398. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State0

561. Department telegram 501.1 In the absence unmistakable clear and official indication from US of seriousness with which unusually large shipments of heavy military goods is viewed, see no reason why Soviets should not continue increasingly provide such materials to Cuba. Preparations for present shipments must have been underway for long time and presumably were keyed to Soviet belief that American comments on the applicability of the Monroe Doctrine signified serious intent to mount full scale and overwhelming invasion. There is little doubt (viz Hungary) that in an equivalent situation the Soviet Union would have undertaken immediate measures to resolve the problem in terms of sheer force. Thus present shipments appear explainable apart from any intended psychological effect in the rest of Latin America.

Soviet press play of so-called “cannonading” of Havana gives no indication that armament of attacking ships was no greater than 20MM capacity.2 Soviet people therefore, should they learn of the extent of Soviet military materiel shipments, would have no reason to think Cuba is not, in fact, in danger of early all-out invasion.

Suggest desirability of early unpublicized demarche to Soviet Government—possibly Dobrynin would be best channel—expressing active and serious concern U.S. Government over penetrating Soviet military equipment accompanied by large numbers of at least technical personnel in area practically impinging on U.S. frontier. It might be indicated that our concern is necessarily based on what may be not entirely accurate information and that we would welcome a statement by the Soviet Government of the kinds of aid being given which would remove these [Page 974] doubts. In the absence of such clarification, we can only assume that the Soviet Government is, for reasons of its own, putting in the hands of what they as well as we know to be an unstable dictator, equipment which, if improperly used, could ignite a conflagration which would extend far beyond the Caribbean.

It would further appear helpful in our approach to allies for cooperation (reftel) if US itself had taken further direct step vis-a-vis USSR.

  1. Source: Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Historianʼs Office, Cable Files, Cuba, Jan.-Aug. 1962. Secret.
  2. Telegram 1205 to London, Document 396, was repeated to Moscow as 501.
  3. Reference is to an incident that occurred on the night of August 24, when two motorboats armed with .20 calibre guns and piloted by a group of young Cuban exiles penetrated Havana harbor to within a kilometer of shore and opened fire on several buildings in the Miramar section of the city for several minutes before escaping out to sea. Cuba protested the attack to the United Nations as an instance of U.S.-sponsored aggression. (Telegram 633 from USUN, August 30; Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/8-3062) Within the senior levels of the Kennedy administration a debate developed involving President Kennedy, the Attorney General, and Under Secretary of State Ball, and others, over whether to arrest and prosecute the Cuban exiles involved after they returned to Florida. President Kennedy decided to issue a statement deploring such “spur-of-the-moment” raids as counter-productive, and warning against any future raids. Memoranda of a number of telephone conversations on August 25 involved in this debate are in the Kennedy Library, Papers of George W. Ball, Subject Series, Cuba, 1/24/61-12/30/62.