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

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Support for the UK at Ascension

We need your urgent guidance on a British request for support for the movement of up to twelve RAF C–130’s through Ascension April 3–7. The request includes a fuel uplift of 630,000 pounds—the fuel to be bought from U.S. stocks on the island.

This request was foreshadowed in a message received early this morning from Carrington.2 The British plan to ferry troops to Ascension for embarcation aboard ships there en route to the Falkland Islands area.

The issue is whether we support this UK move, particularly by providing our fuel.

We believe we should. L believes we are under an obligation to permit the UK to use these facilities in the event the UK considers additional logistic, administrative or operating facilities necessary at the airfield.3 DOD has prepared a message authorizing UK access to our fuel.4 We have held it pending your decision.

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PROS: The British will expect this form of tangible support. This is their “en route access,” and to deny it would have enormous consequences for UK cooperation on our own en route access plans.

CONS: Our help to the UK would have an obvious impact on those in the hemisphere who support Argentina in its dispute with the UK. It would further alienate us from many Latin American nations once it becomes known, particularly if the UK employs its forces against Argentina.

We believe it would be best to inform the British and our Commander on Ascension orally.

RECOMMENDATION:

That you approve UK access to U.S. fuel on Ascension and that decision be transmitted orally.5

ARA sees no alternative but to approve this proposal. However, Tom Enders believes we should instruct Ambassador Shlaudeman to inform the Argentines at an appropriate level and at an appropriate time6 that we are providing this service to the British under the terms of our agreement.7

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, P880104–0638. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Pendleton; cleared by Service, Michel, and Blackwill. Pendleton initialed for Enders, Service, and Michel.
  2. The text of the message from Carrington has not been found. In telegram 7329 from London, April 2, the Embassy reported that the message, which was passed by the British Embassy in Washington, “was intended solely as notification, in keeping with past practice of notifying U.S. authorities when U.K. forces plan to use facilities at Ascension.” (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, Files of Alexander M. Haig Jr., 1981–1982, Lot 82D370, Falklands Crisis—1982 (1))
  3. In an April 5 press conference, Fischer outlined U.S. policy on the British use of U.S. military facilities, including Wideawake Airfield on Ascension Island: “Our view on this is that Ascension Island is a British possession. The United Kingdom has the legal right to land military aircraft there after notifying the U.S. Air Force Commander at the airfield. The U.S. Government is obligated under a 1962 agreement governing its use of the airfield, to cooperate in the United Kingdom use of logistic, administrative, or operating facilities; and therefore, such use of the airfield does not, in any way constitute U.S. involvement in the United Kingdom-Argentine dispute.” (American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1982, p. 1299) The agreement referenced by Fischer is the Agreement Relating to the Use of the Airfield at Wideawake on Ascension Island by Aircraft of the Royal Air Force, effected by notes exchanged in Washington on August 29, 1962. Wideawake Airfield, which has hosted a continuous USAF presence since 1957, is known officially as RAF Ascension.
  4. Not found.
  5. An unknown hand initialed approval of this recommendation on behalf of Haig, April 2.
  6. An unknown hand circled “appropriate time” and drew a line from it to a notation below, which reads: “to be discussed by Enders with the Secretary Sat. [April 3] AM.”
  7. An unknown hand initialed approval of this recommendation on behalf of Haig, April 2. In telegram 89865 to Buenos Aires, April 3, the Department transmitted the message to Shlaudeman. (Reagan Library, Executive Secretariat, NSC Country File, Latin America/Central, Argentina (04/03/1982–04/06/1982)) Shlaudeman informed the Argentine Government of the U.S. decision the same day. (Telegram 1960 from Buenos Aires, April 3; ibid.)