233. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) and the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Mulcahy) to Secretary of State Kissinger 1


  • Dobrynin: Talking Points on Angola

For the Secretary’s meeting with Ambassador Dobrynin later today,2 AF has the following talking points to suggest:

—We were not at all impressed with your last note.3 It seems to make clear your determination to persist in Angola until there has been an MPLA military victory.

—You must understand that we are equally determined that you will not succeed in foisting this minority group on the Angolan majority who bore the brunt of the struggle for independence as much, if not more so, than did the MPLA.

—We want to make it clear that we are not anti-MPLA. We have been quite sincere in our public statements that we favor some form of coalition or government of national unity which will represent all elements of the population.

—You have been here long enough to know our system. You also know me well enough to realize that I do not give up easily. I can assure you that we intend to stay in the Angolan picture. We have the means to do so and we will continue to use the resources at our command. Nor are we alone.

—There is still an impressive amount of support for our efforts in the Congress, in the press and at the grass roots of America. Between now and the time Congress reconvenes, I think you will see a surprising shift in attitudes, especially if you persist in so obvious an effort to seek unilateral advantage.

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—If you persist, you must realize that there are other fields on which we meet and you can expect to get your come-uppance in several of them.

—You will not in the long run manage to hold Angola. Africans are Africans first and foremost. They will never really accept domination by a clique who is so potently your puppet. Moreover, you will have succeeded in incurring the enmity of virtually all other self-respecting African governments.

—Right now you face the certain prospect of attack by the majority of the African states in next month’s OAU meetings. So do your Cuban friends. As your stalking horse in Latin America the Cubans have received a severe setback. All the old suspicions of them have again been raised against them there. You are serving neither your own nor Cuba’s best interests.

—Let me be very clear once again. Angola is the last place we want to be. We mean that. We are engaged there now only because you are. Whatever your original motives, they can have no validity now. Before this situation devolves into a perpetual civil war, you should join us in working with the OAU for a fair and equitable settlement and then join in helping to rebuild the ravages of the war.

—As soon as you and the Cubans are prepared to announce your intention to end military intervention and to assume a presence normal for an external and extra-regional power, we will be happy to use all our influence to ensure the non-intervention of all external powers. We have no particular interest in any one outcome in Angola: our sole interest is that the country is not the playground for great power competition.

—You and we have many interests on which we can collaborate—above all those relating to a peaceful and cooperative world order within which we have a rewarding and mutually advantageous bilateral relationship. It is absurd that this should be placed in jeopardy by what you are doing in Angola. But that it is in jeopardy, there should be no doubt, whatever a single Senate vote or Washington Post editorial may say.

—We prefer that the signature ceremony next Monday for the maritime agreement4 not take place at Cabinet level and in public. We will be in touch with you about alternative arrangements, though for now we are prepared to proceed with the signature.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 4, Angola. Secret; Nodis. Sonnenfeldt initialed the memorandum; Mulcahy did not.
  2. No record of the meeting between Kissinger and Dobrynin on December 23 has been found. Dobrynin, however, recalled the meeting in his memoirs: “On December 23 Kissinger again questioned the Soviet role [in Angola] and linked it to détente. He proposed a face-saving exit by referring the whole thing to the Organization of African Unity, which was already involved in mediation without success. What really mattered to Kissinger was not who won, but that none of the combatants themselves should achieve victory with the outside help of a superpower.” (Dobrynin, In Confidence, p. 361)
  3. Document 230.
  4. The maritime agreement was signed in Washington and Moscow on Monday, December 29, and entered into force on January 1, 1976.