The Ambassador in Cuba (Norweb) to the Secretary of State
[Received November 23—10:15 p.m.]
755. Remytel 742, Nov 16, 6 p.m.23 In speaking to Grau yesterday I found he had received draft proposal handed Belt and that delay in transmission may be attributed to necessity for translation in Washington.24
While originally favorably disposed to idea of joint technical condition [commission] as contemplated in draft proposal he had changed his mind on receipt of Belt’s report to effect that latter had learned that some other American Republics had doubts about joint commission. Whatever Belt had to say on this score seems to have strengthened his feelings in favor of exclusive control, guaranteeing to US use of facilities for any or all emergencies.
He pointed out that this was a common problem between US and many of the American nations, which, regardless of its secret nature, should be settled on a common basis, and that therefore Cuba would expect as favorable treatment with regard to its base agreement as was accorded any other country (I gathered the President is somewhat apprehensive lest negotiations are being pressed with Cuba with view to obtaining favorable conditions which could be cited as precedent in [Page 912] other discussions. He will doubtless wish to stall until he receives further reports on negotiations with other countries.)
I asked at this point whether he had taken into account heavy maintenance costs of keeping facilities up to date, because if these bases were to be of any real use in continental defense they would have to be kept in perfect condition at all times, with heavy additional costs as new and secret developments were incorporated into our air arm. He blandly asserted Cuba was prepared to undertake this charge in form of a contribution, and to meet changing needs he suggested that a joint technical advisory commission might be established to aid Cuban control authorities with respect to technical developments in order to maintain bases in most advanced state, Cuban technicians to be trained in the US.
Grau will have his own experts work up counterproposal to joint control commission envisaged in draft and will advise me further.
Not wishing to leave him with feeling that this clearly impractical proposal would meet the needs of the times, I showed him copy of Life Magazine (Nov 19) graphically demonstrating how this continent might be attacked and showing need for these fields being kept at peak of perfection at all times. I told him that I thought he had not taken sufficiently into account importance of technical skills and of costs. While I understood the political considerations that were behind his thinking, I doubted if the terms he had in mind would make a real contribution to defense of hemisphere.