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Digital Archive International History Declassified

October, 1985

MEMORANDUM TO PRESIDENT SARNEY, 'BRAZIL-ARGENTINA. COOPERATION ON NUCLEAR AFFAIRS.'

This document was made possible with support from the Carnegie Corporation

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    An Argentine delegation proposed a joint statement on regional nuclear policy and a mutual inspection system between Brazil and Argentina.
    "Memorandum to President Sarney, 'Brazil-Argentina. Cooperation on Nuclear Affairs.'," October, 1985, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, AHMRE. Critical Oral History Conference on the Argentine-Brazilian Nuclear Cooperation, Rio de Janeiro, March 2012. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/123365
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Information to Mr. President of the Republic

Brazil-Argentina.

Cooperation on nuclear affairs.

In addition to the information on the matter (number 194/85 and number 141/85) I bring to Your Excellency the results of conversations with Argentine diplomats about nuclear affairs, in a meeting held at Itamaraty on 12th of this month of November, as preparation to Your Excellency’s meeting with president Raul Alfonsín.

During the meeting, the Argentine delegation subjected to Brazilian consideration the attached joint statement on regional nuclear policy, presenting the following arguments in favor of a mutual guarantee system on the exclusively peaceful use of nuclear materials, equipment and facilities in both countries, under item 4 of the draft declaration:

- An agreement between the two countries in order to establish a bilateral system of guarantees would concretely prove the Brazilian and Argentine decision not to develop or produce nuclear explosive devices. It would assure both countries’ exclusively peaceful use of nuclear energy, avoiding the limitation of the NPT and the Treaty of Tlatelolco.

- The currently excellent relations between Brazil and Argentina would help such initiative to happen. Establishing a mutual guarantee system would then be based on a political decision to categorically ban the existence of nuclear weapons in both countries and also eliminate the option of getting them in the future. A decision made by both Brazilians and Argentines would definitely attract other Latin American countries to the guarantee system, which would be open to them.

- The system – technically possible and in force, especially regarding the control of sensitive materials (plutonium and enriched uranium) – would not prevent other applications of nuclear technology, for instance propulsion, nor would it cause any limitation to peaceful development of nuclear technology.

- Regarding the international community, adopting a bilateral guarantee system would avoid sensationalist arguments of an alleged nuclear rivalry between Brazil and Argentina, which would be driving these countries to produce atomic bombs. It would also reduce speculation like those recently brought up regarding statements allegedly made by Brazilian military officials [illegible] at the same time countries worried about non-proliferation from those that avoid disseminating technology.

- This system would assist bilateral cooperation and allow both countries to better face the problems affecting their respective nuclear programs. It would also open market space for Brazil and Argentina in other countries, particularly in Latin America.

In response to such arguments, and after first evaluating the draft declaration presented by the Argentines, the Brazilian party affirmed to believe in the importance of maintaining good relations, which already sets the tone for the nuclear relation between Brazil and Argentina. It was also observed that the opportunity created by the presidential meeting should be enjoyed to firmly mention both countries’ peaceful purposes on the matter. In this sense, the Argentinian project is overall acceptable.

However, in relation to a bilateral guarantees system, the Brazilian party observed that while the arguments presented were valid, it was necessary to check whether the announcement of such system would have the expected outcome, or, on the contrary, if it could create even bigger pressure over both countries and limit their maneuvers on the matter. Thus, regarding such a complex and polemic matter as nuclear energy, it would be more prudent not to precipitate things but move forward in a firm way. That is why the Brazilian party proposed disclosing the decision to create a working group, like the one proposed to Your Excellency, instead of announcing a guarantee system (number 4 in the project).

The Argentine delegation said they understood the argument, however they requested us to deeply study their suggestion of a guarantee system, and reinforced that this proposal was the result of a mature joint work by the Argentine diplomatic and nuclear sectors. The Brazilian party assured that this analysis would certainly be done, also expressing their wish for the Brazilian proposal to be equally taken into consideration.

To sum up, I do believe that we should insist with the Argentines upon the creation of a working group for nuclear issues, whose political impact would not be negligible and to substitute the suggestion of a bilateral system of guarantees, whose consequences may not be completely predictable. In an informal understanding between Itamaraty, the National Security Council and the National Nuclear Energy Commission, a system of this kind between Brazil and Argentine was considered to possibly be premature at this moment, and its implications in relation to our interest in maintaining relative parity with Argentina on nuclear affairs would have to be carefully studied. Regarding the formal procedure, it is also worth highlighting the Argentine suggestion for this idea to be executed as a separate document. I believe this suggestion can  be  taken  up due to the larger  relevance  a  specific declaration would provide  to  the cooperation between the two countries.

I am informing the National Security Council and the National Nuclear Energy Commission of the Argentine project. I shall maintain Your Excellency informed of the follow-ups on this matter with the Argentines.

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