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


  • Somalia: Relations with the USSR (U)2

When Siad expelled the Russians in November 1977, he permitted a modest Soviet Embassy to remain in Mogadiscio and the Soviets kept an ambassador, rather than permitting relations to sink to chargé level. We took this to mean that both Siad and the Soviets wished to provide for the possibility of warmer relations in the future. On several occasions during the past year Siad has raised the specter of Soviet plotting against him, alleging that pro-Soviet officers were aiming to replace him and rejoin the Soviet camp and arguing that he would fall if we didn’t give military aid. There has never been any independent confirmation that such pro-Soviet plotters exist in Somalia, among officers or civilians. In fact, Siad has kept most of the men who were considered pro-Soviet before he broke relations in office, notably Defense Minister Samantar. Siad has maintained the system the Soviets helped him build to control Somalia, based on a large security service and a mass “socialist” party and it continues to serve him well. (C)

The intelligence community came to the conclusion several months ago that Siad himself represented the most likely source of a shift back toward the Soviets. Recent events tend to confirm this judgment, for Siad seems to have taken some initiative to explore this option. What we know indicates the Soviets are not eager to have him back—for the time being, at least. It could put a serious strain on their position in Ethiopia. (S)

Meanwhile, Siad has steadily expanded guerrilla operations in the Ogaden, now estimated to involve 50,000 men. The Somali military system has been reoriented toward supporting them. His continued pleas notwithstanding, Siad is not badly off for arms and military supplies, having been helped by the Egyptians and others with Saudi money. (S)

We have been able to supply economic and humanitarian assistance but the continued Ogaden insurgency and Siad’s inability to meet [Page 260] Kenyan requirements for reassurance on borders makes it difficult for us to do more for Somalia without paying a heavy price with other African countries, from whom Siad has remained totally alienated. There are human rights problems, too, for Siad has more people in jail now than he had before he broke with the Soviets; he executed a group of military plotters a few weeks ago and he has oppressed rival tribesmen in the military and among civil leaders. The human rights situation in Somalia contrasts strikingly with that in Kenya, where the 16 remaining detainees have just been released by President Moi. (C)

In short, Siad has made himself difficult to help and a problem for the countries who would like to be Somalia’s friends. We are taking a new look at what we might do now to get a little movement into this situation, but it is not easy. We do not think a move back to the Soviets is imminent. (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 69, Somalia: 7/78–12/79. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. A notation in an unknown hand below this line reads, “In response to your PDB query.”