11. Telegram 9050 From the Embassy in Argentina to the Department of State1
9050. Subject: Contingency Talking Points re Possible Visit to Buenos Aires by Secretary Kissinger. Ref: Buenos Aires 9049.
1. Summary: In light of speculation in the Argentine press concerning the possible visit to Argentina by Secretary Kissinger (reftel) the Embassy believes the following analysis would be helpful to the Department in developing an overall strategy aimed at maximizing the resulting gains should such a visit materialize. End summary.
2. First, Perón’s “new diplomacy” has, as exemplified in his recent dealings with Uruguay and Paraguay, shown a tendency to place the achievement of some concrete result above the narrower issues his emissaries and predecessors had found to be sticking points. We should not underestimate Perón’s personal and political needs and his ambitions to achieve some results befitting his concept of his proper position on the world stage. He very much wants public U.S. recognition that he is an important LA and Third World figure—recognition which, in the minds of most Argentines, a visit by the Secretary would imply. Perón would therefore likely be in an expansive mood during any visit by the Secretary and might be more forthcoming in helping to break the civil air impasse and in giving more categoric and effective assurances to US companies threatened by terrorists, especially if there were some US quid pro quo on the issue of Cuba trade (see below).[Page 30]
3. There is an obvious pitfall. The Argentines would doubtless wish to interpret a visit by the Secretary as conferring upon them and their leader the role of principal Latin American spokesman vis-à-vis the US. We must avoid giving any such impression to the other Latin Americans, while at the same time signaling to the Argentines that we do indeed regard them as a key nation. It should not be too difficult to accomplish this, especially should a visit by the Secretary to Argentina be the first stop of a broader Latin American tour including, say, Brazil, Colombia, and of course, Mexico. The language of the final communiqué could also be useful in this regard. It might, for example, refer to the upcoming meeting of Foreign Ministers in Mexico, reemphasize the US commitment to achieving a new relationship with LA as a whole, stress the importance we attach to our own relations with Argentina, and then conclude by noting Argentina’s important role within the hemisphere.
4. In selecting objectives for a possible visit by the Secretary, the issues mentioned by Kahn do indeed encompass most of our current bilateral problems and opportunities. In the former category, the US legislation which provides for sanctions against countries that trade with Cuba looms as a potentially large barrier to improving our relations. Argentina is committed, as a matter of high national priority, to expanding its exports of manufactured goods. The GOA’s attempt to enlarge its share of the market in Cuba is a part of that effort. US sanctions will not deter the GOA from carrying out its Cuba policy though their application by the US may succeed in embittering our relations.
5. The sanctions for such trade under present legislation are: a) denial of bunkering facilities to Argentine ships in the Cuba trade; and b) the termination of military assistance and probably closing down of our military mission and the ending of our housing guarantee program. In the first case, the sanction will not prevent Argentine ships from trading with Cuba, but will open US shipping interests to painful retaliation. The latter two “aid” programs are examples of projects that benefit the giver, the US, in terms of information, contacts and influence, as much or more than the recipient. Indeed, the Embassy is presently trying to devise means of maintaining its ties with the Argentine Armed Forces in the event they ask us to leave. To leave as the result of what all Argentines, and especially the military, will perceive as a US attempt to thwart a legitimate national aspiration can only gain us the lasting ill will of this key Argentine sector. In sum, while the Embassy realizes that US Cuba policy cannot be determined by its effects on Argentina, and that present legislative restrictions cannot be quickly changed, we urge that, because of the adverse consequences of this issue for our relations with Argentina, some means of avoiding a confrontation on [Page 31]this matter be explored on an urgent basis and that the Secretary be in a position to be reasonably forthcoming on this question—i.e. that he at least be able to tell the Argentines that the USG will view favorably any requests for waivers by subsidiaries of US firms.
6. On the issues of terrorism and investment, the visit of the Secretary will come at a time when both the GOA and the Argentine public have been forced to face several unpleasant realities after Swint was killed, Samuelson kidnapped, and Ford and other companies decided to evacuate their executives and perhaps close down in Argentina. First, it must now be obvious to both that the terrorists can, if allowed to go unchecked, virtually end hopes for foreign investment, and with it, Argentine hopes to end economic stagnation. Secondly, Perón, who was in large part motivated to improve his US ties for economic reasons, apparently now realizes that he cannot, even at the risk of splits in his movement, maintain his present leisurely political efforts to isolate the terrorists.
7. In this situation, a visit by the Secretary poses both opportunities and some modest risks. On the positive side, we should suggest that Perón, as a minimum earnest of good faith, make a public statement acknowledging the fact that foreign investment, so long as it obeys national law, has a positive role to play in Argentine development and condemning acts which tend to discourage it. It might, for domestic Argentine reasons, be preferable to have statement made by Perón before the Secretary’s trip. Even if Argentines take this step, the Secretary should stress to Perón that until GOA anti-terrorist efforts are successful USG willingness to transmit its positive view of Argentina to US investors will be of little value. On the other hand, the Secretary can safely point out that if settled conditions for foreign investors do prevail the self-interest of US investors in participating in Argentina’s future growth will quickly become a positive factor in the country’s development.
8. On the less politically charged issue of civil aviation, the Secretary should not be put in the position of having to discuss the details—or even get into the substance of the matter. However, he should be prepared to ask Perón to include a statement in a final communiqué stating both sides have agreed to instruct their negotiators to reach a quick and mutually satisfactory solution to the problem. Such a declaration, coupled with the GOA economic self-interest in reaching an agreement, might facilitate an early solution to the problem.
9. To deal with the GOA’s (and our) concerns on trade, we recommend that the Secretary: (1) note the fact that the US is Argentina’s best and fastest growing market for industrial products, and (2) express our hope that our bilateral trade be balanced by further increases in Argentine exports to the US rather than by further decreasing the US share of the Argentine markets.[Page 32]
10. In the area of narcotics the GOA has, in spite of some loss of momentum at the policy level, maintained good cooperation at the enforcement level. It would be helpful if the Secretary could express his thanks for the GOA’s past cooperation and voice our readiness to increase our collaboration in this area of mutual concern.
11. Because of Perón’s repeatedly expressed interest in human environment and natural resources, but even more because of the GOA’s current dispute with Brazil over development of hydroelectric potential of the Parana River, Perón may well raise the subject of ecological basis for this dispute, and in this context, US abstention in the UN vote on an Argentine resolution on this subject. The GOA has used the ecology issue to try to achieve its bilateral policy objectives vis-à-vis Brazil. The US position, which the Secretary might wish to stress, if the subject is raised, is that while we fully support the GOA position on the ecological principle involved, we have refrained from taking a position of support because we did not wish to take sides on an issue between two close friends.
Summary: Responding to speculation of a prospective visit by Kissinger to Argentina, the Embassy provided an analysis of key issues in U.S.-Argentine relations. The issues included Cuba, terrorism, investment, civil aviation, narcotics, and the environment.
Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 769, Country Files, Latin America, Argentina, 1 September 1971–31 December 1973. Confidential; Exdis. Kissinger did not visit Argentina.↩