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


  • Caetano on: US Azores Base; Portugal in Africa; Domestic Politics

Our Ambassador in Lisbon, Ridgway Knight, had a long discussion with Prime Minister Caetano June 29 (Tab B). You should read the “Highlights” at least.

Azores and Case Amendment

Caetano said he wanted us to know that if the Case Amendment2 becomes law our forces will have to leave. (The amendment to the military assistance bill would require the Executive to submit the base agreement in treaty form.)

To Knight’s observation that this would jeopardize common NATO security, Caetano replied gloomily that Soviet mastery of the Atlantic was in any case resulting slowly because Portugal’s allies fail to support her. Without an Azores agreement, Portugal would face the first step into the unknown in its military security relationship with us.

Ambassador Knight, while noting that Caetano is a powerful bargainer, believes that the Portuguese government’s reaction if the Case amendment finally goes through will be strong. We should not think he is bluffing.

(Incidentally, Caetano seems to have misread the tactical situation in the Senate. Removing Bahrain from the amendment, which as you know has been done, sharpens the constitutional issue by focussing it solely on the more important Azores agreement rather than shifting away from that issue to a specifically Portuguese one, as Caetano apparently thinks. It sharpens it because, unlike the Bahrainis, the Portu [Page 837] guese don’t care whether the base is covered by an executive agreement or a treaty. The Executive will thus be unable to point to foreign issues in defending its preference for an agreement rather than a treaty.)


Caetano remarked that the US seemed blind to the expanding Chinese sphere of influence in the Indian Ocean and on the Eastern coast of Africa, and the expanding Soviet sphere in the Near East and the African West coast. He outlined Portugal’s own policy problems in Africa, saying that:

—Portugal’s people would not permit him to give up the African territories.

—An attempt at “decolonization” in these territories would likely induce the whites there to act as Rhodesia’s whites had—to declare their independence unilaterally.

—When Ambassador Knight reminded Caetano that we hoped to see more evidence of movement toward an integration of society in the African territories, the Prime Minister replied that he had to move carefully and not abruptly, lest passions and sentiment endanger the present structure without compensating advantages. Ambassador Knight believes that Caetano sincerely wants to expedite evolution in the overseas territories but is leery of moving too fast.

Domestic Affairs

Caetano complained bitterly about his country’s weak and self-centered upper class. When early in his administration he had experimented with liberalism and “Marxist elements had mushroomed,” all the conservatives had done was to run for cover behind him rather than forming a “loyal opposition” against the left wing. Ambassador Knight was surprised at the contempt shown by Caetano for the Portuguese upper classes. The Prime Minister seems to feel that his hopes for a domestic evolution at home have been disappointed. Seeing the left-wing as the only new political force in the post-Salazar period, Caetano has decided to stand firm.

In case you feel that the President should be made aware of Caetano’s views on the Case amendment, there is a memo for your approval and signature at Tab A. The President of course has met the Prime Minister twice,3 once in the Azores, and thus has some personal acquaintance both with the man and the base problem. He should also be prepared for the possibility that it could come to a show-down on the Case amendment, with the President being faced with the choice, [Page 838] perhaps, of either vetoing the military assistance bill or resubmitting the base agreement as a treaty.

Ambassador Knight’s report is a very competent summarization of the three most important issues in US-Portuguese relations and commentary on Caetano’s attitude toward them. I recommend that you let the Acting Secretary of State know by memorandum that you think highly of the report and have drawn it to the President’s attention.4


1. That you sign the memorandum to the President at Tab A.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 701, Country Files—Europe, Portugal, Vol. II. Secret. Sent for action. Initialed by Haig, who drew an arrow to Sonnenfeldt’s typed name and wrote: “See Haig.” The tabs are not printed.
  2. On March 3, the Senate approved a resolution (S. Res. 214) introduced by Clifford P. Case (R–NJ) requesting the President to submit agreements with Portugal and Bahrain to the Senate for advice and consent. The action followed February hearings on the two agreements. See United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Executive Agreements with Portugal and Bahrain. Subsequently, during July and August, S. 596, a bill sponsored by Case requiring the Executive Branch to submit all executive agreements to Congress, passed both Houses with wide majorities.
  3. See Documents 253 and 270.
  4. No memorandum was found.
  5. A note by Kissinger on the first page of the memorandum reads: “Don’t bother to send.”