171. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Tarnoff) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Military Relations with Brazil

The Department shares the Secretary of Defense’s concern over the deterioration of our ties with the Brazilian military and his interest in returning to a decent security relationship with Brazil.2

[Page 522]

The Rio Treaty, which Brazil will continue to honor, provides a hemispheric security relationship against threats to the peace. But it does not mandate standing arrangements for bilateral military cooperation, and the Brazilians have chosen to terminate their military agreements with us. They are also keeping students out of U.S. military training programs, switching their sources of military supply away from the U.S. and towards Europe, and have foregone FMS beyond October 1 to avoid the submission of a human rights report to Congress.

In sum, there is a pronounced Gaullist flavor to the Geisel government and, even more disturbing, a streak of paranoia among the Brazilian military about U.S. intentions. (Incredible as it may seem, a recent report3 has two Brazilian military sources suggesting to our military that the CIA may be out to destabilize Brazil.) In addition to getting our own thinking in order as to what might be desirable, in the light of various U.S. policy concerns, by way of a modernized military relationship with Brazil, we will need to take into account these unfortunate Brazilian realities in devising the tactics of approach to the Brazilians.

In these circumstances, an obvious Presidential initiative might be rebuffed or misinterpreted to show that Brazil’s Gaullist stance has us over a barrel. Moreover, one of the most plausible responses Geisel might make to the President would be to indicate interest only in the event we dismantled the requirement for a human rights report to Congress for countries receiving FMS, something the President would have to reject.

We believe, however, that the President should make one or both of the following points if a natural opportunity occurred in the conversation:

—We accept Brazil’s decision to put our military relationship on a new footing and are willing to explore jointly future cooperative efforts in this context.

—A mutually acceptable relationship in the area of defense would advance our respective interests and facilitate cooperation on strategic concerns.4

In addition, your own conversation with General Golbery might give you an opportunity to discuss the issue in a less forced, less [Page 523] formal setting.5 Golbery is known to be personally concerned about the deterioration of the relationship with the U.S., and is generally considered a leading geo-political thinker as well as perhaps Geisel’s most important moderate advisor. Your talks with General Golbery could range all the way from general discussion to such specifics as reassuring the Brazilians of our intentions to expeditiously process between now and October 1 any FMS requests which they submit to the U.S. Additional talking points for such a conversation will be provided shortly.

Peter Tarnoff 6
Executive Secretary
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 6, Brazil, 1-3/78. Confidential.
  2. See Document 170.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. In a March 21 action memorandum to Vance, Kreisberg recommended that the Department should agree with Brown “that the President should raise military cooperation briefly with President Geisel.” No decision was marked. (National Archives, RG 59, Policy and Planning Staff—Office of the Director, Records of Anthony Lake, 1977–1981, Lot 82D298, Box 3, TL 3/16-31/78)
  5. In a memorandum for the record, April 5, Turner noted that Brzezinski reported that Golbery “is also interested in better coordination on Africa.” (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 80M01542R, Box 22, Folder 424) No other record of the conversation between Brzezinski and Golbery was found.
  6. Wisner signed for Tarnoff above Tarnoff’s typed signature.