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50. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Enders) and the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Holmes) to Secretary of State Haig 1


  • How We Should Respond to HMG’s Request for Measures Against Argentina


The Argentine military invasion of the Falkland Islands was successfully completed in the AM of April 2. This morning, British Ambassador Henderson formally presented three requests from his Government: to withdraw the U.S. Ambassador to Buenos Aires; to take the issue to the OAS; to embargo arms sales to Argentina.2


The Argentines apparently calculated that the risk of UK military retaliation and damage to its relations with the U.S. was worth the price, and probably calculated that the US and UK would acquiesce in a fait accompli. The Argentines may have calculated that their recent assistance to the U.S. in Central America would ensure our acceptance of the invasion. In analyzing U.S. options, we must take into account Argentine support for U.S. policy in Central America and our longer term relationship with Argentina. At the same time, the British as our oldest and most reliable ally strongly believe that they should be able to count on U.S. support on the Falklands issue. We have already assured the UK that we will give them very strong support on the issue of Argentine use of military force, while remaining neutral on the issue of sovereignty over the Falklands. We are giving them strong support in the UN Security Council debate which began today.3

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1. That you recall the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina.

PRO: EUR believes that Ambassador Shlaudeman should be called back to the United States for at least one week in order to comply with a request by our closest ally, and to demonstrate to Argentina that it seriously misjudged U.S. opposition to its military invasion. The British are going to bat for us in many areas of the world. We in effect owe it to them. Having an Ambassador in Buenos Aires over the past week in direct contact with the highest Argentine authorities was not enough to convince them of our serious opposition to the invasion. Recalling the Ambassador might get their attention.

CON: ARA believes that during this period of serious crisis in Buenos Aires and the major strain in U.S./Argentine relations, it would be a serious mistake to withdraw our Ambassador. Recall of our Ambassador would not bring a withdrawal from the Falklands and would result in a further loss of U.S. influence over the Junta. There are actions (e.g., UN) we are taking to help the British. Recall of the Ambassador, even briefly, could seriously jeopardize our common interests with Argentina elsewhere in the hemisphere.

2. Raise this issue in the OAS.

Mechanisms exist to call expeditiously for a Permanent Council session to deal with a situation which endangers the peace of the region. Alternatively, the Permanent Council could consider a resolution calling on the parties to resolve their dispute by peaceful means. The Permanent Council also could consider convoking a meeting of Foreign Ministers under either the OAS Charter or the Rio Treaty.4

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We consider the British OAS idea inadvisable and, potentially, seriously prejudicial to their position. In our view:

—The British have no status at the OAS; they are not permanent observers; they would not be permitted to speak.

—The Argentines, if they wish, could seek to turn invocation of OAS mechanisms against the British.

—The Inter-American Juridical Committee in a 1976 statement upheld the Argentine claim to sovereignty. Some OAS members, certainly Argentina, will cite this as a precedent.

—While the OAS is not necessarily a biased forum, Argentina would seem to hold more cards when it comes to votes within that organization; the outcome could be seriously disadvantageous to the British.

—If outright condemnation of the UK could be avoided in the OAS, it could only be on the basis of a peace-making action under OAS auspices which would require significant concessions by the UK.

—The matter is in the UN right now and we strongly support British efforts there.

—Should any attack on Argentine military units occur, the GOA would use this as an additional ground for seeking OAS or Rio Treaty measures against Britain and few OAS members would want to make the British case even if the UK acted in legitimate self-defense consistent with the UN Charter.

Raising the issue on behalf of the British in the OAS would be very costly to U.S. interests in this region. Besides the impact on our bilateral relationship, the OAS itself could be severely damaged. OAS consideration would intensify the latent Latin-Caribbean split within that organization. (We assume a number of the English-speaking Caribbean states, though not enough to change the outcome, would support the British against a united Latin front.)

