10. Telegram 8459 From the Embassy in Argentina to the Department of State1
8459. Subject: Possible Meeting Between Presidents Nixon and Perón: Talking Points. Ref BA 7998, BA 8031, BA 8249, BA 8189, State 226884.
1. Summary. Embassy recommends that President Nixon meet with President Perón during latter’s trip to UNGA. Some background reflections and possible talking points are suggested. End summary.
2. The local press and other media for weeks have given almost daily prominent play to developing plans for a visit by President Perón to the UNGA. These accounts are believed to have been officially inspired through deliberate leaks and almost invariably included a reference to a possible meeting with President Nixon while Perón is in the US. On Nov 15, FonMin Vignes publicly confirmed that Perón would travel to New York in early Dec. A meeting with President Nixon is known to have been under the most active consideration among Perón’s entourage and within the Foreign Ministry as an important part of this trip. In view of Ambassador-designate Orfila’s formal request on Nov 15 for such a meeting, plus FonMin Vignes’ conversation with me on Nov 16, the Embassy submits the following suggestions regarding points which might be touched upon in the conversation between the two Chiefs of State.
3. By way of background, the Mission regards such an interview as a potentially important step in assisting US-Argentine relations through a most delicate period and in responding to the GOA’s recent signals for a new, normal, cooperative relationship, initiated with the Vignes-Kissinger talks in New York in Oct and clearly stated by Ambassador-designate Orfila to the Acting Secretary. While Argentine interest in such a meeting undoubtedly has additional objectives—enhancement of Perón’s international acceptance and stature and of Argentina’s prestige at a time when the GOA is clearly engaged in diplomatic offensive to this end—the meeting could well be used to serve our own purposes as well. The manner in which Perón stretches for Third [Page 26]World leadership at the UNGA and in future fora could well be determined to some degree by the prospect of a meeting with President Nixon. In any case, our failure to arrange such a meeting at a mutually agreeable site would be interpreted by the sensitive Argentines as a rejection of their overtures with consequent repercussions for US interests in Argentina.
4. With the return of Argentina to an elected government with majority support (62 percent) for the first time in many years, the way is at least open to an effort by Argentina to recoup the role to which she has traditionally aspired in the hemisphere and by the same token for the USG to reconsider our relationships which have labored under inhibiting factors for so many years. Argentina, along with Mexico and Brazil, seems destined, on the basis of population, size and resources, to become a secondary world power. Mexico’s propinquity and Brazil’s long tradition of friendly cooperation have attracted particularly close policy attention from the USG. In contrast, the distant location of Argentina, her customary rivalry with the US in the hemisphere, and in more recent years her political instability and economic stagnation, have developed in the Argentines a sense of frustration and deep nationalistic sensitivities in dealing with us. We now have the opportunity to begin a reversal of that process if, while defending our own interests, we accord Argentine leaders the respect and recognition they believe they merit, and cooperate with them in achieving those aspirations which are compatible with our own. Perón thus far has given evidence of desiring to avoid the excesses of his earlier administrations (1946–55) and is widely regarded in Argentina, even by many anti-Peronists, as the only public figure today with any prospects of being able to pull this divided country together again. A stable, progressive Argentina could be a great asset to the US in the Southern Cone. We therefore have an important stake in the success of the moderate forces in Argentina which Perón now represents. The outlook for Argentina and perhaps even for the entire Southern Cone is clouded indeed if Perón fails in his attempt at “national reconstruction,” given the absence of any viable alternative.
5. Mission believes consideration should be given to following subjects in a Presidential meeting:
A. Hemisphere policy. In the context of the current meetings on restructuring of the OAS, the GOA has assumed a position between those advocating radical change (Peru, Panama et al) and those favoring the status quo. The GOA favors reforms, but has adopted a constructive, fairly moderate attitude in the OAS discussions. The recent exchanges of letters between the Presidents and between Ministers Vignes and Kissinger, capped by a meeting of Perón with Nixon, should strengthen this attitude of seeking a new dialogue, pursuant to the Secretary’s [Page 27]invitation to Latin America, instead of confrontation. Embassy has been told by informed source that with respect to recent Bogota meeting FonMin Vignes has instructed GOA delegation to avoid positions which might embarrass “his good friend Henry Kissinger.” The above notwithstanding, the GOA must operate under certain policy restraints, given the present inflamed state of nationalism in Argentina and the heterogeneous elements (including the radicalized youth sector) which comprise Perón’s Justicialist movement. Perón personally is believed to be conservative in viewpoint and Argentina traditionally prefers to pursue its policy objectives mainly through bilateral channels. At this time, however, Perón is engaged in an effort to resuscitate Argentine hegemony in Latin America, lost in the travails which have beset the country since 1930, and has aligned his country with the Third World, at least for certain tactical purposes. The GOA seeks to become the bridge between the US and the rest of Latin America, for which it would like to serve as spokesman. The major obstacle to this goal, within Latin America, is of course Brazil, whose dynamic growth in recent years is viewed in Argentina with deep concern and envy. Perón may disclaim any rivalry with Brazil, but at the same time may seek assurances of an even-handed policy on the part of the US. Such even-handedness is indeed in the long-range interests of the US, but those same interests preclude our acceptance of Argentina as an intermediary with the rest of Latin America and such a role would doubtless be unacceptable to the other Latin American States.
