but true friends of Portugal we could with time increasingly and gradually orient Portugal’s African policies in the direction [Page 811] we think best for our overall interests. Or to look at the other side of the coin, we can become the logical country to whom Portuguese leaders would turn when they are prepared to reconsider their African problems.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL PORT–US. Confidential; Limdis. Repeated to Dar es Salaam, Kinshasa, Lusaka, Conakry, Blantyre, Lourenco Marques, and Luanda.
  2. Dated January 9. It instructed the Embassy in Lisbon to continue a “dialogue” with Caetano on the Portuguese African colonies with the objective of promoting change in Portugal’s policy. It is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXVIII, Southern Africa,Document 89.
  3. The reference presumably should be telegram 1663, Document 255.
  4. The African Independence Party of Guinea and Cape Verde.
  5. An April 1969 manifesto issued by the East and Central African states. For text of its key passages, see Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1969–1970, pp. 23902–23903. The U.N. General Assembly subsequently endorsed the Lusaka Manifesto by a vote of 113 to 2 with two abstentions. Nixon expressed support for the Manifesto in his February 18 Report to Congress on U.S. Foreign Policy; see Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, p. 159.