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


  • NSC Meeting on the Horn of Africa

At the National Security Council meeting on February 23, 1978, you approved the following measures:2

Next Diplomatic Steps

The United States will temporarily defer pressing our U.N. Security Council resolution on the Horn,3 while encouraging the Nigerians to undertake a diplomatic initiative at the OAU summit in Tripoli based on our resolution. Should the OAU approach stall, we will encourage [Page 161] the Africans to bring the issue back to the United Nations as their own initiative.4

Illicit Arms Transfers

The United States will seek consultations with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and Pakistan with the following objectives:

—To inform them that transfer of US-origin equipment to Somalia without US authorization would be contrary to our arms sales agreements.5

—In the case of Saudi Arabia also to present evidence of the transfer by Saudi Arabia of US origin weapons to Somalia, and to underscore our concern about such transfers as contrary to our bilateral arms sales agreements.

—In the case of Saudi Arabia also to advise that such illegal transfers could have a seriously adverse impact on Congressional approval of the sale of F–15s to Saudi Arabia.6

—To inform them that we have no objection to their supplying non-US origin weapons to Somalia (particularly anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons). However, we would emphasize the importance of their pressing Somalia to withdraw from the Ogaden and to use such weapons only for the defense of Somalia, as opposed to the continued occupation of the Ogaden.7

—To state that should Somalia agree to announce and implement a decision to withdraw from the Ogaden, the United States would be prepared to initiate Congressional consultations to authorize third country arms transfers of defensive US-origin weapons to Somalia for the defense of Somalia’s territorial integrity.8

—To state* that, in the event of an invasion of Somalia, should the countries of the region decide to deliver military equipment to Somalia, or to provide air cover or other units to counter Ethiopian or Cuban air capability, the United States would be prepared to offset Soviet threats or actions directed at such assistance measures.

* The above could be qualified by adding the phrase “only if asked”9 . . .

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Although no final decision was reached, you also indicated your willingness to consider authorizing third country arms transfers to Somalia in the event Ethiopia aided by the Soviet Union and Cuba invades Somalia, even in the absence of a Somali commitment to withdraw from the Ogaden.10

US Carrier Task Force

You did not approve at this time the deployment of a United States aircraft carrier into the area, but you indicated willingness to consider moving a carrier closer to the area—for example, Diego Garcia.

Publicity and Congressional Consultations

The United States should undertake efforts to publicize more widely the Soviet and Cuban role in Ethiopia including, for example, the command responsibilities of Soviet General Petrov and the number of Cubans in Ethiopia. We also should ensure that key US allies and members of the OAU understand the situation in the Horn and collectively deplore the Soviet and Cuban role in Ethiopia.

Consultations with the Congress are to begin to ensure complete understanding on the part of the Congress with respect to the role of Soviets and Cubans in Ethiopia, and the strategic and political implications of their role and of an Ethiopian-Cuban invasion of Somalia, and regarding possible US third-country transfers.

This summary of decisions has been cleared with the Secretaries of State and Defense.11

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files 1977–1981, Box 55, NSC 8, 2/23/78. Top Secret; Sensitive. Carter initialed in the upper right corner.
  2. See Document 62.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 58.
  4. Carter wrote “Try to expedite” in the margin.
  5. Carter put a checkmark in the right margin.
  6. Carter wrote “once is enough—already done?” in the margin with arrows pointing to this and the preceding paragraph.
  7. Carter put a checkmark in the right margin.
  8. Carter added “and to supply some items of our own (trucks, etc)” at the end of the sentence and put a checkmark in the right margin.
  9. Carter changed this to read “The above could be qualified by adding the phrase if asked” and checked the Approve option.
  10. Carter made this paragraph another decision point and crossed out “Although no final decision was reached, you also” and changed “Soviet Union and Cuba” to “Soviet Union or Cuba.”
  11. Carter put a checkmark in the right margin of this and the preceding two paragraphs. In this last paragraph, he underlined “State” and “Defense” and wrote, “Zbig—inform me of any further objections. J.”