400. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State and Chairman of the Policy Planning Council (Rostow) to the Presidentʼs Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0

Initial questions raised by reading Cuba folder.1

It may be crucial to any set of moves that we make that we establish a clear legal basis for our action. This seems to me necessary because we will be inhibited from bringing to bear such forces as may be required at some stage, by our own inhibitions, unless such a basis exists. The optimum legal basis is not the raw Monroe Doctrine. I think we should look hard at the Rio Treaty and the Punta del Este resolutions which bear on indirect aggression.
A political basis within the hemisphere and within NATO is, to a degree, necessary; but if we have a legal basis satisfying to ourselves, a certain degree of unilateral, of “High Noon” action is probably acceptable.
As the papers note, it may be extremely important within the hemisphere to distinguish defensive from offensive installations, downplaying what has already apparently been delivered by references to Indonesia, Iraq, etc. The embarrassment here is mainly to our covert operations and therefore need not enter into the psychological impact of the deliveries.
As the paper suggests we should consider very seriously drawing a line which we would not only state publicly but to Moscow and Havana as well. This line should assert unacceptability to us of nuclear delivery capabilities within the hemisphere either on land or submarine-based. Here is where the legal foundation for our position is important. The Soviets may argue that we have emplaced nuclear weapons close to their borders. Our response should be that this hemisphere has set up its own regional security arrangements; that the U.S. is part of this hemisphere; and that we intend by our own force and with those allies who read the hemispheric documents as we do to enforce those regulations.
Against this background we should consider informing Moscow that among the actions we may take in response to any interference with Berlin access is a Cuban blockade. They have increased their pressure on us in Cuba, but they also have given hostages to fortune by this [Page 1002] commitment. This is of course a deterrent with respect to Berlin, not a matter of Cuban policy itself.
In the light of these Soviet moves, we should be able to get NATO and the Latin Americans to reduce their trade with Cuba—and increase the Soviet bill for this operation; but only if we put much more diplomatic muscle into the effort than we have thus far.
The occasion is also propitious for our trying to tighten up from the relatively low level but still disruptive Cuban efforts at subversion in Latin America. As I understand it this effort now mainly consists in withdrawing training and reinfiltrating agents, disbursing money and disseminating propaganda. On a bilateral basis we should put more muscle into interfering with this game as well as underlining our willingness to bring the Punta del Este resolutions to bear.2
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM 181, Cuba (A). Top Secret; Sensitive. Rostow added by hand the word “only” after Bundyʼs name at the top of the memorandum.
  2. It is not clear which papers were in the folder Rostow was reading.
  3. At the end of point 7, Rostow made the following handwritten addition: “i.e., those relating to indirect aggression.” He also added, in his own hand, points 8. “Commando raids,” and 9. “A Caribbean Security agreement?”