711.56375/12–2352: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in Ethiopia1


349. Aklilou, accompanied by Spencer, talked with Byroade about base agreement for nearly two hours morning Dec 202 and continued discussion in protracted afternoon mtg with other Dept and Defense officials. These talks followed initial mtg with Aklilou and Spencer in Dept on Dec 18 and luncheon given for Aklilou Dec 19 at Blair House by Byroade where among others Aklilou had opportunity talk with Lt. Gen. Lemnitzer whose responsibility while in Korea included supervision Ethio contingent. On Dec 15 and 16 textual changes in agreement had been discussed at length with Spencer in NYC by Dept and Defense officers.2

Full report results discussions will be sent you soonest but meanwhile here is summary for your info and guidance if queried officially about progress negots:

Aklilou complained about way he had been “rushed” into negots but burden his grievance was really that US asking for agreement of far wider scope than he had been given to understand in 1948 and that Ethio was now being asked in effect to undertake all risks of mil alliance, without obtaining commensurate benefits. He said Ethio had no intention going back on 1948 assurances to us but that he wld have difficult job selling Ethio Govt on agreement of present scope unless (a) agreement was limited to facilities now enjoyed at Asmara or (b) he cld provide sufficient indication of US support in defense of area. By latter he meant either written assurances of US collaboration and consultation re defense of area, including reference to mil mission, or promise of mission sufficiently large to do job of training Ethio had in mind for its Army. Therefore he as FonMin cld not in good faith recommend acceptance mission so small as 5 to 10 members, number he thought entirely inadequate to meet needs Ethio Army and various mil training schools. In later conversation Aklilou said mission of 50 member wld be satisfactory.

We in turn argued that agreement was limited to present facilities, and that rights specified therein wld apply to additional facilities only when and if Ethio agreed in negot to grant us those facilities. We emphasized particularly that mil mission wld be large enough to do job we had promised which is to remain in Ethio until it had provided adequate cadre instr in utilization of US equipment and related organizational matters. We said JCS had not specified nr members mission, that figure of five to ten had merely been indication of group that [Page 434] wld proceed to Addis initially, and that Chief of Mil Mission wld in consultation with Ethio mil authorities determine on the ground what additional help might be required. Byroade said he was confident, knowing first-hand US Defense Dept methods (e.g., starting with small mission and expanding as necessary) that mission wld provide assistance necessary. We further explained US training techniques did not require nor wld Ethio want large and unwieldy mission, but that we were committed to insuring that Ethio cadre and instructors were trained to point where they cld carry on by themselves. We said JCS decision came to us as agreeable surprise since it provided for mission rather than mere detachment few officers from Asmara and set no fixed time limit on mission’s stay. We said it was really fruitless and irrelevant dicuss nr members mission now and that we were confident Emperor wld see in mission far-reaching decision of principle and adequate evidence US desire and intent help raise Ethio defense capabilities to satisfactory level.

Aklilou seemed to admit that our explanation during these talks shld relieve Emperor’s apprehension that mission might do no more than come to Ethio for brief period to demonstrate use of US arms, as he said “how to insert cartridges in rifles”. But he contended a more specific and broader US commitment in writing was necessary to obtain Ethio Govt approval base agreement in present form. The alternative, he said, was to continue on basis existing exchange notes providing status quo treatment US facilities Asmara.

On Dec 22 Spencer phoned from NY asking for changes in note on mil mission which Defense cannot accept because they go beyond JCS decision (Deptel 308, Dec 4).3 We informed Spencer Dec 23 maximum US Govt can agree to contained draft note given him and Aklilou Dec 21 (text being sent you separate tel).4 Spencer doubted progress cld be made this basis and felt agreement cld not be concluded for several months.

Aklilou due leave for Paris today and says he will return Addis in 15 days—Spencer remaining US 2 months. Our best estimate is that Aklilou will report position along above lines to Emperor. We hope he will indicate foregoing represents maximum to which we can go but have no assurances he will. FYI, Defense Dept appears adamant against any further change. We told Spencer today next move is up to Ethios and that we expect they will in due course inform Emb of their reactions. Meanwhile Dept believes no further initiative shld be taken on our part.

  1. This telegram was drafted by Root (AF) and cleared in the offices of Wellons and Utter (AF).
  2. No records of these conversations have been found in Department of State files.
  3. No records of these conversations have been found in Department of State files.
  4. Not printed. (711.56375A/12–452)
  5. Telegram 356 to Addis Ababa, Dec. 24, not printed. It made a correction in the source text and said the note was given to Spencer and Aklilou on Dec. 20. (775A.58/12–2452)