25. Memorandum of Conversation1
- The March 1975 Meeting of Foreign Ministers in Buenos Aires and the Secretary’s Projected Visit to Argentina
- The Secretary
- William D. Rogers, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs
- Frank V. Ortiz, Country Director for Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay
- Alejandro Orfila, Argentine Ambassador to the United States
Ambassador Orfila: You are busy, Mr. Secretary, so I will get right to the point. My Government has been following developments relating to the Trade Bill very closely. We are in close touch with other Foreign Ministers as to how this might affect the meeting in Buenos Aires. Minister Vignes is telephoning the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian Foreign Ministers and will ask them directly whether or not they will be going to Buenos Aires. Vignes will be very frank with them and will say, “No publicity stunts. Are you going? Yes or no.” Based upon our reading of the situation, we are almost certain that they will not go. They are asking for assurances that the U.S. cannot give.
The Secretary: They know that we can’t do what they are asking us to do.
Ambassador Orfila: They seem to expect that the United States or you, Mr. Secretary, could give acceptable public assurances on the Bill.
The Secretary: I could not do it nor would I. We won’t tolerate this kind of treatment.
Ambassador Orfila: We have been in continuous touch on this problem with the other countries. For example with Rabasa. Their position seems to be that if two or more countries stay away from the [Page 75]Buenos Aires meeting, it would be better to postpone the meeting. From our own domestic position, the same would be true. There is the possibility that not only Venezuela and Ecuador but also Colombia and Peru would stay away from the meeting. This might happen even if Venezuela indicates, as I understand they might, that there would be no objection to having the meeting proceed without Venezuela’s participation. This would not be acceptable to Argentina as it would imply a position of ideological leadership for Venezuela that Argentina is not prepared to grant. In view of this situation we believe we must consider the possibility that the meeting at Buenos Aires be postponed. Mechanically we should think of ways to do this.
The Secretary: We should know when you plan to make the announcement so we can say something too.
Ambassador Orfila: My suggestion is that we would be better off if we postpone the meeting and coordinate the announcement.
The Secretary: I agree. I think that is a wise decision.
Ambassador Orfila: With regard to your trip, Mr. Secretary, you must be very sure you can go on February 16. If you can’t go then it would be better to attach to the announcement of the postponement of the Buenos Aires Meeting an announcement that you are also postponing your prior trip. I want to make it absolutely clear that you are welcome in Argentina and that I am not suggesting in any way that you not go. I am only saying that if there is any chance that you will not go, then it is better to postpone your trip and avoid a very negative reaction.
The Secretary: What is your recommendation as a friend as to whether or not I should go?
Ambassador Orfila: As a friend, I hope you will go. Your trip is very important and could be very beneficial. You should go if you have no doubt that you can make the trip. It would be very damaging if X number of days before you go, you cancel your trip. I have been checking with the Middle Eastern people and there is some confusion. They seem to expect that you will be in the Middle East at the same time you are supposed to be in Argentina.
The Secretary: Did you check with the Middle Easterners or my people here in the Department? Sometimes I think I ought to open a newspaper. They publish everything before I know myself what I am going to do. I may go to the Middle East, but if I do it would require a postponement of my trip to Latin America by only one or two days. There would be no substantial postponement. That shouldn’t cause any big problem.
Ambassador Orfila: That would be no problem. But the important thing is to be sure that you are going.[Page 76]
The Secretary: It is 95 per cent sure.
Ambassador Orfila: But it is that 5 per cent if you don’t go that could be very damaging.
The Secretary: Mr. Ambassador, is it desirable that I go?
Ambassador Orfila: Mr. Secretary, it is very desirable. Your trip would be very beneficial. You are aware of the feeling in Latin America that the United States does not give Latin America enough priority.
The Secretary: They can’t have it both ways. They can’t complain of the lack of priority and behave as they are behaving now. Why should the United States put itself in this position? What do we get from the new dialogue? It seems to me that the new dialogue consists of a list of things for us to do and there is not much interest in what the Latin Americans can do for us. I am not sure this is a good position for us to be in. I can say this to you because it is not true of Argentina. But others complain of lack of priority and then when we give priority to their problems, they use it for domestic political purposes.
Ambassador Orfila: You should remember that this is a result of problems of the past.
The Secretary: It could be that my trip would be used to foment great nationalistic demonstrations.
Ambassador Orfila: I don’t think that would happen, Mr. Secretary. The negative results of the trip would come after the trip.
The Secretary: What do you mean by negative results?
Ambassador Orfila: If nothing positive came from your trip, then there would be an adverse reaction. It is all a question of image. The United States must project a favorable, positive image.
The Secretary: I’m sorry. I must go to Los Angeles now. I very much appreciate the position taken by the Argentine Government. I agree that to have a meeting now would be too dangerous. We would be at the mercy of any demagogues. I believe that postponement would be understood. In a domestic sense it could even be helpful for me as another thing Congress has screwed up.
Ambassador Orfila: Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Secretary. I will stay in close touch with Secretary Rogers.
Summary: Secretary Kissinger and Ambassador Orfila discussed the 1974 U.S. Trade Act, the postponement of the Buenos Aires MFM, and a planned trip by Kissinger to Latin America.
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P820117–0538. Confidential; Exdis. Drafted by Ortiz. Approved in S on January 24. A copy was sent to the White House. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office. A summary of the conversation was sent to Buenos Aires in telegram 17008, January 24. (Ibid., P850086–2146) In telegram 23922 to Buenos Aires, February 2, the Department transmitted a letter in which Kissinger informed Vignes that developments in the Middle East made it impossible for him to visit Latin America in mid-February. (Ibid., D750038–0252)↩