152. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary
  • Deputy Secretary Ingersoll
  • Under Secretary Maw
  • Deputy Under Secretary Eagleburger
  • Ambassador Schaufele
  • Mr. Saunders, INR
  • General Scowcroft, NSC
  • Mr. Hyland, NSC
  • Mr. Strand, AF
  • Mr. Bremer, Notetaker


  • Angola

The Secretary: The Department’s behavior on Angola is a disgrace. The Department is leaking and showing a stupidity unfit for the Foreign Service. No one can think that our interest there is because of the Soviet base or the “untold riches” of Angola. This is not a whorehouse; we are conducting national policy.

Just so that you may know my policy, we are interested in Angola because the Soviets intervened 8,000 miles away and transformed the third largest faction into the largest. All of the surrounding African states are profoundly concerned with this development. Even Nigeria, [Page 390] which had to recognize the MPLA for basic domestic reasons, is concerned. A US collapse will have the profoundest effect in Africa. In Europe it will prove that the collapse in Vietnam was not an aberration. In China—where the President, who is not in the Foreign Service, two weeks ago told Mao that we would stand firm and induce them to come back in through Zaire—the Chinese must be saying “we will see.”2 Also, it will have impact in Russia which will ask themselves where can they not operate. Where indeed can we stand up to them? The end result will not be an easing of tensions. They want us to pull out of Angola and cut off grain sales as well. That way, we’ll lose Angola and détente and six other places where we won’t stand up—or one day we’ll get desperate and say “let’s clean out the Russians.”

That is my analysis. Do you agree?

Schaufele: Yes, I agree. I’m appalled at the Gelb article.3

The Secretary: I want people transferred out within two months who have worked on Angola. Did I cut off cables at that time?

Bremer: They were restricted.

The Secretary: Even more repulsive is the fact that AF was quiet until Davis was confirmed and then it all leaked. If I were a Foreign Service Officer I’d ask myself what kind of an organization I was in. I’ll be gone eventually but you are people whose loyalty is only to the promotion system and not to the US interest.

Eagleburger: There was something several months ago and I lied to Marder and it didn’t get out then.

The Secretary: The DOD guy then says it’s between Henry and his Moscow friends.

First I want discipline. Someone has to get the FSO’s under control. If they don’t like it, let them resign.

Eagleburger: I have some ideas on that, Bill.

The Secretary: I want action today. I am not terrified by junior officers. I want to discuss Angola. I’ve got papers on the UN and on the Security Council. I had a foretaste from Moynihan who had been brought into the discussions.

Schaufele: Not yet.

Ingersoll: He cooked that up on his own.

The Secretary: Nonsense, he said he discussed it with Sisco. When did he become our spokesman on Angola?

[Page 391]

Schaufele: He picked it up in the debate.

The Secretary: Let’s do the substance of it first. What was our strategy? It was working. It was not to get a final victory but to balance off the Soviets. Then to begin the diplomatic campaign in which the Soviets risked their overall relations with us and then we’d get a coalition government and withdraw all of the outside forces. In the illusion that we would put in [dollar amount not declassified]more, I kicked it off in Detroit.4 We could then tie it in with my trip to Moscow as well and it was working. The Soviets were blinking. The African states were with us.

Moynihan has now screwed it up with his charges of Soviet colonial designs.5 That kind of talk just drives the Algerians and their friends up the wall. I told Bouteflika it was the Russians and not the MPLA that we were against. That was news to him. He suggested messages to the Africans to make them understand that it was not anti-MPLA. I think that is a good idea. Moreover, we have all of NATO supporting us, the President of France is willing to put in helicopters, Mirages with French pilots, to help counteract what’s going through Brazzaville. The Zambians and Zairians are panicked by our Congress. But our strategy was working.

Now you take the Sisco plan—or your plan or whoever’s plan—the Department’s plan—what is wrong with it? To do it under pressure will be read as a bug out. The plan is to go to the Security Council and ask for a ceasefire and withdraw all the forces within 30 days, to end all supplies. Under the present conditions, it will guarantee an MPLA victory. In principle, I agree if we can spend [dollar amount not declassified] then 10 days after that we could start with this plan. Then it becomes viable. But we have to shore up the countries there first or they will all bug out. I’ve agreed with the President of France that we will send messages to Gabon, to Cameroon and Zaire and all of the states that his delegation visited to say that they should hang in there and that we’re going to continue making an effort. I promised the Foreign Minister of Zaire that we’d send someone there too. Can you go?

Schaufele: Yes.

[Page 392]

The Secretary: We may get voted out. This debate shows me that we cannot survive it.

Eagleburger: What is our prediction?

Ingersoll: McCloskey said we’d have a bad road.

Scowcroft: Our supporters will try to filibuster it but we don’t know if they can win.

The Secretary: It’s really something. Nixon went on national television. If the average person doesn’t understand what’s going on, how can you fight Congress without mobilizing the public.

We have to try to wind it up by the end of January. We have to buck up the Africans and move it to a resolution. If we do it the other way, with the resolution before bucking them up, the Africans will bug out.

Schaufele: I think that’s right.

The Secretary: If the next thing they hear is the Sisco cable about a ceasefire, they will draw only one conclusion.

Schaufele: The plan was based on first touching base with some of them.

