608. Memorandum from U. Alexis Johnson to McGeorge Bundy, January 301

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  • Cuba Shipping

You will recall that, in response to the question I raised at the January 25 EXCOM meeting on guidance required by the Department of Agriculture on PL 480 shipments, it was agreed that Agriculture would be given policy guidance along the lines of the fourth paragraph of the draft shipping orders—that is, such cargoes should not be shipped “on vessels owned or controlled by persons who own or control vessels engaged in the trade between Cuba and the Soviet bloc”. I promised to suggest a method of handling this decision.

On investigating the matter further, it became clear that consistency would require that shipments of AID, GSA (stockpile barter arrangements, etc.), State and DOD should be treated in the same manner as those of Agriculture. It also became clear that, as Poland and Yugoslavia have only one state-owned shipping line, application of the proposed rule would prevent all further shipments of PL 480 cargoes on any vessels of those countries, thus further adding to the problems of our relations with them, particularly Yugoslavia.

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Thus after considering the matter, I recommend that, instead of a literal application of the fourth shipping order only to Agriculture, we adopt the policy set forth in the suggested draft NSAM. You will note that this draft contains the following principles:

1. It applies only to the ship rather than to all vessels of the same line.

2. It, however, permits any vessel to “purge” itself if the line gives assurances that thenceforth all vessels under its control will stay out of the Cuban trade.

3. It applies not only to bloc-Cuban trade but to all trade with Cuba. In this sense it is wider than the original [Facsimile Page 2] proposed order but is consistent with the general position we have been taking in our conversations with foreign governments. This does not close United States ports or apply other sanctions to vessels engaged in “innocent” trade between non-bloc countries and Cuba but only says that the United States Government will not reward and facilitate such trade by shipping United States Government cargoes on such vessels.

4. It sets the beginning date at January 1 of this year. This avoids penalizing vessels which were previously engaged in the trade and have subsequently been removed. This date is also consistent with the public warning that was given by the President in his press conference of December 12 that we were considering measures with respect to ships engaged in the Cuba trade.

5. The instruction is directed to the Departments of State, Defense and Agriculture and to AID and GSA, and only with respect to shipments from the United States. These Departments and agencies are the major shippers of United States Government-financed cargoes. I have discussed this with each of the Departments and agencies concerned and the problems of administration, although varying in complexity, are manageable. To seek to apply the instruction to the relatively few shipments originating overseas or between third countries overseas would present administrative difficulties entirely out of proportion to the problem.

As, especially in the case of AID and Agriculture, foreign governments and individuals enter into shipping arrangements affecting such cargoes and therefore must be informed of the “rules of the game”, it is not practicable to effectuate this policy without some publicity. However, I believe it is the sense of the EXCOM that any such publicity should be in as low key as possible. It will also be desirable to give advance information to selected members of the Congress.

As this is a White House instruction applicable to a number of Departments, I suggest that the necessary publicity be originated in the White House. Accordingly, there is also attached a suggested text [Typeset Page 1591] of a statement to be made by the White House, together with additional background briefing material for the press.

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In order to permit prior notification to the Congress as well as to the NAC, I would appreciate approximately twelve hours’ notification prior to the issuance of this NSAM and the White House statement.

I would also like to discuss with you the serious problem of the union (ILA).

U. Alexis Johnson


Draft NSAM

Draft White House statement, with background briefing material

  1. Cuba shipping. Confidential. 3 pp. Kennedy Library, NSF, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM 220.