16. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1

Soviet/Cuban Presence in Africa and U.S. Interests

[Omitted here are the title page and table of contents.]


Part I—US and Others’ Interests and Objectives in Limiting Soviet/Cuban Influence in Africa

It is in the interest of the U.S. (and of other Western nations): to have a peaceful and stable Africa of independent nations where Soviet/Cuban influence is not predominant and where the level of Soviet presence and involvement does not alter the overall global balance between the U.S. and the USSR; to achieve the modernization and material improvement which Africans desire by helping them to help themselves; to help the Africans achieve their goals of human dignity, social justice and majority rule; to preserve reasonable and non-discriminatory access to Africa’s mineral, agricultural, and marine resources; and to focus the inevitable US-Soviet competition into peaceful economic, trade, cultural, informational, and diplomatic channels.

Most African nations lack the expertise and resources to resolve their problems and are compelled to seek external assistance. Africans would therefore strongly resist any Western effort to brand all Soviet/Cuban involvement in Africa as “unacceptable”. Indeed, Soviet and Cuban efforts in economic development, health care, technical educa[Page 40]tion and food production are “acceptable” to us as well as to the Africans. It is the use of large-scale military efforts coupled with Soviet/Cuban political spoiling tactics which are “unacceptable” to the U.S., particularly when they encourage African leaders to seek military solutions to problems which cannot be resolved militarily and make more difficult the negotiated resolution of disputes.

The long-term impact of Soviet/Cuban involvement in Africa is the subject of vigorous debate. At one end of the range of opinion is the view that the Soviets and Cubans cannot be dislodged once they have acquired a position of dominance. As a consequence, the division of position and influence in Africa between East and West could be changed to our disadvantage, and the global balance shifted in favor of the Soviets, depending on the strategic importance of the African nation taken over. Other observers, however, believe that the Soviets have demonstrated they can maintain a position of dominance only where they are able to station substantial military forces and have shown repeatedly that they are unable to maintain a close relationship with an African nation, in part because of their heavy-handed behavior, but more fundamentally because as they attempt to utilize a position of influence to pursue their own objectives, they erode and ultimately lose their position of dominance. Most observers believe that the history of Africa since 1945 clearly demonstrates the strength of African nationalism, and the skill and will of African leaders to prevent the Soviets from achieving a dominant position.

While the experience of the past two decades suggests that African nationalism has been strong enough to keep the Soviets in the role of just another foreign power, there are several significant differences between the present situation and the earlier period. First, the Soviets have shown a willingness to involve themselves militarily in problem situations in Africa. Second, Cuban combat forces represent a new element which could enable the Soviets to acquire and maintain effective control in Africa in a pattern paralleling Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Third, by providing nearly all the manpower needed, the less heavy-handed Cubans enable the Soviets to keep in the background. In view of these differences, the balance between Soviet pressures and African nationalism which prevailed during the past two decades may have been altered, and as a consequence, the pattern evolved between 1955 and 1978 may not hold for the next two decades.2

This Review Memorandum assesses the problems posed by Soviet/Cuban involvement for the present and the immediate future. A follow-[Page 41]on assessment3 should be prepared in 12 to 14 months to permit the identification of any significant changes and the need for additional or different counter-measures.

European attitudes toward Soviet/Cuban involvement in Africa are ambivalent and the implications for policy uncertain. Europeans see a challenge to their own and Western interests; would like something to be done about it; and fear the consequences for global balance of an inadequate Western response. However, with the exception of France, the Europeans feel there is little they can do themselves, and see at least as much risk as benefit in deepening Western or US support for regimes like that of Zaire. Many European governments have strong reservations about an African intervention force. Others think that a Western-backed African bloc would be of doubtful effectiveness and might drive African states unwilling to line up with the West into the arms of the Soviets. On the other hand, European governments agree that every effort should be made to find peaceful solutions to the increasingly more critical problems of southern Africa.

The moderate and conservative Arab governments and Iran would like to see Soviet/Cuban activities in Africa countered by the U.S. Morocco, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have shown the greatest concern and have been the most vocal in urging us to action.

Most Latin American states are mildly concerned over and disapproving of Soviet/Cuban involvement in Africa. But they regard it as a distant problem not directly affecting them, and are by and large unwilling to do anything about it or able to agree even on publicly condemning it.

The Chinese can be expected to continue their sharp propaganda attacks on Soviet/Cuban involvement in Africa and to intensify their challenge of Cuba’s Non-Aligned credentials. But Peking will attempt to avoid over-identification with western moves.

