74. Briefing Memorandum From the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Lord) to Secretary of State Kissinger 1

Strategy for Southern Africa

AF and ARA are working on the Rhodesian and Cuban pieces of the Southern Africa puzzle. This memorandum sketches the main outlines of an overall strategy to help you and us fit all of the pieces together and begin to determine specific steps.

I. The Problem and Our Objectives

You have already delineated the principal parameters of the Southern Africa problem that our strategy must address:

—To avert Soviet/Cuban action, and American inaction, which would extend the Angola precedent, and sharpen perceptions of a pattern of decisive Soviet/Cuban initiative and American irrelevance.

—To do what we can to help solve the problems of the area and satisfy the legitimate aspirations of its people, both because it is right and because our ability to contain the Soviets and Cubans in part depends on it.

—To avoid perceptions of American actions as concessions extorted from us under pain of Soviet/Cuban involvement, because of its damaging effects in Africa and globally.

The ultimate nightmare to be avoided is Soviet/Cuban combat intervention in Southern Africa with widespread African support. Clearly our global strategic interests would dictate some stiff action against the Soviets/Cubans at the cost of sizeable damage to our standing in Africa and domestic support—and Congress could block action in any case. This is the central dilemma our strategy must be designed to head off. At the same time, if this situation materializes, our [Page 404] strategy should put us in the best position possible to move against the Soviets/Cubans and to limit the fall-out. And we also wish to reduce the Soviet/Cuban presence in Angola and the political muscle it gives them.

Certainly direct steps, or the threat of them, vis-à-vis the Soviets and Cubans will be essential to inhibit their moves in Southern Africa. But as you have often stated—for example in the case of Angola—action on this level must be supported by the political and military facts on the ground locally. Thus it will be essential to help shape these factors as well.

In short, we need to pursue the two tracks at once. By working to generate momentum towards majority rule and self-determination in Southern Africa, we have at least a chance of mitigating, if not foreclosing, the grounds for Soviet/Cuban intervention—though we have to be pessimistic about how much we or anyone else can really do, for example, to move Smith. Even so, in making the effort we will carve out a role on the side of African aspirations that is critical to our ability to muster the international support that a tough line towards the Soviets/Cubans requires. Otherwise we will be accused of sacrificing legitimate African objectives to our great power maneuvering, leaving the Soviets and Cubans in the role of energetic defenders of justice and progress. However deep the concerns of Africans, Europeans and some Latins about the risks of outside intervention, this would make it well-nigh impossible for them to side with us and oppose the Soviets and Cubans. African states in particular that might want to sustain a close association with us cannot do so either domestically or on the African scene if a US connection can be portrayed as inconsistent with African aspirations.

Both tracks are also needed at home if we are to gain sufficient Congressional and public support for either track. Liberals might be induced to take firm action against the Soviets and Cubans if they see us simultaneously moving to change the status quo in Southern Africa. At the same time, the Soviet/Cuban dimension ironically gives us an opportunity to win support from conservatives, that might otherwise be unavailable, for a more active policy on majority rights and self-determination.

This still leaves us with the extortion dilemma. Any step-up in our support for change in Southern Africa could contradict a basic message that we are trying to get across—that there is nothing to be gained by Soviet/Cuban intervention in Southern Africa or elsewhere. Thus—as we did in the Middle East—we must make it clear to the Africans that they have to work with us, if not through us; that we are not to be moved by the blackmail use of Cuban troops.

This is one of the toughest, most complicating, aspects of our strategic problem. But I think the answer is to ride both tracks of our policy [Page 405] hard. In this way the Africans will see that we represent an opportunity to help move toward their goals but only if they take account of our geopolitical concerns at the same time. And if we succeed, the very effectiveness of our policy should upstage, and ultimately smother, the question of whether it was forced by Soviet/Cuban involvement. Parallels are dangerous, but there was some perception that our forward stance at the UN Seventh Special Session2 had been extracted by LDC pressure; yet this notion was overwhelmed by the vigor and substance of our policy, and its half-life proved very short.

[Omitted here is an extended discussion of the Southern African strategic context.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Policy Planning Council (S/PC), Policy Planning Staff (S/P), Director’s Files (Winston Lord) 1969–77, Lot 77D112, Box 357, APR 1–15 1976. Secret. Drafted by Bartholomew, Deputy Director Nicholas A. Veliotes (S/P), Donald K. Peterson (S/P), and Lord on April 12. Forwarded to Kissinger by Lord under an April 12 covering memorandum that reads in part: “In addition to a specific action plan, we still have to get at the strategic problem of convincing the various African partners that the only real solution lies through us. This will be much more difficult than the Middle East: the Arabs know that only we have the capability to ‘deliver’ the Israelis; we have nothing like this trump with the white regimes in Southern Africa that could be played with the Africans. But there are nevertheless some similar assets in the two situations: the fear of too-tight a Communist embrace as a threat to their autonomy; our economic role and potential assistance; and the intra-regional rivalries and antagonisms—some with a Soviet dimension—from which we might derive leverage.”
  2. See footnote 8, Document 60.