43. Telegram From the Commander-in-Chief, Strike Command (Throckmorton) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff1

STRJ5–ME 08916. Subj: Soviet and Friendly Naval Involvement in the Indian Ocean Area, 19/1–19/5 (C).

A. JCS–J5 5942, DTG 161659Z Nov 70 (U)2

(S) Although CINCSTRIKE is not charged with responsibility for the Indian Ocean Area, Middle East Force does operate throughout the [Page 134] area and therefore CINCSTRIKE is interested in available basing and support arrangements for US fleet units.3
(S) The Soviet naval threat is not a “possibility,” it is a present, real, direct, immediate danger. The Soviet naval forces deployed to the area, while numerically small, are a modern, powerful and flexible force. They are already vastly superior in quality and numbers to US naval forces deployed there. The Soviet naval force, since March of 1968, has visited almost every major port in the Indian Ocean littoral, leaving behind favorable impressions of Soviet naval power, national determination, and “goodwill.” The most direct threat is in the possible use of Soviet naval forces to influence events during times of political crises. Soviet gunboat diplomacy can maintain shaky, hostile regimes and discourage formation of friendly governments. Relatedly, the Soviet Union is trying to create a market for its arms. Soviet naval forces represent a direct threat to traditional US/Western arms markets.
(S) There is ample evidence of Soviet interest in obtaining at least modest shore-based support facilities. Not only does their acquisition of such support increase their threat, it denies these ports to US naval and commercial shipping. Even in ports where the Soviets do not have special rights or privileges, their visits tend to close these ports to US ships. The combination of changes in regimes and Soviet naval visits have resulted in a drastic reduction of the number of ports in which US ships are welcome. The downward trend is expected to continue. We may soon be forced to operate out of small ports in weak countries and almost invisible islands such as Diego Garcia.
(S) The Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean has already seriously undermined US influence in this important area. This presence should be regarded as the cutting edge of a concerted, determined Soviet effort to dominate the Indian Ocean littoral; and to destroy the US position in this area.
(S) It seems that the US has only two choices: compete with the Soviets and best them at their own game or face eventual expulsion from this area through lack of support facilities. For instance, following [Page 135] the June 67 Arab-Israeli War, MIDEASTFOR’s only source of oil was from Ethiopia’s meager stocks. The rapid drawdown of this resource raised the real possibility that MIDEASTFOR ships might be forced to withdraw from the Indian Ocean for lack of fuel.
(S) It seems appropriate for the US to actively seek basing arrangements, either as sole user but preferably on a joint use basis with UK, French, Australian or independent countries in such locations as Diego Suarez, Malagasy; Port Louis, Mauritius; Victoria, Seychelles; Diego Garcia, Chagos; and Keeling (Cocos) Island. Mainland bases in Kenya or Ceylon are not likely to be available in the foreseeable future. Likewise, Indian or Pakistani bases are unlikely although port visits to these countries may be permitted to continue. Base facilities obtained should include not only ship fueling, but also provisions for land-based aircraft in support of US naval forces in the area.
(S) MIDEASTFOR ships should continue to homeport at Bahrain. Bahrain is also recommended as an advanced supply and repair base for any US Indian Ocean naval forces. In this context, it would seem desirable to settle soonest on the joint US/UK use of facilities at HMS Jufair, including the potential for berthing, resupply, and repair of increased numbers of US ships.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Records of Admiral Thomas Moorer, Box 113, Work File (Indian Ocean). Secret. It was repeated to CINCLANT and CINCPAC.
  2. Not found.
  3. CINCPAC, which had responsibility for the eastern portion of the Indian Ocean, upheld this assessment by CINCSTRIKE (or CINCMEAFSA), whose area of responsibility included the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. CINCPAC concluded its assessment of the Soviet threat to the Indian Ocean by recommending that the “Friday Guest” concept plan, a flexible naval deployment, be followed. Moreover, it recommended that the development of Diego Garcia go forward as “the only satisfactory means of assuring continued operations in the Indian Ocean area which will be unfettered by political, logistic or other constraints likely to arise at any time.” (Telegram 210228Z from CINCPAC to JCS, November 21; National Archives, RG 218, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Records of Admiral Thomas Moorer, Box 113, Work File (Indian Ocean))