Cold War Redux: The West Loses Africa’s Horn (By Gregory Copley)

Cold War Redux: The West Loses Africa’s Horn  

Analysis. From GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Staff in the Region

Samantha Power, the Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (AID) left Addis Ababa on the evening of August 4, 2021, dissatisfied that she had not enforced Washington’s writ on Ethiopia. Hers was no ordinary mission of aid and mercy.  

She was there ostensibly on “humanitarian grounds” to force the Ethiopian Government to allow the rebel terrorist and insurgent group, the Tigré (Tigray) Popular Liberation Front (TPLF) to declare the Tigré region an independent state. It would have spelled the end of Ethiopia.  

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali refused to see her, despite demands that she see him. She saw only the Ministers of Peace and Health.  

Her failure, and direct threats from the US Embassy in Addis Ababa and from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, all in support of a pro-Egypt US policy, have so alienated the Ethiopian Government that it is likely that the US Joe Biden Administration has lost influence in the Horn of Africa to an even greater degree than in the Cold War. Today, however, the US moves to support Egypt’s war against Ethiopia as part of the centuries-old Egyptian moves to control the source of the Blue Nile, which provides Egypt’s water.1  

US abandonment of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I precipitated a coup against him in 1974 (and his regicide in 1975), and created the Soviet-Ethiopian alliance which lasted until 1990, when the USSR itself collapsed, leaving the marxist Dergue leader Mengistu Haile- Mariam without support, whence he fled to exile in Zimbabwe. The marxist secessionist group, the TPLF, was then pushed into power by the US Administration of Pres. George H. W. Bush, to fill the vacuum, and the TPLF ruled until 2018.  

In the current situation, Irish-born Amb. Power, 50, former US Ambassador to the United Nations under the Barack Obama Administration (2009-17), held some leverage over Ethiopia: appr. $1-billion in US aid each year. Power had been sent to meet with Dr Abiy to ensure that he would comply with the US State Department’s essentially impossible and illogical demand that the Ethiopian Government cease combat operations against the TPLF. The TPLF had been in control of the Ethiopian Government from 1990 until 2018, when it collapsed in a mire of corruption and leadership squabbles, after the death of its founding leader, Meles Zenawi.  

At that point, the TPLF, an extreme marxist separatist group, went back to its roots: Tigrean secessionism and war against the Ethiopian Government. So it was not the Ethiopian Government which declared war against the TPLF, but the reverse. And the TPLF, in its statements and actions, was engaged in a genocidal war against, among others, the Amhara people of Ethiopia. Dr Abiy, were he to capitulate to US, UK, and French pressure to allow the TPLF to drag the Tigrean people unwillingly into secession, would precipitate the break-up of Ethiopia.  

Indeed, this is exactly the playbook which US Sec. of State Blinken is using, almost identical to the US William Clinton Administration playbook in the 1990s for the break-up of Yugoslavia. This time, the playbook was being drafted to aid Egyptian demands to weaken and divide Ethiopia, which controls the headwaters of the Blue Nile. 

On August 4, 2021, just as Amb. Power was leaving Addis, US Sec. of State Blinken spoke with Sudanese interim Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and won agreement to “press for a ceasefire in Tigré”. That would imply that Sudan had some rôle within Ethiopian domestic politics, and ignored, in any event, the fact that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy had already declared a unilateral ceasefire in the conflict with the TPLF, and that the TPLF itself had refused to accept it, saying it would take the war relentlessly into all of Ethiopia.  

The TPLF, meanwhile, was pouring some of the est. $30-billion it had stolen while in office in Ethiopia into a global information warfare campaign to successfully dominate all reporting on the conflict, in much the same way that the Croatian, and Bosnian (and Albanian) Muslim groups had spent an estimated $2-billion on Western media campaigns to dominate the debate on the break-up of Yugoslavia, vilifying the Serbian people in the 1990s. It is impossible not to notice the parallels, including the Tigrean use of the process of blaming the victims of their genocide for being the instigators of it.  

But already the process is backfiring against both the US and the TPLF on the ground. And there is no evidence that the policy is helping Egyptian Pres. Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, whose water problem is not caused by declining Blue Nile flow but by the uncontrollable rise in the Egyptian population, now more than 100-million.  

Moreover, pro-US Prime Minister Abiy, while strenuously resisting attempts by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to restore close relations, has, in fact, been pushed to strengthen military and political ties with Russia, and is now also opening ties with Turkey, despite the fact that Turkey had been funding Muslim Oromo separatists in Ethiopia in the past.  

Russia and Ethiopia on July 12, 2021, signed a military cooperation agreement, which included a commitment by Russia to sell advanced Sukhoi fighter aircraft to the Ethiopian Air Force (which already operates Su-27S fighters). The new Sukhois were believed to be the Su-35S, the same type which the Egyptian Air Force (EAF) acquired from Russia. Russian ally Belarus was also actively supplying small arms and ammunition to the Ethiopian Forces, as well. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Addis Ababa on March 9, 2021, and Ethiopian Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen was in Moscow on June 23, 2021, to meet with Lavrov.  

Meanwhile, as of the first week of August 2021, the Abiy Government had fully realized that the US Government was not its ally. As a result of that, and the failure of the ceasefire attempt with the TPLF, Abiy declared the TPLF a terrorist group and said that the Government would not deal with terrorists. It would, it said, deal with any other Tigrean group, whether an opposition group or not, to find a satisfactory way of helping to restore peace to Tigré. At the same time, the Eritrean forces which had been aiding Ethiopia rejoined the conflict against the TPLF terrorists. And despite TPLF claims in the Western media that it was inflicting major damage to Ethiopian forces and those of the other Ethiopian regions, the reality was very different on the ground.  

The Ethiopian forces had significant success using unmanned aerial combat vehicles (UCAVs) in attacks on Tigrean units. These were initially believed to have been UCAVs from the United Arab Emirates, but now Prime Minister Abiy — following a telephone call with Turkish Pres. Reçep Tayyip  — was understood to have acquired the start of a growing supply of Turkish Baykar Makina Bayraktar (Standard Bearer) TB-2 medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UCAVs. The tide of war on the ground has already moved in favor of the Ethiopian Government.  

Dr Abiy has expelled three aid groups which had “bought the propaganda” and were providing illegal aid to the TPLF: the Dutch branch of Doctors Without Borders; the Norwegian Refugee Council; and the Maktoum Foundation. As well, he had resisted Amb. Power’s push to open an “humanitarian corridor” to Tigré from Sudan.  

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Crown Council Pres. Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile- Selassie, has helped change the model from the Yugoslav break-up. 

The Vatican, in the 1990s, had supported Croatia in its attempt to secede. Now, Roman Catholic Pope Francis I has supported attempts to protect Ethiopian unity and Ethiopian Christendom. Other Christian leaders around the world are joining this defense of Ethiopian unity. Not only does it represent 3,500 years of Judeo-Christian history, Ethiopia also controls the lower Red Sea, one of the most critical sea routes in the world. 


1. See: “War and Decline on the Nile”, in Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, 7/2021. And “Ethiopia: Anti-Climax in a Crisis”, in Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, 7/2021. See also: “Ethiopia Revives as a Red Sea Power”, in Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, 5-6/2021. Also: “War Preparations Now Advanced by Egypt and Sudan on Ethiopian Border”, in Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, July 2, 2021. And “Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Caves to US Pressure on Tigré, Opening the Region to Major Instability”, in Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, June 30, 2021.

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