10. Paper Prepared by the Policy Review Committee1
[Omitted here are the title page and the table of contents.]
The Horn of Africa
The purpose of this study is to examine policy options open to the U.S. to advance or protect our interests in the Horn of Africa/Red Sea area. Due to the rapid pace of developments in Ethiopia and the need for early decisions concerning that country, this study will focus primarily on Ethiopia and adjustments in U.S. policy suggested by developments there. The study alludes in general terms to the resultant implications for Sudan, Somalia and other countries in the area, but detailed study of these implications must await decisions on our Ethiopian policy and on our conventional arms transfer policy (PRM/NSC–12).2
II. Nature of the Problem
The competition between the U.S. and the USSR for influence in Africa has been superimposed on the welter of ethnic, religious, ideological, and territorial incompatibilities existing between, among and within the African states of the Horn of Africa.
A. U.S. Interests:
Our interest in maintaining cooperative relations with and promoting stability among countries in any area of the world has acquired the added dimension in the Horn of Africa of big power competition. Moscow’s efforts to displace the U.S. as the dominant foreign influence in Ethiopia are causing concern among moderate states in the region, notably Sudan and Saudi Arabia, and disenchantment toward the Soviets on the part of Somalia. We accordingly have an opportunity to advance U.S. influence in the region as a whole by consolidating our position in neighboring countries now friendly to us, e.g., Sudan and Kenya, and in advancing our position in Somalia.[Page 18]
Given the unlikelihood that present leftward trends in Ethiopia can be arrested, we must accept over the short term a decreased U.S. influence in that country and adjust our programs accordingly. The instability of the present Ethiopian regime, however, raises the presently remote possibility of its replacement over the medium or longer term by a leadership more amenable to cooperative relations with the U.S. This prospect, plus the fact that Ethiopia is the second-most-populous country in Africa, gives us an interest in so tailoring our policies that we are in a position insofar as possible to capitalize on possible future developments favoring a resumption of closer Ethio-US ties. With that in mind, any improvement in our relations with Somalia and Sudan should stop short of activities perceived as hostile toward Ethiopia as a nation. The same consideration suggests that, while we have no present interest in obstructing Eritrean autonomy or independence, or in opposing dissidents within Ethiopia proper, we equally have no interest in becoming involved with groups in Eritrea or with opposition elements in Ethiopia in ways which would compromise our ability to have a cooperative relationship with a successor regime in Addis Ababa.
Militarily the Horn is not of great strategic importance to the U.S.3 The psychological perceptions of area states aside, interdiction of Red Sea and Indian Ocean maritime routes is not likely short of a limited war situation, although an increased Soviet presence can limit our freedom of action. The Indian Ocean per se occupies a low priority in terms of the global strategic balance. Nonetheless, restriction of Soviet military access to the area would be in our interest as contributing to a reduction of major power military presence there. It could also complicate Soviet ability to use naval power to project political influence in the Indian Ocean littoral. We do have an interest in maximizing U.S. access to ports and airfields in the area.
Our concern for human rights gives us an interest in preventing the U.S. from being implicated in human rights violations by recipients of our assistance, which is particularly pertinent in the case of Ethiopia. Our concern for the poor gives us a humanitarian interest in the area. We have an interest in the safety of Americans residing in the area whose welfare could be affected by developments there including actions of ours.[Page 19]
B. Soviet Interests:
For two years the Soviets hesitated to take advantage of the opportunity which was presented to them by the accession to power of a leftist government in Ethiopia. They had to weigh the risks to their position in Somalia of support for Ethiopia, which offers no military-strategic advantages for their Indian Ocean interests equal to those they derive from their Somali facilities. On the other hand, they had to consider the politico-strategic advantages of replacing the U.S. as the dominant foreign influence in Ethiopia. Hopeful that such a move would be generally perceived as representing a trend of Soviet gains in Africa at U.S. expense, the Soviets might also view it as placing them in a position to exert pressure on Sudan and Kenya. While Soviet pre-eminence in Ethiopia would not substantially enhance their ability to interdict the Red Sea maritime route beyond their Somalia-based capability, it could provide them with some leverage against countries reliant on that route, particularly oil suppliers and consumers.
The Soviet agreement in December 1976 to supply Ethiopia with substantial military equipment, and to encourage other European Communist countries to provide arms aid, presumably represented a Soviet conclusion that the risks to their position in Somalia were manageable.4 A token delivery of small arms took place in February, and additional deliveries are reported to have been made in March. However, until significant deliveries have taken place, the Soviets will presumably remain in a position to reverse their course.
The Soviet ability to deploy naval and air units into the Indian Ocean for surveillance of U.S., French and other allied shipping, for projecting military influence along the Indian Ocean littoral, and for exerting some psychological pressure on tanker routes from the Persian Gulf is facilitated by the availability of Somali ports and airfields. These goals could be achieved without use of the Somali facilities, but at some expense. Undoubtedly, the Soviets are now watching the Somali reaction closely and will, in the light of that reaction, review the relative importance to them of Ethiopia and Somalia prior to any large-scale deliveries that commit them to the Ethiopian option and risk Somali imposition of restrictions on Soviet use of military facilities in Somalia.
In addition to their attempts to mollify the Somali reaction, efforts supported by Fidel Castro during his recent surprise visits to Mogadiscio and Addis Ababa,5 the Soviets are undoubtedly considering means [Page 20] to help ensure that, should they be forced to choose between Somalia and Ethiopia, the choice of the latter will not leave them committed to a disintegrating asset. East European arms offers to the EPMG and Cuban expressions of willingness to help arm and train the Peoples’ Militia in Ethiopia and also to be of help in Eritrea are undoubtedly seen by the Soviets as supportive of that option.
