140. Editorial Note.

Even though Brazil harassed a number of U.S. fishing vessels in June of 1971, Brazil sent signals that it desired to minimize the number of such incidents. Based on Ambassador William M. Rountree’s June 7 meeting with President Emélio Médici (See Document 138), National Security Council staff members Arnold Nachmanoff and John Negroponte submitted a memorandum to President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry A. Kissinger, dated June 8, arguing that it would be possible “to muddle through the summer without any incidents.” (Memorandum from Nachmanoff and Negroponte to Kissinger, June 8, National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 771, Country Files, Brazil, Vol. 2, September 1970–July 31, 1971, Secret) This recommendation was reinforced by an intelligence report, dated June 9, that indicated that the Brazilian navy had been ordered to limit seizures to ships fishing within the 12 mile limit. (Ibid.) In addition, Foreign Minister Mario Gibson stated to Rountree that Brazil was intent upon avoiding an incident. (Telegram 496 from Brasilia, June 9, ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 33–4 BRAZ–US.) On June 18 Rountree summarized private comments by high-level Brazilian officials that enforcement of Brazilian fishing regulations in the 200-mile zone would be relaxed. (Telegram 549 from Brasilia, June 18; ibid.)

Despite the signs of the possibility of reduced tension between the nations, on June 23, 1971, Secretary of State William P. Rogers urged that, in light of the continuing harassment of U.S. shrimp boats, the United States should engage in immediate negotiations with Brazil to forestall a more serious diplomatic incident. The Secretary stated that the Brazilians indicated they wanted to begin negotiations immediately. He submitted his request on behalf of the Departments of State and Commerce in a memorandum to President Nixon. He noted that reaching an agreement was important because some members of the U.S. Congress had decided to link renewal of the International Coffee Agreement to a settlement of the dispute. Rogers also stated that if the Administration did not respond to Congressional concern over the fishing dispute, Congress might enact sanctions against Brazil. (Memorandum from Rogers to the President, June 23; ibid.)

Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard submitted a dissenting memorandum to President Nixon the same day. He argued that the U.S. Government should not seek immediate negotiations, because it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness by Brazil. Packard wanted to delay starting negotiations to see if Congress’s linkage of the renewal of the Coffee Agreement would pressure on Brazil to compromise on its 200-mile claim. In addition, he wanted to delay talks until after National Security Council Senior Review Group (SRG) met on July 12 to discuss the report requested by the President in National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 125, dated April 21, on Ocean Policy. (Memorandum from Packard to the President, June 23; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 771, Country Files, Brazil, Vol. 2, September 1970–July 31, 1971) For the full text of NSSM 125 see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–1, Global Issues, 1969–1972, Document 390.

On July 10, President Nixon decided to defer decision on initiating negotiations with Brazil, pending the Senior Review Group meeting. (Memorandum from Kissinger to Rogers and Melvin Laird, dated July 10, National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 33–4 BRAZ–US.) For the minutes of the SRG, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–1, Global Issues, 1969–1972, Document 402. Other documentation on fishing negotiations with Brazil can be found ibid.