127. Letter From Portuguese Prime Minister Caetano to President Nixon 1

Dear Mr. President,

Your message of Saturday, October 13, reached me when I was in the interior of the country, far from the capital, in a rural region. I understood from its terms that it was dictated in particularly grave circumstances. I am afraid that, instead of moving towards peace in the world, the great Powers may be impelled to another war which will not but have universal implications.

It is in this light that the attitude of the Portuguese Government has to be viewed. A campaign conducted by our enemies has deprived Portugal in recent years of efficacious means of military defence in Europe. The entire effort in the fight against subversion in Africa is being made with domestic resources. And yet the enemy has a global stategic vision, which the West lacks, and in it conquest of positions in Africa has a prominent place. Those who are responsible for the defence of the United States are surely aware of the importance of the Cape Verde archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. But this archipelago is at the mercy of a surprise attack, rendered easier if Portuguese Guinea were lost.

I do not conceal, Mr. President, that Portuguese public opinion is today convinced that the United States abandons friendly countries even when the interests, which the latter defend, coincide fundamentally with those of the West and, therefore, with American interests; and that the conviction has spread that, on the other hand, the Soviet Union, with a much more realistic policy and more steady institutions, never [Page 449]fails to support, with ability, firmness and a sense of their needs, the countries which place their confidence in her.

The demand for a collaboration involving Portugal in American politics at a time when the Congress of the United States, with a total lack of vision of the problems, votes embargo of arms to Portugal and even of articles which can be put to military use, cannot but produce prejudicial effects on Portuguese opinion. And it will also affect the position of my Government.

It is of these facts that I would like, Mr. President, that you were perfectly conscious.

Yours sincerely,

Marcello Caetano
  1. Summary: Caetano replied to Nixon’s October 13 message on the use of the Lajes Base for Middle East resupply.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–1973, POL 1 PORT–US. No classification marking. According to telegram 220957 to Lisbon, November 8, Themido delivered the letter to the Department on November 2. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 701, Country Files, Europe, Portugal, Vol. II (1972–1974) (1 of 2)) The memorandum of conversation recording the meeting with Porter during which Themido delivered the letter is ibid., (2 of 2).