43. Memorandum From Paul B. Henze of the National Security Council Staff to the Deputy Director for Operations, Central Intelligence Agency (McMahon)1


  • Covert Action in Ethiopia

Dr. Brzezinski has asked that a series of ideas for covert action in respect to Ethiopia be passed to you for initiative. These ideas would support certain overt initiatives which we are now developing.

Within Ethiopia we would like to build and exacerbate tension between the Soviets and Cubans and the Ethiopians. We would like to enhance Mengistu’s doubts about the totality of the Soviets’ commitment to him and to feed suspicions, which he reportedly already has, that they are grooming men more amenable to doing their bidding with whom they could replace him. There may be other members of the PMGE and the Derg whose suspicions of the Soviets and Cubans might also be enhanced.

On a broader scale, we would like to exacerbate tensions between Russians/Cubans and Ethiopians at all levels of government and society. Russians always have difficulty relating to foreign cultures. Ethiopians are perhaps the proudest and most culture-conscious of all Africans. Strains with Russians seem inevitable. As their numbers increase and their direct intervention in military operations becomes more frequent, Soviets and Cubans would seem especially likely to develop strained relations with enlisted men and officers in the Ethiopian armed forces.

We are primarily interested in impact in Ethiopia as far as the kinds of action mentioned above are concerned, but the actions themselves could be initiated abroad as well as within the country.

As another facet of this effort, we would like to see greater covert exploitation abroad of the problems the Soviet/Cuban involvement is causing in Ethiopia and more negative analysis of the Soviet actions. Suggested themes include:

• The Soviets are recreating Mussolini’s African Empire, in the wake of already having taken over the Portuguese Empire; in other words, the Soviets are the only colonial power left in Africa.

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• Disdain for African sensitivities is shown by the Soviets’ crassly setting the Somalis against the Ethiopians and their encouragement of the genocidal policies of the Derg in Eritrea.

• The Soviets are encouraging Mengistu and extremists who are even more radical than he is to brutalize their own people and fan tribal and regional hatreds which will cause problems for years to come.

• The cost of Soviet intervention to the Ethiopians is high—and includes not only the bill for the arms which they are expected to pay for, but economic disruption and the destruction of normal life.

• The Soviets are pouring in weapons but show much less interest in providing economic aid. Instead, the effort to pay for the weapons will bankrupt Ethiopia.

It may be that some aspects of this effort could be accommodated under existing Presidential Findings. If the effort as a whole requires a new Presidential Finding, it should be prepared as soon as possible.

Since an SCC meeting on the Horn of Africa is scheduled for 25 January,2 it would be desirable to have a paper implementing the above suggestions ready for review at that time.

Paul B. Henze
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 1, Chron File: 1/78. Secret; Sensitive. The memorandum was also sent to the attention of [name not declassified].
  2. The meeting actually took place on January 26. See Document 46.