In Attendance Mon., 1/7/74
Secretary of State Kissinger
Mr. Pickering[Page 2]
[Omitted here are portions of the discussion unrelated to the Horn of Africa.]
MR. NEWSOM: Yes.
Mr. Secretary, I raised with you a number of possibilities of providing air-to-air SIDEWINDER missiles to Ethiopia. At that time you felt if it were necessary to do so to meet our requirements there that you would see no objection to it. Since that time, while we have not—and we’re still examining other possibilities with Ethiopia because we feel that in terms of Congressional attitudes toward Ethiopia it would be preferable to find something to meet the Ethiopian need which does not require raising a new level of weapon systems with the Congress. However, since then—
SECRETARY KISSINGER: Would we have to raise that with the Congress?
MR. NEWSOM: We would. We’d have to report to the Congress whether it was grant credit or a straight commercial sale. We would have to report the facts to them.[Page 3]
SECRETARY KISSINGER: We just have to report it though, it doesn’t require our approval.
MR. NEWSOM: No; we’d have to report it. At the moment, the question of the Ethiopian drought and the way the Ethiopians have handled the drought is becoming a very live question in the Congress. So it seems to me the timing for reporting a new escalation of a weapons system is not the best. So we’re examining some more conventional possibilities. But, since that time, the Northrup people, without any consultation—
SECRETARY KISSINGER: What do you mean by “more conventional possibilities”?
MR. NEWSOM: Increasing their tank force and tank mines, anti-tank missiles—which do not require a Presidential determination. Since that time, the Northrop people, who make the F–5E, have been talking to the Nigerians. They did not consult us before going to the Nigerians. They came in only after their efforts to sell in the final stages and the competition had narrowed down to the F–5E and the MIG–21. Our judgment is that the Nigerians, knowing that the principal weapon system of the F–5E is the SIDEWINDER, would not purchase the aircraft and would certainly not be [Page 4]sympathetic to any limitations we might place on the aircraft. Therefore, I think we need a decision on the question of whether we can release the SIDEWINDER in Africa—and, at this point, particularly in Nigeria. It comes at a time when we’re under pressures—which you’re very well aware of—from the Portuguese, for a relaxation of our arms embargo in Portuguese territories. And to release the SIDEWINDER to the Nigerians would certainly not help us in holding the line on the embargo. At the same time, the release of the SIDEWINDER to the Nigerians—
SECRETARY KISSINGER: Well, I don’t have the impression that the President is going to hold the line on the embargo to the Portuguese anyway.
MR. NEWSOM: Well, that is a factor that would have to be considered in here.
SECRETARY KISSINGER: That’s the old State Department attitude: The President won’t do it and they’ll take it into account! (Laughter.)
MR. NEWSOM: Well, I thank you, Mr. Secretary! (Laughter.)[Page 5]
MR. WEISS: Next subject on the agenda: (Laughter.)
SECRETARY KISSINGER: Yes.
MR. NEWSOM: All I did was to add to what was on the tale. I don’t think releasing the SIDEWINDERS to the Nigerians would necessarily help us in our total African problem, if the President does relax the embargo to the Portuguese territory.
SECRETARY KiSSINGER: No; but the President’s decision to relax the embargo would be a product of the Portuguese action, plus the Defense Department’s action. It partly depends on what we do with Nigeria. If he’s going to do this anyway, easing it towards Nigeria might take a little bit of the curse off of it.
MR. NEWSOM: And it would lessen any problem—
SECRETARY KISSINGER: That’s the way I would look at it. If I thought he would lean the other way, then you could say giving the SIDEWINDERS to Nigeria would make a negative decision even harder. But I think if I had to bet, I would think he’d relax the embargo.
MR. NEWSOM: The immediate pressure is the Northrop people would like to come in this week for guidance on this question.[Page 6]
SECRETARY KISSINGER: What do you mean “guidance”? They’ve already done the damage.
MR. WEISS: Well, we could theoretically say we won’t approve a licensing arrangement.
SECRETARY KISSINGER: Well, have they asked the Nigerians whether they’ll take the -5E without the SIDEWINDER?
MR. WEISS: They have not, and we have counseled them not to ask because I think the Nigerians are very, very sensitive to any restrictions on weapon systems coming out of their civil war experience, where we refused to sell them aircraft at that time. And I have wanted to avoid awakening all of those past emotions. So I have felt that if Northrop is going ahead at all—if they have any chance of success—and if they’re going to diminish the possibility of political irritations—
SECRETARY KISSINGER: But if we sell it to Nigeria, how can we avoid selling it to Mobutu?
MR. WEISS: Mobutu has just bought the whole French weapon systems.
SECRETARY KISSINGER: Do they have any equivalent to the SIDEWINDER?[Page 7]
MR. NEWSOM: Yes.
MR. WEISS: Yes.