While Africans universally agree the Soviets are seeking influence in Africa, some see this as a normal “big power” effort to serve its interests while others believe the Soviets seek political and ideological hegemony. Governments which rely heavily on the Soviets see them as supportive and reliable. Governments which face opposition from groups which are recipients of Soviet aid ascribe a conspiratorial design to Soviet/Cuban behavior. Those in the middle find Soviet and Cuban activities peripheral to the development needs of Africa but essential to the successful resolution of southern African problems. Almost none are willing to condemn or forswear all outside military intervention. At the July OAU Summit, the Chiefs of State, while reaffirming OAU [Page 42] opposition to foreign intervention in the internal affairs of African states, reiterated traditional OAU approval of appeals by sovereign states for outside help. Still, Nigerian President Obasanjo, apparently articulating the evolving OAU consensus, cautioned the Soviets and Cubans not to overstay their welcome in Africa. Africans are divided on whether the Cubans are playing an independent role or are surrogates for the Soviets. A number of countries see the Cubans as a useful catalyst to frighten the West into exerting greater pressure on the white regimes of southern Africa. Few Africans see any alternative to having the Cubans and the Soviets help equip and train the fighting forces of the Namibian and Zimbabwian nationalists. Nearly all are prepared to accept Soviet support to achieve black majority rule in southern Africa, a goal which Africans of all political persuasions are determined to achieve.

African moderate states are divided on whether Soviet/Cuban involvement constitutes a threat to their freedom. Many Africans do not think that there is a Cuban problem or a Soviet problem; they note that the Soviets left Somalia, Egypt, and Sudan when requested to do so, and seem confident that the Cubans will depart when asked. Still others believe that if Western countries object to a Soviet and Cuban presence in Africa, they must prevent the rise of situations in which the African participants believe that Soviet or Cuban help is necessary.

Part II—Soviet and Cuban Involvement, Present and Potential

The Soviets and the Cubans have nearly 60,000 civilian and military personnel scattered across the African Continent; they have mounted massive military aid programs; they have planned, launched, and sustained extensive combat operations in support of African governments which have requested their help. Although the Soviets have personnel in some 35 African countries and the Cubans in 13, the recent expansion of Soviet and Cuban activity has been focused principally in three areas: Angola, Ethiopia, and the nations neighboring Rhodesia. (The Soviet presence in Algeria and Libya dates back to an earlier period.) Cuba is the principal supplier of manpower. There are now some 42 to 47 thousand Cubans in Africa, including the 20,000 combat troops in Angola, the 17,000 in Ethiopia, and the 500 military advisors in Mozambique. In addition, there are 5,000 Cuban civilian advisors in Angola, with another 5,000 expected to arrive before the end of 1978. (See Annex I for a more detailed inventory of Soviet and Cuban activity.)4

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Soviet and Cuban objectives in Africa are harmonious but not necessarily synonomous. The Soviets and the Cubans have developed a symbiotic relationship in their African adventure which furthers both their particular and mutual interests.

Soviet motivations, objectives, and intentions represent a mixture of geopolitical, strategic, and ideological/political elements which differ area by area on the Continent.

In the Horn the Soviets appear to calculate that if they can establish a strong, permanent presence in Ethiopia, they will be in a position to strengthen their strategic impact on Middle Eastern events and affect the flow of oil, to project their military power east into the Indian Ocean, and extend their influence west and south into Africa. At the same time, active involvement in Ethiopia permits the Soviets to displace the West and specifically the U.S. from a long-held position of influence, to enhance their status as a great power and expand their world role, and to support the ideologically compatible Mengistu regime.5

Angola’s location on the South Atlantic is strategically important and its proximity to foci of weakness (Zaire, Namibia) is attractive, but support for an ideologically compatible liberation movement-cum-government to the detriment of Western interests is equally attractive and important.

Soviet involvement in Algeria and Libya reflects a similar “mix” of motivation: a strategic presence on NATO’s southern flank and the support of ideologically compatible regimes plus the attraction of hard currency earnings from massive arms sales.

Soviet involvement in the Rhodesian conflict in the short term is heavily ideological/political. Support of the black nationalist guerrillas enables the Soviets simultaneously to associate themselves with a “progressive” political grouping, to support a liberation struggle, to help the member states of the Organization of African Unity achieve one of their primary goals, and to undermine the position, influence, and interests of the West. In the longer term, their interests may be more focused on strategic influence on the events in South Africa and ultimately on the geopolitical importance and resources of southern Africa.

While the connecting thread of Soviet involvement in Africa is opportunism, there were different circumstances and different attractions in each of the areas/situations the Soviets have entered. More importantly, there are differing degrees of Soviet interest, involvement and commitment.

