170. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Brown to President Carter1

SUBJECT

  • Military Relations with Brazil

As you prepare for your trip to Brazil,2 I would like to bring to your attention a matter which concerns me and the Joint Chiefs of Staff: the serious erosion of our security ties with Brazil.

Brazil traditionally has been our firmest ally in South America. Its size, strength, economic vitality, influence, potential and emergence as an arms supplier in Latin America and the Third World all underscore the importance of maintaining good military cooperation and ties with Brazil in the years ahead.

Nevertheless, at the present time Brazil sees itself forced to embark on a deliberate policy of reducing its security ties with us. The reasons for this are complex, and reflect both Brazil’s growing self-assurance and its unfortunate perception that we are somehow opposed to its enhanced role on the world scene.

Thus far our reaction to these developments has been rightly limited to acceptance of Brazil’s actions and compliance with its demands to reduce our military cooperation. However, we appear to have adopted a policy that any discussions regarding future forms of cooper[Page 521]ation must come only as a result of Brazilian initiative. I do not believe that sort of approach is in our best interests.

I recommend that in your conversation with President Geisel you raise the issue of our future security ties. It is not appropriate at this time to propose specific new initiatives of cooperation, but I do think it essential to open the dialogue. We should make known our readiness to discuss the future shape and content of our bilateral military relationships.

Unless we begin a dialogue now on security issues, we must settle for acquiescing in a Brazilian-dictated moratorium on these questions, which most probably will continue for at least a year or more while President Geisel’s successor is elected and installed. Such additional delay can produce only further deterioration in our security ties. Already if events continue on their course Brazil will be denied access to our FMS system after September 30, 1978.

The irrationality of some of the Brazilian actions should not make us respond in a manner contrary to our own interest. In the absence of some initiative on our part, I fear that what is left of our military relations with Brazil will be lost. Our ability to pursue other important interests—including human rights, conventional arms restraint and nuclear non-proliferation—will then decline even further.

Harold Brown
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 6, Brazil, 1-3/78. Confidential.
  2. President and Mrs. Carter traveled to Brazil March 29–31. See Documents 172173.