Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge, North African Affairs (Wellons)1
- U.S. Military Assistance to Ethiopia.
- Ato Aklilou, Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs; Gen. Mulughetta Bulli, Commander, Imperial Ethiopian Body Guard; John Spencer, American Adviser to and Interpreter for Aklilou.
- Lt. Gen. Lemnitzer, Deputy Chief of Staff for Planning and Research, U.S. Army; Lt. Col. Davis, U.S. Army; Lt. Col. Kurth, U.S. Army.
- Mr. H. Byroade, Asst. Secretary of State; Mr. J. Utter, AF; Mr. A. Wellons, AF.
This meeting was held in Mr. Byroade’s office in the Department of State.[Page 446]
Mr. Byroade opened the meeting by noting Ethiopia’s need for military equipment, and the sympathetic U.S. estimate that it would be desirable for Ethiopia to have such equipment. He mentioned that the cost of Ethiopia’s first request for reimbursable arms would be nearly five million dollars and the Foreign Minister’s statement in a previous meeting that Ethiopia is unable to meet the payment methods and procedures imposed by our legislation for purchasing all of the equipment which it needs. Mr. Byroade then said, on a direct, frank and personal basis, that he wanted Aklilou to know the situation and what had been undertaken since their meeting in General Hull’s office. He said that we (and he included Gen. Lemnitzer) are endeavoring to have Ethiopia declared eligible for grant military assistance. He emphasized that it was not possible to foretell whether our efforts would be successful since the applicable legislation requires that decisions on such matters be approved by other departments and the President, and that Congress should also be consulted. The Assistant Secretary reiterated that even if Ethiopia is declared eligible for grant assistance, this would not fill all of the country’s needs for arms and that Ethiopia would be expected to purchase as much as possible of the equipment needed.
General Lemnitzer commented that the Department of Defense was working as rapidly as possible on this matter.
Mr. Byroade explained that he wanted the Foreign Minister to understand that if our efforts to have Ethiopia declared eligible for grant assistance were not successful, it should not be considered as a reflection or indication of the lack of friendship on the part of the United States. On the contrary, he wanted Aklilou to know that we were making every effort to work out mutually beneficial arrangements and therefore he was taking the unusual step of informing Aklilou of our proposal before a final decision had been taken by the U.S. Government.
The Assistant Secretary then stated that while waiting for the decision on grant aid we should take advantage of the time available to draw up a list of priorities for the equipment which Ethiopia wants to procure on a reimbursable basis. It would appear advantageous to utilize General Mulughetta’s presence in Washington to determine specifically what Ethiopia wants and what should be sent in the first, second, and third shipments, etc.
General Lemnitzer remarked that the Department of Defense was ready to proceed immediately with staff level talks on the details of reimbursable aid equipment. If grant aid is approved it could be applied to later projects on the basis of whatever plans they might draw up.[Page 447]
With regard to the price of “reimbursable aid” equipment, Mr. Byroade stated that there was no legal way by which the equipment desired by Ethiopia could be sold at a reduced price; that the material must be sold to Ethiopia at the same price that it is sold to everyone else. We can not, therefore, meet the Foreign Minister’s request for a reduction in price and the legislation requires payment in advance. Gen. Lemnitzer emphasized that the type of equipment desired by Ethiopia was in short supply since it was wanted in many places.
Ato Aklilou expressed his appreciation for all of the help he had received and for the information about grant aid. He inquired when the decision on grant aid would be made, stating that he is prepared to stay in Washington and work out an agreement, at least in principle. He emphasized that he could not return to the Emperor now and say that the United States is trying to work something out—as that is what has been happening for the past six years. With regard to the misunderstanding on the price of equipment under Section 408(e), the Foreign Minister said this was due to information which he had received from our Embassy at Addis Ababa and he also claimed that the Embassy understood that installment payments such as he desired were possible. The Foreign Minister said that since then he has read the provisions of our legislation and that he now understands the requirements. However, in 1948, he gave us his oral assurance regarding Radio Marina, which had been carried out, therefore he was surprised at the terms we now want in our written agreements. On the matter of price, Aklilou said that he was not asking for a gift or a hand-out—all he wants is a political solution to the problem whereby Ethiopia can get assistance under section 202 of our Mutual Security Act.
Mr. Byroade informed the Foreign Minister that we hope to have a decision on grant aid in about two weeks, and emphasized that we are trying to get the grant aid which Aklilou desires. The Assistant Secretary expressed regret if anything said by the American Ambassador in Addis Ababa had caused a misunderstanding and wanted to make sure that there was no misunderstanding at this stage.
Foreign Minister Aklilou then cited some of the present difficulties Ethiopia experienced in paying for equipment, due to payments to the British resulting from the federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia, etc. He repeated his hope of receiving aid under Section 202 and stated he was willing to wait here for a decision in principle.
Mr. Byroade repeated that we must wait for the President’s decision on the matter. He again emphasized that Ethiopia must pay something for military equipment received from the U.S.—that this would help to resolve all the matters under negotiation. He requested the Foreign [Page 448]Minister to think this over and asked if, meanwhile, a priority list for reimbursable equipment could not be worked out between General Mulughetta and the Defense Department Aklilou and Mulughetta agreed to do this.
- This memorandum of conversation was prepared on Apr. 14 by Wellons and Beard and initialed by Byroade and Utter.↩