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In the near term, the Soviets will not abandon their present role in African affairs, and are likely to seek to consolidate, if not to extend it. Nevertheless, the costs to the Soviets in terms of Soviet-US and Soviet-European relations could reach proportions which could be meaningful in Soviet decision-making, and give rise to some second thoughts about the pace and scope of Soviet involvement in Africa, if not about the long-run objective of displacing Western presence, position, and influence from Africa. (See also NIE 11/4/78, Soviet Goals and Expectations in the Global Power Arena (SECRET/NOFORN/NOCONTRACT.)6

Cuba is not involved in Africa solely or even primarily because of its relationship with the USSR. It is deeply committed to the pursuit of its own ideological and pragmatic political goals there: the advancement of “The Revolution” and the support of “progressive” regimes, the expansion of its own political influence in the Third World at the expense of the West (read U.S.), and the establishment for itself of a major leadership role among developing nations.

Cuba is not likely to abandon its objectives in Africa easily or soon. There are probably only three sets of circumstances which would cause the Cubans to consider a drastic reduction in their presence or early withdrawal:

—An explicit request from the African governments directly involved for the Cubans to depart and/or an unmistakable change of mind by other African governments which to date have found Cuba’s presence and activities acceptable;

—A Soviet threat to withdraw or severely reduce its economic assistance to Cuba unless Havana withdraws from Africa. The termination or the reduction of Soviet logistical support would force the Cubans to reduce their African presence, but they would not withdraw even if they had to go it alone in Africa;

—Direct US military measures or the threat of US military action.

Judging from the response of Soviet officials and spokesmen to our diplomatic and public “warnings”, the Soviets may have initially discounted the significance and strength of our disapproval of their African adventurism. Publicly, the Soviets have insisted that they are active in Africa only in response to the explicit invitation of the African government involved, and countered Western criticism of the Soviet/Cuban role in Shaba II with accusations of Western intervention and Western responsibility. Our concerns, however, have clearly registered [Page 45] with the Soviet leadership. On June 22, the Soviets issued an official statement justifying at length Soviet African policy and criticizing US and Western policies and actions there.7 Although the Soviet public responses have been along predictable lines, there are some indications that behind the scenes the Soviets are beginning to take seriously the opposition of the U.S., the Europeans, and some Third Worlders to their military involvement in Africa.8

US efforts to deal with Cuban adventurism in Africa have not produced substantial results so far. Our diplomatic warnings that continued Cuban military presence there will make progress toward normalization impossible do not appear to have had any appreciable effect. However, Western action in Zaire, including the commitment of US military forces and our strong public statements,9 may have caused Castro to review one of the “givens” of his African policy—that the U.S. would not become militarily involved in Africa. It is not yet clear what, if any, shifts might occur in Cuban policy as a result. It is unlikely that Cuba will draw back from areas where it is already heavily committed, but recent Western action might result in somewhat greater caution on the part of Cuba with respect to future involvements.

Cuban losses, both killed and wounded in both Angola and Ethiopia are probably not in excess of 3 to 4 thousand. The highest estimate of the total number killed in action is 1,200. (In comparison, 606 Cubans were killed and 8,708 were injured in traffic accidents last year.) The psychological impact in Cuba has been minimal. Casualties would have to be much higher to be sharply felt among a population of nine million. Even if the numbers were larger, the effect would still be modest because of the careful management of all news. There are no casualty reports; the few references to losses are couched in terms of “fallen heroes” and are accompanied by patriotic appeals which have an undoubted effect.

Within the next six months to one year, we believe that the Soviets and Cubans will remain occupied primarily with their existing commitments to Angola, Ethiopia, and the Rhodesian nationalists, although it is possible that the scale of these commitments will be increased. In Angola, the continuing civil war will likely require the Soviets and the Cubans to make even greater commitments to protect their current position. In Ethiopia, the Cubans and the Soviets continue to resist [Page 46] participation in a costly and perhaps unwinnable battle for Eritrea. But should the Ethiopian military campaign continue, it is likely that the Soviets and the Cubans will eventually be drawn into a costly involvement in that conflict. Alternatively, if the Soviets promote a negotiated settlement with the Eritrean rebels against Mengistu’s wishes, they will receive little Ethiopian gratitude. If the renewed pressure of Somali liberation forces continues and expands, the Soviets and the Cubans may find it necessary to resume an active role in the Ogaden fighting. In any event, the Soviets will have to continue to deal with an unstable Ethiopian regime facing major economic and social difficulties. Should the political stalemate continue in Rhodesia, the Soviets and Cubans are expected to increase their military assistance to the Rhodesian guerrillas. Cuban military personnel may begin accompanying guerrilla units into Rhodesia, but we doubt that Cuba is presently contemplating a major offensive in Rhodesia using Cuban military units.

