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

SUBJECT

  • US-Portuguese Relations and the Azores Negotiations

Our Ambassador in Lisbon, Ridgway Knight, sent a sound telegram to Secretary Rogers for his background in connection with his visit to Portugal May 29–30. The message (Tab A) is worth reading, and provides a follow-up to Knight’s conversation with me in February (log #7309, attached at Tab B).

The Ambassador judges that this Administration has succeeded in vastly improving our relationship with Portugal at no cost in terms of economic considerations, concessions in matters of principle or changes in policy. He is concerned, however, by the possibility that this happy state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely without some concrete manifestation to accompany it. Secretary Rogers’ visit to Lisbon was considered necessary in order to preserve the friendly climate—a holding operation—until we know how much we want the Azores bases and have a clear idea of how we can pay for them.

The Defense Department feels it is unable to offer a final judgment on the value of the Azores until the base agreement with the Spanish has been concluded. Its preliminary assessment is that the Azores bases [1 line not declassified] State seems to accept this, and so there apparently is a general consensus at this point among the interested agencies that we should retain our facilities.

In principle, the Portuguese consider it in their interest that we remain. Our facilities there give Portugal some respectability in NATO, and provide it with a lever to seek US assistance (economic and military) and at least a kind of benevolent neutrality on Portuguese-African policies. The Portuguese appreciate that we cannot move into negotiations until after the Spanish question is settled, and they have not pressed us hard.

The sticky question remains as to how much we can offer the Portuguese in return. We currently provide them with about $1 million in MAP a year, and there is no prospect for any increase in amount. They [Page 814]have expressed strong interest in economic concessions—long term, low interest development loans. State is looking into the possibility of putting together a PL 480 package which might amount to $10 million per year, and perhaps ExIm Bank loans for educational reform.

In his cable, Ambassador Knight expresses his fear that the Portuguese might react with great emotion if they abruptly discover that we had absolutely no quid to offer for the Azores, or if we take dramatic actions with respect to Africa which the Portuguese could interpret as directly against them or as unmistakenly unfriendly. His word of caution will become even more relevant as the UN General Assembly convenes this fall and, at the same time, the Spanish agreement is concluded.

Once the latter has occurred (hopefully), it will be desirable to review the Azores issue; this is probably best done through the Under Secretaries Committee.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 701, Country Files—Europe, Portugal, Vol. I. Secret. Sent for information. Kissinger’s initials appear on the first page. Beneath them is the stamped date “Jun 2 1970.” The tabs are not printed.