401. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Kennedy 0
I attach at Tab A a first element in the reports on Cuba which will be coming in first thing next week. I have also started Walt Rostow on an intensive personal review of the problem and his thoughts will be available on Tuesday.1 What Rostow and I both think as a first reaction is that we have two problems here which should be kept separate. The first is our reaction to the current step, and the second is our preparations to react against something which would require or make possible a major military operation against Cuba. The present actions in Cuba do not justify such action.[Page 1003]
If this distinction is correct, we probably should make it plain during next week that while the activities in Cuba are further evidence of Castroʼs sell-out to the Soviets, they do not pose any new active threat to us or to the hemisphere. We should distinguish these activities from any form of aggressive action, or any activity which could aggressively threaten us or any other American state. We should make it plain that we know exactly what is going on and will continue to be able to watch it from inside and outside Cuba. We might also indicate that we expect the Cuban people to show their own opinion of this Soviet intrusion—and Walt suggests that Lansdaleʼs operation might well be enlarged to include harassing actions by Cubans against bloc personnel.
Meanwhile, we should of course do what we can to intensify Castroʼs isolation from our allies. There is not a great deal to be done here, because trade is already very small and is limited mainly by Castroʼs own shortage of foreign exchange. Shipping is very hard to control because of the number of different flags under which there is excess cargo capacity, mainly managed by owners who would trade with anybody and passionately resist political guidance.
In the longer run, we need to clarify both here and abroad the grounds on which aggressive action or offensive capability would call us into action.
This is less a matter of the Monroe Doctrine than one of elemental national security. It is not the same as missiles in Turkey. It is like the Soviet attitude toward the Black Sea or the Baltic states. In domestic politics, again, we need to draw this same sharp distinction between what is now going on and what we would not tolerate. This will require a careful exposition from you, and it is the only reason for thinking that a press conference toward the end of next week may be important. I myself believe that if we make it clear that short of war we have done everything we can and that war is not justified by antiaircraft installations, we shall be on fairly solid ground.