75. Non-Note From the Soviet Leadership to the U.S. Leadership1

Moscow has considered with attention the remarks of the Secretary of State regarding the situation in the Horn of Africa, made in the conversation with the Soviet Ambassador on January 14.2

The statement by the Secretary to the effect that the US side has no intention of interfering in the Somali-Ethiopian conflict and that it took decision not to provide arms, directly or indirectly, to either side in the conflict, could only be welcomed. However, the very next day after that conversation an official of the Department of State said publicly something quite different, namely, that the US “decided to provide Somalia with defensive weapons”. Naturally, we cannot help asking the question: what is the real state of affairs?

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Public statements of the US officials, including those at the highest level, misrepresenting the position and actions of the Soviet Union in connection with the Somali-Ethiopian conflict, are also in no way helpful but only aggravate the situation.

Meanwhile, the US government is, undoubtedly, well aware of the fact that even before the start of the conflict we urged the Somali side to give up the attempts to solve its problems with Ethiopia by force. And when the Somali leadership, nevertheless, resorted to military operations in Ogaden we made great efforts aimed at the cessation of that conflict and its settlement through negotiations on the basis of mutual respect by the sides for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of frontiers and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. And it is by no means the Soviet Union’s fault that Somalia continues its military interference in Ethiopia, trying to retain by force a considerable part of the territory of that country.

The material and technical assistance that we render Ethiopia at its request has the only purpose of halting the aggression and eliminating its consequences. The Soviet Union does its utmost to prevent further escalation of the Somali-Ethiopian conflict. There are no, for that matter, reasons for such aprehensions unless, naturally, those who are on the side of Somalia now take a hand in that. On its part the government of Ethiopia clearly stated that its aim is only the repulse of the Somali aggression and restoration of its territory, and by no means the invasion of Somalia.

The US side as it follows from the Secretary’s remarks, favors negotiation between Somalia and Ethiopia “without preconditions”. But thus the substance of the question is missed: that it is Somalia that has seized and occupies the Ethiopian territory.

Thus a necessary prerequisite of peaceful settlement of the conflict should be not simply a termination of military operations but an immediate withdrawal of Somali troops from Ethiopia, about which the US side for some reasons prefers to keep silent. Any other approach to this question, which would fail to discriminate between the aggressor and the victim of aggression, would in fact lead to the protraction of the conflict, the creation of a new permanent source of tensions. Suffice it to recall what did happen in the Middle East when, in 1967, a cease-fire was not followed by the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from the occupied Arab territories. These forces still continue to be there and, as a result, the Middle East crisis can explode anew at any moment as it was already the case in 1973.

As to the Soviet Union, we would like to stress once again that we do not seek in the Horn of Africa or anywhere else any advantages for ourselves including those at the expense of the US or along the line of confrontation with the US. If the US side also supports the territorial in[Page 265]tegrity of Ethiopia, as it was stated by the Secretary, then we would like to hope that it will act as well in that direction exercising appropriate influence with Somalia and other countries, for example, Saudi Arabia and Iran which have close ties with the US. If the US acts in such way and does not turn this conflict into a source of disagreement between our countries it will always find in the Soviet Union a solid partner.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Special Adviser to the Secretary (S/MS) on Soviet Affairs Marshall Shulman—Jan 21, 77–Jan 19, 81, Lot 81D109, Box 3, BessmertnykhShulman, 1/24/78. No classification marking. A handwritten notation in the upper right-hand corner of the document indicates that Bessmertnykh delivered the non-note during his meeting with Shulman on January 24. A brief summary of the meeting is ibid.
  2. See Document 72.