7. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to Vice President Mondale 1


  • Somalia

The pace of events in the Horn of Africa has accelerated greatly during the past few weeks. Fortunately, we have a PRM exercise on this area nearing completion.2 Pending the outcome of the PRM process, this is the way things seem to look:

• Somalia is upset about Soviet support for the Ethiopian military regime, feels it may be left in the lurch and is looking for ways to lessen its dependence on the Soviets. Castro’s effort to get the Ethiopians and Somalis together seems to have failed and Castro ended up more favorably impressed by the Ethiopians. He found the Somalis, who pressed their longstanding territorial demands on Ethiopia, more irredentist than socialist. The Soviets probably encouraged this Castro reconciliation venture, but unless they do something to assuage Somali feelings, they will lose by it.3

• An interesting measure of whether things have really changed in Somalia will be what happens to the Cubans there, some of whom have been helping the Somalis mount guerrilla operations into Ethiopia.

• The U.S. has on two recent occasions told the Somalis that we are interested in better relations. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Seelye had a three-hour conversation with President Siad early this month.4 Assistant Secretary Schaufele last week had a conversation with the Somali Ambassador here (who has just left for Mogadiscio to participate in a policy review) in which he told him we would like to improve relations.5 Meanwhile, the Saudis have been talking to [Page 13] us about what they might do, and we believe they may have offered the Somalis up to $300,000,000 to break with the Soviets.6

• The Somalis are concerned about how to replace the large-scale aid the Soviets have been giving them. With Saudi money, they would have little difficulty on the economic side, for they could hire European and American technicians. Replacing military aid is much more of a problem, since they are totally Soviet-equipped. While we could probably justify some economic aid ourselves and get Congress to go along, I am skeptical about justifying military aid. We intend to look at this in the PRM.

• Even if we find the Somalis warming up to us rapidly, we will have to exercise some caution, for the situation in Ethiopia is very fluid, and we haven’t reached the point where we feel we should give up Ethiopia in exchange for Somalia. We should get as many of our friends and allies to help as possible, not only the Saudis but perhaps the Iranians, the Italians, Germans, Israelis and others.

• Finally, there is the fact that Somali irredentism is very deep-seated and affects not only Ethiopia but Kenya. We cannot let the Somalis think we will support their extensive territorial claims against their neighbors, including the TFAI which is slated to become independent in June.

I hope you will participate in the discussion which the PRM will generate.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Horn/Special, Box 1, Chron File: 3/77. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. See Document 10.
  3. In telegram 1533 from Addis Ababa, March 15, the Embassy reported on Castro’s visit to Addis Ababa and his attempts at mediation between Ethiopia and Somalia. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770092–0479)
  4. See footnote 3, Document 3.
  5. Telegram 67050 to Mogadiscio, March 25, reported on the meeting between Schaufele and Addou. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770105–0070)
  6. In telegram 1357 from Jidda, February 17, Ambassador Porter discussed Saudi assistance to Somalia with the Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister on February 16. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770056–0825)