Over the longer term, southern Africa has the greatest potential for Soviet/Cuban involvement. Zaire probably presents the best opportunity for exploiting indigenous opposition to a corrupt and chronically unstable regime. A post-independence Namibia is another area of potential opportunity for the Soviets and the Cubans should internal stability, external pressures from South Africa, or spill-over from the UNITA-Angolan Government conflict lead Namibian leaders to seek outside military help. The Cubans and the Soviets can be expected to take advantage of opportunities which arise as the result of unpredictable events, for example, the departure from the scene or the death of or overthrow of current leaders, and of structural weaknesses endemic to post-colonial Africa. Uganda after Amin will be vulnerable to subversion. Ghana and Nigeria are both in a period of political unease as military leaders embark on reversion to civilian rule. There are obvious uncertainties in the post-Kenyatta scene in Kenya.

Part III—Policy Actions and Instruments

A. Instruments:

US actions to counter Soviet/Cuban involvement in Africa should be keyed to the following long-term goals: a peaceful transition to majority rule in southern Africa; the orderly social and economic development of the nations of Africa; and a strengthened Organization of African Unity (OAU) and its member states to resolve the underlying causes of inter-African conflict. Flowing from these goals are shorter-term objectives: the removal of the immediate occasions for outside intervention in African affairs; the removal of Cuban combat troops from the Continent; and an increase in the costs to the Soviets and the Cubans of involvement in African trouble spots.

There are seven policy/action instruments available for use:

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1. Diplomatic—Direct diplomatic approaches to the Soviets and the Cubans can be continued, but exhortation and warnings are unlikely to bring about changes in either government’s opportunistic approach to Africa. Careful diplomatic work in the Organization of American States might result in a weak resolution indirectly condemning Cuban activities in Africa. There is virtually no chance of achieving even that result in either the United Nations or the Organization of African Unity, although we may be able to work through the UN and the OAU to encourage negotiated settlements of African disputes. Our Western European allies (particularly France) might be persuasive with certain countries, such as the radical Arab states who would discount or dismiss US approaches. If pressed by us, 3 or 4 Latin American states might raise US concern over Cuba’s military involvement in Africa with Havana, but we cannot expect much in the way of direct results. We could continue our efforts directly and through our European, Arab, and African friends to convince selected members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to oppose Cuban cooperation with Soviet military activities in Africa as inconsistent with Cuba’s status in and its desire for leadership of the NAM. It is possible that too direct or frontal an effort could backfire and strengthen support within the NAM for Cuba.

US efforts to resolve disputes and to bring about peaceful change in Africa by working bilaterally with African governments and multilaterally with African, Arab, and European states can be continued. The recent agreement among the parties for the peaceful decolonization of South West Africa/Namibia after 15 months of careful, patient, and persistent diplomacy demonstrates the significant progress which can be made toward the resolution of African conflicts by working in an African context.10

By maintaining a continuing dialogue with Africans of all persuasions, we can strengthen our credibility and influence in Africa. This influence can help us in turn to frustrate Soviet/Cuban aspirations by enabling us to contribute effectively to arranging negotiated settlements. Opening or expanding existing relations with some countries which have been close to the Soviets and the Cubans also provides those states with an “option” to the West; it increases their flexibility of policy and behavior, and encourages them to utilize it. While there is potentially a risk that the aid we might provide could enable the recipient government to utilize its own resources for military purposes and continue its military relationship with the Soviets and the Cubans, we should be able to avoid the types or amounts of assistance which [Page 48] would free resources for military equipment or operations. On the other hand, a decision to limit US interaction with African states which permit or encourage Soviet/Cuban involvement could increase the economic cost to the Soviets of their activities, sharpen African awareness of the inadequacy of Soviet assistance, and deter other governments from support of Soviet/Cuban actions. But such a US cut-off would heighten the East-West confrontation in Africa and be sharply criticized by most African states.

Ongoing arms control negotiations which have direct substantive linkages to Soviet activities in Africa, e.g. the Indian Ocean talks, and the Conventional Arms Transfer (CAT) restraint talks might be utilized—to call the Soviets to task for their military activities in Africa and to show them that an alternative cooperative course for protecting their interests is open to them. There is no evidence thus far, however, that the Soviets are prepared to limit their political options in Africa by forswearing their only effective resource tool: arms; or that the pace or content of the Indian Ocean talks will influence Soviet African policy measurably. On those arms control negotiations which do not have direct substantive linkage to Africa, e.g. SALT, we can continue to make clear to the Soviets that progress is made difficult when Soviet activities are raising tensions and adversely affecting public and Congressional attitudes.

