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


  • We Inch Closer to Negotiations with Portugal on the Azores: Our Ambassador is in Town

Our agreement with the Portuguese for use of the Lajes Base in the Azores formally terminated at the end of 1962. Since then we have used the base on a de facto basis. In late 1968 the Portuguese Foreign Minister indicated an interest in “resuming” negotiations with us for a new agreement,2 and in January 1969 the Portuguese informed us by note of their desire to begin negotiations. We responded in February last year,3 noting our interest and soliciting their proposals. There had been no further movement on the issue until this weekend when Ambassador Knight met with Foreign Minister Rui Patrico, prior to the Ambassador’s return to Washington for consultations.4

The Foreign Minister raised the subject of the Azores base, and dwelled on his understanding that our base requirements were under global review, and there were Congressional pressures to limit military expenditures. He indicated that, although the Portuguese position [Page 812] would not be firmed up until there was an assessment of the possibilities for US compensation, his general thinking was as follows:

—Portugal is willing to continue its cooperation with us in the Azores;

—any form of US compensation to Portugal would be considered, whether or not contractually linked with the Azores base;

—if military assistance would be difficult, Portugal would equally welcome help toward meeting its economic and/or educational development.

It can be expected that the Portuguese will continue to inch forward toward base negotiations. They are undoubtedly awaiting the conclusion of the Spanish base negotiations before proposing the actual opening of Azores negotiations. After his conversation with the Foreign Minister, Ambassador Knight felt satisfied that there was no basis for a rumor currently making the rounds in Lisbon that the French are dickering with the Portuguese for the Azores base.

Do you wish to see Ambassador Knight while he is here, February 10–18?

Wish to see

Do not wish to see5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 701, Country Files—Europe, Portugal, Vol. I. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XII, Western Europe, Document 175.
  3. The Portuguese note of January 6, 1969, is an attachment to airgram A–7 from Lisbon, January 8. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 15 PORT–US) For the February 4, 1969, U.S. reply, see footnote 4, Document 255.
  4. Reported in telegram 350 from Lisbon, February 7. (National Archives, RG 84, Lisbon Embassy Files, DEF 15 Azores, 1970)
  5. Kissinger initialed this option. The handwritten date “2–12–70” appears below his initials. Sonnenfeldt met with Ridgway Knight on February 11 to discuss Portuguese affairs. Knight reiterated most of the themes developed in Sonnenfeldt’s memorandum. A memorandum for the files of their discussion, dated February 13, is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 701, Country Files—Europe, Portugal, Vol. I.