23. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Alberto Vignes, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Argentina
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
  • Jose De Seabra, OPR/LS (Interpreter)

[They embrace on greeting, and then sit down. Coffee is ordered.]

Vignes: You are coming from Moscow?

Kissinger: From Moscow, New Delhi, Dacca, Tehran, Bucharest, Belgrade . . . [Laughter]

Vignes: Congratulations!

Kissinger: Since you’re driving me out of Latin America, I might as well organize the other parts of the world.

Vignes: You have to come.

Kissinger: I’m coming. There is no way I can avoid it! Before the Foreign Minister’s Conference. To organize . . . My impression is that Argentina will take over everything south of Panama. If the Foreign Minister stays Foreign Minister. So I have to concentrate on Asia.

Vignes: They’re waiting for us in Quito.

Kissinger: [Laughter] I can’t go. They’re waiting for me in Cyprus. I think they’ll probably lift the sanctions, don’t you?

Vignes (pauses): I’d like to know how you’re going to vote.

Kissinger: We will abstain.

[Page 66]

Vignes: Okay [Bueno]. It will be important to talk with some countries that have some doubts; so the conference will obtain positive results.

Kissinger: Buenos Aires?

Vignes: Quito.

Kissinger: We’ll talk to them.

Vignes: I talked to Bowdler in Buenos Aires. Did he tell you what transpired?

Kissinger: When?

Vignes: Six days ago.

Kissinger: No, can you tell me?

[A contingent of Argentine photographers and journalists is admitted briefly, then dismissed.]

You can’t announce, Mr. Foreign Minister, that we will abstain. This is for your personal information.

Vignes: No, no. Absolutely. Ausgeschlossen. [Laughter]

Kissinger: I always lose my coat to the Foreign Minister. The only question is whether I lose my shirt. And you follow me to Rome. Will you support me here [at the World Food Conference]?

Vignes: If you support me.

Kissinger: I think you’ll be pleased with my speech. Because it talks about access to our markets.

Vignes: That’s what I will say in mine. I get a little bit mad at the United States, but in the multilateral environment, not in a bilateral environment.

Kissinger: I don’t know if that helps me. When is your speech? Today?

Vignes: Yes, right after you.

Kissinger: I don’t know if that creates a good spirit.

Vignes: The press is saying we are both here to conspire against the rest of Latin America.

Kissinger: That’s not bad. It is partially true.

Vignes: I have to mend my fences, like you.

Kissinger: What if I attacked you and said it was for domestic reasons?

[A call comes in from Secretary-General Waldheim. They agree to meet at the Conference.]

Vignes: At Quito, I do believe it’s necessary for the Conference to reach some concrete positive results. Otherwise we are going to have difficulties at the Buenos Aires meeting.

Kissinger: If it doesn’t achieve positive results, it won’t be because of us.

[Page 67]

Vignes: Of course. I believe there are the necessary number of votes, particularly if the United States contacts several countries on which it has definite influence, so they’ll support a positive outcome.

Kissinger: What did you discuss with Bowdler? You were going to tell me.

Vignes: What I said to Mr. Bowdler is essentially what I just said to you. Then I didn’t know the US was going to abstain. I told him the US position should be one of support for positive results of the Conference, because this way the problem will be solved for the United States by the Latin Americans. They’ll do the work. If a negative result happens, then the US has to work out its problem alone.

Kissinger: But we are prepared to work out our problem with Cuba. I told you.

Vignes: That’s why I attach so much importance to a positive result. That way the work is done by all of us. I’m quite pleased it’s going to come out this way.

Kissinger: If we wanted the Conference to fail, I would have gone there. Seriously.

Vignes: No.

Kissinger: To make it succeed, I don’t have to go there. Seriously. Quito, not Buenos Aires.

Vignes: You had no reason to be the motive for failure.

Kissinger: But I also have no reason. I’ve told you what our policy is. So you understand it. But after the history of American-Cuban relations, it is not dignified for the United States to work for the success either. But we will not work for a failure. Believe me. We don’t expect a failure. You don’t expect a failure.

Vignes: No.

Kissinger: So it won’t be a failure.

Vignes: Speaking to another subject, what are the prospects for opening US domestic markets to Argentine products?

