71. Minutes of the Secretary of State’s Staff Meeting1 2


  • The Secretary of State, HENRY A. KISSINGER
[Page 1]

[Omitted here are portions of the discussion unrelated to Guinea-Bissau.]

MR. POPPER: [Page 2] On Guinea Bissau, Mr. Secretary, the PAIGC, the insurgent group in Guinea Bissau, declared its independence September 24 in a rather well orchestrated scenario. The General Assembly, on November 2, passed a resolution welcoming Guinea Bissau’s accession to independence and condemning Portugal’s so-called illegal occupation of the territory and aggression against the people of the territory.

Then on November 26, the FAO—Food and Agriculture Organization—admitted Guinea Bissau to membership. In December, we expect that even in the nonaligned group, which carries through on these activities, will ask the Security Council to pass a resolution similar to that passed by the Assembly, in effect welcoming the accession to independence of Guinea Bissau, but, more [Page 3] directly, in Security Council terms, referring to the alleged aggression by Portugal against Guinea Bissau.

This is an example of—


MR. POPPER: Yes. By interfering with the legitimate right of the government of Guinea Bissau to control the whole territory.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: They are not in Guinea Bissau now, right?

MR. POPPER: They are in about one-tenth of it, I think—the border areas—the borders of Senegal and Guinea—check me, David, if I am wrong—of course they wander through other areas in the territory—I guess about the way the Viet Cong might have done in Viet-Nam.

MR. NEWSOM: They have no settled capital.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What is the population of Guinea Bissau?

MR. POPPER: Fifty thousand under their control—500,000 in the whole territory. At any rate, this is one example—and I will come to another one later on if there is time—of the way in which the non-aligned majority in the General Assembly is standing on its head [Page 4] all the objective criteria which usually go into the question of recognition—control of territory, population, fixed seat of government and so forth, using the Assembly mechanism, the UN mechanism to give status to an insurgent movement which on its own would never acquire it.

This being so, the question arises what if anything we can do about it.

In the General Assembly we can’t do anything about it at the moment. In the Security Council, if there were an attempt to make Guinea Bissau a UN member, we could of course veto it, if we chose to do so.

It seems to me at least worth considering whether the only solution ultimately in this particular case will not be for us to work on the Portuguese or with the Portuguese over the long term, to see whether they will take an attitude which is a little less stiff than that which has produced this circumstance. This is nothing we can do right now, I would imagine.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What attitude would avoid the circumstance?

MR. POPPER: I am running into somebody else’s territory. But what would help to avoid it would be some indication that the Portuguese regarded their African territories as dependent territories which would be moving [Page 5] towards self-determination and presumably independence.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: That is out of the question. I mean it is out of the question that they will accept that. What do you think?

MR. SPRINGSTEEN: They won’t accept it.

MR. POPPER: They won’t accept it now.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: They won’t accept it ever.

MR. POPPER: If they won’t accept it ever, Mr. Secretary—and that is a long time—then there is no solution for this but to have—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: There is no solution, except taking it away from them.

MR. SPRINGSTEEN: They argue they already have self-determination in the territory.

MR. POPPER: I know what they argue, George.

MR. SPRINGSTEEN: They believe it, too.

MR. POPPER: People are very determined for a long time.

MR. PORTER: The problem is they don’t give us anything to work with. They don’t give us any basis for really defending them in the manner they desire. They don’t give us a thing. They say all kinds of things.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: The minute they announce they are dependent territories, then the trust people are [Page 6] going to send commissions in there, and that won’t help them either.

MR. PORTER: Would there be any point in consulting with the Brazilians, who are very tied up with this problem—Jack?

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Consulting them about what?

MR. PORTER: This whole problem of Portuguese positions.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What do we ask them?

MR. PORTER: They have ideas.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Everyone has ideas.

MR. PORTER: They are very upset about this, in much the same way as we are. They had something to say recently to the Ambassador there. Is there any value, Jack, in looking in that direction and seeing if there is anything useful that can be done? I know EUR doesn’t like it—they think we will get into more trouble with the Portuguese. And there is some reason for that.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Just what is it we want from the Brazilians? We can figure out fifty ideas here—

MR. PORTER: Brazil has influence in Portugal, too. And they have got one idea that the whole setup ought to be developed, as I understand it, into a kind of [Page 7] Portuguese-speaking community with the Africans brought forward to some kind of status, and with that kind of presentation to the UN, maybe take the heat off the rest of us.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: If we already know what the Brazilian idea is, why consult them?