Soviet and Cuban support for the EPMG, particularly in Eritrea, could be justified to most African states as an effort to defend the sacred OAU principle of preserving African territorial integrity. Having in mind that the dispatch of Cuban combat troops to Ethiopia could nonetheless cause an adverse reaction in some African and Arab states and in the U.S., could embroil Cuba in another Angola-type situation from which it would be difficult to extricate themselves, and might turn out to be a commitment to a losing cause, the Cubans would probably prefer to confine themselves to an advisory role. However, once involved, they could come under EPMG pressure, and possibly Soviet as well, to introduce combat troops as the only way to bolster sagging Ethiopian troop morale and prevent the excision of Eritrea from Ethiopia.
C. Ethiopian Interests:
The controlling members of the Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC), the supreme body in the Ethiopian Provisional Military Government (EPMG) which took power in 1974, view the U.S. with deep suspicion. Our quarter-century of close friendship and of generous support for Haile Selassie make it difficult for the PMAC to believe that the U.S. can sincerely desire a cooperative relationship with those who overthrew the Emperor. Conscious that it lacks widespread acceptance, that it does not have the “right to rule” of the centuries-old Solomonic line it overthrew, and that it relies on force for its authority, the PMAC seeks legitimacy and support through espousal and pursuit of social-reform goals which it attributes to the will of the people. Genuinely grieved at the Haile Selassie regime’s favoritism towards the privileged classes and neglect of the poor, the PMAC has adopted what it calls a Marxist-Leninist path for the achievement of its social-reform goals, making it ideologically difficult for the PMAC to trust the motives towards itself of the world’s major capitalist power.
Despite receptiveness at various lower EPMG levels to cooperation with the U.S., the PMAC has been reluctant to give its approval to projects which would associate the U.S. with the PMAC’s social reform goals. Continued EPMG reliance on the U.S. for its security needs has resulted from necessity, not choice: with an American-supplied arsenal, a sudden switch to another supplier would result in a period of degraded security, and no ideologically acceptable source was, until recently, prepared to become Ethiopia’s supplier.[Page 21]
The immediate interest of the PMAC leaders is, of course, survival in a situation where assassination is the favorite means for solving disputes both within the PMAC and between the PMAC and its opponents. Other PMAC objectives, in the order in which they probably demand day-to-day attention, are:
—neutralization of threats to PMAC rule in Addis Ababa;
—sufficient control of the countryside to prevent the build-up of momentum for any group which might challenge PMAC rule at the center, to provide economic underpining for the regime, and to prevent any successful secessionist attempts;
—progress toward implementing the social reform goals from which the PMAC derives its legitimacy;
—secure access to the sea.
Challenges to EPMG control of the country exist in the form of internal insurgencies in several northern and southern provinces. In addition to the Eritrea secessionists (see next section), two groups pose potential challenges to EPMG control of the center: the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) and the Ethiopian Democratic Union (EDU).
The EPRP, whose leadership has Marxist leanings but also includes people of other ideological persuasions who see it as the only viable alternative to the EPMG, is active mainly in Addis Ababa itself where it engages in assassinations and foments student unrest.
The EDU is composed largely of individuals identified with the Haile Selassie regime who, while recognizing that a return to the monarchy is not possible, wish to replace the EPMG with a moderate government. Many EDU members went into exile following Haile Selassie’s overthrow but have since been grouped into a fighting force which has operated from the Sudan into the northern province of Begemdir. The EDU has taken one northern town, Humera, and is on the verge of taking another, Metemma. They have sought U.S. support or at least a U.S. indication that it would look with favor on support from other potential sources.
Neither the EPRP nor the EDU seems capable of toppling the EPMG unless they can find support among the Ethiopian military. The February 3 executions of Chief of State Teferi Bante and six others eliminated potential top level PMAC supporters of the EPRP and consolidated the rule of Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam.6 It may, however, have embittered others in the military who might therefore be susceptible to approaches from the EPRP or the EDU.[Page 22]
D. The Eritrean Question:
Eritrean hopes for at least a return to internal autonomy in federation with Ethiopia, decreed by the UN in 1952 but terminated in 1962 by forced union with Ethiopia, were dashed when the first EPMG Chief of State, Eritrean-born General Andom, was assassinated in 1974. Since then, indiscriminate and brutal counter-insurgency attacks by Ethiopian troops have embittered the Eritreans and swelled the ranks of the secessionists, who have been receiving support not only from Iraq and Syria but also from more moderate Arab states, including Saudi Arabia. Secessionists now control the countryside and Ethiopian forces, confined to the main towns, are forced to rely on air drops and heavily armed convoys to maintain the flow of supplies. Although divided into three different groups, the secessionists’ bitterness toward Ethiopia, their battlefield gains, and their widening support are making them less and less inclined to accept a settlement short of independence. While the tide of battle now favors them, leading to the U.S. intelligence estimate that Eritrea will have de facto independence within the next 12 months,7 the Eritreans’ ability to sustain independence seems questionable in the face of Ethiopian hostility and their own inability to reconcile their differences.
