The Central Intelligence Agency said yesterday the Soviet Union and Cuba are waging "the most determined campaign to expand foreign influence in Africa since it was carved up by the European powers in the late 19th century."
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Intelligence Subcommittee, CIA Deputy Director Frank Carlucci charged that Soviet military equipment "has been flowing into Ethiopia and Angola faster than the local forces can absorb it."
However, his public statement, made before he testified in closed session, contained no information about the size of the Soviet and Cuban military presence in sub-Saharan Africa that had not been made public previously by the Carter administration.
Instead, his statement was notable primarily for its rhetoric. He described Soviet and Cuban activities in Africa in the bluntest and most concerned-sounding terms used by any administration official until now.
His assessment of Soviet intentions was much stronger than anything that has been paid publicly by Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and other State Department officials. The department, while expressing concern about the communist military buildup in Africa, has tended to talk about it in softer, more guarded language.
Carlucci, though, seemed to be aligning the CIA more on the side of the National Security Council staff and its director, presidential adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
During recent weeks, Brzezinski has used an increasingly harsh and concerned tone in discussing the communist presence in Africa - so much so that it has caused speculation about policy differences between the State Department and the NSC.
An even harder note was sounded by Carlucci, who said: "It is my view that Moscow and Havana intend to take advantage of every opportunity to demonstrate that those who accept their political philosophy can also count on receiving their assistance when it is needed."
His statement concerned primarily on the situation in Angola, where Soviets and Cubans have been aiding the leftist government to combat rebel insurgents, and in Ethiopia, where they recently helped crush an invasion by Somalia of the disputed Ogaden territory.
The CIA is primarily responsible for making the estimates of Soviet and Cuban strength in Africa used by the administration. But the figures cited by Carlucci - the presence in Ethiopia of 16,000 Cuban troops and Soviet equipment that includes 50-MiG jet fighters and more than 400 tanks - have been made public previously.