420. Draft Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • President Carter/President Videla Bilateral

PARTICIPANTS

  • ARGENTINA
  • Lt. General Jorge Rafael Videla President of Argentina
  • Oscar A. Montes, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship
  • Jorge A. Aja Espil, Ambassador to the United States
  • Julio Cesar Carasales, Ambassador to OAS
  • Enrique Quintana, Chief of Protocol
  • Cdr. Eduardo Alberto Traid, Aide-de-camp
  • US
  • President Carter
  • Vice President Mondale
  • Secretary Vance
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Assistant Secretary Todman
  • Robert Pastor, NSC
  • Charge Maxwell Chaplin

President Carter opened the conversation by expressing his pleasure at the attendance of the Argentine President and emphasizing its significance as a demonstration of hope for the Panama Canal Treaty. He was also pleased that it provided an opportunity for the hemispheric leaders to have conversations about issues of common concern.

President Videla expressed his satisfaction over the opportunity to witness an event of such major importance as the Canal Treaty Signing, as well as the opportunity to have a face-to-face discussion with the President. He observed that the signature of the treaty not only denotes the end of one era but opens a new one in which the United States has [Page 1059]demonstrated its sincerity and goodwill toward Latin America. He added that the Argentine presence was his government’s effort to establish its goodwill in response. He observed that while US-Argentine relations have had their ups and downs throughout history, the temporary circumstances which impeded close relations have always been overcome by the basic identity of interests of the two nations.

As a parenthetical comment, President Carter observed to Videla that his Spanish was the clearest and easiest to understand he had ever heard—the President either chose simple words or had an unusually clear manner of expressing himself. He found this typical of the Argentina which he and his wife had visited some years previously. President Carter also added his thanks for the hospitality that President Videla had shown to Assistant Secretary Todman during the latter’s recent visit to Argentina.

President Carter said he hoped to have a frank discussion of two major issues with the objective of optimizing relations between the two nations.

Non-Proliferation

President Carter considered the threat of nuclear explosives the greatest problem facing the hemisphere. Because Argentina leads the Latin American nations in nuclear technology—which is a great credit to Argentina—he hoped that Argentina could also lead in the establishment of a nuclear free zone in the area and the prevention of introduction to nuclear explosives. He observed that all hemispheric countries but Cuba and Argentina had signed and ratified the Treaty of Tlatelolco and that Chile and Brazil had conditioned their approval of that treaty upon Argentina’s ratification and acceptance of it. He expressed the hope that Argentina would ratify this treaty which would provide unrestricted use of nuclear energy for power but no introduction of nuclear explosives.

President Carter said that the United States, the European community, Canada and Australia were now evolving a study of fuel cycle from ore to reactor wastes and safeguards. On October 19 there will be a three-day meeting on this subject, and it would be helpful if the GOA could be represented at this meeting. He envisaged establishing common policies with regard to the export of nuclear technology, heavy water and enriched uranium. He said this policy envisages restriction of sale of these items to countries which do not cooperate in the non-proliferation effort. President Carter said he understood that Argentina was cooperating with Canada with respect to limited safeguards but stressed the importance the United States places on the NFZ and the NPT.

President Videla responded by observing that the two countries’ coincidence of interest was mirrored by the fact that the two Presidents’ [Page 1060]agendas were the same. He did not perceive these issues as problems but as opportunities for progress. He reviewed Argentina’s 25 years’ work in developing the peaceful use of nuclear energy, noting that one power reactor is currently in use, a second under construction and a third in the planning phase. He understood President Carter’s concern over the misuse of nuclear energy and said Argentina had offered to establish safeguards beyond those which were really needed. However, he understood that even this may not be sufficient reassurance for Latin America and the world.

President Videla said the GOA had considered ratifying the Treaty of Tlatelolco but stressed that President Carter must be aware of the great need for proper political timing of such an action. Argentina was only 18 months away from its gravest national crisis, so the government must be particularly careful not to disturb the progress toward normalcy. He stated that as soon as political conditions permit—perhaps before the end of the year—he would give proof of the GOA goodwill with regard to non-proliferation by ratifying the Treaty of Tlatelolco. He asked if this reassured President Carter.

President Carter said it did, and stated that if the GOA decided to send a delegation to the fuel cycle conference, it would be particularly exciting if it would be possible to announce intended ratification of the treaty at that time, but he would defer to President Videla on the best political timing. With Argentine ratification, the treaty would be in effect for all countries but Cuba, and the United States would be raising this issue with the Cubans. The President added that Argentine ratification would also remove our concerns about technology and heavy water supply to Argentina from the United States and other suppliers. The President had discussed this very issue the previous day with Prime Minister Trudeau in the interest of establishing a common export policy.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to non-proliferation.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Papers of Warren Christopher, P–13, Box 13, Human Rights—-Argentina I. Confidential. The meeting took place at the White House. A stamped notation at the top of the memorandum reads “Has not been revised by the NSC.” No other record of this meeting was found.