2. Economic Assistance—Development assistance is one of the strong cards that we and our Western partners hold in the competition with Soviet/Cuban military aid diplomacy in Africa. A vigorous development assistance effort permits us both to identify the US and the West with the long-term aspirations of the peoples and leaders of Africa and to counter Soviet ambitions in the short-term by strengthening our presence on the ground. If our economic aid program in Africa were substantially increased in size and scope—perhaps from $467 million proposed in FY 79 to some $950 million in FY 80 and to include infrastructure for river basin development and relieving transportation and communications bottlenecks, and to expand training, health and energy programs—it could be more effective. At the same time, the very substantial US and Western commitments to African development, together with clear assurances of major increases to address problems which the Africans consider critical, need to be made more visible. Africa’s most basic problems are long term and require long term solutions. (See Annex VIII, in particular VIII–B, for a more complete and detailed exposition of the contribution development assistance can make to the achievement of US objectives in Africa.)

The West also offers African nations the most lucrative markets for their exports, access to capital, the highest quality goods and the most advanced technology available in nearly every field.

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But the impact of these Western economic assets is generally long-term. We cannot counter Soviet/Cuban military assistance directly with long term contributions to African development. We need flexibility to devise, in coordination with other Western governments, an array of short-term and long-term economic tools which will permit the fashioning of integrated economic packages that are responsive to urgent needs. Such packages should include not only development assistance, which addresses both immediate and longer term requirements, plus incentives for foreign investment and access to Western markets and technology, but also short-term assistance, balance of payments and budget support, and export financing. In this way, economic instruments could be used more effectively, with other policy tools to help offset Soviet and Cuban initiatives by demonstrating the economic advantages which association with the West affords Africa.

3. Military Related Measures—Military measures will not be successful in and of themselves in achieving US objectives in Africa. But combined with diplomatic and economic initiatives, security assistance—arms transfers, military training, military construction activity—could reduce the incentive of countries to seek Soviet assistance and could contribute to improved US–African relations. US policy restraints together with practical limitations (e.g. a country’s ability to absorb materiel or training) will continue to keep US security assistance to Africa at a modest level. The U.S. might support African peacekeeping efforts. The U.S. can encourage other countries to shoulder some of the burden of checking the Soviet Union and Cuba in Africa by providing funds, equipment and forces. While it is not US policy at this time to send US combat forces to Africa, we can demonstrate our capability to project our power in Africa by providing logistics support to African, European or international organization forces operating in Africa and by scheduling Navy port visits or organizing joint training exercises with the military forces of selected African nations. There are numerous military actions which could be taken against Cuba or the Soviet Union and their military forces—increasing the surveillance of Soviet ELINT ships, aerial reconnaissance flights over Cuba, increased air and sea surveillance of Cuban aircraft and ships, etc. The U.S. could also encourage nations whose airspace is being used by Soviet/Cuban aircraft on route to Africa to deny them overflight clearance and to challenge the overflying aircraft. However, such actions would not stop Soviet/Cuban activities in Africa, and the wisdom of turning to such measures to communicate our concern over Soviet/Cuban involvement in Africa is subject to vigorous debate.

4. Enlisting the Support of Allies and Friends—The political pressures which our allies and other friends can bring to bear on the Soviets and the Cubans closely parallel our own at a lower level of potential [Page 50] effectiveness. They could provide economic support and development assistance to vulnerable African nations who wish to resist. France, Morocco and a small number of other nations have already provided military support in the form of equipment, training, logistics help, and combat troops.

5. Economic and Financial Incentives and Disincentives—Neither US bilateral nor multilateral economic or financial measures directed at Cuba appear to offer a sufficient negative cost or positive inducement to produce a change in Cuban African policy. Bilateral US sanctions already preclude most economic contact, and the Cubans have made it clear that a normalization of US-Cuban relations does not provide sufficient incentive to change. The imposition of multilaterally agreed upon economic/financial sanctions (particularly the curtailment of official credits and export guarantees and private credits) could impose significant economic penalties on Havana, and on Moscow if it felt compelled to pick up the slack on behalf of Cuba. But the extensive international cooperation required to make such sanctions effective would be extremely difficult to achieve. A mandatory multilateral trade embargo of Cuba would require UN Security Council action which would be subject to Soviet veto. Our allies are most unlikely to agree to an informal embargo of Cuba. Such sanctions would involve serious political and important economic costs to us and to our allies. As a result, Cuba’s European and Asian trading partners are not likely to cut back their trade with Cuba or curtail the flow of credit to Havana.

