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

1616. Subject: Discussions on Nuclear Cooperation.

1. In full day of discussions with Foreign Minister Silveira and GOB officials, Deputy Secretary Christopher:

—Impressed upon Brazilians, in context of President Carter’s letter to Geisel,2 strength of US opposition to spread of nuclear explo-sive capabilities and directly-related enrichment and reprocessing technologies.

—Presented for joint discussion and consideration alternatives to national enrichment and reprocessing designed to meet energy needs while reducing proliferation dangers.

—Stressed that US seeks neither commercial advantage nor abrogation of FRG-Brazil deal by either party, but made clear that sensitive transfers should be deferred pending full examination of alternatives.

2. In response, Silveira emphatically and repeatedly refused to suspend in any way, either privately or publicly, any element of agreement with FRG. Most he would accept—after being pressed hard by [Page 1029]Deputy Secretary—was to continue conversations on this matter and to consider alternatives proposed by US. He said that his mandate, from Geisel did not give him any further latitude.

3. Silveira reiterated GOB support of nuclear power to meet energy needs, opposition to nuclear weapons (but not specifying explosives) proliferation reliance on international safeguards as fundamental policy tenet, unwillingness to accept discrimination in technology access, and determination to reduce dependency on outside energy sources. Beyond this, new elements of GOB position were:

—An intimation of willingness to forego PNE’s, even beyond scope of trilateral agreement with FRG and IAEA;

—Acknowledgment that GOB considers itself bound to take no action inconsistent with the provisions of Treaty of Tlatelolco as long as other signatories do not violate them; and

—Readiness to consider further unspecified international non-proliferation undertakings, particularly as regards safeguards, as long as there is no abrogation of existing agreements.

4. US side welcomed GOB statements supporting limited non-proliferation objective, but emphasized concern with spread of nuclear weapons, usable material and sensitive technology, and view that safeguards were necessary but not sufficient to prevent nuclear spread.

5. In elaboration of possible alternatives to national enrichment and reprocessing, US side discussed bilateral, multilateral and international arrangements for assuring supplies of reactor fuel and described possibilities for international evaluation of fuel cycle, including reactor technologies, spent fuel storage, and reprocessing and its alternatives. To provide for GOB participation in latter, US side outlined international mechanism based on bilateral consultations among interested countries with current and planned major nuclear energy programs—with multilateral meetings as appropriate. In his only “observation”, Silveira welcomed our clarification that bilaterals would not be exclusively with the US.) US side also reported willingness of France to back up fuel supply to Brazil and French agreement not to place FRG or Brazil at commercial disadvantage. US outlined possibilities for non-nuclear energy cooperation, which Silveira expressed strong interest in pursuing.

6. At conclusion of talks, Deputy Secretary made clear—and Silveira appeared to register—that GOB now faces key choice for energy security: it can consider multilateral alternatives to meet its energy needs, or it can accept risks to its nuclear program by proceeding on its present course. Deputy Secretary summed up message he wanted Silveira to take away with him as follows: (A) President Carter is deeply committed to halting nuclear spread; (B) We have suggested alternatives to Brazil, which we will summarize in writing after return; (C) We [Page 1030]expect GOB to seriously consider these proposals, which we believe will benefit Brazil and the international community, and will forestall proliferation; (D) We ask Brazil to take no irretrievable steps prejudicing availability of alternatives; and (E) US will continue consultations regarding proposals with other interested States, understands that GOB will be back in touch as it considers these proposals, and is prepared to meet again with GOB any time and any place.

7. Brazilians proved highly suspicious of and resistant to US suggestion that joint press statement be issued, arguing that any statement would imply GOB readiness to suspend FRG agreement. When faced with prospect of independent US statement, however, GOB side finally agreed to issue following jointly agreed text: Quote the two parties exchanged views on nuclear matters and energy needs. Each side will consider the positions expressed by the other. There will be further talks on these matters. End quote.

8. Comment: For the most part, Silveira projected some of this reaction we judge to be posturing, which at times bordered on the offensive. He pointedly indicated that he was prepared to do no more than to listen to what US had to say, just as Brazil would listen to “any other” friendly country. As we engaged Brazilians on issues raised by FRG agreement, others on the GOB side clearly insisted that Silveira voice even more forceful opposition to reopening the agreement in any way. At several points, Silveira sought to leave impression that GOB was prepared to accept attenuation of bilateral relationship if that were price of going ahead with nuclear accord. In the end, however, Silveira very grudgingly agreed to consider US suggested alternatives—a word he refused to accept, preferring “proposals”—and to hold further talks.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770071–0248. Secret; Niact Immediate; Exdis. In a March 6 memorandum to Mondale, Christopher said that Silveira “took a hard stand” during their meeting and “reacted with disinterest” to Christopher’s attempts to explore “bilateral and multilateral alternatives to Brazil’s plan to acquire national enrichment and reprocessing facilities.” (National Archives, RG 59, Papers of Warren Christopher, Withdrawn Items, Box 5, Chronological Files, Memoranda to the Secretary, 1977) In his memoirs, Brzezinski recalled that Silveira received Christopher “very coldly,” and “his public reception was even worse. Popular anti-American sentiment was running high, and the trip only served to strengthen President Ernest Geisel’s position on this issue.” The Christopher Mission, Brzezinski wrote, “did not succeed, and it weakened American credibility.” (Brzezinski, Power and Principle, p. 131)
  2. Not found.