17. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Somalia1

100279. Subject: Somali Ambassador’s Call on Secretary.

1. In half-hour conversation with Secretary May 3, Somali Ambassador Addou sought assurances that US would be prepared in principle to provide Somalia with economic and military aid. Addou stressed that he was acting under personal instructions from President Siad delivered to him in private meetings and of which only Security Chief General Suleiman might be aware. He emphasized the importance of preventing any leak, noting specifically that MOFA DirGen Abdul Rahman Jama Barre would not be privy to these instructions.

2. Addou said Siad was increasingly concerned at the growing ties between Ethiopia and the USSR, particularly the latter’s supply of arms to Ethiopia. Siad does not believe that Somalia and Ethiopia can be in the same camp at the same time. However, he noted, the depth of Somalia’s relationship with the Soviets makes it very difficult for Somalia to make a change. The Soviets have been pushing hard for Somalia to submerge its differences with Ethiopia in the interests of their common espousal of socialism and had even urged that Somalia join with Ethiopia, Aden and eventually Djibouti in a socialist federation. Addou said that the Somalis see socialism as a pragmatic way of developing economically and socially, but they are also very strong [Page 47] nationalists and deeply religious and have no interest in international socialism. Their talks with the Soviets have been very tough, including those with Podgorny, and the discussions had deadlocked with the Somalis rejecting any compromise of Somali national interests.

3. Addou said that in order to resist Soviet pressures, Somalia had to look for alternatives. Siad had asked him to seek from the Secretary and the President a response to Somalia’s request for economic and military assistance. The Somali need for assurances particularly on the military side had gained urgency because of the Soviet deliveries of military equipment to Ethiopia which raised the possibility that Ethiopian leader Mengistu, now in Moscow obviously to discuss military matters with the Soviets, might start something which would jeopardize Somali security. Addou noted that fifteen years ago Somalia had sought military assistance from the United States and European countries, and only when these efforts failed had they accepted a Russian offer. Addou noted that Somali flexibility and the ability to withstand Soviet pressure depended on whether the US response was negative or positive. He added that Somalia was not now asking for a huge supply of arms from the US but did need to know if the US was in principle prepared to supply arms and would be willing to send an initial token shipment.

4. The Secretary said that on the economic side we are prepared to send a group very promptly to Somalia to discuss possible projects, and that Addou could so report. The US is also prepared to encourage others to provide economic aid. With respect to arms, the Secretary noted that we have been trying to formulate our arms transfer policy and hope to have that review completed in a couple of weeks. He suggested that meanwhile Somalia should look at alternative sources. Once we have decided on our overall policy, the US will be in a better position to respond one way or the other.

5. Addou accepted Secretary’s offer to send AID team and expressed hope for earliest possible positive response to military aid request.

6. Addou reiterated the importance President Siad attaches to having Addou see President Carter. The Secretary said that he and the President will both be leaving Thursday morning.2 They had tried to find space on the President’s calendar for Addou but preparations for the trip to Europe, press conferences and other commitments have made it impossible. The Secretary offered, however, to arrange an appointment for Ambassador Addou with the Vice President in the next couple of days.3 Addou replied that he would be glad to see the [Page 48] Vice President but given the importance Siad attaches to his seeing the President, he hopes that will be possible when the President returns. The Secretary agreed to discuss this with the President.

7. After leaving meeting, Addou again stressed to Acting Assistant Secretary Seelye need for secrecy, specifically urging that Ambassador Loughran discuss these matters only with President Siad.

8. Action requested: We are prepared send AID team ASAP, but prefer confirmation from Siad to Ambassador Loughran that team will be welcome and will receive necessary support and assistance from GSDR unhindered by Soviet advisers.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770155–0602. Secret; Immediate. Drafted by Post (AF/E); cleared in S/S–O and S; approved by Seelye. Sent for information to Addis Ababa, Cairo, Jidda, Khartoum, Moscow, Nairobi, and Sana.
  2. May 5.
  3. See Document 18.