468. Minutes of a Policy Review Committee Meeting1


  • Minutes—PRC Meeting on Argentina (C)


  • State
  • Warren Christopher, Dep. Secretary
  • John Bushnell, Dep. Ass’t. Secretary
  • Defense
  • W. Graham Claytor, Jr., Dep. Secretary
  • Frank Kramer, Principal Dep. Ass’t. Secretary
  • Agriculture
  • James Starkey, Dep. Under Secretary
  • Commerce
  • Luther Hodges, Dep. Secretary
  • Abraham Katz, Ass’t. Secretary for Internat. Economic Policy and Research
  • Energy
  • Woody Cunningham, Ass’t. Secretary for Nuclear Energy
  • Arms Control and Disarmament
  • Spurgeon Keeny, Dep. Director
  • Richard Williamson, Nuclear Exports Div. Chief, Bureau of Nonproliferation
  • Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Lt. General John Pustay
  • Central Intelligence
  • Jack Davis, NIO for Latin America
  • White House
  • David Aaron
  • Henry Owen
  • National Security Council
  • Thomas P. Thornton
  • Robert Pastor

Bushnell began the meeting by discussing Argentinian relations with the Soviet Union. He pointed out that the current government is unlikely to get close to the Soviets and this provides a certain implicit limitation on the process of Soviet/Argentinian ties. The Argentine Government is playing a short-term game in the grain, trade and perhaps nuclear area.

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

Keeny , discussing nuclear matters, said it is not clear what the options are. The Soviets are interested in some nuclear cooperation with

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the Argentinians but there has been minimal activity to date.2 Thus there does not seem much to preempt there. Our own relations with Argentina are another question. We do not want to (indeed legally we cannot) expand these relations unless they accept full-scope safeguards and ratify the Tlatelolco Treaty. We do have some flexibility though on whether we should continue to cooperate in marginal ways within the law. The question is whether we are willing to supply things that at some future date might be related to a nuclear weapons program.

Bushnell said there is no problem because what we are supplying is for their research program. The issue is whether we want to break a nuclear dialogue with them completely and perhaps turn them to the Soviets. He hopes that we might be able to make greater progress next year when there will be a new administration and leadership on nuclear matters. Thus he asked, should we break the dialogue now or continue to do “minor” things.

Keeny said it depended on which items were involved.

Claytor said that the nuclear non-proliferation policy is bankrupt in general and that we should do absolutely everything we can under the law to cooperate with Argentina.

Keeny inquired whether that would include the provision of tritium. Perhaps the only thing the Argentinians want are things that cause no problem for us. We should look at the specifics.

Christopher pointed out that the President has certainly not abandoned the nuclear non-proliferation policy.

Claytor countered that the policy had been ineffective and that the Soviets are always ready to jump in where we are unable to extend cooperation.

Bushnell observed that there were very few license requests pending from the Argentinians and there probably would be no problem over the next six months or so.

Christopher , returning to the general topic, said he believed that the group should support the middle option. We should give due weight to positive trends in the human rights area but should not try to repeal [Page 1154] the Humphrey-Kennedy Amendment3 at this time since that would be impossible with the present Congress and politically unwise. This Option B needs fine tuning from the Interdepartmental Group; what we should do in the coming months is to warm up our relationship with Argentina. Perhaps in 1981 we will be able to have an initiative on the military side, including training at least.

Hodges said he was encouraged by Christopher’s summation, for the trends in human rights are important. The Commerce Department also supports Option B.

Aaron said that we needed a specific program to improve our relations. The options as stated in the paper are too static. Our goals should be first, to maintain a nuclear relationship that will result in Argentine accession to the Tlatelolco Treaty; secondly, a commercial policy that makes clear that we want the hydroelectric contract and will pursue it; third, there is no possibility of changing the military legislation now; fourth, there is a major OAS vote coming up and how we react will be a signal to them. We should relate that to the policy issues. Overall, we should have a tone that rests somewhere between Options B and C, leaving out for the time being any change in our military supply policy. The Inter-departmental Group should set up an 18-month program with benchmarks for our progress and for Argentine performance.

At the same time Aaron noted that there is no reason to improve relations dramatically with Argentina now directly after they have stuck their finger in our eye on the grain issue. We should make clear our irritation with them at this time and then pick up the pieces with a new administration when it comes into office. We will not be able to get very far with Videla. We should take the opportunity of the new administration, however, for turning a new page. If we move to improve our relations with them now we will simply not have the respect of the Argentinians.

Claytor said that he saw Option C as the desirable goal, less the repeal of the Humphrey-Kennedy Amendment which would be impossible. We should do all that we can with the Argentine military to restore relations between our two armed services. At the moment we are driving them to the Soviets. The Soviets are our greatest global problem and we are simply letting small things interfere with our dealing with this problem.

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

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron, Box 3, Argentina 1979–1980. Secret. Sent for information. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. On April 17, INR reported that “US countermeasures in the wake of Afghanistan have stimulated further Soviet efforts to exploit Argentine policy differences with the US, particularly in the commercial area.” INR further noted that Castro Madero had “announced that excellent results had been achieved at Argentine-USSR nuclear talks held in Moscow in late March to explore the possibilities of nuclear cooperation. The Soviets, according to one CNEA official, said that if US-Argentine negotiations for enriched uranium were not successful, the USSR would meet Argentina’s enriched uranium requirements. Possible Soviet supply of heavy water and heavy water technology may have been discussed, although Soviet officials have privately reiterated to us Moscow’s opposition to such transfers.” (Bureau of Intelligence and Research—Analysis: April 17; Ibid.)
  3. The Humphrey-Kennedy Amendment to the 1976 Foreign Assistance Act prohibited the supply of U.S. military equipment to Argentina and Chile after October 1, 1978.