172. Telegram From the Embassy in Brazil to the Department of State1

2649. Subj: Draft Memorandum of Conversation of First Bilateral Meeting Between Presidents Carter and Geisel, March 29, 1978 at 5:45 p.m.

1. The following is a draft memorandum of conversation for the first bilateral meeting between Presidents Carter and Geisel, March 29, 5:45 p.m. Participants on the US side in addition to President Carter were: Secretary Vance, Dr. Brzezinski and Chargé Richard E. Johnson. The Brazilian side was represented by Foreign Minister Silveira and Minister Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg of Itamaraty in addition to President Geisel.

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2. The substantive part of the meeting began with a discussion of the problems of Africa.2 President Geisel opened the discussion by stating that the reasons for Brazil’s policy in Angola are not always recognized. Brazil’s presence is worthwhile from the standpoint of the Western world. Brazil is demonstrating to Angola that there are alternative directions in in which it can turn, other than Cuba.

3. President Carter responded that it is important that the United States, Brazil, and others consult closely to prevent Africa from going communist, from turning toward the countries of Eastern Europe. The Africans naturally incline toward the West. If the Western nations can combine and take advantage of their favorable links, the outcome could be advantageous for us and the Africans as well.

4. President Geisel expressed his agreement. He said Brazil has many ties with Africa and is a neighbor of the nations of West Africa. The South Atlantic acts to bring these nations closer to Brazil, rather than to separate. African influence in Brazil is great, in part because of the long period of slavery in Brazil. In addition, Brazil has linguistic ties with the Portuguese colonies in Africa. If the Western countries do not support Africa, the Africans might decide there were no alternatives except to move closer to the Soviets. The Africans are not marxist inclined; they have long standing ties with France, England and, to some extent, Brazil. Brazil tries to help the Africans but its resources are limited. Brazil is seeking to develop its economic relationships, especially with the African countries; many of them are good potential markets. Africa must be helped, President Geisel concluded.

5. President Carter said that the Soviets have a temporary advantage in that they can send Cuban troops to intervene in the developing nations, e.g., Angola, Mozambique and Ethiopia. The Soviets are inherently racist in their attitude. They look down on these peoples; they do not live with them as we do. After the military phase is over, the Africans are inclined to turn back toward the West. We should have a forum, perhaps at the level of foreign Secretaries or undersecretaries, with the participation of European countries, to study the African countries one by one with a view to strengthening their democratic forces and keeping them linked with the West. Giscard D’Estaing is much interested in such a project. There will be a NATO meeting in [Page 525] the United States in May.3 We could do some spade-work before it, and discuss the idea during the meeting.

6. President Geisel observed that the Soviets have an advantage over the West because they are far less scrupulous. (President Carter expressed his agreement.) Cuba is a very expensive satellite for the Soviets, and they feel compelled to make some use of it. With regard to the suggestion that the situation in the African nations be examined nation by nation, Brazil is fully ready to work with the United States in Africa. This is of extreme importance not only to the United States but to Brazil and many others. The problem of apartheid is very alarming. The intransigence of the whites in South Africa is causing a dangerous situation. It could provoke an extreme black reaction, with the blacks becoming even more racist than the whites, to the point where the whites are unable to survive. The Brazilian viewpoint on this issue is exactly like that of the United States.

7. President Carter said the United States shares Brazil’s concerns about the situation in South Africa. The US is continuing to support the Anglo-US proposals on Rhodesia. It is also working under UN auspices with France, Canada, Great Britain and Germany on a solution to the problem of Namibia: with a view to establishing majority rule there. The key to the situation is the attitude of Vorster of South Africa, i.e., his influence on Ian Smith and his role in the solution of the Namibia problem. The United States has a positive relationship with the Presidents of the front-line countries. They will be sending their Foreign Ministers to Lagos to meet with Secretary Vance.4 President Carter said it would help him to have continuing information on the Brazilian attitude on these problems. The United States and Brazil should keep informed through their foreign ministers. This is potentially the most explosive issue in the world. If we are not careful the situation in the African continent could deteriorate into a shooting war. Given the reticence of the United States to become involved militarily and Cuban readiness to intervene, the final outcome could be contrary to the will of the Africans.

