397. Editorial Note

During the 1976 presidential campaign, candidate Jimmy Carter called for “new international action to make the spread of peaceful nuclear power less dangerous.” In an address at the United Nations on May 13, Carter warned that despite the fact that “several administrations” had refused “to authorize the sale of either enrichment or reprocessing plants, even with safeguards,” to nations that did not possess nuclear technology, “other principal suppliers of nuclear equipment” had recently “begun to make such sales.” Carter ultimately called for a worldwide “voluntary moratorium on the national purchase or sale of enrichment or reprocessing plants.” News reports contended that Carter was referring to the Federal Republic of Germany’s 1975 sale of a nuclear reactor and plutonium technology to Brazil. (“Excerpts From Carter Speech on Nuclear Policy,” and Kathleen Teltsch, “Carter Proposes a Nuclear Limit,” New York Times, May 14, 1976, pages 12 and 47, respectively) The Gerald Ford administration had also opposed the sale between the Federal Republic of Germany and Brazil but failed to convince either nation to abrogate the purchase. For more on this subject, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–11, Part 2, Documents on South America, 1973–1976, and Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–15, Part 2, Documents on Western Europe, 1973–1976, Documents 289, 297, and 303.

Only hours before Carter’s inauguration on January 20, 1977, the Ambassador to Brazil, John Crimmins, reported that the FRG Ambassador to Brazil had said that his government would “brook no third-country interference in the Brazilian-German agreement, although this attitude does not prevent ‘clarifications’.” The FRG Ambassador had assured a group of European journalists that Brazil, although not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, “had made clear several times ‘in various international forums’ Brazil’s intention not to fabricate nuclear devices” and “reportedly cited as one example Brazil’s signature of the Tlatelolco Treaty,” the 1967 pact that outlawed nuclear weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Telegram 539 from Brasilia, January 20; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770022–0258)

In his first National Security Council meeting on January 22, Carter instructed Vice President Walter Mondale, during Mondale’s upcoming European visit, to “confirm to Chancellor [Helmut] Schmidt that provision of nuclear fuel reprocessing technology to Brazil will create a major crisis in US-German relations.” The NSC then agreed “to [Page 1016]review the U.S. commercial aspect of the reprocessing issue so as to meet expected charges that the U.S. opposition to Germany’s supply technology to Brazil is self-serving.” (Summary of Conclusions of National Security Council Meeting, January 22, 1977; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Meetings File, Box 1, NSC Meeting #1: Held 1/22/77, 1/77)

On January 26, Crimmins reported that Brazil’s Foreign Minister, Antônio Francisco Azeredo da Silveira, had said, “in an obvious allusion to the nuclear question,” that Brazil would “not permit its destiny to be ‘defrauded or disparaged by misunderstandings or foreign influences’ and that “the quality of life depends on a nation’s self-respect, self-fulfillment, and autonomy.” One Brazilian newspaper called Silveira’s comments “extremely aggressive” and a Foreign Ministry press backgrounder made it clear that his “remarks were aimed at President-elect Carter and other leaders of the great powers.” Crimmins concluded that while Brazil remained determined to maintain its “energy autonomy” and would refuse to abrogate the purchase of the nuclear reactor from the Federal Republic of Germany, this “beginning position of apparent intransigence” could be modified through bilateral negotiations with the United States. (Telegram 693 from Brasilia, January 26; National Archives, RG 59, Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D770028–0387) In a later telegram, however, Crimmins warned that the dispute over non-proliferation in Latin America could produce “serious and irreversible damage to the U.S.-Brazilian relationship.” (Telegram 741 from Brasilia, January 26; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770028–1090)