400. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S.-Brazilian Consultations


  • Brazil
  • Joao Baptista Pinheiro, Brazilian Ambassador
  • United States
  • The Secretary
  • Warren M. Christopher, Deputy Secretary
  • Terence A. Todman, Assistant Secretary, ARA
  • Robert W. Zimmermann, ARA/ECA (Notetaker)

Following initial amenities, the Secretary said that yesterday Ambassador Crimmins delivered a message2 from him to the Brazilian Foreign Minister and he wanted to take this early opportunity to cover the ground with Ambassador Pinheiro.

It was his strong conviction, the Secretary said, that great emphasis must be placed on strengthening bilateral relations between the United States and Brazil. Deputy Secretary Christopher will do so as well and, with Assistant Secretary Todman, we will be very well assisted in dealing with issues that arise. The Secretary stated his firm belief that the two nations must consult across the whole range of common problems. He then told Pinheiro that he had suggested to Silveira that we might start the consultative process with some of the subgroups already in being. He noted that Silveira had been told that the U.S. is prepared to send a representative to Brazil to exchange perspectives on the nuclear issue and that the Deputy Secretary would be following this matter himself.

In his conversations with Schmidt in Bonn, the Secretary continued, Vice President Mondale had conveyed President Carter’s deep concern with the problem of proliferation.3 In this connection the U.S. will be prepared to discuss with Brazil the whole range of possibilities for meeting Brazilian energy needs including a guarantee of fuel for [Page 1021] Brazil’s nuclear plants so that there would be no need for reprocessing and enrichment facilities. Finally, the Secretary emphasized that the concern with nuclear proliferation was global and in no way directed at Brazil. The control of proliferation is very important to future peace and order and a matter of general concern to the United States Government.

Ambassador Pinheiro said he wished to express his government’s appreciation for this early initiative to resume the bilateral dialogue and said that he was aware of the content of the Crimmins-Silveira conversation. He welcomed the Secretary’s statement of the importance that the United States attaches to relations between the two countries. Brazil, he said, totally reciprocates the importance accorded to relations between the two countries; Brazil takes pride in being a faithful friend and ally of the United States. There are differences on some issues but this is not true in the case of proliferation. Brazil has demonstrated its similar preoccupation with this problem by signing the guarantees which cover its agreement with Germany—guarantees which go beyond the NPT in renouncing peaceful nuclear explosions. In addition, Brazil has signed the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Brazil, he emphasized, is equally concerned about proliferation but the problem must be addressed in relation to all aspects of the matter and must include those countries which already have the pertinent technology. When Brazil did not sign the NPT it was in protest against vertical proliferation.4 It is to be hoped that those who have the technology will be equally circumscribed because the danger is the same.

Ambassador Pinheiro said he did not intend by these preliminary remarks to get into the kinds of details that would arise in the fruitful discussions he hoped would take place. Nevertheless, Brazil has certain limitations on the actions it can take. Brazil cannot subordinate its sources of essential energy to the control of even friendly countries such as the United States because attitudes depend upon the political winds. For example, he said, in spite of the belief that certain institutions should consider projects on their merits, the United States conditions loans on other issues such as human rights performance. Brazil cannot be dependent on one source outside Brazil’s control. This became evident with relation to the oil exporting countries. Brazil will be only too happy however to explore all areas of mutual interest and consultations will strengthen the mutual purpose of the two countries. He pointed out that in view of its growing specific weight, Brazil is interested in a broad range of issues including North-South relations and [Page 1022] disarmament. It is only by close consultation that peace and order can be achieved.

The Secretary said he would look forward to mutual cooperation to this end. Pinheiro said he would transmit to his government the views expressed by the Secretary and he would only respectfully request the United States to try to look at the nuclear problem from Brazil’s point of view as well. Brazil needs the energy but is equally interested in the nonproliferation question.

Pinheiro then remarked that the press was already aware that he was seeing the Secretary today. The Secretary said that he had instructed the Department’s press people to respond to questions by saying he had asked the Ambassador to come in to talk about the broad range of common interests between the two countries and how we might approach these mutual interests in a constructive way. If the press inquired whether nuclear matters were discussed the answer would be affirmative—that it was one of the subjects raised.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, EXDIS Memcons, 1977. Confidential; Exdis. Drafted by Robert Zimmerman (ARA/ECA); cleared by Bray and Terence A. Todman, (ARA); and approved by William Twaddell on February 4. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s Office.
  2. See Document 398.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 398.
  4. Vertical proliferation is an increase in the capabilities of the existing nuclear powers while non-nuclear weapons states were prohibited from developing nuclear capabilities.
  5. In a second meeting with Vance on February 2, Pinheiro said that Silveira wished to emphasize that his government wanted to hold meetings with the United States to discuss the nuclear issue and that Brazil and the Federal Republic of Germany remained committed to nuclear non-proliferation. However, he stressed that the “Brazilian Government believes that an effort to prevent the transfer of technology would be unjust and even impossible to achieve” and he called the agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and Brazil “a valid, legally binding instrument entered into by two states and supplemented by an agreement on safeguards.” Vance thanked Pinheiro for passing on Silveira’s message and said that a Delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher would visit Brazil on February 10 to discuss the issue. While he “understood that Brazil considers the agreement as legally binding,” Vance asked that it delay “implementation of the agreement until after” Christopher’s visit. Pinheiro replied that he would “convey this point immediately.” (Memorandum of Conversation, February 2; Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, EXDIS Memcons, 1977) On February 3, the Department of State instructed Walter Stoessel, the Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany, to inform Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher about Christopher’s trip and that the United States considered the issue “of the highest importance to USG and we intend to approach these discussions from standpoint of reaching overall solution, involving acceptable alternatives to transfer of enrichment and processing plants to Brazil.” (Telegram 24890 to Bonn, February 3; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Country File, Box 2, Brazil, 1–2/77)