86. Memorandum From Paul Henze of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Possible Actions to Drive Home to the Soviets and Cubans the Need to Moderate their Intervention in the Horn

If we respond to the Soviet and Cuban intervention in the Horn only in the Horn area itself, we run the risk of negative and counterproductive entanglement and Soviet counteractions which could prove embarrassing. If we encourage friendly Muslim countries to place troops in Somalia, e.g., and these are attacked by the Ethiopians/Soviets/Cubans, we will have some obligation to come to their defense. If Congressional restraints prevent us from doing so, or if the prospect of escalating involvement forces us to reconsider after we have launched an action, we and our friends could suffer a political and psychological defeat of some magnitude. The same could prove true in Eritrea if we [Page 292] were to insert ourselves into that conflict in support of Muslim countries who support the rebellion.

The Soviets and Cubans have legality and African sentiment on their side in Ethiopia—they are helping an African country defend its territorial integrity and countering aggression. They can monopolize this position only if we permit them to do so. Our recent actions and policy statements have placed us firmly behind these principles, too, and we should not waver from them. We should, in fact, be very careful to avoid any appearance of a persisting sentimental tilt toward Somalia, because the Soviets will exploit this against us in Ethiopia and in Kenya. If Somalia is invaded and we do back some counteraction, we must be very clear about the circumstances. The wily Somalis already know that it is in their interest to claim and appear that they are being invaded—and they may well work out a scenario that achieves this aim.

The way to bring home to the Soviets and Cubans the high cost of further consolidation of their position in the Horn is to cool relations in other areas and take steps that force them to weigh the costs of Horn intervention against gains they have been expecting from other aspects of their relations with us. Possibilities include:

• Straightforward abandonment of Indian Ocean Talks.

• Abandonment of talks on limiting conventional arms transfers.

• Suspension of SALT.

• Limitations on economic relations, transfer of technology, etc.—announced or unannounced.

• A more active program of challenging, critiquing and countering Soviet initiatives elsewhere in Africa and in the Third World.

• Abandonment of joint space ventures.

• Demonstrative efforts to consult with the Chinese—without specifying the exact purpose of the consultations.

• Selective restriction of those cultural exchange activities which are, on balance, more advantageous to the Soviets than to us.

In respect to Cuba, I find the suggestions Bob Pastor makes in his memorandum to you of 28 February appealing. Perhaps we should broaden our consideration of possible efforts against the Cubans and systematically review every aspect of our present relationship from the viewpoint of how adjustments disadvantageous to the Cubans could be made.

We must not neglect the public relations/propaganda dimension of the problem. So far, I fear, the U.S. Government has provided the world a spectacle of being rather undifferentiatedly fussed up about the Horn but incapable of doing much except sputtering and denouncing. When we take any of the actions listed above, we should give advance thought to how we announce and explain them. Our statements and backgrounders to the media and our broadcasts over [Page 293] VOA should be more carefully thought through with the aim of sustaining themes and pressures over time and generating complementary initiatives in various parts of the world.

There is also a covert dimension which could be more systematically developed. We need to lift restrictions on CIA’s worldwide exploitation of this issue. In the Horn area itself, and particularly in Ethiopia, we need to counter the systematic distortion and disinformation efforts the Soviets are maintaining against us. They are well on their way to presenting the Somali invasion of Ethiopia as a U.S.-inspired action sustained by inflow of arms from reactionary Muslim countries who are acting as surrogates for the United States. When the Soviets lie, they lie big and they repeat their lies over and over again. We cannot assume that truth and virtue will prevail because of their own intrinsic weight. Truth needs help.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 2, Chron File: 3/78. Secret. Sent for information. Sent outside the system.