78. Paper Prepared by Professor William E. Griffith1


For a situation as complex and fluid as the Horn of Africa, correct categories of analysis are absolutely necessary, both in general and because the current crisis in the Horn is a classic example of the interaction between global (Soviet/U.S.) and regional issues.


1. While the origins of the crisis are primarily regional, and it did not begin as a “Soviet expansionist plot,” its primary significance for U.S. policy is the Soviet involvement. This is true because of:

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a. the questions it raises about U.S.-Soviet relations in general;

b. it follows, and the Soviets were stimulated by, the Soviet-Cuban victory in Angola;

c. it is another example of Soviet-Cuban collaboration where Cuban troops are politically less unacceptable than Soviet, while the West, unlike the Shaba, has so far no equivalent for the Cubans;

d. in Angola several thousand Cubans can make the difference between victory and defeat;

e. the Horn is geopolitically far more important for the West than Angola; and

f. Soviet bases in the Horn would be very useful for future Soviet involvement in southern Africa.

2. However, the U.S. faces major regional obstacles to checking expansion of Soviet influence in the Horn: Ethiopia’s Soviet-supported struggle against the Somali invasion of the Ogaden is a position which the OAU unanimously supports, and which the U.S. can hardly contest, while the U.S.’s principal Arab allies support Somalia. Kenya fears both Soviet influence in Ethiopia and Somali irredentism in northern Kenya.

3. In domestic U.S. politics, the “Vietnam syndrome” generally inhibits U.S. action. However, U.S. opinion on the Soviet Union is increasingly negative, and Ethiopian-Soviet-Cuban victories in the Horn could merge with a worsening Middle Eastern situation (at least very possible) to endanger any SALT agreement and destabilize U.S. relations with the Soviet Union and the whole international situation.

4. How to influence the Soviet Union to limit or reverse its intervention in the Horn requires a global and regional analysis of available “pressure points” on the Soviet Union and the degree of priority for their use for this purpose as compared to other Soviet-U.S. issues which these points involve.

5. The Horn suffers, from the U.S. viewpoint, from a very high level of unpredictability, for the combatants involved are not subject to decisive Soviet influence and certainly not to U.S. influence, and the military outcome will be the major factor in determining the future.

6. No matter what the military and political outcome is in the near future, U.S. planning should assume that the Horn will be an intermittent crisis area over the next decade or two.

7. Even if the Ethiopians, Soviets, and Cubans do win a military victory, and particularly if they do, conservative Arabs and the Shah will be the more anti-Soviet for Moscow’s expansion of its influence and support of Ethiopian “ex-Christian communists.”

8. If the U.S. does not check the Soviets in the Horn, they and the Cubans are more likely to become involved in southern Africa, particularly if a black civil war breaks out in Zimbabwe.

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9. Moreover, the Saudis and Sadat will feel that if the U.S. cannot be counted on to counter the Soviets in the Horn, it also cannot be counted on to bring about a Middle Eastern settlement. Both will therefore be more likely to anticipate a breakdown and another Middle Eastern war and therefore be less willing to compromise with Israel. U.S. inaction in the Horn would thus worsen the Middle Eastern situation and U.S. influence there.


1. Because without massive Soviet and Cuban assistance the Ethiopians cannot reconquer the Ogaden or crush the Eritrean rebellion and, because as long as they cannot, they are unlikely to begin negotiations, and because the U.S. has no significant pressure points vis-a-vis the Cubans, who will not quit on their own, the U.S. must find and use pressure points on the Soviets. I suggest three, listed in graduated order of importance and to be used in flexible escalation.

a. The Indian Ocean Negotiations. The Soviets should be informed privately that if they continue their present level of involvement in Ethiopia, we will break them off; and if they do, we should.

b. The Chinese. The Soviets clearly fear more extensive U.S. involvement with the Chinese. To prevent this has been one of Moscow’s main motives for Soviet-U.S. detente. The U.S. objective, therefore, should be to make the Soviets believe that if they continue in the Horn, we will move farther toward Peking. This should initially involve expanded U.S. consultations with the Chinese on the Horn to convince the Soviets of their menace. The U.S. should end its attempt to normalize relations with Hanoi, which Moscow supports, and improve U.S. relations with Laos. Steps like this are necessary to convince the Chinese that we mean business (including in the Horn) for otherwise the Soviets will not be convinced themselves that we do and will work with the Chinese on this problem.

c. SALT. Whether or not a SALT II agreement can be produced which will be satisfactory to the Soviets and two-thirds of the U.S. Senate (which at the moment seems far from certain), the Senate will hardly ratify SALT II if the Soviets and the Cubans are still moving forward in the Horn. For the Soviets SALT is the core of Soviet-U.S. detente, and therefore their most vulnerable pressure point, the more so because they fear U.S. deployment of MaRV and cruise missiles and, perhaps most of all, U.S. technological assistance to its allies (and perhaps eventually even to the Chinese) in deployment of cruise missiles as well. Since it is not in our interest to deny our allies access to cruise missile technology in any case, there is all the more reason, if necessary, to indicate to the Soviets that we will speed it up if they continue to act as they have been doing in the Horn.

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2. Informing U.S. public opinion. This is a major problem and requires more effort than it has been given, for without it no U.S. policy in the Horn can be effective. Exactly because the Horn is so complicated, a major program for this should be set up, with journalists, opinion leaders, and academics.

3. The U.S. should continue to advocate withdrawal of the Somalis from the Ogaden plus negotiations, withdrawal of foreign forces from the Horn, OAU mediation, etc.

4. Contacts with Mengistu should be continued and if possible intensified, both directly and via the Sudan and other regional powers.

5. In view of the present rapid buildup of Cuban military forces in Ethiopia, and considering the present high level of Soviet ships in the Red Sea, the U.S. should immediately send a naval task force to patrol in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. In order to demonstrate U.S. naval mobility, these destroyers should be detached from the Seventh as well as the Sixth Fleet. The primary purpose of this would be to demonstrate to the Soviets and the Arabs U.S. concern and determination. [less than 1 line not declassified]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 1, Chron File: 1/78. Secret. Henze sent the paper to Brzezinski under a January 28 covering memorandum. A handwritten notation on the memorandum indicates that copies were sent to Huntington, Quandt, and Sick on January 31. Griffith, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, later became an adviser to Brzezinski.