MR. PORTER: I have only seen a bare outline of it.

MR. POPPER: They are asking us what we think about it.

MR. PORTER: The question is whether we have any value in that direction. We have never really tried it.

MR. NEWSOM: Mr. Secretary, I think, first, we ought to separate the question of Guinea Bissau and the question of our overall relations and discussions with the Portuguese. I think that this Guinea Bissau thing is well down the track, it is an emotional issue. In private talks with the Africans, they accept the fact that we have every basis for saying that there is really no basis for claiming that Guinea Bissau is a state. We don’t have to stand on this one on a basis that we are just helping the Portuguese. We have a sound foundation for our position.

But my own feeling, Mr. Secretary, is that now that [Page 8] we are in a sense both in negotiations with the Portuguese on the Azores and in a wider dialogue with them on our overall relations—now is the time to say to them that our identification with their policies in Africa presents us with some major problems, and we want to do all we can to help them, but we would like to know from them how they see, not the future development within their territories, which to argue with them on that is to go down a blind alley—but how they see the development of their relations with the rest of Africa, How they develop within Angola and Mozambique—that is essentially between them and the people of Mozambique. But how they develop in their relations with the rest of Africa, that is something—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I can tell you their answer. I am not saying it is a valid answer. They say Angola and Mozambique are parts of Portugal, and if the rest of Africa invades those territories, they will fight. Isn’t that what they are going to say, George?



MR. NEWSOM: I have the feeling—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I just wonder what the point [Page 9] of a question is to which you know the answer.

MR. NEWSOM: Because I have the feeling that there are more currents in Portugal than we have perhaps considered.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Well, if that is so—

MR. NEWSOM: They have assumed that—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Well, supposing they give the answer that I told you, which I predict they will do. The only way you can evoke these currents is to disagree with them—right? How else are you going to evoke those currents?

MR. NEWSOM: No—I think you can evoke the currents by, in a sense, asking the question. It is not a question that we have ever asked at a high level. We have more or less taken their position for granted. And we have been loathe to touch it because of—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I will be delighted to ask that question when I go to Lisbon. That is not a hard question to ask. I will write the answer down for you in a sealed envelope and tell you what it is going to be. The question isn’t to evoke the answer. The question is what do I say when they give me the answer that I am telling you they are going to give me.

MR. NEWSOM: We have some thoughts on the way to you.

[Page 10]

SECRETARY KISSINGER: So you clearly must have a second thought.


SECRETARY KISSINGER: And it is my riposte to their predictable answer that I am interested in—because if all you want to know is to hear what they are going to say, I can tell you.

MR. NEWSOM: Well, I think that asking the question would have two objectives. One—the objective would be to see what they say, because we have never asked it in that form before.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I will ask the question. I will predict the answer.

MR. NEWSOM: Second, to make it clear that we are troubled by identification with them in the absence of some new thinking on their part about how they are going to live with the rest of Africa.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: That is the key to the problem. I mean that is what you want to get at.

MR. NEWSOM: That is what we want to get at.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Then you might just as well tell me what you think their relationship with the rest of Africa should be, because the rest of Africa is not going to accept anything short of independence for Angola, [Page 11] Mozambique and every other scrap of Portuguese territory that is lying around.

MR. NEWSOM: Well, that is true. But the question is over what period and in what form.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: But you are asking a question which the Portuguese won’t accept. If we want to make a policy decision that we want to force them out of Angola and Mozambique, that is one decision. But to kid ourselves. I mean this place is somewhat like an African tribe, in which you think that palaver gets you somewhere. If you don’t know where you want to go, you are not going to get there. And consultation isn’t going to get the Portuguese out of Angola and Mozambique. I have always assumed that the decision we will have to make—that the way they are going to get out of Angola and Mozambique is when the Africans can make it hot enough for them to get out. And before that, they are not going to get out. Our talking to them won’t get them out.

MR. POPPER: I get the impression, Mr. Secretary, that the time is approaching fairly rapidly.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: That may be. And that is a policy decision we ought to take.

MR. POPPER: It is an agonizing process, because [Page 12] it sours our relationships with all the non-aligned in the General Assembly.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: If Angola and Mozambique disappear, they will find fifty other reasons to oppose us. They are non-aligned in opposing us. It is not Angola and Mozambique.

