775.5 MSP/4–653

The Under Secretary of State (Smith) to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)1


Dear Mr. Secretary: I refer to the letter to the Secretary of Defense dated March 6, 1952, and the reply to the Secretary of State dated April 22, 1952,2 concerning military assistance for Ethiopia. In [Page 443] the letter of March 6, 1952, the Department of State recommended that Ethiopia be found eligible for grant military assistance under Section 202 of the Mutual Security Act of 1951. The reply of April 22, 1952, reported the conclusions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that Ethiopia should be made eligible for reimbursable military aid under Section 408 (e) of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949, as amended, but that Ethiopia did not meet the requirements for eligibility for grant aid.

During the year which has elapsed there have been several significant developments which I believe justify reconsideration of the recommendation that Ethiopia be found eligible for grant military aid. Under the agreement to provide military equipment on a reimbursable basis signed in June, 1952, the Ethiopians submitted a request for equipment to arm a division equivalent to a United States infantry division, the cost of which is nearly $4,700,000. Our legislation requires that this be paid for in advance—a condition which the Ethiopian Government is not able to meet.

Since last summer the Department of State, in closest collaboration with the Department of Defense, has been negotiating with the Ethiopian Government for a military base rights agreement to cover United States military facilities and requirements in Eritrea. In December these negotiations reached a stalemate.

Last month the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, accompanied by the Commander of the Imperial Ethiopian Body Guard (General Mulughetta Bulli), which provided the Ethiopian troops in Korea, returned to Washington with instructions from the Emperor to settle with the highest United States authorities the three questions of: (1) the United States base agreement, (2) a United States military training mission, and (3) the cost of arms to be purchased from the United States. In conferences which officials of the Department of State and Department of Defense have had with the Ethiopian representatives during the last two weeks it has become evident that the Ethiopians are not prepared to conclude the kind of base agreement we have been seeking without assurances of adequate military assistance from us. Adequate military assistance to them means in reality a grant of essential arms and a military training mission. Decisions which have already been taken by the Defense and State Departments with respect to the mission are, we believe, adequate to satisfy the Ethiopians on this score. Now, however, the Ethiopians have made the furnishing of arms virtually as a gift the essential issue. The Emperor’s assignment of General Mulughetta to assist in the negotiations has made this fact clear.

The legislation pertaining to sales of military equipment does not allow this Government to arrange generous long-term installment payments at reduced prices, which is the only basis on which the Ethiopians [Page 444] could pay for the arms they need. If the needs of the Ethiopians are to be met, and their approval obtained for our base agreement, it will be necessary to make them eligible for grant military aid. It is our understanding that the unobligated and uncommitted funds available for military assistance under Section 201 of the Mutual Security Act of 1951 now amount to $26,000,000. As you know, ten percent of the total appropriation for Title II military assistance can be transferred to countries in the Near East area, and Ethiopia is in that area. It would appear, therefore, that funds are available from which limited grant aid could be provided to Ethiopia.

A year ago the Department of State believed that the provision of grant aid to Ethiopia was fully justified. The reasons given them have been reinforced by our experience during the last year and can be summarized as follows:

Ethiopia has maintained in Korea for nearly two years a contingent of about 1200 troops who have proved in combat that they are very effective soldiers. The third battalion of Ethiopian troops left for Korea in March, 1953. By act as well as by word the Ethiopians have proved that they are on “our side” and are strong supporters of collective security. The presence in Korea of colored troops from an independent African country is of great value to us in the propaganda war as well as in the Korean war. On this basis alone, Ethiopia’s request for arms assistance deserves sympathetic consideration.
Ethiopia’s armed forces seriously need new equipment. In recent conferences the Commander of the Imperial Ethiopian Body Guard has emphasized that nearly 90 per cent of their equipment, most of it captured from the Italians, has become useless. Grant aid from the United States would put weapons in the hands of troops in existing units and thus increase the effectiveness of Ethiopia’s internal security forces. This is particularly important since last September when Ethiopia assumed responsibility for the defense and security of Eritrea, where the American military installations are located. Thus adequately armed Ethiopian forces would immediately increase the ability of the country to defend itself and would be an important contribution to the defensive strength of the region and the United States.
In the last two weeks the Ethiopian Foreign Minister has repeatedly emphasized that dissatisfaction and criticism of the Emperor’s pro-American policy which the Foreign Minister has energetically pursued over the last ten years has increased and that now the policy must show obvious benefits, particularly in the field of military assistance. The alternative is for Ethiopia to turn to other countries, for American influence and prestige to decrease drastically, and we may lose a good opportunity to contribute to the sound military, economic and political development of a key country in that region.
Arms assistance to Ethiopia could be cited to the states in the Near East area as evidence that genuine cooperation with the United States and the United Nations, as in Korea, leads to mutual benefits.
The Emperor has let it be known several times in recent months that he would gladly join any alliance or grouping of nations opposed to communism, especially any Middle East Defense Organization. The [Page 445] Department of State believes that Ethiopia could become an effective member of MEDO when, or after, that organization is formed.

In view of all of these considerations, this Department believes that the President should be asked to determine that the strategic location of Ethiopia makes it of direct importance to the defense of the Near East area, that grant military assistance to Ethiopia is of critical importance to the defense of the free nations, and that the immediately increased ability of Ethiopia to defend itself is important to the preservation of the peace and security of the Near East area and to the security of the United States. The Department of Defense is asked to join in a recommendation to this effect, with the understanding that the total arms assistance to be provided would be related to a program for strengthening the Ethiopian armed forces, thus contributing to the security of American military installations and the ability of the area to defend itself, in an amount not to exceed $5,000,000, and with the understanding that Ethiopia would be required to purchase as much of the equipment needed as it can reasonably afford.

If the Department of Defense concurs, I will transmit this recommendation immediately to the Director for Mutual Security with a request for a Presidential finding that Ethiopia is eligible for grant military aid. For maximum benefit it is important to complete these negotiations while the Ethiopian Foreign Minister is still in Washington; therefore rapid action on our part is essential.

Sincerely yours,

Walter B. Smith
  1. This letter was drafted by Wellons and Root (AF) and cleared in the offices of NEA, S/MSA, L, and E.
  2. Neither letter is printed, but see telegram 282 to Ethiopia, Mar. 20, 1952, p. 419. Regarding the Department of Defense reply, see footnote 2, ibid. For the determination by the Director of Mutual Security of Ethiopia’s eligibility for reimbursable aid, see telegram 377 to Ethiopia, May 15, 1952, p. 423.