1964-1968, Volume

                                                          Department of
                                                            Washington, DC

                        390. Memorandum From Edward Hamilton of the
National Security Council Staff to the
                        President's Special Assistant (Rostow)/1/

                        Washington, July 3, 1967.

                        /1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File,
Country File, Nigeria, Vol. I, Memos &
                        Miscellaneous, 6/64-8/67. No classification

                        Gowon's Arms Request

                        As I am sure you know, Gowon sent identical wires
to the President and Harold Wilson yesterday
                        asking for immediate sale to the FMG of 12
fighter-bombers, 6 PT-boats, and 24 anti-aircraft guns. He
                        wanted deliveries to begin within 48 hours. He
added that if the U.S. and UK were unable to supply
                        these weapons, he would be forced to get them from
any source which would make them
                        available--an obvious reference to the Soviets
and/or Eastern Europeans.

                        We do not know whether Gowon already has a deal
with another arms supplier. We do know that the
                        FMG had a mission in Moscow last week which the
Easterners claimed (and the FMG denied) was
                        negotiating for arms. We also know that there has
been some traffic in words with the Czechs. The
                        AF judgment is that if there is not yet an
agreement in being, there soon will be.

                        Our latest report is that the British are having a
Cabinet meeting on this subject today, but that their
                        preliminary disposition is to agree to sell the
anti-aircraft guns, but nothing else.

                        Wayne Fredericks (acting for Joe Palmer, who is on
leave) and I have worked out the following
                        suggested U.S. position for submission to Nick
Katzenbach as soon as possible:

                        1. The U.S. has consistently maintained that the
Nigerian problem is an internal problem in which it
                        could not appropriately interfere. This continues
to be our view.

                        2. Given the prospect that the supplying of these
arms could well lead to civil war, the U.S. cannot
                        agree to supply them.

                        3. We are gravely concerned at the security
situation implied by General Gowon's message.
                        Therefore, we are asking our Ambassadors to
approach Kenyatta, President Diori and General
                        Ankrah as possible mediators. (Each is agreed by
both sides to be neutral in the Nigerian dispute.) The
                        Kenyatta suggestion dovetails with an imminent
meeting of the East African heads of state who plan
                        to take up the Nigerian problem as an agenda item.

                        If Katzenbach buys our recommendation, he would
give this position to the Nigerian Ambassador in
                        the form of an aide-memoire./2/ It would not be
done in the President's name. It seems best to us to
                        keep the President out of it as long as possible.

                        /2/Katzenbach gave Martins an aide-memoire on July
3 stating that the United States could not accede
                        to Gowon's request because of the U.S. policy of
non-intervention in Nigerian internal affairs. It
                        reiterated the U.S. hope that all possibilities of
reaching a peaceful solution would be fully explored. It
                        did not refer to any approaches to possible
mediators. The text was transmitted in telegram 817 to
                        Lagos, July 3. (Department of State, Central Files,

                        The judgment behind this position is that the
prospect of Communist arms sales to the FMG--to the
                        extent they are avoidable--is not so forbidding as
to make it worth our feeding the flames by selling
                        arms to the FMG. We think the Czechs have also been
dickering with the East about arms sales. The
                        Soviets have behaved very correctly throughout the
crisis, pressing for unity at every opportunity. It
                        does not appear that the Communists are involved in
any campaign to gain political control of
                        Nigeria--and the Nigerian political milieu makes
that an unlikely objective, at best. Even if it were
                        otherwise, the political cost of taking sides in
Nigeria in the present post-Middle Eastern atmosphere
                        would be very great indeed, particularly to the AID
bill. In the present mood of the Congress, I would
                        not be at all surprised if we got a quick
resolution banning any such sales and perhaps abolishing MAP
                        at the same time. (Apart from other problems, there
are several strong pro-Easterners in the
                        Congress, led by Mr. Resnick.)

                        In summary, we just don't believe the U.S. can or
should forsake our even-handed stance now.

                        I drag you through all this because there is a
chance Katzenbach will call you this afternoon. When
                        Wayne talked to him yesterday, he seemed to lean
toward an equivocal answer to Gowon indicating
                        that we would be willing to talk, though we
obviously could do nothing in 48 hours. Fredericks, Bert
                        Mathews (our Ambassador to Nigeria) and I are all
firmly convinced that it would be a great mistake
                        to give Gowon any reason to believe that we might
grant his request unless there is some real chance
                        we might actually do so. It would ruin us forever
with the Easterners, and it would set us up for a very
                        hard fall with Gowon if, as I strongly suspect, we
couldn't deliver.

                        At a minimum, I think the President should know
about any reply other than a clear "no." It is he who
                        will be stuck with the consequences in Nigeria and
face the music on the Hill. Fredericks will (1) try to
                        talk Nick out of the "maybe" tactic and (2) if Nick
remains unconvinced, ask him to check with the
                        President before he goes ahead. I suspect that
would lead to a call to you.

                        I will keep you informed. I am supposed to be
taking some time off this week but I will keep up with
                        events and be available if you need more detail.

                        Edward K. Hamilton/3/

                        /3/An unidentified hand initialed above Hamilton's
typed signature.

