130. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Foreign Minister Rui Patricio
  • Ambassador to the U.S. Joao Hall Themido
  • Ambassador Freitas Cruz, Director General for Political Affairs
  • Secretary of State Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
  • Mr. Richard St. F. Post, Chargé
  • Mr. Peter Rodman, NSC Staff

Patricio: I don’t think I have to go very far into the relations between Portugal and the United States. They have always been marked by friendship. In World War II, we made a contribution to the allies.

[Typeset Page 455]

I remember one instance of cooperation. In November 1971, we received a personal letter from President Nixon asking us to vote on the two-thirds question concerning admission of Communist China to the United Nations. This was very difficult for us, because we had always abstained because of Macao. But we changed our position because of a personal letter from President Nixon. We were told by your Ambassador, who was here, that you would not forget.

Our decision of October 13 was similar. It was more important and very difficult, because of the serious consequences. And we are already suffering the consequences. The embargo against Portugal did not result from a feeling of solidarity between Arabs and Africans, but from our permitting the Azores to be used for resupply of Israel. The Arabs told us this. They ask us, if there is another crisis, would Portugal again give this support to the U.S.? We are already asked this question.

We have been told that after the visit of Mobutu to Libya, Colonel Qaddhafi promised full support for action against Cabinda. This would affect us severely because all of our fuel comes from this source. All of our industry is based on this. And we already suffer a total embargo.

And I must tell you that Portuguese public opinion did not support the decision of the Government. Not because of hostility to the U.S., but because many thought, including newspapers friendly to the Government, that we should have stayed silent.

But what concerns us more is not the view of the U.S. but the reaction of our enemies. It is not in the U.S. interest for us to lose in Africa. The Russians are interested in expanding in Africa. Our facilities in Mozambique—Nocala—and Angola and the Cape Verdes are important to the Soviets; they are important to your navigation. It is not in your interest for us to suffer defeat in Africa.

One should not think the U.S. will have less problems if Portugal has a military defeat in Africa. We would face a split between white Africa and black Africa, the direct involvement of South Africa, and a danger to your investments. Some in the U.S. speak of “vietnamization” of Southern Africa. Portuguese policy is the only way to prevent this. If we change our policy, a clash between blacks and whites in Africa will be tremendous. We are maintaining this without any support from any of our European allies.

In the past we avoided putting our problems to our allies. If we do it now, it is because the situation has changed. Guerrilla war we can manage. We are in control of Angola and Mozambique, the cities, towns, countryside, etc. But direct attack we cannot.

In the time of the Kennedy Administration, because of ideological reasons, the U.S. was opposing our policy. Even in that period we were told that the U.S. would oppose armed intervention against Portuguese territory in Africa. Even in the Kennedy Administration we were told [Typeset Page 456] that. Dr. Salazar received that letter. You said you would regard it as aggression. In your recent memo you made this point.

But isn’t it better to prevent it? If we have weapons and can deter it, it is better not only for our interests but for your interests.

I know you are very much concerned about Congressional opinion and public opinion, and you may mention the long-standing embargo on arms. But the situation should be considered as it is. When the embargo was adopted, it was a matter of guerrilla warfare, and we can see the U.S. would not want to get involved in this warfare. But now we ask only for defensive weapons to enable us to defend against the attack of an army of foreign intervention. We are not asking for rifles or weapons for fighting guerrillas. It is absurd when the Soviets and Chinese are giving sophisticated arms to our enemies.

If you can explain the situation to your people, they would understand.

What we did for Israel I think should help persuade Congress. If you can explain to Congress that the survival of Israel depends on it, it may make a difference.

Kissinger: We are prepared to explore with you the possibility of providing weapons without any publicity.

Patricio: It is important for us, as the first priority of our policy, to defend our territory. It will be difficult to explain to the Portuguese public why we do not receive substantial help in return for the Azores agreement. But even facing the unpopularity of such an agreement in Portuguese public opinion, we would be prepared for a secret agreement.

We have prepared a memorandum with our proposals.

[Patricio hands over Tab A, which Secretary Kissinger reads.]

Kissinger: As I told you in Brussels, I have not had a systematic opportunity to follow up on what the President said to your Ambassador. I have had a legal analysis made, which is not particularly encouraging.

On aircraft, it shouldn’t present difficulty. Naval equipment should be fairly easy.

The problem is, frankly, that an agreement of this magnitude cannot easily be done secretly.

Rather than talk theoretically, I would have to study it. Whether there are third countries who could do it, for example.

I will get you an answer within a month of my returning to Washington. By mid-January. I will talk to your Ambassador and tell you frankly what can and cannot be done.

Just looking it over, transport planes ought to be possible. Sea-air missiles, probably.

[Typeset Page 457]

The problem will be with land-usable equipment and to find ways of doing it without blowing it sky high. As the President told your Ambassador, it is not an issue of principle. As we told you in our memorandum, we would certainly think air attacks from other territories would be aggression.

Patricio: It is better to prevent such aggression.

Kissinger: We agree with you. Guerrilla warfare is one thing, attack by a land army is another. You can’t use HAWK missiles, or RED EYES, against guerrillas.

The whole thing will be very difficult, let’s not kid ourselves. There will certainly be eager beavers who will leak it to the newspapers.

The State Department is like an African tribe; the tom-toms beat all the time, and they’re always passing on information.

Patricio: The information we have may be accurate and therefore time is important to us.

Kissinger: The sea-air missiles presumably relate to Cabinda. That problem is more easy because in the public mind that isn’t associated with guerrilla warfare.

You were with the President. The authority is there, but the problem is how to do it.

Patricio: Now that Congress has approved enormous aid to Israel, maybe Israel could divert some to us.

Kissinger: Maybe that could be done. That’s prohibited, but the law doesn’t apply to Israel as it does to the U.S.!

Themido: The Israelis told me they couldn’t.

Kissinger: Let me talk to the Israeli Ambassador when I get back. I’ll be in touch with you early in the new year.

I should study it. You can count on my sympathy, but I don’t like to promise things if I can’t deliver.

I understand your urgency.

Patricio: It is needed.

Kissinger: You couldn’t have made it more vivid.

Freitas Cruz: There may have been some misunderstanding with the Israelis.

Kissinger: Maybe.

Freitas Cruz: The Israelis said they might be able to provide some SAMs they captured from the other side.

Kissinger: That would be a nice way of doing it! Actually the SAMs are as good or better than the HAWKs.

Freitas Cruz: There is a problem of spares, etc, of course.

Kissinger: That’s what I would have to look into.

[Typeset Page 458]

Themido: The Israelis said they had only a few, just museum pieces.

Kissinger: I will look into it.

[The meeting ended at 11:35 p.m.]

  1. Summary: Kissinger and Patricio discussed U.S.-Portuguese relations.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1027, Presidential/HAK Memoranda of Conversation, Memcons—December 1973, HAK + Presidential (1 of 2). Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. All brackets are in the original. The meeting took place in the Palacio das Necessidades. Attached but not published is Tab A, an undated Portuguese memorandum on “The Açores Agreement” that states Portugal’s military requests as ground-to-air missiles (HAWKs and Redeyes), anti-tank systems, C 130 and Orion planes, and sea-to-air missiles; a notation at the top of the memorandum reads, “Given to HAK by Rui Patricio, Lisbon, 17 December 1973.” Memoranda of conversation recording Kissinger’s second meeting with Patricio and a December 18 meeting with Portuguese President Admiral Americo Deus Rodrigues Thomaz and Patricio are ibid.