176. Letter From Secretary of State Vance to Secretary of Defense Brown1

Dear Harold:

I appreciate your letter of April 25 concerning the important question of future military cooperation with Brazil.2

I am pleased to report that all Munitions List export items pending for Brazil at the time were approved on April 25.3 This removed an irritant from our relationships in the wake of the President’s successful visit. Our ability to respond to Brazilian requests in the future will depend upon a variety of factors, including the human rights situation in Brazil. We recognize that our responsiveness to such requests will have a significant bearing on prospects for improved cooperation.

With regard to the larger questions you raise, I think that before taking any new steps, it would be a good idea to explore the various aspects of increased cooperation with Brazil. I have in mind an internal study of where Brazil fits into our overall strategy for the defense of the United States and Europe. Such a study would also consider where [Page 544] we fit in Brazil’s conception of its own vital interests. The study would have to be sensitive to the fact that the overall quality of our security ties will depend on a number of factors, including Brazil’s human rights practices, as well as its policies concerning the production, purchase and export of arms. I think the study should also consider the relationship between the political climate in both countries and increased military cooperation.

In considering increased military cooperation with Brazil, there is an important issue of timing. As you know, this is the “lame duck” of President Geisel and the character of the next Brazilian administration is not yet clear. In addition, national legislative elections are scheduled for this fall, and the course of internal political liberalization for the next several years may well be affected by the way the Brazilian Government treats those elections.

I would also note that the means by which we move to increased military cooperation will be particularly important. For example, a formal bilateral military relationship may be unacceptable to the Brazilians inasmuch as special relationships connote veiled forms of paternalism to Brazil, and a formal joint relationship is precisely what Brazil is terminating. For the near term at least, informal ties have the best chance of acceptance by Brazil, and would, at the same time, create the flexibility we would like in our relationship at this time.

In order to move ahead on this matter, I would suggest that Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs John Bushnell work with a senior Defense Department official in carrying out the study mentioned above and in coordinating whatever initiatives we may mutually decide to take.


  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country Files, Box 3, Brazil, 4-12/78. Confidential.
  2. See Document 174.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 174.
  4. Vance signed “Cy.” Brown’s July 27 reply is in the Library of Congress, Harold Brown Papers, Box 110, Latin America.