238. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) to Secretary of State Kissinger 1


  • Angola and Our Soviet Policy

Assuming we end up essentially leaving the field to the Soviets and Cubans and that the MPLA becomes more or less universally recognized (though with some guerilla action and possibly minor South African presence continuing), we will be seen as having been substantially bested by the Soviets in a power contest. We will need to take remedial action to minimize the longer term effects on African and other states of such an outcome and we will need to find ways to make clear to the Soviets that they have by their actions incurred costs that may make their gain transitory or at least expensive. If possible, we would of course wish to get the Soviets and the Cubans out of Angola and to reduce their roles there to those normal between sovereign states, i.e., prevent Angola from becoming, even for a period, a Soviet military strong point and source of spreading influence in the region.

The first order of business will be to talk clearly to the Soviets, and at a high level. The points to make are simple:

—they have violated not only the understandings we signed at past summit meetings (no unilateral advantage at the expense of the other side, no exacerbation of tensions in third areas), but they have violated a cardinal law of the balance of power: that if one power seeks and obtains a margin of advantage over the other, the latter is bound to seek to redress the balance. It is immaterial in this context, whether Soviet intervention was asked for. Its effect is to place us at a disadvantage and this is unacceptable.

The next point to make is that the United States will use all means at its disposal to make the Soviet (and Cuban) intervention as costly and injurious to Soviet interests as we can. We will do so by the use of diplomatic means in Africa and in other ways available to us.

Thirdly, the Soviets should recognize that we will not feel bound by agreements to exercise restraint where we may perceive opportunities to seek unilateral advantages at Soviet expense. This will be our policy at least until Soviet military intervention and Cuban military in[Page 896]tervention has ceased and Soviet (Cuban) relations with Angola have been placed on the basis of normal interstate relations.

Fourth, there will have to be implications in our bilateral relations. For the moment, we will be prepared to continue those efforts, in the mutual interest, whereby we have been seeking to place our relations on a normal and constructive basis. This includes SALT, MBFR and our grain relationships. It must, however, be understood in Moscow that in all these and other areas, US negotiating flexibility has been reduced by Soviet conduct.

At the same time, those aspects of our relationship that in recent years have taken it beyond a purely pragmatic and interest-oriented one, and have involved certain gestures of friendship, good will and warmth must in present circumstances be curtailed.

—A visit by Brezhnev to the United States will be inappropriate, although we are prepared to arrange for a summit meeting for the purpose of signing a SALT agreement or conducting other necessary business between us;

—exchanges involving demonstrations of good will and other manifestations of warmth and friendship will be curtailed;

—exchanges enabling the USSR to earn hard currency, such as the hockey teams, gymnasts, etc., will be curtailed;

—a decision, already reached, to end discrimination against Soviet shipping in the Cuban trade will not be implemented;

—we can provide no assurance that if American unions should take action against shipping destined for the USSR, the Administration will use its influence to prevent such actions;

—all actions designed to normalize relations with Cuba will be suspended;

—we will not refrain from employing diplomatic and other means, especially among third world states, to embarrass the USSR with respect to its actions in Angola;

—we will take naval and aerial countermeasures commensurate with Soviet naval movements in the South Atlantic but will hold the Soviets scrupulously to the terms of the incidents at sea agreement,2 subject to reciprocity;

—Secretary Kissinger’s proposed visit to Moscow will proceed as a working visit in the common interest but without ceremony;

—the USG may decide that it is obliged to make public the interference with our Moscow Embassy’s normal functions and the hazards to [Page 897] health posed by transmission of dangerous forms of radiation against its premises from Soviet sources.

In sum, our relations will for the indefinite future be placed on an exclusively pragmatic basis and all appropriate steps will be taken to redress the unilateral advantage acquired by the USSR in Angola. This posture will continue until such time as the Soviet Union terminates its own and Cuban intervention in Angola and ends its special position in that country.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 4, Angola. Secret; Sensitive. The memorandum is incorrectly dated January 9, 1975. Kissinger initialed the memorandum and wrote in the margin: “Agree.”
  2. The Agreement on the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas was signed on May 25, 1972, at the end of the Moscow summit. (23 UST 1168; TIAS 7379)