299. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Ethiopia 1

620. Department has carefully studied your account November 6 meeting with PriMin (Embtels 689 and 698),2 your talks with Merid and other recent reports from Ethiopia and Somalia. Department appreciates not only tactful way you handled Ethiopian charges but also your resort to frank language when you deemed situation warranted. On theory ounce of prevention worth pound of cure, Department believes this is opportune moment for further frank talks with high IEG officials about Somalia and U.S.-Ethiopian relations. Following talking points for your use in such talks to supplement items you plan bring up yourself.

USG is struck by similarity in expressions of alarm we are hearing from both Ethiopians and Somalis about each other’s worrisome intentions. IEG PriMin has described Somalia as determined bring down Ethiopia by attack and subversion, has referred to hundreds of Somali pilots, officers, technicians being trained in Soviet Union and modern military equipment arriving. From Somali side, General Daud and others, we hear reports about IEG troop reinforcements and digging of fortifications along border, fears that Ethiopia will attempt pre-emptive strike at Somalia and speculations that increase in U.S. military aid to Ethiopia has led to harder IEG line towards Somalia. Note also GSR message to HIM about Ethiopian violation demilitarized border strip (Mogadiscio’s 227).3 We believe climate of mutual mistrust and fear created by endless repetition of charges dangerous to both sides because it leads to false assumptions which can produce disastrously wrong courses of action.
On question radio propaganda, USG has in past instructed Ambassador Mogadiscio to express to GSR view such broadcasts, especially in Amharic, are inflammatory and damaging to GSR-IEG relations. We are prepared reiterate this view to GSR in future if circumstances warrant. While we do not condone tone and content of most recent Mogadiscio emissions, we do believe there is some connection between them and HIM’s press conference at Asmara October 25. Moreover, before weighing in with GSR, would be helpful to know whether IEG has protested broadcasts either through Somali Ambassador [Page 519] in Addis or Ethiopian Ambassador in Mogadiscio. If IEG took such initiative, what was GSR reaction?
Re question arms build-up in Somalia and threat it may pose to Ethiopia, we note that Embassy Mogadiscio has been sending Addis substantial volume reports about Soviet deliveries, USSR military adviser activities and relationship to Somali capabilities. Used selectively and pulled together, believe this information could give IEG officials better perspective on what Somalia can and cannot undertake militarily. We would also have these additional observations: (a) GSR presently facing financial crisis of grave proportions—Communist China has not renewed its budgetary assistance; (b) on Somali side wounds of February-March fighting far from healed; (c) GSR seems to be following policy of generally keeping army away from border—responsibility for maintaining security on Somali side largely vested in police; (d) GSR military establishment presently showing typical weaknesses and strains caused by conversion former weapons and tactical systems (Anglo-Italian) to new system (Soviet).
Since both sides are deeply concerned with reported reinforcements and alleged preparations for aggression, moment would appear opportune for reactivation joint Somali-Ethiopian commission to inspect demilitarized border strip per Khartoum Agreement of March 1964.
On subject possible IEG preventive action against Somalia, we aware of recurrent pressures from within IEG military for move this direction. Politically, such a move would be tragic and a terrible blemish on HIM’s reputation as African peace-maker. Most serious consequence, however, would be fall of Abdirazak and his certain replacement by figure far less moderate. We would encourage Ethiopians think more thoroughly about present Somali Government and implications its continued existence or possible demise. US has had frequent occasion to work closely with Abdirazak, first as Interior Minister, later as Minister Public Works. Basis our experience we view him as moderate whose policies aimed primarily at achieving progress on domestic scene—government and administrative reforms, economic development, raising living standards Somalis in Republic. Externally Abdirazak appears desirous downplay pursuit of Greater Somalia objective. His ability walk this tightrope by no means certain. His numerous and powerful adversaries favor a much harder line towards Ethiopia and far more aggressive pursuit of Somalia’s territorial claims. Ethiopians should be encouraged reflect on what sort of government they would expect to succeed Abdirazak should he fall.

Additional material on military issues follows by separate cable.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19–3 US–ETH. Secret. Drafted by Galanto, cleared by Blake, and approved by Tasca. Repeated to Mogadiscio, Asmara, and CINCMEAFSA, and by pouch to Nairobi, London, and Rome.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 298.
  3. Dated November 18. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 32–1 KENYA–SOMALI)