The U.S. could exert limited economic pressure on the USSR (through tightening technology transfer and trade, including a reduction in grain shipments). But experience suggests that economic pressures and trade incentives do not have significant impact on Soviet behavior. In addition, there are severe domestic constraints on such pressures, not only on grain exports, but increasingly on other exports as well. A US effort to obtain multilateral agreement to limit trade with the Soviets or to restrict credit flows is unlikely to succeed in the face of Western and Japanese unwillingness to terminate government-supported credits or extend trade restrictions to non-strategic items. Allied reluctance is occasioned not only by the prospective impact on their own economies of such measures, but also by their judgment (which we share) that such measures would be largely ineffective in furthering our common political objectives.

A range of positive and negative measures which could be used to influence the policies of African governments also exists. Expanded OPIC and EXIMBANK financing, international bank lending, commodity agreements, etc. are essentially long term. The negative measures (trade embargos, the blockage of assets, the slow-down of lending and assistance programs) would require not only Western but Arab oil [Page 51] producer cooperation to be effective. They run the risk of domestic and Third World backlash, and run counter to other US economic policies.

6. Public Diplomacy—The tools of public diplomacy—the Voice of America, films, television, books and documents, exchange of persons programs, etc.—can be utilized to develop an international perception of the problems posed by continued Soviet/Cuban military involvement in Africa; gain support for constructive, i.e. economic and ideological rather than military, competition between East and West; and stress the need for long-term African growth and stability and for fostering development, peaceful change, and racial and social justice. A detailed public diplomacy program can be devised to support whichever policy option is selected.

B. Specific Issues and Situations—Issues for Decision or Discussion:

1. In the Diplomatic sphere:

—Whether to work toward normal relations with all the governments and groupings in Africa regardless of their support or acquiescence in Soviet/Cuban military involvement.

—Should we (a) undertake a major diplomatic effort in the coming months with the members of the Non-Aligned Movement to persuade them to raise objections to Soviet/Cuban activities in Africa, to challenge Cuba’s credentials as an NAM state, and voice objection to continued Cuban efforts to lead the NAM, and (b) urge Latin American and other moderate states which are not NAM members to join and work against radical influence in the NAM?

2. In the Economic Assistance sphere:

—Should we attempt despite the active opposition of some Members of Congress and the public and the lack of enthusiasm of many others for foreign aid to increase substantially the size and broaden the scope of our economic development assistance program in Africa in order to obtain the resources required for the success of our African strategy?

3. In the Military sphere:

—Should we increase our military assistance programs in Africa substantially in dollar amounts, scope, and number of recipients?

—Should we increase our peacetime military visibility in Africa by increasing the number of Navy port calls, USAF overflights and visits, and joint military training exercises?

—Should we consider direct actions against the USSR and Cuba and against their military forces (e.g. increased surveillance of Soviet ELINT ships and of Cuban aircraft and ships, overflights of Cuba)?

4. In the Economic/Financial sphere:

—Should we consider additional unilateral or multilateral restraints on trade, credit flows, and the transfer of technology with [Page 52] Cuba and the Soviet Union in the event their military role in Africa increases?

C. Specific Issues and Situations—OPTIONS:

The options below are designed to draw together for conceptual purposes varying sets of hypothetical choices, which appear to have an internal consistency of approach, from among the issues for decision described above in III, B. It would of course be possible to construct differing options by choosing somewhat differently from among the decision issues. The following options are, in addition, designed for the coming year. Their success or failure, judged in terms of results in Africa during that period, would determine any need for further review. In Part I, it was suggested that an assessment of the situation be made after a year.

All of the policy options we have identified have a common set of assumptions:

—that the U.S. will continue to pursue its efforts to secure a peaceful transition to majority rule in southern Africa;

—that we will continue to emphasize economic and social development in our assistance strategy for Africa;

—that our military assistance to African nations will continue to be selective and measured;

—that direct US military involvement in Africa will be limited to logistics support for the combat forces of others;

—that the U.S. will continue to stress the need for Africans to develop their own efforts to resolve local disputes and to develop their own peacekeeping capabilities;

—that the US Government in concert with other like-minded governments, will continue to stress to the Soviets and the Cubans the destabilizing effects of their unrestrained arms transfers and their pursuit of military adventurism in Africa.

It is also assumed that there will be no major shift in Soviet/Cuban policies in the next 6 to 12 months.


