426. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter 1


  • Latin American Nuclear Strategy: Post-Visit Assessment

The nuclear discussions during my November 21–23 trip produced mixed results. The Argentine talks produced more progress than we had anticipated;2 Brazil continues unyielding, as we expected.3 But the Argentine results should tend to isolate Brazil in Latin America at the same time that France’s decision not to complete its reprocessing sale to Pakistan increases the isolation of the FRG in Europe. In sum, I believe that we made some progress in our strategy, but it is clear that it will take a sustained effort, as well as some luck, to move Brazil.


We achieved three things:

—a public commitment to ratify the Treaty of Tlatelolco, (albeit without a waiver of the entry into force requirements), balanced by public affirmation of US willingness to expand nuclear cooperation in a manner consistent with our non-proliferation policy and to recognize Argentina’s potential as a nuclear exporter. But Argentina is not willing to bring the Treaty into force by waiving the requirement that other states (the USSR, France, and Cuba) ratify.

—a private understanding that Argentina will move to full-scope safeguards as a condition for additional US assistance (that would not include at this stage the transfer of heavy water technology). If such an exchange is made, we will have achieved the main substantive effect of the Treaty in Argentina.

—a private expression of Argentine willingness to consider deferring reprocessing if Brazil also defers (a concept of regional equilibrium) and if it receives heavy water technology from the US and [Page 1072] Canada. This is the basic exchange foreseen in the strategy you approved last July,4 and the Argentines have signalled its acceptability.


The Brazilians were aware of our October approach to Schmidt and the FRG’s rebuff.5 They expected a renewed attack on the FRG agreement and were prepared to reject it. They were not aware of the results of our Argentine visit, and there was too little time for them to absorb its implications. In these circumstances I felt it best to make the Argentine idea of “regional equilibrium” the centerpiece of a brief presentation, and to bring in the remaining elements of our package only indirectly. Their response in the formal sessions was to quietly reaffirm their standard position, but they listened carefully and the factors we presented may have greater impact as internal Brazilian criticism of the FRG deal develops. We were careful to avoid any implication of pressure that would stimulate nationalistic rejection or stop internal fermentation.

Next Steps

I think it is important that we avoid explicit pressure on Brazil that would tend to close their minds while we are trying to get them to consider the implications of a shifting situation which may in time require them to adjust. By the time of your visit in the Spring, you may wish us to resume a more direct approach. We will pursue technical talks on thorium and the problems of reprocessing in the context of INFCE, and bilaterally if they show interest. We will also work closely with France in the effort to soften the FRG position, and consider ways to further isolate the FRG and Brazil through Latin American support for the “regional equilibrium” reprocessing moratorium concept. In Caracas we touched lightly on this concept. President Perez may prove a strong supporter, and could help us with the Argentines and perhaps the Brazilians. We will also want to protect our present position by moving ahead with the US/Argentine cooperation mapped out in Buenos Aires while at the same time assuring that they take no irreversible steps to develop a reprocessing capability.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 6, Brazil, 1–12/77. Secret; Nodis. Carter initialed the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum. Vance also discussed the nuclear issue with Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Pérez on November 23. (Telegram 11456 from Caracas, November 25; Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, NODIS Memcons, 1977)
  2. A record of Vance’s discussions with Argentine President Jorgé Rafael Videla is in telegram Secto 11012 from the Secretary’s Delegation in Buenos Aires, November 22. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840076–0545)
  3. A memorandum of Vance’s November 22 conversation with Brazilian President Geisel is in the National Archives, RG 383, Records of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Office of the Director, Lot 81D155, Box 10, Brazil Bilaterals, November 22, 1977.
  4. Not found.
  5. On October 25, Smith gave a “presentation, copy of which was an informal talking point paper, was left with the Chancellor,” which notified Schmidt that “the US has been concerned that sensitive nuclear projects being carried out in Brazil might cause other countries,” in particular Argentina, “to move ahead with similar projects in order to preserve their competitive position at both the technological and military levels.” Carter, he said, wanted to press Brazil, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Argentina for “a deferral for a period to be agreed upon of reprocessing” which “would permit the US to drop objections to the enrichment program.” (Telegram 257624 to Brasilia, October 27; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770395–0555)