149. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Willy Brandt, Former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • President Ford
  • Amb. Berndt von Staden, Federal Republic of Germany Ambassador to the United States
  • 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


  • Portugal; Middle East; Turkey; CSCE; Southeast Asia
[Page 510]

President: It is delightful to have you here. I had a fine opportunity to get to know the Chancellor. We talked economics, the situation in Europe, broad topics. We had a good opportunity to talk substance and to get acquainted.

I know you are interested in Portugal. I would appreciate your observations.

Brandt: The last word I have is that the new government has been formed but they haven’t gone as far as might have been feared. Soares, with whom we Socialists have ties, is still in the Cabinet, as Minister without portfolio, so he can be in the campaign. Also, the Minister of Interior stayed in his post—that is important to the elections. We shouldn’t give up. The question is what kind of moral and material help we can give. We have done a little. The Dutch did some and the Swedes did. I plan to get a little group of officers together to try to make contacts.

President: Are the military in the grip of the Communists?

Brandt: Some are Communists, some are Social Revolutionaries. Like Peron. There are Cubans among them. The Soviet Union may not be playing so critical a role. They may be playing a more minor role.

Kissinger: But wouldn’t it be even harder to manage if they had a rabid left dictatorship?

Brandt: It’s difficult to say, but it may go like Finland. They had a difficult period but got the Communists out eventually.

President: What effect will the election have?

Brandt: The Socialists will be stronger than the Communists if they don’t falsify the results. They plus the PDP will be much stronger. Soares says he will be tough and if he doesn’t get represented proportionally, he will go underground. But the Revolutionary Council looks like it will continue to play a dominant role.

President: What will be the parliamentary role?

Brandt: Their main task will be to draft a Constitution. Then they will have elections for parliament.

President: I have read that Cunhal is very able.

Brandt: He seems to be able and may be relatively independent vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.

President: It would certainly complicate our situation in NATO.

Kissinger: The Portuguese representative will also get MBFR information when it goes to the NAC.

President: I appreciate Schmidt’s phone call. We certainly are willing to work with you.

Brandt: I talked to the Latin Americans about this, and the Venezuelans and Mexicans were very interested. They were concerned

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about the influence on Spain. Spain is very different from Portugal, but it could have an impact. We would like to see a gradual evolution in Spain and I can eventually see them in the European Community.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Portugal.]

  1. Summary: Ford, Kissinger, and Brandt discussed Portugal.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Helmut C. Sonnenfeldt, 1955–1977, Entry 5339, Box 5, Germany 1975. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the Oval Office, and ended at 11:45 a.m. (Ford Library, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) Earlier that morning, Kissinger told Ford that Brandt “says the Portuguese need some money.” Kissinger continued, “They would like $100,000. The Europeans have set themselves two objectives: elections, and no Communist takeover. I think we could get both those and still lose the country—because they [the Communists] will rule through the AFM. What do we do if this kind of government wants to stay in NATO? What does this do to Italy? France? We probably have to attack Portugal whatever the outcome and drive them from NATO.” (Memorandum of conversation, March 27; ibid., National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 10) On April 12, Ford approved covertly providing [text not declassified] (Memorandum from Kissinger to Ford, April 11; National Security Council Files, Ford Intelligence Files, Portugal—GRF)