28. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • PRC Review of Situation in Horn of Africa

The PRC met for an hour yesterday2 to review the situation in the Horn of Africa in light of Somali and Eritrean insurgent advances in Ethiopia and increasing evidence of deterioration of Mengistu’s regime.

We decided:

• to accelerate our efforts to provide support to Sudan;

• to take steps to reassure and strengthen Kenya;

• to explore means of getting as many African leaders as possible to participate in a call to all outside powers to refrain from supplying [Page 66] arms to fuel the Ethiopian-Somali confrontation so that there can be a cease-fire and an effort at mediation.3

Since we do not want to supply arms to either Ethiopia or Somalia now but the Soviets are supplying them to both, an appeal for an arms embargo will dramatize the destructive role the Soviets are playing in the area.

We also decided that we should keep up dialogue with the Somalis, even though we do not want to supply arms, and that we should reciprocate the Ethiopians’ desire to talk to us about their present predicament, though there is no case for meeting their request that we send an Ambassador. We will go ahead too with two small aid projects in Ethiopia to show our concern for its people and we will look for opportunities to provide modest economic assistance to Djibouti. We will look into the possibility of some medical aid for both Ethiopia and Somalia.

It is my feeling that these decisions represent most of the sensible steps we can take at the moment. We cannot intervene in the conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia and we have to let the Eritrean situation take its course.4 We want to enhance our longer-range chances for increasing our influence in both Ethiopia and Somalia and do what we can to ensure that the Soviets gain as little as possible—or in fact, lose—from their involvement. We will probably have to reassess the situation again in a few weeks if conditions in the Horn do not stabilize, which seems very unlikely.

If you approve, I will formally instruct State to take the appropriate action.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files 1977–1981, Box 184, PRC 033 Horn of Africa, 8/25/77. Secret. Sent for information. Carter initialed the memorandum.
  2. See Document 27.
  3. Carter wrote “ok” in the left margin next to each of the three bulleted points.
  4. See Document 9 for a description of the Eritrean situation.
  5. Carter checked the Approve option and wrote, “JC.”