The Ambassador in Cuba (Norweb) to the Secretary of State
[Received 10:40 p.m.]
822. I devoted long conversation with President this morning to exposition of Department’s viewpoint re bases as set forth tel 708 December 19, 10 p.m. He was unyielding in the main.
He asserted that while taking fullest possible cooperation with US in respect to defense matters as keystone he had always maintained secret agreements should be complied with and any new arrangement to serve as bridge between present and eventual future status bases should be arrived at under conditions of control but with facilities at disposal US; this he said had been his position from outset.
On my bringing up Brazil agreement he replied he felt conditions were not the same. Brazil was more distant from US and greater participation in base control by US might have been felt strategically indispensable by both countries; moreover Brazil as large country need not have experienced some sensitiveness re question sovereignty. I countered by remarking defense plans for hemisphere must be conceived as whole and that Cuba and Brazil were regarded by our Government as leading collaborators in system; it was confident expectation our Government that in view Cuba’s well known desire to cooperate Cuba could do no less in present connection than Brazil had already done.
He believed talks re permanent agreement on bases should continue but thought they should be broadened to cover general problems defense [Page 916]including Cuba’s need for ships, armaments, technical training-and exchange of info. He felt we could expand opportunities for stationing US officers in Cuba for work with Cuban Defense Commissions.
His views on concept Mixed Base Commission are unchanged namely such arrangement would not take into account Cuba’s feeling about sovereignty.
He had two observations re our draft plan: (1) draft does not declare specifically that secret agreements (Article XIII in agreement September 7, 1942) will be carried out as promised; (2) any new agreement should be based on postulate “as consequence of desire of Cuba to collaborate with respect defense matters Cuba and US might formulate all the conventions for defense of hemisphere which both Governments may deem necessary.”
I feel my visit was very timely because obviously in intervening weeks he had altered his approach to matter and had no intention of making counter proposal perhaps re initiative as still ours as we were original petitioners. Initially I sensed his intention Cuba should take over 6 months after establishment peace and make agreement subsequently; he said several times “What we want is faithful execution present agreement”. I pointed out that without discussing dates we wanted both sides in accord so when secret agreement had terminated we would have something ready to take its place. He came to concede supplementary agreement to allow carrying on without interim desirable and present talks useful to that end.
I expressed feeling our original proposal very liberal as meeting proper requirements both Governments for end in which they were equally interested; our idea was to reach arrangement both reciprocal and flexible (he had contemplated only our intermittent use bases after prior notification).
I am not yet able determine extent attitude based on real desire Cuban Air Force take over and use bases (as mentioned recent despatch) or extent Cuba wishes to use base negotiations for bargaining purposes but believe latter equally important because he finally made point our plan more limited in scope than what he had in mind.
I left it with President that after the holidays he would be prepared to resume conversations.