                        391. Telegram From the Department of State to the
Embassy in Nigeria/1/

                        Washington, July 20, 1967, 6:57 p.m.

                        /1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL
27 BIAFRA-NIGERIA. Confidential; Priority.
                        Drafted and approved by Melbourne and cleared by
Hamilton at the White House.

                        10593. Following is FYI noforn based on uncleared
memcons subject to revision on review:

                        1. Ambassador Martins, with Counselor, met with Mr.
Walt Rostow in White House during morning
                        July 20 for half-hour talk to discuss Nigerian
situation and US-Nigerian relations. He gave rationale for
                        FMG "police action" against East as last resort
after every effort to find peaceful solution.
                        Ambassador added that he understood official US
position, but could not correlate it with special
                        position of affection Nigeria accords US and
vice-versa. Nigeria had come to US prepared to pay for
                        arms since it trying to put down insurrection. US
refused, yet it had assisted Congo. Also Nigerians
                        were active in US in behalf Biafra. N.Y. Times
correspondent, after being expelled from Nigeria, had
                        gone to Biafra and filed stories against country
with which US had good relations. FMG needed a
                        statement from "right US source" which would
declare it wished Nigeria to remain united.

                        2. Mr. Rostow replied that he would look into
activities of Nigerians in US hostile to their government.
                        He knew wide latitude accorded under US law, but
wished to be assured that every possible action
                        had been explored. There no doubt US would like to
see Nigerian unity, but it hardest for third party to
                        get involved in family quarrel. From 1961, when
Rostow had helped set up development assistance
                        program for Nigeria, he believed country had great
future and that USG prepared to do what it could
                        in this direction. This hope still holds. US not
prepared to put Nigeria in any other power's sphere of
                        influence and has not been passive in leaving
development assistance to others./2/ As for Congo and
                        Nigeria, there were great differences. In former
there was external threat disrupting unity and we had
                        sent three C-130's in carefully limited action in
continuity with earlier UN resolutions. Nigeria has not
                        brought its problem to UN. As Ambassador can see
from press, Congress does not wish US to be
                        involved in other countries' affairs unless there
is clear external threat. Finally, our margin of influence
                        with foreign countries on vital issues frequently
proves quite small. Rostow cited examples of this,
                        which Ambassador agreed supported case for FMG and
Biafra settling problem themselves.

                        /2/Circular telegram 216694, June 26, noted the
desire to continue existing assistance programs in all
                        parts of Nigeria and discussed efforts to
accomplish this goal. (Ibid., AID (US) BIAFRA) However,
                        all Peace Corps volunteers and staff were withdrawn
from the East by mid-August, and all Eastern
                        loan projects and the Calabar-Ikom road project
were suspended by the end of September.

                        3. In afternoon, Ambassador Martins, with
Counselor, talked with Under Secretary Katzenbach for 40
                        minutes and covered ground similar to morning. He
sought advice of Under Secretary in explaining US
                        actions concerning Nigeria to his government and
public in this "crisis of belief." The Under Secretary
                        inquired what happened if Ojukwu were eliminated.
It hard to understand Ojukwu acting without
                        support and would not same problem exist? Martins
briefly said FMG intended first to restore its
                        authority in minority states of East and adopt
containment policy for Ibo state, which would have
                        opportunity to be member of federation with full
rights. As far as Times correspondent in Biafra is
                        concerned, Under Secretary said, Ambassador could
count in any issue of that paper how many
                        editorials were favorable to policies of USG. If
USG could not influence paper in behalf its own
                        interests, how could it do so for Nigeria? Activity
of correspondent was not US responsibility. If
                        Ambassador pursued matter with Times, he might find
there even more difficulties.

                        4. In long run, said Under Secretary, Nigerian
people should not have real difficulty in accepting
                        explanations of US arms policy or difference
between Congo and Nigeria. Over past five years US
                        had given primacy to Nigerian development over
other African states. Articles in US press on
                        American arms policy should make clear to Nigerians
why USG had not been able to license sales to
                        that country. Congo was external problem stirred up
by non-Congolese. He knew no African,
                        European or Asian non-Communist state criticizing
US for its policies and actions toward Nigeria. He
                        believed that if we were wrong, others would
recognize this. As for any Nigerians agitating here for
                        Biafra, Nigerian public really would not expect us
to change our Constitution or internal laws.
                        Americans and foreigners here have right to speak

                        5. To help explain US policy to Nigerians, Under
Secretary suggested Ambassador could state (a)
                        USG has sought to correct through appropriate
comment any false or misleading statements, (b) US
                        not treating Eastern Nigerians in this country
working for Biafra any differently than it is doing for its
                        own people, and (c) we cannot be responsible for US
manufactured items of military equipment which
                        may be found in East. As matter of fact, US arms
can be bought from Communist countries. USG
                        does not possess legal and constitutional powers to
halt or impede actions of which Ambassador
                        complained. Under Secretary cited examples of
Americans traveling to North Vietnam and Cuba who
                        have reportedly spoken there critically of their
country and written critically of US policy on return.
                        Yet, USG unable to take any action against them.

                        6. Conversational tone in both meetings was frank
and friendly.



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