303. Memorandum for the Files1


  • Ethiopia: Recent Factors Affecting US–IEG Relations


  • The Secretary of Defense, Mr. McNamara
  • Mr. Peter Solbert, Deputy Assistant Secretary OSD/ISA
  • Col. Charles Heffner, OSD/ISA
  • Ambassador Korry
  • Mr. James J. Blake, Deputy Director, AFN

The Ambassador expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to meet with Mr. McNamara and stated that he wished to summarize several developments that had occurred recently in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa which should be taken into account in US policy toward Ethiopia. These developments were (1) the rapid delivery of substantial quantities of Soviet military assistance to Somalia, particularly armor; (2) the replacement of the Abboud regime in Sudan, with which HIM had had cordial relations, by one which appeared to be supporting the Eritrean liberation movement; (3) continued evidence of the Emperor’s interest, dating from early 1964, in the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Chinese Communists; (4) the offer by the ChiComs of substantial budgetary assistance and of long-term no-interest economic credits; (5) indications of Soviet willingness to provide military equipment to Ethiopia if the latter alters its foreign policy; (6) the strain of the IEG budgetary situation caused by the Ogaden dissident problem; and (7) the heightened importance of Ethiopia to the US in diplomatic terms and in military terms as well as evidenced by the increase in the missions given to Kagnew station and the rise in the number of US personnel stationed there.

The Ambassador noted that the IEG has a 93% gold and foreign exchange cover for its currency, several months’ cover for its imports, an excellent international financial reputation, and a 4.5% annual growth in its gross national product. Thus, despite the substantial pressures that have begun to mount on the regime in the financial and economic spheres, the country still was on a fairly sound financial basis. However, Ethiopian officials, at the highest level had expressed their concern to him regarding the country’s financial prospects just prior to his departure for the US.

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The Ambassador stated that he did not want anything new from the Department of Defense but he did wish to urge DOD to bear in mind the considerations he had just listed in dealing with questions of military assistance for Ethiopia and particularly in handling the delivery of equipment already promised. The Ambassador also asked that these factors be borne in mind in assigning MAAG personnel to Ethiopia. He stressed the importance of staffing the MAAG with highly competent personnel capable of the initiative and imagination needed to work with the IEG.

Mr. McNamara asked Mr. Solbert to give him a schedule of what had been promised to the Ethiopians in terms of military assistance, to inform him of any lags in the deliveries, and of any lags that might be expected to occur in the future. Mr. McNamara assured the Ambassador that the Department of Defense would give priority to deliveries of promised military equipment to the Ethiopians. He also agreed with the Ambassador that the MAAG/Ethiopia should be staffed by officers of high quality possessing the kind of imagination and initiative required to do the job in an important country and in a difficult environment. He asked Mr. Solbert to be certain that the MAAG/Ethiopia was given a priority with respect to the assignment of high caliber personnel and specifically asked him to determine whether the new Chief of the MAAG Army Section was on his last tour of duty.

Mr. McNamara then alluded to the armor problem described by the Ambassador. He suggested this problem might be solved by delivering M–48s to the Ethiopians, rather than anti-tank guns. The Ethiopian Air Force might also be equipped with materiel that would make it possible for them to counter the Somali armor. He noted Colonel Heffner’s suggestion that napalm could do the job. The Ambassador described the reservations that the Department of State had with respect to the supplying of napalm to the Ethiopians. Mr. Blake stated that insofar as AFN was concerned it continued to have strong reservations on this score. Mr. McNamara reiterated his belief that the tank problem could be overcome perhaps by the delivery of M–48’s but also in the near term by training the IEGAF drop napalm. He repeated that he did not think that anti-tank guns were the answer to Somali armor.

The Ambassador then referred to the mobility problem of the IEGF. Mr. McNamara suggested that the answer here might be the Canadian “Buffalo.” He asked Mr. Solbert to look into this. Mr. McNamara stated that the IEGF did not need C–130’s to improve its mobility capability.

The Ambassador asked about the possibility of meeting IEG military requirements from surplus stocks. He stated that this possibility had never been explored. The Secretary asked Mr. Solbert to look into this matter.

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The Secretary concluded the meeting by assuring Ambassador Korry that he agreed with the latter that the Ethiopians should be supplied with the materiel that they could operate and maintain in order to meet “the threat that is there, not the one that may be in their minds.”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL ETH–US. Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text.