443. Editorial Note

Vice President Walter Mondale, scheduled for an early September 1978 visit to Rome to meet with the Italian Government and Pope John Paul I, agreed to meet with Argentine President Jorgé Rafael Videla on September 4 “to discuss the deterioration in U.S.-Argentine relations.” [Page 1104]In addition to human rights, the Department of State briefed Mondale about Argentina and nuclear non-proliferation. The Department admitted that “the ultimate intentions of the Argentine leadership in the nuclear field are not clear,” but noted that Argentina’s “decision to ratify the Treaty of Tlatelolco represents a limited but welcome step to accept greater restrictions on its freedom of action.” Still, Argentina had refused to forego the construction of its own reprocessing plant “unless parallel action is taken by Brazil.” Such a plant could “give Argentina an ample source of safeguard-free plutonium to support a weapons program as early as 1981.” (Briefing Memorandum attached to Memorandum from Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs Viron Vaky to Secretary Vance, September 1; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 4, Argentina, 1/77–12/78) However, neither Mondale nor Videla raised the nuclear issue during the meeting. The details of their discussion are reported in telegram 226556 to Buenos Aires, September 7. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780365–0126)

Over the next three months, the United States continued to press representatives of the Argentine Government to set a date for its official ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco. An Argentine diplomat said that the “tie-up” over ratification lay in the Ministry of Economy, which had “requested more background information on the Treaty.” (Telegram 7156 from Buenos Aires, September 12; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780374–0734) In early October, another Argentine diplomat blamed the delay on “questions” that had been raised “about the safeguard agreement that would be negotiated with IAEA, which the Foreign Ministry was unable to answer because such agreement has not rpt not yet been negotiated.” (Telegram 8903 from Vienna, October 3; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780404–0116)

The Central Intelligence Agency also reported that both Argentina and Brazil resented U.S. intrusion into their nuclear programs. Argentina “steadfastly refuses to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, contending that it discriminates against countries without nuclear weapons,” and believed that the Jimmy Carter administration “will have to relent in its current policy. Meanwhile Argentina wants to have the technology so it can independently decide whether or not to reprocess” nuclear materials. Brazil, the Agency reported, had “great power aspirations” and its “resentment of US human rights and proliferation policies has heightened Brazilian sensitivities.” Like Argentina, “the Brazilians view US nuclear nonproliferation concerns in similar context, often saying that US opposition to the Brazil-West German nuclear accord is merely a veiled attempt to constrain Brazilian growth.” Argentina’s decision to “develop reprocessing technology will al[Page 1105]most certainly prompt Brazil to follow suit.” (Intelligence Report RPM–78–10410, November 6; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Country File, Box 1, Argentina: 9–12/78)

On November 24, the Embassy in Vienna informed the Department of State that the International Atomic Energy Agency was “urgently seeking views of USG, Canada, FRG, and UK re an approach to resolve the no rpt no explosive device issue which Argentina is steadfastly resisting in connection with its negotiation of a full-scope safeguards agreement” pursuant to its ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Vienna said that while it had become “increasingly concerned about the intensity with which GOA apparently is pursuing the PNE issue and the motivations behind this push,” the IAEA’s position represented a “retreat” from its previous position that “the no rpt no explosive device commitment would henceforth be made explicit in all future safeguards agreements.” The Embassy recommended that the Carter administration coordinate a “negative response to the Agency” because the “suggested approach is contrary to US policy.” (Telegram 10694 from Vienna, November 24; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780484–1054)

The Embassy in Buenos Aires subsequently informed the Department that Argentine officials, in particular “hard-liners” in the military and Foreign Ministry, had “consistently indicated that Argentina must keep her nuclear options open and maintain the right of PNE’s as the GOA interprets the Tlatelolco Treaty.” These officials “felt strongly that this option must be left open because of the regional stability question and the fact that there is very little trust in the direction future Brazilian governments will move on a nuclear weapons program, whether under safeguards or not. The GOA has maintained this same policy on the reprocessing issue.” (Telegram 9362 From Buenos Aires, November 28; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780492–0826)