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1982 Apr 9 Fr
Archive (Reagan Library)

Falklands: Haig telegram to Reagan (negotiations) [declassified 2000]

Document type:archive
Document kind:Archive
Venue:London
Source:Reagan Library: Executive Secretariat, NSC: Records, Country File (Falklands War) Box 91365
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:Despatched 0131 GMT.
Importance ranking:Key
Word count:964 words
Themes:Defence (Falklands War 1982), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA)
Declassified NLS F96-003-01,#68
By dIb NARA, Date 5/9/00

Top Secret

WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM

WPC HAS SEEN

PAGE 01 OF 03 USDEL SECRETARY IN 7875
DTG: 090131Z APR 82
PSN: 031530
TOR: 099/0414ZSIT835

DISTRIBUTION: WPC MCF WHLR JP VP SIT EOB /010
WHSR COMMENT: REDTAG

FLASH
STU5905
DE RUEHLD #7875/01 0990135
Z 090131Z APR 82 ZFF-4
FM USDEL SECRETARY IN London

TO SECSTATE WASHDC FLASH 6654

TOP SECRET SECTION 01 OF 02 SECTION 5010

NODIS
DEPT PASS BRIDGETOWN FLASH FOR THE PRESIDENT FROM THE SECRETARY
E.O.12065: RDS-3 (04/09/02 (HAIG, ALEXANDER M., JR.)
TAGS: OVIP (HAIG, ALEXANDER M., JR), UK

SUBJECT: MEMO TO THE PRESIDENT: DISCUSSIONS IN London

1. (TOP SECRET ENTIRE TEXT) [Text following originally in upper case.]

2. I spent five hours with Prime Minister Thatcher, the first hour with her and the Foreign Secretary, [ Francis ] Pym , alone, following by a working dinner which included the Defense Minister, [ John ] Nott , and senior officials. Before meeting with her, I spent an hour alone with Pym.

3. The Prime Minister has the bit in her teeth, owing to the politics of a unified nation and an angry Parliament, as well as her own convictions about the principles at stake. She is clearly prepared to use force, though she admits a preference for a diplomatic solution. She is [fo 1] rigid in her insistence on a return to the status quo ante, and indeed seemingly determined that any solution involve some retribution.

4. Her Defense Secretary is squarely behind her, though less ideological than she. He is confident of military success, based not on a strategy of landing on the islands but rather by a blockade which, he believes, will eventually make the Argentine presence untenable. Thus, the prospect of imminent hostilities appears less acute – if the Argentines keep their distance – though this does not fundamentally diminish the gravity and urgency of the crisis.

5. Her Foreign Secretary does not share her position, and went surprisingly far in showing this in her presence. Whether this means he will have a restraining influence or instead that there will be a problem within the Government is impossible to say.

6. The British tried to avoid the question of the long-term consequences of using force, though they are concerned and, I believe, our discussions sobered them further. They agree with our assessment that the next 72 hours, before the fleet arrives, is crucial.

7. The Prime Minister is convinced she will fall if she concedes on any of three basic points, to which she is committed to Parliament:

  • A. Immediate withdrawal of Argentine forces;
  • B. Restoration of British administration on the islands;
  • C. Preservation of their position that the islanders must be able to exercise self-determination.

8. We focussed on three elements of a solution, which I argued would meet her needs:

  • A. Withdrawal of Argentine forces; [fo 2]
  • B. An interim arrangement involving an international presence (e.g., U.S., Canada, and two Latin American countries) to provide an umbrella for the restoration of British administration.
  • C. Swift resumption of negotiations.

9. The main problems were with point B. She wants nothing that would impinge on British authority, she wants the British Governor back, and she bridled at the thought of any Argentine non-military presence even under an international umbrella. She does not insist that British sovereignty be accepted – she is finessing this by saying that British sovereignty is simply a fact that has not been affected by aggression – but she rules out anything that would be inconsistent with self-determination.

10. All in all, we got no give in the basic British position, and only the glimmering of some possibilities, and that only after much effort by me with considerable help not appreciated by Mrs. Thatcher from Pym. It is clear that they had not thought much about diplomatic possibilities. They will now, but whether they become more imaginative or instead recoil will depend on the [fo 3] political situation and what I hear in Argentina.

11. I will arrive in Buenos Aires late Friday. I will convey a picture of total British resolve, and see what I can draw from the Argentines along lines we discussed in London, without giving any hint that the British are prepared for any give-and-take.

12. If the Argentines give me something to work with, I plan to return to London over the weekend. It may then be necessary for me to ask you to apply unusual pressure on Thatcher. If the Argentines offer very little, I would plan to return to confer with you. In this case, it may be necessary to apply even greater pressure on the British if we are to head off hostilities. I cannot presently offer my optimism, even if I get enough in Buenos Aires to justify a return to London. This is [fo 4] clearly a very steep uphill struggle, but essential, given the enormous stakes.

13. Throughout what was a difficult discussion, there was no trace of anything but gratitude for the role we are playing and for your personal concern and commitment to the Prime Minister. She said, in conclusion, that the candor of the discussion reflected the strength of our relationship.

14. As you know I have excluded travelling US press from the plane. All I have said to the local press is that we want to be helpful and support U.N. Security Council Resolution 502, which calls for withdrawal and a diplomatic solution. For the benefit of Thatcher – and the Argentines – I also said I was impressed by the resolve of the British Government. We must be absolutely disciplined with the press during this critical stage, avoiding at all cost any suggestion that we are encouraged. There is, in fact, little basis for encouragement in any event.

Haig