Kissinger: After the passage of the Trade Bill, very good.

Vignes: When Mr. Bowdler was in Buenos Aires, he contacted some of my people on exchange of technology, which is going to be discussed at the Buenos Aires meeting.

With respect to the OAS, what is your thinking about the several candidates for Secretary General of the OAS?

Kissinger: I was told the man from Paraguay does have a chance of getting elected. But we are not actively working. So it depends on whether your judgment was right. [Laughter]

Vignes: You remain very serious when you say that.

[Page 68]

Kissinger: I’m hoping I could emerge as the compromise candidate. I want a permanent job. [Laughter] Will you support me, as an old friend?

Vignes: You are destined to a higher calling.

Kissinger: I’ll make an Argentine the Deputy.

Vignes: It seems that neither of these two will have a majority.

Kissinger: If that’s the case, we’ve made no decision at all. So the situation is exactly as we discussed.

Vignes: Argentina had supported the Paraguayan candidate—as a matter of personal commitment to Stroessner.

Kissinger: We’re in the same position.

Vignes: But on the second vote we may change.

Kissinger: We’re in about the same position.

Vignes: We believe the OAS should be changed, should be restructured, because as it now stands, it’s not efficient. But we also are in favor of having the Meeting of Foreign Ministers independent of the bureaucratic structure of the OAS.

Kissinger: I agree. The only question is how we institutionalize it. I’m in favor of these Meetings of Foreign Ministers.

Vignes: That’s a very positive fact. When do you plan to come to Argentina?

Kissinger: In January or early February.

Vignes: I wanted to say there has been some talk in some areas that Buenos Aires wouldn’t offer sufficient security guarantees for the Meeting of Foreign Ministers. I must say it’s false, and the US should reject that idea.

Kissinger: I’ll stay close to the Foreign Minister! No, we’ll not support a change.

Vignes: With respect to the Argentine situation, I want to point out there is a small activist group using terrorism as a political tactic, but each day their number is decreasing.

Kissinger: I’m not worried.

Vignes: The reason I brought it up is this situation is surrounded by a great deal of publicity, but it is not affecting any government decision.

I have nothing else.

I hope in this Conference here we’re going to agree on one thing, the absolute need to solve the problem of hunger.

Kissinger: This is my theme. I’m doing it in a very conciliatory way. I think it would be unfortunate if, right after I make my speech, the newspapers say Argentina attacked the United States. Also, it wouldn’t help what we’re trying to do next year.

[Page 69]

Vignes: No, the fact is we both have the same goal, that is, to solve the urgent problem of food, and even with different paths we’re heading for the same objective. My speech is not based on an attack on the US, because that is not my temper; but I do attack the policy of the big powers—but particularly the Europeans. Also, I’m going to blame the inflation on the dollar devaluation.

Kissinger: Really? It is a good thing we’re friends!

Vignes: I believe we should tell truths regardless of where it falls.

Kissinger: Not oil?

Vignes: Yes, also oil. Of course.

[The conversation then ended.]

  1. Summary: Kissinger and Vignes discussed trade issues, Cuba policy, the upcoming meeting of Western Hemisphere Foreign Ministers in Quito, and the election of a new OAS Secretary General.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Lot 91D414, Box 21, Classified External Memoranda of Conversation, May–November 1974. Secret; Nodis. Brackets are in the original. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s suite in the Hotel Excelsior. Kissinger and Vignes were in Rome for the World Food Conference. In telegram 7708 from Buenos Aires, October 18, the Embassy reported that Vignes wanted close coordination with the United States to insure a successful meeting of Foreign Ministers in Buenos Aires in March 1975 and that Vignes hoped to meet with Kissinger in Rome during the World Food Conference. (Ibid., Central Foreign Policy File, D740297–0608) In telegram 236746 to Buenos Aires, October 26, the Department responded that it hoped that Kissinger and Vignes would be able to agree on the format and agenda of the MFM when they saw each other in Rome. (Ibid., D740306–1028) In telegram 7964 from Buenos Aires, October 30, the Embassy reported on an October 29 meeting between Bowdler and Vignes during which preparations for the Quito and Buenos Aires MFMs were discussed. (Ibid., D740310–0292)