The Secretary: 24 hours isn’t touching base. That’s just a propaganda ploy. Is there any sense in that?

Hyland: No, first it will make the Zairians and Zambians more nervous to hear that we’re working with the Russians. Second, I don’t know what we can do with the Russians. They have every incentive to wait it out unless we threaten dire consequences across the board with out relations. I think the Senate debate changes things. The only explanation we can make is that we’re opposing the Soviets. But it’s not clear to the public what we’re trying to do.

The Secretary: The withdrawal of all foreign troops will get the Zairians and the South Africans out.

Scowcroft: Maybe you can talk about “extra-continental forces.”

The Secretary: But that leaves the South Africans in.

Hyland: We’re not expecting that anything will happen.

The Secretary: I think we need to get the [dollar amount not declassified] Without that, we’re dead. Then get you out there, Bill, to talk to these guys—explain it—we’ll put money and then within about a week, say in late December, we’ll make our proposal. We’ll call a Security Council meeting in early January. We can decide the timing after your trip.

Hyland: We haven’t even spent the [dollar amount not declassified] yet.

The Secretary: Why not?

Scowcroft: Colby says it’s all cranked up and ready to go.

[Page 393]

Ingersoll: They started spending it last week.

The Secretary: Is anyone trying to win? Or are they just covering their ass?

Hyland: That’s the point. We’ve spent [dollar amount not declassified] Colby’s breaking the [dollar amount not declassified] up into small parts—a little for equipment and that sort of thing.

Scowcroft: There’s a C–130 that costs $1½ million.

The Secretary: Who’s getting it done?

Scowcroft: The Air Force.

The Secretary: Can’t we ask the Air Force to make a contribution to the national interest? Can’t you do that as Assistant to the President?

Scowcroft: Not yet, they’re trying to find a way.

The Secretary: We can’t just make a token charge on it?

Scowcroft: That’s what they’re looking at now.

Ingersoll: The mercenaries are the biggest charge.

The Secretary: Giscard said he’d get a thousand mercenaries in two weeks. He says he’s got them but it depends on getting a C–130 to get them there.

Scowcroft: That’s been offered.

The Secretary: If we have the money, why not tell him to perform and keep the foreign office out? Brent, I think you should send a cable to Giscard saying we’ve produced the messages to the Africans. They should just say we’ll hold firm and balance the Soviet power and you’re coming to the area. They should not be confused by our debate. Then later, that’s the time to float the Sisco plan. When you come back, we can do it.

Schaufele: With the uproar in Congress, I don’t think we can do it.

The Secretary: We have cowardly leaders but not such a bad record. Everything you’ve put in your paper we’ve already proposed to the Soviets without any response.

Hyland: What will the situation on the ground be in 30 days?

Schaufele: I think we’ll be tolerably well off on the ground losing some ground in the North.

The Secretary: If we could get some gunships in within 72 hours, it would help the Zairians. They are in a state of shock.

Schaufele: Right.

The Secretary: I assume the Angolan fighters are no better than the Zairians.

Hyland: No, but the Cubans are and there are lots of them.

Scowcroft: They did get shacked by the South Africans.

Hyland: Will the South Africans stay in?

[Page 394]

Scowcroft: The Washington Post says they will.

Hyland: If the South Africans pull out, it will be all over. I saw a report that they were pulling out in 10 days.

The Secretary: Who will shape up the Department? I’m serious. It must be a disciplined organization.

Eagleburger: The focus now must be on AF.

Schaufele: I’m bringing the new director of AF/C back soon.

The Secretary: Good.

Schaufele: Yes, he’s good and tough. He’s due out at the end of the month.

The Secretary: Well get him back sooner and get Nat Davis’ heroes out fast.

Schaufele: As soon as we can find replacements.

The Secretary: No, I’d rather have no one. I want some of them moved by the end of the week. I want to see a list. I want progressive movement. Should I swear you in?

Schaufele: When can you do it?

The Secretary: Tomorrow afternoon.

Eagleburger: Anything we can do with Congress we should be talking to Dick Moose about. Is it too late?

Scowcroft: Yes it is for now.

The Secretary: We have given no coherent explanations of our policy this week. We are answering charges here and there.

Saunders: Sisco did a good job this morning with Doc Morgan.6

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 103, Geopolitical File, Angola Chronological File. Secret; Sensitive. Initialed by Bremer.
  2. For the discussion between Ford and Mao on Angola, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVIII, China, 1973–1976, Document 134.
  3. Presumably a reference to a December 17 article by Leslie Gelb, “Ford Said To Bar a Combat Role in Angolan War.” (New York Times, p. 1)
  4. During a news conference in Detroit on November 25, Kissinger expanded upon remarks regarding Soviet and Cuban intervention in Angola made before the Economic Club of Detroit. In response to a question about U.S. support for a coalition government, Kissinger said: “We certainly favor the report of the Conciliation Committee of the Organization of African Unity which called for negotiation among all three groups and a possible coalition government, yes.” (Department of State Bulletin, December 15, 1975, p. 856)
  5. Presumably a reference to statements Moynihan made in a television interview on December 14, which were reported in the New York Times the next day. (“Moynihan Assesses Both Sides’ Tactics in Angola,” December 15, 1975, p. 10)
  6. Representative Thomas E. Morgan (D–PA), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.