301. Action Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Northern African Affairs (Newsom) to the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Williams)1
- Suggested U.S. Response to Ethiopia Government’s State of Alarm
Ambassador Korry’s March 11 Talks with IEG Prime Minister
Upon hearing that our Ambassador was returning to Washington on consultation, the Emperor instructed the IEG Prime Minister to call in the Ambassador late on March 11 to discuss Ethiopian anxieties over their security and budgetary situation. (Addis’ telegram 1299, attached.)2 The Emperor’s concern stemmed from (1) the substantial deliveries of armor Somalia is receiving from the Soviets; (2) the resulting frustrations in the Ethiopian military which could undermine HIM’s authority; (3) fears that Somalia, as soon as it is able to defend its own borders, will resume support of dissidence inside Ethiopia; (4) UAR-Sudanese support of Eritrean dissidence; (5) Ethiopia’s critical budgetary crisis, caused by military expenditures “to meet the Somali threat.”
The Prime Minister had been directed by HIM to explore with the U.S. Ethiopia’s urgent needs for more military equipment and for U.S. budgetary support. The Prime Minister also mentioned the Emperor’s consideration of a “business trip” to Washington to place his problems personally before the President.
Ambassador Korry replied with candor that a visit to the U.S. by the Emperor would not be wise, that more military equipment would only aggravate the budgetary situation, and that top IEG military officials agreed that the most essential requirement was to increase the efficiency of the military structure and strengthen it with intensive training. The U.S. was undertaking such action right now.
Suggested U.S. Response
Against the background of the recent MAP increase from $10 to $15 million, we are not in a good position to provide even more military equipment. We also think the concentration should be on the effective utilization of what they already have. Similarly, we strongly prefer not to get involved in any budgetary support arrangements which are exceedingly difficult to get approved here.[Page 522]
We believe nevertheless that in the immediate future certain actions are desired to reassure the Emperor in a situation which obviously causes him serious concern. We propose:
- An appointment for Ambassador Korry with the President with the recommendation that the President authorize the Ambassador to convey orally to HIM his personal interest and support.
- An offer to the IEG to send a U.S. intelligence team to brief Ethiopian officials on Somalia’s military capabilities, an arrangement similar to the team we sent to Morocco following its border flare-up with Algeria. (Before we make the offer, however, we first want to see a study which INR is preparing on the relative military strength of Ethiopia and Somalia.)
- An approach to Somali Prime Minister Abdirazak suggesting that GSR President consider a written reiteration to the Emperor of Somalia’s dedication to pursue its policies by peaceful means alone. To the GSR we would allude to Ethiopia’s increasing pressure on the U.S. for more arms.
- If in the interim period before Ambassador Korry’s return to Addis the IEG approaches us for a reply, we suggest indicating HIM’s message has been conveyed by the Ambassador, and that the matter is receiving full attention here.
If you approve these suggested actions, we can begin to carry them out at once.
Over the medium and long term, we recommend these U.S. positions:
- Military Aid. Continued adherence to our position that Ethiopia’s most critical need is for intensified training and a more efficient military establishment, rather than additional hardware.
- Consumables. We already have authority from DOD to help out on such consumables as tires and batteries. While Ambassador Korry has been reluctant to use this authority up to now, on the grounds the Ethiopians would then expect such support on a continuing basis, we can nevertheless use it if the situation should so require in the future.
- Budgetary Support. We look upon this as a last resort. However, in the recent preparation of the new AID strategy towards Ethiopia, AID has indicated its willingness to consider the possibility of assuming local costs for certain projects.