302. Telegram 78480 from McCone, September 191

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Priority [less than 1 line not declassified]. Eyes Only [less than 1 line not declassified] from [less than 1 line not declassified].

1. Herewith conclusions of Special National Intelligence Estimate approved by USIB on 19 September.

A. We believe that Soviet Union values its position in Cuba primarily for the political advantages to be derived from it, and consequently that the main purpose of the present military buildup in Cuba is to strengthen the Communist regime there against what the Cubans and the Soviets conceive to be a danger that the US may attempt by one means or another to overthrow it. The Soviets evidently hope to deter any such attempt by enhancing Castro’s defensive capabilities and by threatening Soviet military retaliation. At the same time, they evidently recognize that the development of an offensive military base in Cuba [Typeset Page 997] might provoke US military intervention and thus defeat their present purpose.

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B. In terms of military significance, the current Soviet deliveries are substantially improving air defense and coastal defense capabilities in Cuba. Their political significance is that, in conjunction with the Soviet statement of 11 September, they are likely to be regarded as ensuring the continuation of the Castro regime in power, with consequent discouragement to the opposition at home and in exile. The threat inherent in these developments is that, to the extent that the Castro regime thereby gains a sense of security at home, it will be emboldened to become more aggressive in fomenting revolutionary activity in Latin America.

C. As the buildup continues, the Soviet Union may be tempted to establish in Cuba, other weapons represented to be defensive in purpose, but of a more “offensive” character: e.g., light bombers, submarines, and additional types of short-range surface-to-surface missiles. A decision to provide such weapons [Facsimile Page 3] will continue to depend heavily on the Soviet estimate as to whether they could be introduced without provoking a US military reaction.

D. The Soviet Union could derive considerable military advantage from the establishment of Soviet medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles in Cuba, or from the establishment of a Soviet submarine base there. As between these two, the establishment of sub base could be more likely. Either development, however, would be incompatible with Soviet practice to date and with Soviet policy as we presently estimate it. It would indicate a far greater willingness to increase the level of risk in US-Soviet relations than the Soviet Union has displayed thus far, and consequently would have important policy implications with respect to other areas and other problems in East-West relations.

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E. The Latin American reaction will be to the evidence of an increased Soviet commitment to Cuba, rather than to the technical implications of the military buildup. Many Latin Americans will fear and resent a Soviet military intrusion into the hemisphere, but will regard the problem as one to be met by the US and not their responsibility. We estimate the chances are better now than they were at Punta del Este to obtain 2/3 OAS majority for sanctions and other steps short of military action aimed at Cuba. It became clear that the Soviet Union was establishing an “offensive” base in Cuba, most Latin American governments would expect the US to eliminate it, by whatever means were necessary, but many of them would still seek to avoid direct involvement.

  1. Transmits conclusions of SNIE approved by USIB on September 19. Top Secret. 4 pp. CIA, DCI (McCone) Files: Job 80–B01285A, Box 4, DCI–DDCI Cables—Cuba, 4 Sept–21 Sept 1962.