8. President Geisel expressed his agreement, stating that this is one of the most explosive areas in the world. Brazil, he observed, has no relations with Rhodesia, having never recognized the Rhodesian Government. It does have a limited relationship with South Africa, consonant with the restrictions proposed by the UN. It has substantial [Page 526] contact with Nigeria, one of the most developed of the African nations. Brazil favors independence for Namibia. The potential danger in the present South African situation is due in good measure to the regrettable intransigence of the English and Portuguese colonizers there. In comparison with British and French colonizers elsewhere in Africa, the pull out in the South was much too slow.

9. Dr. Brzezinski observed that the African situation in addition to being explosive has fundamental strategic implications. It is perhaps more important in this respect than the situation in other areas of east-west tension. If Africa turns to the left, we could become outflanked in the Middle East with the result that Western Europe could become neutral or leftist. This would seriously change the balance of power in the world.

10. President Geisel expressed his agreement. If we analyze the world situation, he said: we see the importance of the African Coast from the standpoint of access to the Middle East. This is why Brazil understands the importance of the US-Iranian link. Brazil has little military potential in the area; Brazilians are principally concerned with the ongoing struggle to develop their own territory. As far as Africa is concerned, Brazil concentrates on the West Coast. In the East, Brazil has close ties only with Mozambique. Although Brazil recognizes the importance of the East Coast, resource limitations make it impossible to establish much of a presence there. The United States has the responsibility and the strength to exercise influence in that region—the might and the means. The whole situation in the Horn of Africa is another reflection of the strategic importance of Africa and of the truthfulness of Dr. Brzezinski’s observation.

11. President Carter said the United States has been pleased to see the national boundary restored and the fighting between Ethiopia and Somalia cease. We hope the situation in Eritrea will not flare up, providing an excuse for the Cubans and Soviets to remain in the area.

12. Changing the subject to the Middle East,5 President Carter said the United States has been deeply involved in efforts to resolve problems there. The United States has strong ties with Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as with Israel and Egypt.

13. President Geisel interjected that the United States’ involvement stemmed from our world leadership role, a role the United States has had to assume since World War II.

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14. President Carter said that matters have now reached a point where the issues in the Middle East are very clearly defined. He would be happy to discuss them should President Geisel desire.

15. President Geisel responded affirmatively, remarking that the situation there is as explosive as that in Africa, if not more so. These are certainly two of the most important problems facing the world today.

16. President Carter said that for several reasons the United States has found itself in the role of an intermediary. We deliver messages for Begin to Sadat and the reverse. These messages generally bring bad news for the recipient. When Sadat went to Israel, the United States hoped that the Israeli response would be sufficiently flexible to permit settlement, but matters did not work out this way. Israel, or at least Begin personally, is hard-headed on three issues and this has prevented progress in the direction of an accord: Israel 1) refuses to acknowledge the applicability of UN Resolution 242 to the West Bank of the Jordan,6 2) refuses to refrain from establishing settlements in the occupied territories and expanding existing settlements, and 3) refuses to recognize the right of the Palestine Arabs to have a voice in determining their future.

17. President Geisel interjected that this is a problem of human rights.

18. President Carter agreed. What the outcome may be, he said, it is impossible to say. At least we have been successful in getting the issues out into the light where the whole world can see them. We believe Sadat is bold, and adequately flexible. There is a division in Israel as to what should be done. Since Begin left Washington after his recent visit,7 the United States has felt the best course of action is to let the situation develop in Israel and not to exercise pressure publicly—this could result in the creation of a solid front of the Israeli leaders in protest against US efforts to influence the situation. Many people overestimate the strength of our influence in Israel. The Israelis do have strong support among the people of the US and in the congress, and the United States is committed to the preservation of Israel’s security. We will help Israel resist any threats to its national identity, but we hope and expect flexibility in the future.

19. President Geisel said the United States finds itself in the same situation at times as Brazil, a situation in which there is really no good solution and one has to select the one which is “least bad.”

