186. Briefing Memorandum From the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Lake) to Secretary of State Vance1


  • U.S.-Brazilian Policy Planning Talks, March 24–25, 1980

Summary of Talks

The continuing improvement in our relations with Brazil facilitated a friendly and candid exchange of opinions at the March 24–25 U.S.-Brazilian Policy Planning Talks. While there was a willingness to cooperate with the US in several areas, on many issues Brazil’s perceptions and interests were clearly different from our own. Brazil, while indicat[Page 569]ing that it would avoid undercutting US efforts to deter Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, was concerned that increasing East-West tensions could adversely affect the West’s attention to the needs of developing nations and Brazil’s flexibility in pursuing a diversified foreign policy. Although seeing itself as relatively more pragmatic than most LDC’s, the Brazilians identified with the South on economic issues, since identification with the North is perceived to produce increased burdens and decreased economic privileges. Within Latin America, Brazil emphasized the need to address the area’s economic weakness. While Brazil has traditionally been cautious in hemispheric political affairs, it sees itself evolving toward greater responsiveness to requests from the area for economic assistance and it wishes to have closer relations with the principal Latin America countries and groupings.


East-West Relations and the Middle/East Southwest Asia

The Brazilians shared our concern over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan but believe that the US and Western Europe have primary responsibility for dealing with it. The Brazilians also observed that our policy of economic sanctions was not related to the causes of the crisis. Although Brazil plans to cooperate with our efforts in a limited way, it is skeptical that our policy will modify Soviet behavior. The weakening of the spirit of Detente and the apparent disarray of the Western alliance are disturbing to them since they reduce Brazil’s flexibility in pursuing a diversified foreign policy. As a country that identifies with both the West and the Third World, Brazil would like the US to use the Afghanistan crisis to strengthen the links between the West and the South.

We argued strongly on the need for a collective effort to increase the costs of the Afghan invasion to the Soviets and that deterence was vital for building any stable East-West relationship. We stressed that while there were costs to individual countries from the policy course we proposed, the US was accepting these and we believed others should as well if the Soviet Union was to feel its effect.

International Economic Situation and the Petroleum Outlook

As one of the more industrialized developing countries, Brazil feels it gets the worst of both worlds. It is ineligible for the aid given the poorest countries, while admission to the group of developed countries brings Brazil more responsibilities than rewards. Brazil identifies more frequently with the Third World than with the industrialized North, and fears an increasingly defensive and protectionist Northern posture toward newly industrializing countries. On energy matters, Brazil was apprehensive that the North would cooperate with the petroleum-[Page 570]producing countries, to the detriment of the countries of the South that do not have petroleum. Brazil believes that the energy problem could be partially ameliorated through increased South-South cooperation. The Brazilians believe, however, that any fundamental solution to the energy problem is dependent on a resolution of the Middle East conflict.

We stated that the US can support the North-South dialogue when LDC demands are specific and beneficial to both North and South. Massive transfers of resources to the LDCs will be difficult given anticipated slow growth of the global economy.

Latin America and the Caribbean

The Brazilians expressed concern over the growing instability in Central America and the Caribbean and the possibility of exploitation by Cuba and countries outside the region. We shared Brazil’s concern and were supportive of increased Brazilian attention to, and involvement with, the area. Brazil is reluctant to play an active role in the Caribbean basin in view of its historical lack of involvement in the area but it is evolving toward being responsive to requests for assistance, particularly from Nicaragua. In South America, Brazil has focused its attention until now on the Southern Cone, but the emergence of the Andean Group and the importance of Venezuela’s petroleum have encouraged Brazil to show more interest in its northern neighbors. Brazil also believes closer relations with Argentina are important, but at the same time does not want to isolate Chile. Despite differences of interest and perspective between Brazil and the U.S., the Brazilians believe that our recent policies in Latin America are more sensitive to the region’s concerns than in the past.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Policy and Planning Staff—Office of the Director, Records of Anthony Lake, 1977–1981, Lot 82D298, Box 6, TL 4/16-30, 1980. Confidential. Drafted by Purcell; cleared by Eisner.