E. Somali Interests:
Somalia depends on the Soviets for virtually all its military supplies and equipment. It also relies on the USSR for some economic aid. Given the unrest and tensions in the Horn, Somalia is loath to take any step which might weaken it militarily. Somalia’s bureaucracy and its military/security apparatus are permeated with Soviet advisors. Like the EPMG, Somalia’s leadership has a legitimacy problem, having overthrown an elected government, and has sought a similar method of solving it by espousing “scientific socialism” as the best path for realizing the people’s will for a better life. A Leninist-style party apparatus has been created in Somalia, formal links have been established between it and the Soviet Communist Party, a Soviet-Somali Friendship Treaty has been concluded, and Somali President Siad has gone out of his way to praise the USSR and to parrot Soviet policy lines.
All of this would make it difficult for Somalia to effect a dramatic reduction of the Soviet presence there should it wish to do so. However, the prospect of a major Soviet military supply relationship with their Ethiopian foe has caused the Somalis to consider whether it might be in their national interest to readjust their relations with the USSR, and with the U.S., if that can be accomplished without jeopardizing [Page 23] Somalia’s military security or President Siad’s own leadership position and is otherwise made worth their while.
No Somali leader can disavow the dream of a Greater Somalia—an area including Djibouti, the northeastern portion of Kenya and the Ogaden of Ethiopia, all of which are inhabited by ethnic Somalis. However, particularly since the present Somali Government derives its power not from demonstrated popular consent but from its control of an extensive security apparatus, the survival of the Somali leadership does not require it to work actively, let alone take risks, for the achievement of that dream. Nonetheless, failure to seize opportunities to advance that goal or to retaliate against those seen to be conniving against it could be costly to a Somali leader.
Ethiopia and Somalia could be at loggerheads over the French Territory of the Afars and Issas (FTAI), the French enclave on the Gulf of Aden between Ethiopia and Somalia which is scheduled to become independent this year as the Republic of Djibouti. Opposed to Somali ethnic irredentism is Ethiopia’s interest in the port of Djibouti, through which 40% of Ethiopia’s dry cargo passes, it being the only port linked by rail with Addis Ababa.
The EPMG must be aware that Djibouti is much more dependent than Addis Ababa on the Ethiopian transit trade and they therefore should be able to count on a cooperative attitude toward Ethiopia on the part of whoever leads an independent Djibouti government. Despite that and Ethiopia’s many other military preoccupations, the EPMG might be tempted to launch a pre-emptive strike if they become convinced that Djibouti is likely to fall under hostile Somali control through military or other means, particularly if, at the same time, continued Ethiopian control of the Eritrean ports of Assab and Massawa is uncertain.
Recent French moves have produced a government in Djibouti which is more acceptable to Mogadiscio than its pro-Ethiopian predecessor. If the May 8 referendum and election8 return to power a government willing to cooperate closely with Somalia, it will enhance the possibility that Somalia will feel its ambitions with respect to Djibouti are being advanced for the time being. A new Djibouti government, however, might attempt to distance itself from Somalia, forcing Mogadiscio to adopt a more aggressive policy. The Somalis are still more likely to rely on subversion to achieve their objectives in Djibouti.[Page 24]
While the threat of Somali military moves against Djibouti per se has thus diminished, there is still a possibility that Somalia will attempt to capitalize on Ethiopia’s state of confusion to encroach further into the Ethiopian Ogaden. That region supplies a vital link in the annual transhumance life-pattern of many Somali nomads whose home areas are in Somalia. The Ogaden thus represents a socio-economic prize for Mogadiscio that transcends mere ethnic sentiment. Additionally, it is the home area for President Siad’s Merrehan clan. A Somali feint towards Djibouti to draw off Ethiopian forces and thus facilitate a move into the Ogaden, where Somalia-backed guerrillas are already active, cannot be ruled out.
The possibility of Ethiopian-Somali conflict over Djibouti can be lessened to some extent by international focus on the territory. Continued UN and OAU attention could be beneficial in this respect, as will official representation in Djibouti by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. If current bickerings among the Djibouti political groups and with the French can be resolved and elections successfully held on May 8, the June 27 independence date may be met. Rapid admission to the OAU at the July Chiefs of State Conference will help the independent government gain legitimacy, as will prompt admission to the UN and the Arab League, the opening of foreign embassies in Djibouti, and the start of foreign aid programs (e.g., by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia) to supplement French aid efforts. While the Soviets retain their use of Somali military facilities and are advancing their position in Ethiopia, it will be in their interest to counsel both these countries against conflict over Djibouti or the Ogaden.
Over the short term, the most effective deterrent to Somali or Ethiopian overt aggression in Djibouti will be a substantial French military presence. Pressure for the removal of French troops will undoubtedly increase after independence. While the French may be able to withstand external pressures, since their continued military presence will be based on the request of the new Republic of Djibouti, domestic pressure in France would mount if French troops suffered casualties either in repelling aggression or, more likely, in terrorist attacks.
It is not certain that an independent Djibouti will want to become part of Greater Somalia, which would risk a violent Ethiopian reaction. The Afars would clearly not be interested in such a move. The Issas, a clan of Somalis, has maintained a degree of aloofness from other Somali clans and might therefore be less inclined than others to respond to the call for ethnic unity. Djibouti’s leaders recognize the territory’s dependence on the Ethiopian transit trade, may not be attracted by Somalia’s “scientific socialism”, and might be disinclined to forego the perquisites of office in an independent Djibouti government. Saudi [Page 25] Arabia would probably be willing to grant economic assistance to a moderate Djibouti Government in order to minimize radical influence and strengthen independence.