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20. Secretary Vance said the United States feels that it is best for the moment to allow Israel to reflect on the developments during the recent Washington meeting, and its results. But the window of time available is limited. If some action does not occur fairly soon, the situation could deteriorate very badly. The United States will have to decide on the permissible length of this interval.

21. President Carter said it is very important to give Sadat our support. He is in a difficult and dangerous situation. Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Jordan have shown a disposition to support him. But he is in a vulnerable situation after his dramatic step. He took an initiative which has not succeeded.

22. President Geisel said Brazil’s position has always been clear. Brazil supports UN Resolution 242, and recognizes the State of Israel. Brazil believes that Israel should receive assurances of its independent survival. The Arabs must understand that Israel has a right to live within assured and secure boundaries. Brazil also feels that Israel should return areas occupied during the wars and that the Palestinians have a right to survive as an independent nation; a right to territory and to national existence. Sadat’s action was courageous and well-intentioned but he had bad luck because he took his step at a time when one of the more radical Israeli leaders was taking over the leadership of government. If the problem continues, future trends will work against Israel. The Arabs are increasing in strength: in numbers, in money and in equipment. Today the situation favors Israel, a strong country with unusually capable people, but in the future the advantage will tip toward the Arabs. In Brazil the Arab-Israeli problem has no internal repercussions. Arabs and Jews live close together as neighbors in perfect harmony. The Arab-Israeli issue has persisted for many years with many different nuances. The recent Israeli invasion of Lebanon was tremendously costly, particularly in terms of the deaths of innocent Israeli invasion of Lebanon was tremendously costly, particularly in terms of the deaths of innocent people, people who had no involvement whatsoever in the quarrel. One wonders how long this situation can persist. The newspapers are reporting the re-initiation of Israeli talks with Sadat. One could question what basis there is for further talks if the Israelis continue to be inflexible and to persist in remaining in the occupied territories.

23. President Carter said he agreed with President Geisel’s prediction and sees little basis under present circumstances for a re-initiation of the talks. He said that the Brazilian view of the situation fits that of the United States exactly with one exception. The US believes that it would not contribute to stability in the Middle East were an independent Palestine to exist between Israel and Joradan. We would prefer joint Israel-Jordan administration for approximately five years, with [Page 529] the Palestinians to have a choice thereafter of affiliating with Israel or Jordan. President Carter said that his guess is that the Palestinians would opt to join Jordan. He said that Arab leaders privately admit to seeing an independent Palestine as a focal point for subversion on the part of Libya, Iraq, Cuba or the Soviet Union, and as a continuing source of provocation.

24. President Geisel observed that this solution would be transitory in time and that a definitive solution is a long way off. Foreign Minister Silveira said that Brazil’s position is one of support for the Palestine nation; unless such support is offered clearly, the Palestinians will not go along with us in our future efforts to find a solution. If the Western side exhibits a “perfectionist” attitude, the Arabs will not accept it. The west has to state that it favors an independent state; thereafter it can be left to the Arabs to convince the Palestinians as to the best solution. Unless the Western nations take a positive stand, we will lose the Palestinians.

25. President Geisel inquired as to the Soviet attitude on these questions.

26. President Carter replied that the United States and the Soviet Union signed an agreement last year as part of an effort to get all involved parties together for an eventual Geneva conference. This provided the first opportunity for an open and profound dialog between us. Iran, Egypt, Jordan and Syria distrust the Soviets and are concerned that the USSR might be a party to Middle East negotiations, the Soviets have never been constrictive in this respect. They stopped helping the United States in its efforts to arrange a Geneva conference and eventually the opportunity passed. The Soviets have a close relationship with Iraq, Libya and Syria, practically no relationship with Jordan and Egypt and none with Israel. President Carter said his best guess is that the Soviets will try to convince the world that they want peace but will prefer a continuing disturbed situation. We still consult with the Soviets through our Ambassadors on this question and keep them informed.

27. Dr. Brzezinski interjected that we keep the Soviets better informed than they do us.

28. President Geisel said that he has the impression, perhaps a superficial one, that the Soviet Union always has an interest in maintaining some area of friction in the world. First it was Korea, then Vietnam and now Israel. When the problems surrounding Israel are solved, a crisis will break out somewhere else. The Soviets always like to keep the flames of conflict burning.

