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February 25, 1977

Memorandum from Brazilian Foreign Minister Silveira to President Geisel, US Threats and Promises and Brazilian Responses

This document was made possible with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY)





Possible American approaches

1. The present analysis starts from the premise of the American ability to offer to the Brazilian side

a) Negative incentives (threats) or
b) Positive incentives (promises), or else:
c) A combination of positive and negative incentives with the objective of forcing or obtaining the immediate or gradual abandonment by the Brazilian government of its position regarding the agreement Brazil-FRG.

2. If the American side chooses the tactics of negative incentives, it will probably confine itself to reiterating what it has told us both in public and confidentially (that is, ask for the indefinite postponement of the building of the uranium enrichment and irradiated material reprocessing plants, adding, however, threats that could be of the following kinds:

a) Specific threats in the nuclear field (for example, cancellation or postponement of the supply of fuel already contracted for Angra-I); or
b) Specific threats in other fields (for example: in the area of restrictions to Brazilian exports or in the area of financing the Brazilian external debt; 
c) Generic threats (for instance, the indication that Brazilian firmness can bring “incalculable” consequences for the country). 

This approach, which would constitute a reiteration of American positions combined with explicit mention to negative incentives, would presumably have the objective of compelling the Brazilian government to yeld immediately.

3. A more clever tactics on the American side could be to leave aside those threats and then, after fully acknowledging recognition of the new international importance of Brazil, suggest formulas for dealing with the dispute, with a dilatory purpose.

4. Such formulas could hardly bring innovation for the general American position. Presumably, they would contain a number of the elements already mentioned by the Americans in several occasions, despite not having been formally presented to the Brazilian government. Such elements could be, for instance:

a) Guaranteed of supply of nuclear fuel to Brazil, either unilaterally or in association with some multinational enrichment scheme;
b) Creation of a multinational uranium enrichment center with Brazil as a shareholder, but under United States technological and managerial control (perhaps together with other suppliers, such as the FRG); 
c) Prohibition of reprocessing in Brazil, combined with the establishment of a deposit of irradiated material, under United States control (perhaps in association with the IAEA), where plutonium produced in Brazil and in other countries would be indefinitely stockpiled;

In any case, the Americans could also request: 

a) The signature of the NPT by Brazil; or, as a second option,
b) A commitment by Brazil to accept, at least, a clause of the kind “poor man`s NPT~, that is, strict safeguards on the whole Brazilian nuclear program, with a guarantee that the above prohibitions would be fully respected

5. It is not in the essence of the American position that all these elements be presented to the Brazilian government by Christopher. It would suffice to bring one or two of them to the negotiation table, together with copious documentation. The remaining elements could be inserted at a later stage. The substantive American proposal would be complemented by the “procedural” conditions that bilateral negotiations would proceed within a reasonable time frame and that the Brazilian government would pledge not to implement, for the duration of the negotiations, the Brazil-FRG Agreement, in everything regarding enrichment and reprocessing. Alternatively, the Americans could announce the convening of multilateral conversations on the question of the dissemination of ”sensitive technologies” and make demarches on a moratorium of the Brazilian enrichment and reprocessing efforts for the duration of the negotiations.

6. It is on the issue of the moratorium (which, as the negotiations went on, would result in the abandonment by Brazil of the enrichment and reprocessing stages) that the threats listed in paragraph 2 above could then come to bear. This would create a diplomatic situation in which the Brazilian government would have positive and negative incentives to yield, by stages, while it would seem to be negotiating. 

Possible Brazilian reaction

1. The Brazilian side will respond to Americans with the preliminary consideration that, in our understanding, the consultations regard the global aspects of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. This question belongs more properly in the multilateral level, where it should continue to be treated.

2. The Brazilian side will next bring forth those global aspects, utilizing also the relevant sections of the document “The Brazilian Nuclear Program”, recently prepared.

3. Special emphasis should be given to the following aspects:

a) The main threat to international security in our time continues to be the vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons in the hands of the superpowers;
b) This problem remains essentially without solution;
c) The NPT was a failed attempt, because for all practical purposes it is limited to the field of horizontal proliferation;
d) Nevertheless, Brazil took care to establish that its nuclear program will have exclusively peaceful objectives and will be carried out under adequate international safeguards;
e) Brazil is firmly against any type of proliferation of nuclear weapons;
f) The use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, under adequate safeguards, cannot be confused with the problem of nuclear proliferation and is a right of all peoples, without discrimination;

4. After these preliminaries, the Brazilian side will state that the Agreement Brazil-FRG belongs in the framework sketched above, and that its objectives are clearly and exclusively peaceful. In this connection, the Brazilian side will seek to establish the following points;

a) The radical attitude taken by the United States against the Brazil-FRG Agreement (which can be described at this time) amounts to interference in the external affairs of Brazil and is even harmful to the friendly relations that the two countries have traditionally maintained;
b) Form the Brazilian standpoint, the Brazil-FRG Agreement is “res inter alios acta”
c) Consequently, Brazil is not in a position to discuss specific provisions of this Agreement and its complementary documents with the United States, which is not party to them;
d) Brazil cannot negotiate additional instruments nor assume unilateral commitments aiming at limiting, curtailing, modifying or eliminating the commitments contained in the Agreement.

5. In making all these points, the Brazilian side will use the conceptual framework contained in the document “The Brazilian Nuclear Program”.

6. Turning to the examination of the American proposals, as describe in part 1 above, the Brazilian side will have in mind that its essential objective is to maintain the integrity of the Brazil-FRG Agreement. As much as possible, a direct confrontation with the United States, which does not interest the Brazilian government, should be avoided. It is not realistic, however, to expect that the American side can be convinced by the Brazilian arguments, regardless of how smoothly they are presented.

7. The substance of the Brazilian arguments is contained in the documents that follow. From a tactical point of view, it is convenient to remark only the following:

a) In the case that only negative incentives are presented to the Brazilian government, it would be convenient to state right away the impossibility of continuing with the dialogue in a climate of pressure;
b) If the American side prefers to present positive incentives, we would remark that the proposed solutions should be universal and non-discriminatory, and that, in any case, being supervenient, they should not have any effect on finished and accomplished legal acts such as the Brazil-FRG Agreement, which, by the way, is already being implemented;
c) If, as is most probable, the Americans choose to combine positive and negative incentives, the Brazilian reaction must also be a combination of the responses indicated above.

8. Finally, in the event that the American side merely reiterates its position, as contained in the verbal message from Secretary of State Vance, accompanied by a moratorium proposal, it would equally be convenient to reiterate the Brazilian position in the form expressed in the verbal message of Minister Azeredo da Silveira, rejecting
in limine the moratorium proposal.


This memo outlines “possible American approaches” and “possible Brazilian reactions” as the US attempts to compel the Brazilians and Germans to cease their nuclear cooperation.

Document Information


Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação de História Contemporânea do Brasil (CPDOC), Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV), Azeredo da Silveira Archive, AAS mre pn 1974.08.15 pp.544-549. Obtained and translated by Fundação Getúlio Vargas.


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