G. Sudanese and Moderate Arab Interests
Following a period of flirtation with the Soviets which ended in 1971 as a result of a short-lived takeover of the government by the Sudanese Communist Party, the Sudanese have sought friendship and cooperation with the West and with neighboring and moderate Arab states, notably Egypt and Saudi Arabia. These latter look upon Sudan, with its immense agricultural potential, as the future breadbasket of the Middle East and also as a buffer against hostile advances by Soviet-supported regimes, e.g., Ethiopia and Libya.
Sudan, Yemen Arab Republic, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are all alarmed at the potential threat to their security and to the security of the Red Sea posed by Soviet advances in the Horn of Africa. To contain that threat, they are undertaking initiatives designed to facilitate self-determination—preferably independence—in an Eritrea which would be induced to hew to an anti-Communist path by Saudi money. They are also attempting to use Somalia’s disenchantment with Soviet military supplies to Ethiopia, plus the carrot of substantial Saudi financial aid, to woo Somalia away from the Soviets.
Sudanese-US relations, previously cool, have improved markedly in the past year. The U.S. has agreed to provide PL–480 food aid and to resume an economic aid program. In the security field, the U.S. has agreed to provide equipment and training to give Sudan a secure communications net and monitoring capability, Sudan has been declared eligible for FMS, Sudanese military personnel have been accepted for training in the U.S., and a Sudanese request to purchase six C–130 aircraft has been processed and advance notice given to the Congress on January 19. A decision on the C–130’s has not yet been taken by the present Administration.
The Sudan’s major internal problem, the struggle between the Arab/Moslem north and black African/Christian south, has abated. The north-south division is still, however, susceptible to occasional flare-ups, and the regime’s stability is further threatened from within by tribal, ideological and religious dissidence, notably from members of the banned Communist party and the Ansar religious sect, many of whose members were driven into exile primarily in Ethiopia following an uprising in 1971.
Libyan hostility to the Sudan, stemming from a complex of motivations ranging from Qadafi’s personal dislike of Nimeiri to his desire to put pressure on Egypt through the Sudan, has taken the form of aiding and abetting dissidents within and exiled from the Sudan, nota[Page 26]bly the Ansars. In his efforts to unseat Nimeiri, Qadafi has enlisted Ethiopian help for the arming and training of Sudanese in exile there. Ethiopia’s willingness to cooperate with Libya derives both from a desire to halt Libyan aid to the Eritrean insurgents and from anger at Nimeiri for permitting Ethiopian exiles and Eritrean secessionists to mount operations against Ethiopia from Sudanese territory. At the turn of the year, the deterioration of Ethio-Sudanese relations erupted into mutual public denunciations by the two countries’ leaders. This led Nimeiri to abandon his previous public neutrality on the Eritrean question, which had placed him in a position to moderate between the Eritreans and the Ethiopians, and he publicly announced Sudan’s support for the cause of Eritrean independence.
Given its internal opponents and, especially, its hostile neighbors, Sudan’s concern for its security is well founded.[Page 27]
In these circumstances, Sudan finds it difficult to reconcile U.S. assurances of friendship and support for the Sudan with the continuation of U.S. arms supplies to Ethiopia, and difficult to understand U.S. hesitation to act favorably on Sudan’s request for C–130 aircraft and unwillingness to give consideration to other Sudanese military requests. These views are shared by the Egyptians and by the Saudis, the latter being prepared to finance military purchases to enhance Sudanese security.
H. Kenyan Interests:
The immediate Kenyan concern with respect to the Horn of Africa is the effect developments there may have on Kenya’s Somali-inhabited Northeast Province. It is in Kenya’s interest for Somalia’s irredentism to remain focussed on the Ogaden and Djibouti, since the Kenyans believe that Somali eyes will turn toward Kenya if the Ogaden and Djibouti issues were to be settled to Somali satisfaction. The perceived Somali threat induced Kenya in 1963 to enter into a still valid mutual defense treaty with Ethiopia.
Aside from the territorial threat from Somalia, the Kenyans must also worry about post-Kenyatta threats to the very character of their society and its moderate foreign policy orientation. While all of the likely successors have a stake in the continuation of Kenya’s current domestic and foreign policies, virtually all of its neighbors, and the Soviets, hope to see those policies changed. A protracted struggle over Kenyatta’s succession will present an opportunity to external elements desirous of altering Kenya’s policies. Indeed, realization of this possibility by the Kenyan contenders may well facilitate a smooth transition. But even if the succession issue is resolved quickly and smoothly, any successor government will initially have less self-confidence and authority than the redoubtable Kenyatta and will thus be more vulnerable to outside influence.
In these circumstances, the discomfort Kenya has felt since Haile Selassie’s overthrow regarding its association with leftist Ethiopia can only grow as the Soviet position there strengthens and EPMG-Cuban ties increase. The worst case for Kenya would be a successful effort by the Soviets to achieve dominance in Ethiopia while retaining their position in Somalia. Probably the best Kenya can hope for as matters are now moving is that a reduction of Soviet influence in Somalia might make Somalia more amenable to reaching some form of accommodation with Kenya.
I. Israeli Interests:
The Israelis are seriously concerned about developments in the Horn of Africa—specifically in Ethiopia and Djibouti. Their primary interest is to prevent an alignment of Arab strength in this area that could further isolate Israel and place it at a geopolitical disadvantage. They also seek to limit Soviet influence in that area, which they perceive as increasing in strength. Diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Israel have remained broken since 1973, but an informal link exists in the form of Israeli training for Ethiopian elite divisions and Israeli support for Somali exile groups opposed to the Siad government. The Israeli interest in maintaining this link derives from the centuries-old antipathy between Ethiopia and Arabs in general and Israel’s desire for influence with at least one country having Red Sea frontage.