29. Foreign Minister Silveira interjected that they always use a third party for this sort of intervention.

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30. President Carter said that Secretary Vance had just told him that Sadat had agreed to receive Weizmann,8 who has a message for him. This did not appear to be a reopening of negotiations, however.

31. President Geisel said he has received reports that Weizmann’s views often do not accord with those of Begin.

32. Foreign Minister Silveira observed that it is very important for Sadat to use his head carefully in this respect.

33. Dr. Brzezinski remarked that Weizmann is tactically more flexible than the other Israeli leaders, but that strategically he has the same objective.

34. President Carter suggested that at the next meeting one topic of conversation might be US relations with the Soviet Union and the SALT talks.

35. Changing the subject to US/Brazil relations, President Carter observed that it would be a most serious matter for the United States if major difficulties were to arise with its relations with Brazil. He expressed the hope that during the present visit the two Presidents and their Foreign Ministers can resolve any existing differences and restore Brazil-United States friendship and understanding to a higher level than it has ever been in the past. This, President Carter said, is his firm intention, and the United States will do everything it can to bring it about.

36. President Geisel responded that the United States could be assured that Brazil, as a country of the West, feels friendship and loyalty toward the US. This has been the situation in the past, is the situation now, and will always remain the situation. This relationship with the US is not due to traditional ties or to geographic or strategic factors, but is a question of Brazil’s national destiny within the Americas and in the world. We are friends and as friends we must be united, in Latin America and throughout the world. President Geisel said he had worked all his life to develop this friendship. There is no anti-US campaign in Brazil as there is elsewhere in Latin America. Brazil and the United States have confronted international crises jointly, for example, in World War II and in the Dominican Republic.9 Brazil had some doubts about US action in the Dominican Republic, suspecting that our decision was a bit hasty, but nonetheless Brazil came out strongly in support of our action and stood by us. Difficulties do exist but they are entirely natural—a perfect identity of purpose is impossible. If problems did not exist in one area, they would be present in another. President Geisel said that during his recent trip to Germany a newspa[Page 531]per reporter sought to exploit speculatively certain points of alleged US-Brazilian differences, i.e., some imagined gap. President Geisel responded to this questioning by stating that there were points of difference but the points of identity and the links binding the US and Brazil together are much more significant than those separating the two countries. The correspondent was told that this situation has prevailed in the past, and will continue into the future. Brazil, President Geisel said, has never been anti-American nor will it be. This is a logical situation for Brazil—a question of Brazil’s national interest. Brazil is a part of the Western World and recognizes the United States as a world leader. Whether the United States likes it or not, it has the resources and the stage of development for world leadership, and it is shouldering its responsibilities.

37. President Carter said he concurred entirely in President’s Geisel’s statement on the US-Brazilian relationship. He proposed that at their next meeting he and President Geisel discuss ways of resolving the small differences existing between us.

38. Draft Memcon on second bilateral follows Septel.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850104-2248. Secret; Immediate; Cherokee; Nodis. No final record of the conversation was found.
  2. Vance and Silveira discussed Africa during their bilateral meeting on March 29. Telegram 2764 from Brasilia, April 5, transmitted a draft memorandum of conversation. (National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Records of Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State, 1977–80, Lot 84D241, Exdis 1978 Memcons for Vance)
  3. For a record of the NATO meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXVII, Western Europe, which is scheduled for publication.
  4. A summary of Vance’s meetings in Lagos with the foreign ministers of Zambia, Botswana and Nigeria is in telegram 3080 from the Secretary’s delegation, April 2. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780143-0288)
  5. Vance and Silveira discussed the Middle East during their bilateral meeting on March 29. See footnote 2 above.
  6. For UN Resolution 242, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XIX, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1967, Document 542.
  7. Begin made an official visit to Washington March 21–23.
  8. Ezer Weizman, the Israeli Defense Minister.
  9. A reference to the 1965 United States invasion of the Dominican Republic.