To continue to pursue present policies aimed at peaceful resolution of disputes, focus military assistance programs on a limited number of key, friendly African states to strengthen their defense capabilities, but with close attention to our arms transfer restraint objectives, provide limited logistics support on a case by case basis for third country military forces requested by an African state under attack from outside its borders, increase economic assistance and other resource flows, and emphasize the need for African resolution of local disputes. Within this framework, the U.S. would encourage key African leaders to revitalize the OAU, urge OAU members to call for restraint by all African [Page 53] countries in seeking the assistance of foreign troops, continue to work with the UN, the OAU and sub-regional groups of African countries to promote the peaceful resolution of specific conflicts, work towards an arms transfer restraint regime in the next CAT negotiating session, and persist in our efforts to exert international pressure on the Soviets and Cubans (through the NAM and other channels) to limit their military activities in Africa and to withdraw their combat forces from the Continent. (See pp 47–48 for a detailed presentation of the specific actions to be taken in West and Central Africa, in the Horn, and in southern Africa.)

PRO: This course is essentially an indirect, African-focused approach to the Soviets and the Cubans. It leaves us free to concentrate our attention on our longer-term goals in Africa, places the U.S. in the role of peacemaker while casting the Soviets and the Cubans as “meddlers”, provides a measure of reassurance to moderate African leaders, avoids polarization of African forces, emphasizes US advantages in the economic and technical assistance fields, and minimizes East-West confrontational aspects of our strategy.

CON: This course does not meet directly the challenge of the on-going Soviet/Cuban activities or lead to short-term reduction in Soviet/Cuban presence or involvement in Africa. It may leave some moderate African and Arab states with a sense of uncertainty as to whether the U.S. is willing to counter Soviet/Cuban military activity in Africa and about their own security.


In addition to the steps in Option 1, to intensify efforts to support friendly governments which are concerned about Soviet/Cuban activities with substantially increased military and economic assistance, encourage efforts by the OAU to buttress African peacekeeping capabilities, and use diplomatic means to mobilize European and Non-Aligned sentiment against Soviet/Cuban actions. Within this framework, the U.S. would engage in a vigorous diplomatic campaign to seek condemnation of Cuba in the OAU and the Non-Aligned Movement, focus NATO and other non-African government attention on the dangers posed by Soviet/Cuban actions in Africa, and move immediately, with Congressional approval, to increase significantly not only our economic development aid but also our security supporting assistance and FMS credits for African countries. If an OAU peacekeeping force were established, we would offer logistics support.

PRO: This course of action provides greater reassurance to France, Belgium and moderate African and Arab states of US willingness and determination to support efforts to stabilize the situation in Africa and to counter in tangible ways Soviet/Cuban involvement. It reserves the US position in the event that even more drastic action might have to [Page 54] be taken should Soviet/Cuban actions be markedly stepped-up. It stresses continuing US support for peacekeeping by the Africans themselves.

CON: The increases projected in economic and military aid impose difficult budget choices. Congressional reaction to increased US military supply to Africa is likely to be negative. Reaction to greater development assistance transfers may be less sharp but is still likely to be adverse. Some African “progressive” states may regard this track as provocative and likely to lead to polarization unless it is balanced by intensified US diplomatic and other actions aimed at South Africa and Rhodesia. It is doubtful that the NAM will respond conclusively or effectively against Cuban military involvement. Certain elements of this course, if mishandled, could risk diplomatic rupture with Ethiopia, a failure in efforts to improve relations with Angola, and greater polarization of Africa along East-West lines.


To adopt a policy of direct and clear cut opposition to Soviet/Cuban activity in Africa, using bilateral US-Soviet and US-Cuban relations as a means of increasing pressures. Within this framework, the U.S. would, in addition to the measures described in Options 1 and 2, intensify its public denunciation of the Soviets and the Cubans particularly if there is any increase in Soviet/Cuban military activity, call explicitly for OAU or individual African government opposition to Soviet/Cuban involvement, and seek to create a consortium of European-African-Arab states to support regional or individual African state efforts to strengthen their security and resist Soviet/Cuban incursions. The U.S. would make clear through specific actions that US-Soviet and US-Cuban bilateral economic, exchange, technological, and other relationships would suffer as a result of Soviet and Cuban African policies. The U.S. would launch efforts to persuade our allies to join us in applying economic and financial sanctions against Cuba. The U.S. would also announce its intention to increase markedly its military assistance programs in Africa, including the provision of more sophisticated military equipment to countries threatened by the Soviet/Cuban presence. We would consult on an urgent basis with our European allies, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Morocco on establishing a coordinated strategy for resource transfers to sub-Saharan Africa.

PRO: This course of action establishes clearly US will and determination to deal with Soviet/Cuban “meddling” in Africa. It reinforces our general strategy for southern Africa, leaves the USSR and Cuba enmeshed in a no-win situation in Eritrea, and meets rising moderate African-Arab concerns.