B. Ecology. Any reader of Perón’s public pronouncements since his political comeback after 18 years of exile must be impressed with his steady refrain of concern over the human environment and the conservation of natural resources, even through he deals in cliches which suggest that his real knowledge in this field is somewhat superficial. It would be desirable to express at a high level gratification over his obvious interest in this timely subject, and to offer to him the knowledge and experience which we have developed in this area. This is indeed a field of possible cooperation, on both the bilateral and multilateral levels, in which our mutual interest is apparent and for which the scientific cooperation agreement of 7 April 72 might serve as an appropriate framework.
C. Narcotics. The GOA’s awakening to the perils and the needs in this field has developed at an encouraging pace and initial bilateral planning was promising. Nevertheless, much momentum was lost, at least at the policy level, in the confusion of the transition between the military government and Perón’s assumption of power, although cooperation at the enforcement level has continued. There are now signs of interest on the part of the GOA in reviving the suspended work of the Argentine Drug Policy Coordinating Board (CONATON) [Page 28]and with it the functioning of the Binational Commission on Narcotics. It is suggested that appropriate appreciation be expressed for past cooperation of the Argentine authorities as well as our readiness to step up our collaboration in this area of mutual concern and shared objectives.
D. Détente. Under both the Lanusse (military) government and Perón the GOA has pursued a policy parallel to our own, known locally as “removal of ideological barriers.” Relations have been established with China, North Vietnam, Cuba, East Germany and North Korea. Perón unquestionably would be pleased to hear from President Nixon his views on the progress, objectives and prospects of the US in its efforts toward détente with Peking and Moscow. At the same time, it would be appropriate to congratulate the GOA on its own pragmatic (and generally prudent) approach to relations with these two world powers. At same time, a potentially serious problem has arisen from GOA interest in exporting to Cuba, which under present US legislature places US subsidiaries in Argentina in a virtually untenable position.
E. Investments. Perón’s government is just now beginning to outline plans for major economic development program to be undertaken during 1974–76. In addition to help from international institutions, we believe GOA interest in foreign direct investment is steadily growing. Despite earlier brave talk of relying on European, Arab or even Chinese sources, the practicalities of the situation point again toward substantial dependence upon US sources. The modifications in the foreign investment law at the direction of the executive before passage are straws in the wind, even though they fall short of practical encouragement of such investment. However, it is not clear whether Perón himself will raise economic subjects or whether he will leave it to other members of his entourage, such as Minister of Economy Gelbard, in subsidiary talks. In any case, the Mission strongly recommends a coordinated approach to this subject between the government and the American business community. The local US Chamber of Commerce constitutes an imposing reservoir of knowledge in this field. Their involvement in preparations for such talks on investment would be highly useful and they are prepared to send a group to the States for this purpose. Their participation in any talks with Gelbard and others in Perón’s party would serve also to boost their standing in dealing with the GOA here.
F. Our assumption is that talks at the Presidential level will deal with broad policy matters, leaving specific issues and problems to Cabinet level officers and their subordinates. For this purpose the subjects listed in BA 6558 are still valid. Should opportunity arise to discuss civil air problems, it would be useful to indicate we believe broader Argentine interests (e.g. tourism, economic development) are [Page 29]being sacrificed to narrower interests or Aerolineas Argentinas in GOA civil air posture to date. Since root of Aerolineas’ problem is managerial inefficiency and lack of commercial drive, consideration might be given to offering assistance through Intl Executive Service Corps.
Summary: The Embassy suggested that Presidents Perón and Nixon meet to discuss the key issues in U.S.-Argentine relations, such as the environment, narcotics, détente, and economic development.
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840114–1886. Confidential; Nodis. Due to his failing health, Perón did not travel to New York. (Telegram 8663 from Buenos Aires, November 28; ibid., [no film number]) The Perón-Nixon meeting did not take place.↩