92. Intelligence Note Prepared in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research1
USSR–AFRICA: SOVIETS INCREASING AID TO AFRICAN LIBERATION FRONTS?
Recent evidence suggests the Soviets may be augmenting their support to various liberation movements in austral and Portuguese Africa (or, at least, may be contemplating such an increase). The margin of increase is not likely to be great, but, even so, may give the various movements a boost—especially if increased assistance takes the form of training cadres in Africa.
Soviet Team Reported to Have Entered Angola. One unconfirmed report has indicated that a team of four to six Soviets recently entered Angola from Zambia and that others may soon follow. The same report alluded to a recent “extraordinarily large” Soviet arms shipment to the Angolan Popular Liberation Movement (MPLA) and to the possibility of a new MPLA training camp to be set up inside Angola. The source of the report speculated that MPLA activities may be entering a new and more active phase.
Conference on the Portuguese Colonies Calls for Increased Aid. While the foregoing report has not been verified, it makes interesting reading when juxtaposed with the proceedings of the June 27–29 Conference in Support of Peoples of the Portuguese Colonies in Rome, sponsored by two Moscow-controlled front groups, the World Council of Peace and the Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization. (Liberation movements represented at Rome were the MPLA from Angola, PAIGC from Portuguese Guinea, and FRELIMO from Mozambique, all members of the Conference of Nationalist Organizations of the Portuguese Colonies and steady recipients of Soviet aid). In addition to the boiler-plate condemnation of the “colonial war” being conducted by Portugal with the aid of NATO countries, the final resolution called for a campaign of world-wide denunciations of Portugal, and, perhaps more importantly, for an increase in material aid to the liberation movements.
Altered Soviet Assessments. Such calls have been voiced before and have resulted in very little in the way of implementation. This may well be the case again. However, in the wake of events in Libya, the Sudan, [Page 213] Somalia and elsewhere, the Soviets appear to have become somewhat more bullish in Africa and may be more inclined to give increased support to liberation fronts. If so, they will probably be under no illusions as to the fronts’ chances of near-term success; rather, they would see stepped-up aid as a means to increase their own influence not only with the liberation movements themselves but also with the progressive leaders of independent African states who sympathize with them. With such objectives in mind, an increased investment at this time would be consistent with what the Soviets seem to have assessed to be an improved climate in Africa.
Competition With Other Groups. Moreover, augmented Soviet assistance would enhance the position of the Soviet-supported groups relative to those aided by the Chinese, or, in the case of Holden Roberto’s group in Angola, those supported by noncommunist sources. In the process, the militant image of the Soviet Union as a supplier would also be improved. That the latter may be a live factor in Soviet considerations is suggested by the fact that the level of vituperation between the Soviets and Chinese over precisely this point has recently increased. Judging by their replies, the Soviets seem to have been particularly stung by Chinese charges that Moscow is “obstructing the liberation struggle”. Increased aid would represent one relatively low-cost, low-risk means to counter such charges.
- Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Africa, Latin America, Inter-Agency Intelligence Committee Files, Angola-Washington. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. Drafted by Wayne Smith and cleared by Irwin Tobin (INR/USSR and Eastern Europe).↩