In our view, interdiction of the Red Sea maritime route does not, of course, require control of the entire littoral. Nor, in the absence of an Israeli base in the southern portion of the Red Sea, does a position of some influence in Ethiopia materially enhance Israeli capability to counter a blockade. Furthermore, Israeli oil reserves are sufficient to withstand the effects of a blockade for six months, beyond which a blockade is unlikely to continue.
Nonetheless, the prospect of further hostile influence in the Red Sea area, whether Arab or Soviet, increases the potential threat of a blockade of a route on which Israel depends heavily not only for its Iranian oil supplies but for its important trade and communications with Asia and Africa. Anything which threatens to increase Israeli isolation is of genuine concern to them, and in the context of our relations with Israel and our objectives in the Middle East, to us as well.
Growing Soviet, Cuban and Libyan ties with the EPMG make the Israelis increasingly uncomfortable with the situation in Ethiopia and might force them to alter their estimate of Lt. Col. Mengistu as being a nationalist rather than a dedicated Marxist. They will nonetheless probably still be desirous of keeping a minimal tie with Ethiopia on the theory that an enemy of the Arabs can be an Israeli friend, and will probably continue to urge the U.S. to maintain its ties and assistance [Page 28] to the Mengistu regime in the hope that a U.S. presence will attenuate Soviet influence. They will also urge the exercise of U.S. influence to lessen the possibility of elements hostile to Israel predominating in Djibouti.
J. Chinese Interests:
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has two major interests in Africa: weakening the Soviet position and enhancing its own role as champion of Third World interests. The PRC would like to see the U.S. function as a counterweight to the Soviets in the region, but it believes that our effectiveness has been diminished by our over-identification with racist white regimes in southern Africa. The PRC has relied on economic assistance as the primary means of enhancing its own influence in Africa, but it has also supplied modest amounts of military equipment and training to certain African governments and liberation groups.
In the Horn of Africa, the PRC has attempted to strengthen its position in Ethiopia and Somalia. For several years, the PRC has been the largest single Communist donor of economic aid to Ethiopia and, although unable to compete with the Soviets in supplying sophisticated military equipment, the PRC has reportedly provided light weapons, ammunition, and training assistance to the peasant militia forces in Ethiopia. The PRC has also supplied lesser amounts of economic assistance to both Somalia and the Sudan. The PRC has increased its influence in the Sudan at the expense of the Soviets over the past six years, but the Soviets clearly retain the upper hand in Somalia, and the PRC’s ability to exploit Ethiopian fears of Somali irredentism has been undercut by Soviet moves to play both sides of the fence. The longer-term thrust of PRC policy lies in demonstrating commonality with the Africans on major North-South issues and in defining Third World interests as basically opposed to those of both the U.S. and the USSR. This sharply limits the cooperation which we can anticipate with the PRC, even though we have had a parallel interest in opposing the Soviets in Africa, particularly in Angola. While PRC efforts in the Horn may be helpful to our interests from this standpoint, our motivations are sufficiently different to provide an unsatisfactory basis for coordinating our policies in opposing Soviet moves.
III. U.S. Options
U.S. relations with Ethiopia have been sliding steadily downward since 1974. If presently controlling factors persist (e.g., Mengistu or a like-minded man in power, continued PMAC distrust of the U.S., further implementation of the Soviet arms agreement, inability of opposition groups to shake EPMG control), a further deterioration of the U.S. position seems inevitable. It is no longer a question of whether we can [Page 29] arrest or even conceivably reverse this downward trend of our position in Ethiopia. The questions we must now address are whether a further reduction of the U.S. presence in Ethiopia will be at our or Ethiopian initiative, what we can do to minimize the adverse effects of a further reduction of our position in Ethiopia, what we can appropriately do to buttress or advance our position in other countries in the region, and whether we can prevent the situation in the Horn from being perceived as a gain for the Soviets at the expense of the U.S. or whether we can emerge from this situation as a nation possessed of the flexibility to turn a losing position in one country into a regional gain. Our options in Ethiopia must focus on our military relationship with the EPMG.
A. Option 1: Hang in there.
We could try to continue to operate our programs in Ethiopia at the maximum level acceptable to the EPMG and compatible with Congressional and policy constraints on our resources. This option would entail:
—approval of the full $47 million ammunition purchase request outstanding from the Ethiopians;
—renewal of our offer of a $10 million FMS credit using FY 1977 funds;
—continue our grant MAP training program;
—delivery of all military items in the pipeline for delivery in 1977 and 1978 (these include 14 M–60 tanks, 49 armored personnel carriers, 20 106mm jeep-mounted recoilless rifles, 8 F–5E aircraft, 6 patrol boats, and radar equipment);
—continued readiness to consider FMS cash and commercial requests for defense articles, consistent with our overall arms transfer policy;
—reiteration of our economic aid project proposals to which the EPMG has not yet responded as an earnest of our willingness to cooperate with EPMG efforts to reach their social reform goals;
—maintaining our information service activities.
