262. Memorandum From Arthur Downey of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Azores Base Negotiations

Hal Sonnenfeldt reported to you recently that the Portuguese have raised the question of the next step in the long suspended negotiations for the renewal of the agreement for our peacetime use of facilities in the Azores (Log No. 21444—Tab A). The 1951 Azores agreement ac[Page 818]cords the US the right, as long as NATO exists, to use facilities during any war in which it and Portugal are allied. The use of the facilities in peacetime was initially granted for a five year period, which was extended until 1962. Since then, we have used the facilities on a de facto basis.

Secretary Rogers wrote to Secretary Laird on June 12 and requested his views on the strategic importance to the US of the Azores facilities. Secretary Laird replied in mid-July, and concluded that for the foreseeable future the Azores will continue to be of major strategic importance as a base for anti-submarine warfare activities, as a site for communications and high-frequency direction finding operations, and for mid-Atlantic search and rescue operations. Copies of this exchange of letters are at Tab B; they are bootleg copies.

Secretary Rogers has now written to Secretary Hardin to urge his agreement to a PL–480 program for Portugal of some $5 million per year for two years beginning possibly in FY–72. Secretary Rogers has sent copies of this letter to you and to Secretary Laird (Tab C). He considers that if he is able to offer this program to the Portuguese Foreign Minister this fall, it might be sufficient quid pro quo to secure a renewal of the base agreement, or at least persuade the Portuguese to continue the status quo which has proved operationally satisfactory since 1962.

Our reading of the initial reaction at Agriculture is that Secretary Hardin will not object to employing a PL–480 program of this magnitude for Portugal. There is, however, a sense of displeasure in Agriculture over the use of PL–480 programs (designed to boost agricultural exports) for political purposes, and over the fact that Agriculture was not brought in earlier in the planning stages in this case. Admittedly, this preliminary work on the Azores seems to have been relatively closely held, for example the copy of Secretary Rogers’ letter to Secretary Hardin is the only information you have officially received to date. The EUR/IG might have been an appropriate structure within which the Azores could have been considered. In any event, the matter seems to be moving well at this point, and there is a good likelihood that agreement can be reached quietly with the Portuguese.2

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 701, Country Files—Europe, Portugal, Vol. I. Secret. Sent for information. A copy was sent to Hormats. The tabs are not printed. Haig drew an arrow to Downey’s name and wrote: “Call Haig. AH”. Kissinger’s handwritten note on the memorandum reads: “Al—We must [double underlined by Kissinger] keep State from running wild though I agree with this decision. We should have been in on it. HK”. In a September 14 memorandum to Haig, Sonnenfeldt noted that Kissinger at a staff meeting had raised the issue of getting the NSC into “the Act Before a Position is Settled in the Agencies.” He continued: “In explanation of Art Downey’s memo and in justice to the record, I want to be sure you understand that this year alone we attempted in memos dated February 9, February 13, May 25, August 20 and September 2 to interest HAK in the Azores issue and in relations with Portugal generally.” Haig annotated the memorandum: “Thanks Hal—Problem from here on is what happens next and are we on top of it. Al”. (Ibid.) The memoranda of February 9 and May 25 are Documents 258 and 259. For the February 13 memorandum, see footnote 5, Document 258. The August 20 memorandum from Sonnenfeldt to Kissinger is attached at Tab A.
  2. In telegram 132903 to Lisbon, September 11, the Department of State reported that Garin had met with Hillenbrand that day to request the initiation of negotiations on an Azores agreement: “Garin reiterated the Portuguese view that negotiations take place on two planes: one dealing with Azores base agreement renewal; other with quid which would not be specifically linked so as to avoid problems with U.S. Congress.” Hillenbrand informed the Ambassador that the United States was “not quite” ready to initiate discussions due to personnel difficulties but assured him that the United States would be in contact with Portugal as soon as possible. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL PORT–US)