66. Central Intelligence Agency Information Cable1

[cable number not declassified] Country: USSR/Cuba/Ethiopia.

DOI: Late November through early December 1977.

Subject: Increased Support for Ethiopia by the USSR and Cuba; Arrival by Air of Additional Soviet and Cuban Military Personnel and Military Supplies.

ACQ: [less than 2 lines not declassified]

Source: [2½ lines not declassified]

1. The Soviet airlift of men and material to Ethiopia that has been underway since late November 1977 is a direct result of the very strong recommendations made by Soviet General V.I. Petrov who has himself remained in Ethiopia to direct the massive speed-up of Soviet assistance. The earlier arrival of Petrov and his Soviet Military Study Group was in turn a direct result of the plea for increased assistance made by Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC) Chairman Lt Col Mengistu Haile-Mariam during his visit to Cuba, the German Democratic Republic and the Soviet Union in late October. [3 lines not declassified]

2. The Soviet airlift, operating both from the Soviet Union and Angola and within Ethiopia, has as its main purpose the early delivery and distribution of weapons, military vehicles, ammunition, and other supplies that the USSR had agreed to sell Ethiopia under the December 1976 and May 1977 sales agreements; however, more than 400 additional Cuban military advisor/instructor personnel and about 250 new Soviet military advisor personnel have also arrived on the airlift since the end of November. The total number of Cuban military personnel in Ethiopia is now more than 1,000 plus about 150–200 medical personnel and there are now slightly more than 500 Soviet military advisor personnel in country. (Source comment: Additional Cubans and Soviets are expected to arrive in the next months, raising the totals to as many as 2,000 Cubans and 1,000 Soviet military personnel.)

3. Based on the recommendations of General Petrov and the findings of his study group and those of the PMAC defense committee the PMAC Chairman has agreed to the need for an increased Cuban military role in Ethiopia. Planning therefore is now underway for the employment of Cuban troops in a combat role, operating both artillery, rocket and conventional and anti-aircraft weapons and piloting combat [Page 242] aircraft. No such role is envisioned for Soviet personnel at this point. Presently, neither Cuban nor Soviet personnel are flying combat operational missions in Ethiopia, although Soviet instructor pilots are flying training missions from Harar Meda Airbase at Debre Zeit.

4. Seventeen MIG–21 aircraft have so far arrived at Bole Airfield in Addis Ababa, where they are now being assembled. It is likely that Cuban pilots will begin flying some of these aircraft in the next 2–3 weeks. (Source comment: Only MIG–21 aircraft are currently arriving by the airlift from the Soviet Union since Ethiopian Air Force personnel are not sufficiently trained on the MIG–23’s to justify advanced delivery of this aircraft, the first of which will probably not arrive before January 1978.)

5. [1 paragraph (7 lines) not declassified]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 5, Evening Reports File: 11/77–1/78. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified].