128. Memorandum From the Government of the United States to the Government of Portugal1

In its memorandum delivered on October 13 the Portuguese Government expressed the fear that by agreeing to the request of the United States Government for transit and refueling facilities at Lajes for urgent transportation of material and equipment to Israel, Portugal might be subject to certain risks. These risks were stated to be (1) that there might be an embargo of oil supplies to Portugal, (2) that the Arab states might intervene in support of the insurgent movements in Portuguese Africa, and (3) that Arab terrorist activities might be directed against Portuguese aircraft and Portuguese nationals. The Portuguese memorandum asked what guarantees the United States Government could give in the event these risks should materialize. It also made certain requests on matters not related to the use of Lajes for the resupply of equipment to Israel, i.e. legislation pending in the Congress relating to the arms embargo, the “proclamation of independence of Portuguese Guinea”, gen[Page 450]eral political support, and the Azores Base Agreement. The comments of the United States Government on all these points are given below.

Terrorism Against Portuguese Aircraft or Nationals

The Portuguese Government is well aware of the attitude of the United States Government toward terrorism and of the efforts we have made to seek international agreements to combat terrorism. We are already engaged in an exchange of intelligence with the Portuguese Government on the activities of suspected terrorists. In our intelligence gathering activities we will be particularly alert to the possibility that Portuguese aircraft or Portuguese nations may become targets for terrorist activity.

Embargo of Oil Supplies to Portugal

Portugal imports 80,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Of this, 67,000 barrels, or 84 per cent, come from the Arab countries. If Portugal should be singled out for an oil boycott, the United States Government would approach the American oil companies and would expect to persuade them to make arrangements to ensure that Portugal’s basic import requirements are met.

Intervention of Third Countries in Portuguese Africa

The Portuguese Government considers it possible that its cooperation in the resupply of Israel could lead to intervention by third countries, such as Libya or Nigeria, in Portuguese Africa, which might include aerial bombing attacks against Portuguese Guinea.

The United States Government considers reprisal attacks by the armed forces of Libya or Nigeria against Portuguese Africa highly unlikely. However, the United States Government would view with deep concern intervention in Portuguese Africa by the armed forces of another country in retaliation for Portugal’s assistance relative to the current Middle East conflict. Attacks on Portuguese African territories by aircraft based in another country would, on the face of it, imply aggression by the government of that country. If such a development occurred, or seemed imminent, the United States Government would be prepared to consult on an urgent basis with the Portuguese Government with a view to determining what appropriate steps might be taken to render ineffective any such retaliatory action.

Pending Legislation Relating to the Arms Embargo

Amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act relating to the arms embargo toward Portuguese Africa have been passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives and are now under consideration in the Conference Committee. The Administration is opposed to these amendments, but could not express its views in the usual way, since [Page 451]the amendments were raised on the floor in both Houses and not considered in the foreign affairs committees. We are increasing our efforts to have these amendments dropped.

Our actions with respect to the proposed legislation demonstrate our desire to be as responsive as possible to the requests of the Portuguese Government. However, it is not possible for us to depart from our policy of discouraging the use of weapons and military equipment of American manufacture in the Portuguese African territories. To do so would be inconsistent with pledges made both to African governments and to the Congress of the United States. However, the United States is prepared to examine other ways in which it can help with the defense of Portugal.

Proclamation of Independence by Elements in Portuguese Guinea

The United States Government has traditionally looked to the establishment of certain facts before it has extended recognition to a new state. These facts include the effective control over a clearly-defined territory and population, an organized governmental administration of that territory, and a capacity to act effectively to conduct foreign relations and to fulfill international obligations. In Africa, these factual criteria have generally been met in the past following a peaceful transition to independence from colonial status through an agreement between the colonial power and the representatives of the people of the territory concerned.

The above criteria have not been met in the case of the newly proclaimed independent state of “Guinea-Bissau.” We have discussed our position on recognition of “Guinea-Bissau” with a number of other governments and have taken special steps designed to assist in the maintenance of NATO solidarity in this matter.

The United States will oppose United Nations membership for “Guinea-Bissau” and will oppose any discussion in the United Nations of any alleged “Portuguese aggression against Guinea-Bissau.” On October 19 the United States was the only member of the General Committee to vote against General Assembly discussion of “illegal occupation by Portuguese military forces of certain sectors of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and acts of aggression committed by them against the people of the republic.” The United States delegation was one of only seven who voted on October 22 against plenary approval by the General Assembly of the General Committee’s action.

Consistent with its refusal to recognize the existence of the proclaimed new “state”, the United States will oppose in the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly the removal of Portuguese Guinea from the list of non-self-governing territories. If any move is made to have PAIGC representatives address the United Nations General As[Page 452]sembly the United States would make clear that the General Assembly rules do not provide for such speakers to address the plenary and that we would regard any such appearance as an unfortunate disruption of procedure and a precedent with serious implications.

General Political Support for Portugal

The United States has probably made a more active effort on behalf of Portugal than any other government. This has come at the cost of considerable international criticism at a time when we are seeking support on a broad array of other issues. While maintaining our position on self-determination, which the Portuguese Government does not ask us to abandon, we have opposed virtually all resolutions attacking Portugal in the United Nations and its specialized agencies. We have also endeavored to prevent criticism of Portugal’s African policy from being raised in the NATO forum. The United States is not in a position however, to influence the relations between Portugal and the independent African states. The nature of those relations can be determined only by Portugal and the African states themselves. In our view, the long range progress and stability of the Portuguese territories in Africa rest not in armed conflict but rather in the peaceful creation of mutually acceptable relationships between the territories involved and the independent governments of Africa.

Implementation of the Azores Agreement

The United States Government firmly rejects any suggestion that it has not been scrupulously implementing the current Azores Agreement. The oceanographic research vessel was delivered promptly. In spite of many difficulties, we are meeting all our commitments under the PL–480 program. The educational cooperation program is making good progress. We have offered the Portuguese Government numerous times various items of excess property specified in the agreement. Most of the equipment rejected by Portugal has been eagerly accepted by other end-users. The United States cannot be blamed for Portugal’s lack of interest in the property which has become available.

The Portuguese Government asks that “in the forthcoming negotiations . . . for a renewal of said agreement the American authorities will do their utmost to give adequate material compensation for the use of the Azores Base:” This of course, is a matter to be dealt with in the negotiating sessions. The United States Government would like to note however that Portugal is the only NATO country which has asked for compensation in return for making military facilities available to the United States Armed Forces. The cost of maintaining forces on the territory of our NATO partners for common defense has constituted a burden which we have long—and, we believe, unfairly—borne alone. Our balance of payments difficulties, but even more important, the [Page 453]need of each ally to assume a fair share of the burden for the defense of all, make it necessary for our NATO allies to reassess the manner in which the defense burden is now inequitably borne most heavily by the United States. We hope the Portuguese Government will view our presence in the Azores in this spirit.

In conclusion, the United States Government wishes to express once again its appreciation for the understanding and statesmanlike attitude shown by the Portuguese Government during the recent Middle East crisis. Portugal’s cooperation has made an important contribution to the cessation of bloodshed in that area and will facilitate the negotiations for a just and lasting peace.

  1. Summary: The U.S. Government responded to Portuguese concerns regarding the use of the Lajes Base for Middle East resupply.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 701, Country Files, Europe, Portugal, Vol. II (1972–1974) (2 of 2). Secret. On November 2, Porter gave the memorandum to Themido. (Memorandum of conversation, November 2; ibid.)