MR. NEWSOM: So our—in balance—
SECRETARY KISSINGER: So all of them can buy—we’re not keeping them from getting SIDEWINDER-type weapons.
MR. WEISS: That’s exactly the point I wanted to offer. You know, I think we, in a sense—partly because of Congressional pressures—- get ourselves in an untenable box. Clearly, there are some weapon systems that have a particular kind of odious connotation that we probably don’t want to sell. But I think on something like a system of this sort, where there are other sources of supply, we sort of invoke a self-denying ordinance which, in terms of U.S. interest, are not always perfectly clear to me. This is a good case.
MR. PORTER: Would those MIG–21’s come with the SIDEWINDER equivalent?
MR. WEISS: Sure. The Russians don’t—
SECRETARY KISSINGER: Have they got a SIDEWINDER?
MR. NEWSOM: A SIDEWINDER.
SECRETARY KISSINGER: So I don’t see that there is any issue. What is the issue then—that we should keep the Americans from buying what they would sell elsewhere?[Page 8]
Mr. NEWSOM: Not being fully aware of the direction we might have gone, I wanted to raise it in the Portuguese context.
SECRETARY KISSINGER: Judging by the President, in his conversations with Moorer and with the Portuguese Ambassador, I would think there’d be some relaxation.
MR. NEWSOM: The idea of indirect supply is not feasible because, from our standpoint, if we can be one step removed—
SECRETARY KISSINGER: Well, the Israelis have offered them Soviet missiles! (Laughter.) There’s a certain beauty in that, but they don’t have enough ammunition.
MR. NEWSOM: No. I see.
SECRETARY KISSINGER: They have no spare parts. Excuse me (addressing Mr. Weiss).
MR. WEISS: I would like to underscore Dave’s opening point: You may have a Congressional problem on the SIDEWINDERS, as I understand it. You know more about this than I do. We have testified rather explicitly. I don’t know about Nigeria per se—I don’t know about Africa—but my people tell me they would not put in these weapons. [Page 9]I believe my people mentioned it; I can get it for you.
MR. NEWSOM: Well, my own understanding is we have testified in a MAP context—
MR. WEISS: That’s right.
MR. NEWSOM:—that we would not provide sophisticated weapons either on a grant or credit basis to poor developing countries. Well, Nigeria is not a poor developing country.
SECRETARY KISSINGER: Well, I can understand the argument that we should not be the first to introduce sophisticated weapons. I cannot see the argument that the United States should not produce sophisticated weapons that the country concerned will surely buy elsewhere, so that we’re not only losing the commercial value—which wouldn’t bother me so much—but we’re also losing whatever political influence goes with the hardware. And contrary to what my colleagues at Harvard have been teaching for 10 years, history shows you get a lot more influence with military sales than with economic aid—
MR. WEISS: Yes, sir.
SECRETARY KISSINGER:—because it needs constant resupply and training and so forth.[Page 10]
[Omitted here are portions of the discussion unrelated to the Horn of Africa.][Page 11] [Page 12]
MR. NEWSOM: Well, I’ll tell Northrop. Then they can go ahead; and we will still hold off just on the Ethiopian side, unless it seems absolutely necessary—because there there are special problems.
SECRETARY KISSINGER: What are the special problems?
MR. NEWSOM: Congressional problems.
SECRETARY KISSINGER: Because of Israel?
MR. NEWSOM: No. Because of the—
SECRETARY KISSINGER: Oh, because of the drought?
MR. NEWSOM: That’s right. And there’s a general anti-Ethiopian feeling, particularly in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
SECRETARY KISSINGER: Why?
MR. NEWSOM: Well, in the Symington hearings, two years ago, we got a lot of flack about our involvement in Ethiopia. This was one of the things that really led Defense to want to get out of Kagnew, the insurrection [Page 13]in Eritrea. As absurd as this question may seem—I got it several times—are we being drawn into another Viet-Nam by our involvement in Eritrea with the Ethiopians?
MR. LORD: What is the Soviet influence in Somali now?
MR. NEWSOM: It’s there. The Ethiopians think it’s much greater than our own intelligence people do, but the Soviets have supplied them with a lot of equipment.
SECRETARY KISSINGER: And a large Mission.
MR. WEISS: I think there’s another reason, which is a little different, for holding on to the Ethiopian thing temporarily—if this Defense thing materializes, something you may need, this as well as other things.
SECRETARY KISSINGER: I was never in favor of giving up Kagnew. I always thought it would have serious political consequences.
[Omitted here are portions of the discussion unrelated to the Horn of Africa.]
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–1977, Entry 5177, Box 5, Secretary’s Staff Meetings. Secret.↩
- Assistant Secretary of State Newsom discussed the sale of Sidewinder missiles to Ethiopia and suggested providing other weapons systems that did not require Congressional notification.↩