139. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Portugal.]

On Portugal, the situation we may face is a Kerensky-type situation.

The President: Have we invited Vanick?

Scowcroft: Yes.

Kissinger: The Communists are the only well-organized party. They learned from Chile to move fast so we don’t have time to interfere. The Portuguese military is not typically rightist; there is much leftist influence. Soares is weak and Goncalves is probably a Communist.

We don’t know just what to do, and in this atmosphere I was afraid anyway to take strong action. In Greece, the Karamanlis party is splitting and we probably will end up with a weak coalition.

The President: Can we do something through the 40 Committee?

Kissinger: Maybe.

Costa Gomez will ask for help. Under Spinola I was on the verge of asking for a program like the Greek-Turkish aid. Now it is so touchy, we could give him a package, or tell him we are willing to ask for a program but only if he stops the slide. That may leak and get out. But if you give him something now, they can say, “Yes. See, we can do whatever [Page 479] you wish and the United States will still go along.” Also the effect on Italy. We told them no Communists in the government. If we go along, we will undercut the moderate Italians.

[Phone call from Senator Javits.]

Kissinger: You should tell Jackson not to go out and say this shows this is the way to negotiate with the Soviet Union.

The President: I agree. I will give Javits a pat on the back. In talking with Gurney.

Kissinger: I would say we have a traditional friendship with Portugal. We want to help, but only if they don’t slide.

The President: What do they get?

Scowcroft: $30 million.

The President: What can we give?

Kissinger: Technical assistance, and ask for an emergency aid package of $30–50 million, or a PL 480 increase.

The President: Is the economy in bad shape?

Kissinger: Yes. Their economy was geared to the colonies. You could also say you would encourage a consortium for aid.

The President: The Azores?

Kissinger: They are up now. You could say negotiating is a measure of their good faith, but that is dangerous. The Communists may want to prove they are responsible and can even be in NATO.

The President: How seriously do Great Britain, the Germans and others take this?

Kissinger: You have to operate on the assumption that Great Britain is through. Soares is typical of the type who has brought disaster in Europe—well meaning, nice, ineffectual. He has arranged a visit with Brandt—but they don’t have the balls for a fight. The Germans are the only ones—you need a talk with Schmidt. Walters says France is Portugal five years away. He says Giscard is a playboy and not interested in security. He is profligate and is not ultimately a serious man. This won’t show up for a couple of years. Walters says the only hope is that you put the fear of God in Giscard. But he is interested only in economics. He’s a nice guy, but he just doesn’t think creatively about politics.

The President: What is the alternative to him?

Kissinger: None at all. On his right are the wild Gaullists. On the left is Mitterand.

The President: Europe is in a helluva mess.

Kissinger: Schmidt is the only stable leader left. He is aggressive, nationalistic. He’s a socialist by accident.

The President: Economically, he is a hard liner?

[Page 480]

Kissinger: Yes. Pompidou would have worked with us in Portugal. We must see whether the Germans will cooperate. You could stress to Costa Gomez that we hope the elections will take place. There is a possibility that the Communists may move even earlier.

The President: Are the Socialists helping? Spanish?

Kissinger: Not directly, but through France. The Spanish are willing but are not too good at this.

You might have Walters try to organize [less than 1 line not declassified] a covert program. [less than 1 line not declassified] We didn’t do anything [less than 1 line not declassified]—we gave them no money or anything else. Helms was a good Director. Schlesinger was too brutal and was producing a rebellion; Colby is too mild—he’s a bureaucrat.

The President: Could we replace him? Is there anyone else out there?

Kissinger: No. You can live with Colby. He won’t do any harm. Our Portuguese Embassy is a disaster. Scott just got there. He was Legal Adviser just before I came to State, and I wanted someone else. It would be unjust to remove him but we really have no choice.

Frank Carlucci would be great.

The President: I was thinking of him for OMB. But if we need him there, let’s do it. We can get someone else for OMB.

Kissinger: Okay, I will talk to him then.

The President: Let’s go ahead.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Portugal.]

  1. Summary: Ford and Kissinger discussed the situation in Portugal, Europe, and Ford’s upcoming meeting with Costa Gomes.

    Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 6. Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text that remains classified, or omitted by the editors. The meeting took place in the Oval Office. Kissinger and Ford met from 9:08 to 10:32 a.m.; Scowcroft joined them at 9:15 a.m. Rumsfeld entered the meeting at 10:00 a.m., followed by Javits, Jackson, and Vanik at 10:02 a.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) On September 20, Soares told Kissinger that Portugal needed U.S. economic aid “to counteract Sov[iet] bloc influence and tendency among military officers to be attracted by Nasser-style or Peruvian-type regimes.” Kissinger said that he would seek Ford’s approval of an “exceptional program for Portugal, such as put forth for Greece and Turkey in 1947.” (Telegram 208886 to Lisbon, September 22; ibid., Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Box 11, Portugal—State Dept Tels From SECSTATE—EXDIS)