This option would put us in the best position either to capitalize on any small changes in the situation operating to our advantage or to place the blame for any further deterioration on the EPMG. Our continued substantial presence might help to sustain the morale of Ethiopians who are oriented toward the West and who oppose the Mengistu regime. It would enable us to claim that we had, for our part, gone as far as we could to maintain our old supportive relationship with Ethiopia despite revolutionary changes and unfounded provocations, thereby demonstrating that we are prepared to work with Socialist regimes in Africa. It could inhibit a completely free hand for the [Page 30] Soviets and could prevent those opposed to the EPMG from feeling abandoned by the U.S. to a Communist fate. It would continue some Ethiopian dependence on the U.S. for arms and give us, particularly with the option of phasing deliveries against good behavior, some potential leverage on EPMG performance. The Kenyans might see it as mitigating the pressure which might otherwise be exerted on their post-Kenyatta situation and the Israelis would applaud it.
Choice of this option would not have the effect of maintaining our presence at its present level. Whether or not this option is chosen, we have already pulled out our Peace Corps volunteers and have announced an end to grant materiel military aid, in part because of Ethiopian human rights violations. We are proceeding with plans to close our communications facility at Kagnew Station, reduce our MAAG from 46 to 21, replace the present Brigadier General MAAG chief with a Colonel, and move the MAAG from its present quarters to smaller offices in the Embassy compound. All of these pending actions can be explained as dictated by extra-Ethiopian considerations but will still be interpreted as signalling a downgrading of our interest in Ethiopia.
On the negative side, continued U.S. arms sales to the EPMG would be judged by the Sudanese, other moderate Arabs, Ethiopian opponents of the EPMG, and the Eritreans as misguided if not unfriendly support to their Ethiopian adversaries. The Somalis would view it in the same light and would question whether an improvement in their relations with the U.S. was in their interest. Its major effect on the EPMG would be to minimize any degradation in their military strength and, consequently, their ability to maintain themselves in power while they were in the process of converting from U.S. to Communist arms suppliers. We might well find that the EPMG, after we had approved their full request, would reduce it by those elements they were able to secure from Communist sources, accepting from the U.S. only those items not obtainable elsewhere. It would convince the EPMG that they can with impunity ignore U.S. concerns and still get from the U.S. all they want. The EPMG could continue to ignore our economic aid proposals, leaving us in the position of spurned suitor. Our arms supplies would continue our association with a government which we have publicly identified as a violator of basic human rights and provide them with the wherewithal to continue those violations.
This option may not, in fact, be available to us in this form. Not only may the Ethiopians turn down part or all of our offer because of having found other sources of supply, but also this option is incompatible with stated Administration desires to reduce the worldwide arms traffic and could well meet stiff Congressional opposition.[Page 31]
B. Option 2: Terminate our military relationship.
We could inform the EPMG that, as a result of our review of our world-wide arms transfer policy, we are unable hereafter to provide military supplies, equipment or training to Ethiopia. This would best be done after we had established and publicized the criteria which will henceforth govern our willingness to provide arms to foreign countries, enabling us to emphasize those factors which make Ethiopia as well as other countries no longer eligible to receive U.S. arms. If completion of our arms transfer policy review is likely to be protracted beyond the point when we feel action one way or the other must be taken on the year-old Ethiopian ammunition request, we could inform the EPMG that, while our arms transfer policy is still under review, the trend of the review makes it most unlikely that Ethiopia will henceforth be found eligible to receive U.S. arms supplies and they should accordingly make other arrangements for all military supplies, equipment and training which they have expected from us.
—Full implementation of this option would entail reimbursing the EPMG for progress payments already made on pipeline items, cancellation of commercial sales arrangements for which delivery has not been effected, and termination of training already in progress.
—We could indicate that, while our military relationship with Ethiopia is thus coming to an end, we are still hopeful of being able to contribute to Ethiopia’s social reforms and economic development through our AID program.
—We could indicate our desire to continue our cultural interchange with the Ethiopian people through our USIS activities.
This option would cause a hostile EPMG reaction. It could lead to a virulent propaganda campaign which might trigger a wave of violent anti-Americanism in Addis Ababa and other urban centers, endangering the approximately 1,000 American citizens living in Ethiopia, particularly those connected with the U.S. military and other USG activities. It would, accordingly, be prudent to reduce the USG official presence prior to such an announcement.
This option would also be likely to result in the termination by the EPMG of other USG programs, possibly even stimulating them to break relations with us. This latter eventuality would deprive us of access to the OAU and ECA headquarters in Addis Ababa. This option would deprive us of useful contact that we now enjoy in such sectors as the military, the academic community and elsewhere. It would cause the EPMG to press the Soviets and other Communist suppliers to accelerate arms deliveries and possibly to undertake other measures to bolster Ethiopian security.
All of Ethiopia’s neighbors, with the possible exception of Kenya, would applaud this decision. The Sudan, in particular, would be [Page 32] pleased. However, once significant Soviet arms had arrived in Ethiopia, the Sudanese would argue that this enhanced the danger to their security and would redouble their efforts to secure from us not only the already formally requested C–130 aircraft but also F–5’s, armored personnel carriers and other arms. Kenya might also seek additional arms from us. The Somalis would be encouraged to believe that a sharp reduction by them of Soviet activities in Somalia would merit military and economic rewards for them arranged or blessed by the U.S. The Somalis might also be tempted by such a U.S. decision to move on Djibouti and/or the Ogaden although their assumptions about the extent of Ethiopia’s existing arms stocks, their knowledge of their own short supply situation and dependence on the Soviets for logistics and resupply would give them pause. Also, the Somalis know that they can probably dominate Djibouti politically in any case.