CON: This course of action puts the problems of Africa into a sharply defined East-West context, and would as a consequence draw [Page 55] fire from Nigeria, Tanzania, and other influential African governments. It would further polarize African opinion, antagonize the Front Line states, and severely hamper our ability to work with them on southern African issues. More significantly, it risks the escalation of African conflicts, and raises the very real possibility of greater US military involvement in Africa. This course of action will convince South Africa that it has nothing to gain from further collaboration on Rhodesia and Namibia. Finally, this track would be difficult to sustain in terms of Congressional and public opinion, of allied cooperation, or of our other foreign policy objectives.

Part IV—Congressional and Public Posture

Most Americans think about Africa only when events or issues place it in an East-West framework and seem to involve the United States. In this context, two long-term opinion trends are relevant: the American public’s deep distrust of the Soviet Union and its deep-seated unwillingness to commit American soldiers or large amounts of other resources or prestige to distant fronts so long as there is no clear perception that American security is directly and unquestionably endangered.11

Despite the Secretary of State’s recent appearance before the House International Relations Committee12 and his Atlantic City speech on Africa,13 many Members of Congress remain uneasy and uncertain about what US policy in Africa is. Members perceive the U.S. as reacting to events in Africa on a piece-meal basis rather than within a coherent policy framework, are unsure over the direction of US policy toward the Soviet Union, and are apprehensive that US involvement in Africa to counter Soviet/Cuban expansionism could ensnare us in another Viet Nam.

An effective public posture—at home and abroad—would build on the major policy statements about US-USSR and US-African relations recently made by the President and the Secretary of State in which they set forth our view of Africa, defined our long-term purpose in positive terms, and outlined the type of relationship we desire and expect to have with the Soviets and the Cubans in the African context. Abroad, our public diplomacy strategy would: reinforce our positive, [Page 56] forward-looking policy toward Africa; work to remove the “mantle of legitimacy” from Soviet/Cuban involvement; communicate American support for long-term development, for social justice, independence and stability in Africa; stimulate an international consensus against continued Soviet and Cuban military involvement; and encourage African efforts to develop ground rules to contain and reduce Soviet/Cuban military activities and to evolve African institutional capabilities for the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

At home, an effective public posture would reiterate that our relationship with the Soviet Union is at once competitive and cooperative, that our African strategy is long-range and is directed at helping African peoples and their leaders solve the fundamental problems confronting them, and that the U.S. need have no fears about the long-range outcome of a vigorous competition with the Soviets in Africa. It would emphasize that Soviet/Cuban influence in Africa is still limited, that the West enjoys decided advantages there, and that the U.S. has greatly enhanced its position and significantly increased its influence in Africa in the last two years. It would, finally, note that our long-range strategy requires a long-term commitment of support, and appeal to the people and the Congress to have the patience and determination to stay the course.

We believe that sufficient public and Congressional support can be mustered to approve and implement a range of countermeasures—short of committing US troops. However, any approach to the Congress for support and for additional resources, and in particular any effort by the Executive Branch to secure the lifting of the constraints which have been imposed by Congress over the past few years, will result in a full scale debate of the entire range of questions involved.

[Omitted here is the body of the paper, including several annexes.]

  1. Source: National Security Council, Carter Administration Intelligence Files, Subject Files: A–E, Box 29, USSR-Cuban Intervention in Africa, 10 August 1978–19 August 1980. Secret; Sensitive. Prepared by the NSC’s Policy Review Committee under the chairmanship of the Department of State. For the text of PRM/NSC–36, see Document 11.
  2. An unknown hand bracketed this paragraph in the left margin.
  3. Not found.
  4. An unknown hand bracketed this paragraph in the left margin. The annexes are not printed.
  5. An unknown hand bracketed this paragraph in the left margin.
  6. Dated May 9; scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. IV, National Security Policy. A redacted version of the NIE is in the National Archives, RG 263, Records of the Central Intelligence Agency, NN #263–96–001 31.
  7. The official statement, which set forth the Soviet Union’s policy goals in Africa, maintained that détente did not rule out Soviet military intervention in Africa to support national liberation movements. (Kevin Klose, “Moscow Defends Its Military Intervention in Africa,” Washington Post, June 23, 1978, p. A20)
  8. An unknown hand bracketed this and the next three paragraphs in the left margin.
  9. See Documents 103 and 108.
  10. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVI, Southern Africa, Documents 88 and 89.
  11. An unknown hand bracketed this paragraph in the left margin.
  12. Vance appeared before the House International Relations Committee to discuss U.S.-Soviet relations and Africa on June 19. For the text of his statement, see Department of State Bulletin, August 1978, pp. 14–16.
  13. Vance gave the speech to the Annual Meeting of the U.S. Jaycees in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on June 20. For the text of the speech, see Department of State Bulletin, August 1978, pp. 10–13. Excerpts of the speech are printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 89.