286. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy 0

I understand Rusk and Coffin took care of most remaining specifics this morning, so your second talk with Abdirascid can be short. However, one problem area deserves a reprise.

Nothing you can say will be of more benefit to US policy than urging Abdirascid to lay off Somali-Ethiopian disputes. Unless the trend is reversed, things are heading toward an eventual clash in which we will end up backing Ethiopia and the UAR/USSR the Somalis.

There is no point in debating the specifics. We understand Somali’s ethnic claims. But the overriding fact is that Ethiopia is so much bigger than Somali that Somalis can’t win. You could drive this home by warning Abdirascid that if the issue is pressed to a confrontation, we may be forced to take the Ethiop side, something we don’t want to do.

On the other hand we oppose any Ethiopian pressures on Somali. In fact we will consider limited military aid along with UK and Italy (this [Page 453] point apparently didn’t sink in at last session) in addition to our support of Somali police. But we think it folly for so desperately poor a country as Somali to burden itself with a big military machine. This is a mistake made by all too many underdeveloped states.

Also worth saying is that we can protect the Somalis even more by controlling the flow of MAP to the Ethiops than by giving compensatory aid to Somalis. But we cannot resist Ethiopian pleas if the Somalis get a lot of equipment from Moscow and Cairo. Therefore, we’re happy to hear that Somalis aren’t seeking arms from the Soviets.

Why not tell Abdi that you’ve looked into his complaints about handling of US aid projects. We can and will improve, but Somalis need to jack up their planning and improve coordination within their own house. We’re serious about self-help.

R. W. Komer 1
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Somalia. Secret.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.