Internally, this option would embolden the Eritrean secessionists and further demoralize the Ethiopian troops in that province, possibly leading to, at least temporarily, a successful break-away of Eritrea. It might stimulate additional defections of Ethiopian military personnel to the EDU, enhance EDU prospects for foreign support and for enlarging the area of their control in northern Ethiopia. It might also strengthen the EPRP in Addis Ababa and other urban centers. It could conceivably stimulate conflict between rival factions in the Ethiopian military and could lead to Mengistu’s overthrow and replacement by individuals more inclined to cooperate with the U.S.
This option would help to disassociate us from EPMG human rights violations.
C. Option 3: Middle Course.
We should also consider an option part-way between Options 1 and 2 under which we would:
—agree to provide up to one-third of the $47 million Ethiopian ammunition request, indicating that consideration of the remainder would be facilitated by access to top policymakers and evidence that the EPMG will take into account our views on matters of concern to us. Such matters include the desirability of a political settlement in Eritrea, improvement of Ethiopia’s human rights record, and Ethiopian restraint with respect to Djibouti.
—renew our offer to continue FMS credits;
—continue our MAP training program;
—indicate willingness to deliver all military items in the pipeline;
—continue to accept FMS and commercial requests for defense articles and services;
—indicate our desire to contribute to the EPMG’s development goals;
—maintain our USIS program.[Page 33]
(A variation of the foregoing would be to make further military deliveries dependent upon access to top policymakers and improved EPMG behavior with respect to Eritrea and human rights and restraint on Djibouti.)
This option would essentially maintain our present military supply relationship but respond only partially to the EPMG ammunition request. It would buy us time to proceed with an orderly reduction of American citizens resident in Ethiopia in an atmosphere less inclined than Option 2 to generate anti-American violence. It could provide us with some potential leverage on the EPMG and force them to realize that further failure on their part to take account of U.S. interests will not be without cost to them. The Somalis, Sudanese and other advocates of an end to our military relationship with Ethiopia might view it as a half-hearted step but might be prevailed upon to see it as a measured response moving in the direction they desire. The Kenyans would see it as, on balance, serving their interests. The French would see it as a U.S. attempt to preserve some leverage supportive of their Djibouti policy.
On the other hand, it would lack the principled justification of Option 2 and could be seen as a petty, punitive step. Alternatively, since the history of our arms relationship with Ethiopia has been characterized by inflated Ethiopian requests followed by much reduced U.S. deliveries, the EPMG might conclude that it represented nothing more than a continuation of past patterns, and the message and leverage would thereby be lost. It would in any case provide the EPMG with at least a partial cushion for their conversion to Communist suppliers.
Opposition in Congress to this option might be lessened if it were presented as a further step toward reducing our military relationship with Ethiopia and facilitating an orderly phase-down of our operations in that country.
This option would lessen but not end charges of U.S. implication in EPMG human rights violations.
D. Option 4: Gradual Termination of the Military Relationship
We should finally consider an option aimed at bringing to an end our arms supply relationship but in a manner less abrupt than Option 2. Under this option, we would acknowledge to the EPMG our awareness of their desire to diversify their sources of arms and their progress toward that goal. We would state that this goal accords with our own desire to phase down our military relationship with Ethiopia, a desire based on our human rights concerns and our distaste at the degree of our association with their efforts to solve the Eritrean problem by force rather than negotiations. We would indicate our hope that our future relationship with Ethiopia will henceforth concentrate on economic development. We would inform them that, to this end, we will:[Page 34]
—be willing to sell them part of their $47 million ammunition request, but only those items unobtainable elsewhere and in reduced amounts;
—make available, as previously promised $10 million in FMS credits in FY 77 but indicate that we do not plan to renew the offer in FY 78;
—continue to make MAP training available though on a reduced scale;
—no longer be able to supply them with major defense equipment items, including those now in the pipeline, for which we will reimburse them for progress payments with interest (this will be likely to entail serious legal problems and financial penalties for the USG);
—be willing to continue on-going AID projects, to rapidly implement project proposals already presented to but not yet approved by the EPMG, and be prepared to expand our AID program even further;
—maintain our USIS program.
This option would reduce our military relationship to the lowest level susceptible of acceptance by the EPMG, given the likelihood that some of the ammunition items would be extremely difficult if not impossible to find substitutes for elsewhere. It would lessen the punitive impact of Option 2 by indicating a willingness on our part to cooperate with and facilitate EPMG efforts to shift to more ideologically compatible arms suppliers, without leaving them bereft at a time of difficulty.
This option would, like Option 3, give us time for an orderly reduction of the resident American population. It would lessen the risk in the Option 2 approach of a break in relations, but would, if accepted, leave us with at least a skeleton military aid presence and a substantial economic aid mission. It would be welcomed by the Sudan and Somalia as a substantial step away from a U.S. arms relationship with their Ethiopian foe but would be less likely than Option 2 to stimulate the destabilizing perception of an arms imbalance in the area. It would be less likely than Option 2 to give the Somalis the impression that we are eager to transfer virtually all of our Ethiopian eggs into the Somali basket, giving them an undesirable degree of leverage in the process of readjusting our relationship. It would be welcomed by the Kenyans and the Israelis as designed to maintain a U.S. presence in Ethiopia. It would demonstrate to others dependent on U.S. arms supplies a measure of U.S. reliability despite considerable provocation. It would significantly ease our degree of association with Ethiopian human rights violations and would encourage internal opponents of the Mengistu regime.