3. Embargo of Arms Sales.

HMG probably does not realize that U.S. arms sales are still prevented under the Humphrey-Kennedy Amendment.5 Congress has repealed the restriction but we have not yet gone to the Congress with the required certification. ARA and EUR believe that we should put an indefinite hold on lifting the suspension in light of the Argentine move. But we should not publicly or explicitly link certification with [Page 87]the Falkland affair, since this could tend to tie our own hands for the indefinite future. You should be aware that Argentine use of USG-furnished defense articles in its invasion may violate the terms of our bilateral agreement under which they were provided, and that a prompt report to Congress under the Arms Export Control Act may be required.6


1. Recall of our Ambassador in Buenos Aires for at least one week. (EUR favors, ARA opposes.)7

2. Raise the Falkland issue at the OAS. (ARA and EUR recommend against).8

3. That we put an indefinite hold on lifting the arms sales restriction on Argentina. (ARA and EUR support).9

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, Files of Alexander M. Haig Jr. 1981–1982, Lot 82D370, Falklands Crisis—1982. Secret. Drafted by Smith; cleared by Service, Pendleton, Gudgeon, and Johnson. Service initialed for Enders and Holmes. A stamped notation at the top of the memorandum indicates that Haig saw it.
  2. See Document 46.
  3. The UN Security Council considered the Falklands/Malvinas issue in both morning and evening sessions, April 2. (Telegram 832 from USUN, April 3; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D820177–0349) On the morning of April 3, the British Embassy requested U.S. assistance to persuade Zaire and Japan to vote for a British resolution introduced the previous day; the Department informed the British that “the US will do everything possible to help obtain passage of the UK resolution.” (Telegram 89842 to USUN, April 3; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D820177–0646) Later on April 3, the Department instructed USUN to vote against a second draft resolution introduced by Panama should it be brought to a vote. (Telegram 89871 to USUN, April 3; Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D820177–0692) The British resolution, which demanded the “immediate cessation of hostilities” and the “immediate withdrawal of all Argentine forces” from the Islands and called upon the Argentine and British Governments to “seek a diplomatic solution to their differences,” was adopted by the Security Council as Resolution 502, April 3. The Security Council also agreed not to vote on the Panamanian draft resolution. The text of UNSC Resolution 502 (1982) is printed in American Foreign Policy Current Documents, 1982, pp. 1298–1299.
  4. The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, or Rio Treaty, was signed at the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security held in Rio de Janeiro in 1947. Article 3 of the Treaty stipulates that an armed attack against one signatory of the treaty would be considered an attack on all signatories.
  5. Reference is to the June 1977 amendment to the FY 1978 foreign assistance appropriations bill, named for its sponsors Senators Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minnesota) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), which imposed an embargo on new arms transfers to Argentina in response to its human rights record. The amendment took effect on October 1, 1978.
  6. A notation in an unknown hand reads: “We are looking into this now.”
  7. A notation in an unknown hand indicates that this recommendation was disapproved on April 3.
  8. A notation in an unknown hand indicates the decision not to raise the issue at the OAS was taken on April 3.
  9. A notation in an unknown hand indicates that the recommendation was approved on April 3. Following up on this approval, Blackwill sent an April 7 information memorandum to Haig which pointed out that the April 2 memorandum “did not mention that there is $3.9 million in the pipeline to Argentina under agreements concluded prior to October 1, 1978, the effective date of the Kennedy-Humphrey amendment. These items consist primarily of aircraft and ship spare parts, and were not affected by your decision.” Blackwill continued: “The British are particularly concerned about the Argentines acquiring spare parts in this pipeline for C–130’s and A–4’s, an acquisition which in most cases would not require a Munitions Control license and thus will routinely occur unless you direct otherwise.” Attached to this April 7 information memorandum was an April 7 action memorandum from Enders and Holmes to Haig, which spelled out Haig’s options regarding action on the Argentine arms pipeline. On the first page of the information memorandum, Haig wrote: “Hold until my return.” In the upper right-hand corner of the information memorandum, an unknown hand wrote: “Returned to PM 5/19 per APA as OBE.” (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S Special Handling Restrictions Memos 1979–1983, Lot 96D262, ES Sensitive April 1–9, 1982)