MR. NEWSOM: Mr. Secretary, maybe I am overly optimistic on this, but from my own talks with the Portuguese and the Africans—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Who are the Portuguese you are talking to?

MR. NEWSOM: I was in Lisbon in April with Caetano and Patricio and Silva Cunha. I don’t feel that it is necessarily either the Portuguese in or the Portuguese out. I have a feeling that there is still time for the Portuguese to work out an arrangement, albeit the ultimate end has to be independence. But whether it is independence with a substantial Portuguese presence on the French model or independence with them totally out on the Belgian model—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: That is possible—that sort of choice they might have. And as a political scientist, I could tell you maybe the way to get out is the way DeGaulle did it.

[Page 13]

MR. NEWSOM: That is right. And this is what we should try to be persuading the Portuguese to think about.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Then our policy decision would be we will try to get the Portuguese out as rapidly as possible, using the argument that this is the best way to preserve the vestiges of their position. If we want to do that, that is a perfectly reasonable position. It is hard to square with what we have been telling them in the last few weeks, that we are going to be especially considerate of them, given their support of us. But that is a perfectly legitimate policy view. But it is not going to emerge from simply talking. And certainly it is not going to emerge by telling them “Give us something to work with because that will preserve our position.” They have got only two choices in my view—to go their present course, hold on as long as possible and hope that there will be some change in the international climate, which is unlikely, but at least that is one possible course. And the other one is to try to get out fast.

MR. NEWSOM: Well—or to try and get out in a way which preserves the Portuguese influence and presence.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Which means getting out fast, or relatively fast.

[Page 14]


MR. SPRINGSTEEN: The political setup in Portugal is not ready for that at the moment.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Not even remotely in my judgment.

MR. POPPER: I don’t think we are arguing something that will happen tomorrow.

MR. PORTER: Before we are faced with a confrontation in the UN, what do we have to veto, if we do?

MR. POPPER: When they bring up membership in the Security Council. I don’t think they will do that any time soon.

The Law of the Sea Conference opens today, and Guinea Bissau, as an independent state, by UN reasoning, is present or can be present at that conference. And every other international meeting, every specialized agency will admit them. And it will be a creeping process. Eventually it will get around to the Security Council.

MR. PORTER: Next year.

MR. POPPER: Possibly.

MR. PORTER: Not sooner?

MR. POPPER: Not until 1974. I doubt they will put it in to face a U.S. veto, unless they are really [Page 15] vexed with us indeed. But everything else will happen. I don’t think any of us believes that today is the day to start turning the Portuguese around.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: The only thing I am saying is let’s not put it in terms that the Portuguese should give us more to work with, because once they do that, it will make Guinea Bissau’s membership even more certain, because then the principle will be recognized. That is however not an argument that we shouldn’t consider what our long-term policy should be towards these territories. But this has an interdepartmental interest. Why don’t you tell Scowcroft to put that out as a NSSM. This is not a matter that we can do alone in State. But it doesn’t preclude State from having an opinion.

Winston, can you do something with the bureaus?

MR. LORD: Yes.

MR. NEWSOM: Could I just say finally, Mr. Secretary, that I think it is very critical right now, because in our conversations with the Portuguese, if we give them the impression that we are prepared to give them political support on their African territories, as they now stand, it is going to make a different policy more difficult to pursue in the future. And I would like [Page 16] to urge, to the extent we can, without harming our relations at this point, a reservation on any appearance of accepting totally their view of their position in Africa.

MR. POPPER: You can’t avoid that, David, because all our votes on these African issues that come up indicate it. We were the only one to vote against putting on the agenda of the General Assembly this question. We were one of seven to vote against independence of Guinea Bissau. So we are hooked on this—let’s face it—in the UN.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What do the European countries do?

MR. POPPER: They don’t support it, basically. They abstain. The Scandanavians of course vote against. The others abstain. We don’t have European solidarity on this. We don’t have NATO solidarity on this, regrettably.

MR. SPRINGSTEEN: Well, the French and the British more and more move the other way.


[Omitted here are portions of the discussion unrelated to Guinea-Bissau.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–1977, Entry 5177, Box 1, Secretary’s Analytical Staff Meetings. Secret.
  2. Kissinger and his senior Department of State staff debated whether to press Portugal for a change in policy toward its African territories. Kissinger asked for a NSSM to study the issue.