Our refusal to deliver major equipment items already contracted and partially paid for would subject us to the charge of bad faith and [Page 35] would carry the risk, if reduced, of a break in relations and danger to American citizens. It seems unlikely that the EPMG, denied what they most want from us, the major military items, will be any more amenable than in the past to a continued let alone enhanced role for us in their economic development plans. It would be likely to result in the cessation of our USIS program.
IV. U.S. Policy in Other Countries in the Region
Since we have to assume that the U.S. position in Ethiopia will continue to decline over the short term and that our choice among the above options will only either slow or accelerate that process, our actions toward other countries in the regions will be only marginally affected by that choice. However, if the inevitable reduction of our position in Ethiopia is to be turned to a net U.S. advantage in the Horn region, we must consider actions available to us to consolidate and advance our position in neighboring countries.
Sudan’s concern for its security (shared by Egypt and Saudi Arabia) will remain high whatever we do in Ethiopia. Our willingness to proceed with the C–130 sale, to go beyond that in the military field and to provide the kind of social and economic development aid which will broaden the support base for the Nimeiri regime could all contribute to the stability of the regime, the confidence of the Sudanese, Egyptians and Saudis, and our position in the area. We will have to decide which of these elements of support, and to what extent, are compatible with our arms transfer concerns and with Congressional and Israeli tolerance, or whether our interests in the Sudan override those concerns and merit a major U.S. commitment of support.
With respect to Somalia, we have to decide whether a relationship with us close enough to end or drastically restrict Soviet operations from Somali military facilities is (a) possible, in view of the degree of Somali entanglement with the Soviets, and (b) important enough to us and likely to be sufficiently durable to warrant a positive response from us to Somali military and economic aid requests.
If convinced that the Somalis are genuinely prepared to reduce their Soviet ties significantly, the Saudis have indicated that they are prepared to make such a move financially worth the Somalis’ while. We should consult with the Saudis to determine what specific changes in behavior towards, on the one hand, the Soviets, and, on the other, Western and pro-Western countries, are deserving of what degree of Saudi financial reward. If the Somalis are prepared to move to a point where a cut-off of Soviet military support seems likely, at which point the Saudis would presumably be willing to be generous with finances, we must then determine whether Somali replacement of Soviet by American arms is sufficiently worth our while for a Presidential deter[Page 36]mination to be made that Somalia is eligible for the Foreign Military Sales program or for us to agree to permit commercial arms purchases by Somalia.
If it is determined that the politico-military strategic considerations with respect to Somalia are not sufficiently important to warrant a breach of the Administration’s policy of limiting U.S. arms transfers, we would have to decide if the use of our good offices on Somalia’s behalf with other Western arms suppliers would satisfy the Somali security requirements. In any case, we are preparing an offer of economic aid and we should actively study other ways of improving relations with Somalia.
With respect to Djibouti, in addition to continuing to counsel restraint in both Mogadiscio and Addis Ababa and urging the Soviets to do likewise, we should approach other African states, particularly in Francophone Africa, to suggest that they undertake more active measures to defuse the situation, including considering the possibility of establishing resident diplomatic missions.
While Option 2 could stimulate the Kenyans to seek additional military aid, Kenya’s absorptive capacity for such aid is likely to be close to its upward limit with current UK efforts to upgrade Kenya’s ground force capability and U.S. provision of F–5 aircraft and related training. It may be more pertinent to consider what U.S. action might be most appropriate and effective in facilitating a smooth succession, thereby reducing the opportunities for Soviet or other mischief, and to enhance Kenyan confidence in the post-Kenyatta period.
We should keep in mind the fact that all of the present contenders are people we can work with comfortably, they all have an interest in a smooth, rapid transition, and the Kenya military is probably the least politicized armed force in Africa and has a stake in the country’s stability and prosperity. We should also bear in mind that the major vulnerability of the Kenyatta regime has been the charge of corruption: such charges against a successor to Kenyatta could have politically fatal consequences. Under the circumstances, it would seem desirable for us to avoid political action which, if revealed, would increase the vulnerability of our chosen candidates and add to pressures for repudiation or a reduction of the US-Kenya tie. We should consider whether the most useful action for us under the circumstances might not be assurances to all the Kenyan contenders that we are prepared to be at least as forthcoming with our support for the new Kenya leadership which succeeds Kenyatta as we have been towards his government.
- Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files 1977–1981, Box 40, PRM–21. Secret. Drafted by Richard Post; cleared in NEA, EUR, PM, D/HA, EA, H, ARA, INR, AID, USIA, IO, DOD/ISA, CIA, and NSC. This paper was prepared in response to PRM/NSC–21; see Document 4.↩
- PRM/NSC–12 called for a policy review of conventional arms transfers. (Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files 1977–1981, Box 34, PRM–12 )↩
- DOD disagrees on this point. It holds that U.S. interests in the Horn are chiefly strategic, reflecting the area’s proximity to Middle East oil fields, the sea oil routes and the Red Sea passage to the Mediterranean. The DOD views with concern the continuing expansion of Soviet facilities and presence in Somalia and inroads elsewhere in the Horn. The U.S. seeks regional stability and evolutionary developments in an area environment congenial to U.S. goals. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- In telegram 12584 from Addis Ababa, December 29, 1976, the Embassy reported on the Soviet agreement to provide military assistance to Ethiopia. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760474–0980)↩
- See footnote 3, Document 7.↩
- See Document 2.↩
- See Document 8.↩
- In telegram 21 from Djibouti, May 9, the Consulate reported on the Djibouti referendum and elections. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770162–0666)↩