320. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the Standing Group of the National Security Council0


The attached papers are circulated as background material for the meeting of the Standing Group now scheduled for Tuesday, April 23, at 5:00 p.m.1 This meeting will not aim at reaching agreed conclusions, but rather at an initial and wide-ranging discussion of the prospects and alternatives for American policy in Cuba.

The papers attached are intended mainly for reference, and much of their contents will be familiar. Except for Tab 1, which is a White House summary of the problem and of alternative approaches to it, these papers are forwarded from the Office of the Coordinator for Cuban Affairs. Through no fault of the Coordinator, these papers are not fully-up-to-date on certain special aspects of contingency planning, and they omit certain covert plans and operations on which there will be oral briefing Tuesday. The papers are as follows:

  • Tab 1—White House summary
  • Tab 2—(Annex 3), Current Situation2
  • Tab 3—(Annex 4), Multilateral Efforts to Isolate Cuba and Combat Castro-Communist Subversion3
  • Tab 4—(Annex 5), Cuban Hemisphere Subversion3
  • Tab 5—(Annex 6), Economic Restrictions4
  • Tab 6—(Annex 7), Exile Problems5
  • Tab 7—Military Contingency Planning6
  • Tab 8—The Cuban Situation in Eighteen Months or Two Years (prepared by State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research)7

By separate distribution I am also circulating an unclassified compilation of the President's statements on Cuba.8

McGeorge Bundy

Tab 1


  • A Sketch of the Cuban Alternatives

I. Present Policy and prospects

Present U.S. policy toward Cuba has the following elements:

Prevention of a direct military threat to the U.S. or the Hemisphere from Cuba. To this end it is clear that all necessary measures will be taken.
Elimination of Soviet military presence from Cuba. Currently our level of effort here is limited to quite diplomatic pressure and careful public statement. Decisions on further action are deferred pending the result of current efforts.
Isolation of Cuba from the rest of the free world. To this end we are ready to exert considerable diplomatic and economic pressure on Western Allies.
Counter-action against Cuban/Communist subversion in the Western Hemisphere. We are developing an extensive program of cooperation with Latin American governments in this field, and it is clearly our policy to develop this program energetically.
Surveillance to Cuba by all appropriate intelligence operations. It is clear that the maintenance of this surveillance is essential in support of objective 1, above.
Covert action to damage the Cuban economy. The possibilities of such action appear limited, but they have not been fully explored. It is current policy to develop additional resources for selective action in this field.

Opinions differ as to the probable result of this policy in the absence of major shifts inside Cuba or in Soviet or Cuban behavior. At Tab 8 is an informal memorandum from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the State Department on this topic. This memorandum is to be supplemented soon by a community-wide intelligence assessment. The probability is that in the absence of new developments, the policy outlined above will not lead to early major change in Cuba.

II. Possible New Directions

Broadly speaking, major changes in the situation can be produced in one of two ways: either we can await events which would permit or require new action by the United States Government, or we can initiate actions designed to produce major change, whether or not the actions of others produce crisis opportunities.


Contingency Planning

Contingency planning currently envisages three kinds of cases in which stepped-up action is intended:

Interference with U.S. surveillance
Any new major Soviet military intrusion or any significant military move from Cuba against the Hemisphere
Possible general action against Cuba in the context of an international crisis originating elsewhere.

Contingency planning for b. and c. is limited so far to straight military planning on a wholly hypothetical basis. Planning for a. is primarily directed toward the immediate objective of insuring continued surveillance by a minimum necessary force. The broader political question is whether these or other contingencies should be regarded as opportunities for deliberately enlarged action aimed at a major political result. On the one hand, contingency planning can be based on the premise that we wish to protect and restore the situation existing immediately before the [Page 777]new crisis; this was essentially the purpose of U.S. policy in the October missile crisis. Alternatively, contingency planning can be developed with the purpose of using a given critical development as a means of changing the situation in ways advantageous to us. It is obvious that greater commitments of force and greater risks are inevitable in such alternative planning, and it is equally obvious that these greater commitments and risks may not be desirable in any given case. The point here is simply that such choices are a necessary element of the choice of responses to any particular contingency. Perhaps the Standing Group should give some attention to the question whether wider contingency planning—or at least contingency thinking—is needed.

Possible New Initiatives

A decision to force a non-Communist solution in Cuba by all necessary means.

Such a decision would imply the development of pressures which would insure gradual escalation of the confrontation in Cuba to whatever point was necessary to produce the overthrow of the present regime. Such a policy would not exclude the use of contingencies as a means for advancing U.S. policy, but it would require that the pace be forced and that pressures be sustained in such a way, at every stage, as to prevent solutions short of overthrow of the regime. A program of this kind might or might not be openly avowed at the outset. It might proceed at varying rates of speed and with varying concern for public support here and abroad. Probably its dominant feature would be a willingness to use military force to invade Cuba, and it seems probable too that this invasion would have to be carried through.


A decision to insist on major but limited ends.

The United States could deliberately adopt a policy of gradually increasing pressure designed to produce more limited results at least initially. Possible objectives are the total withdrawal of Soviet military forces, the verifiable abandonment of subversive training in Cuba, the reopening of the island to peaceful on-site visitation and inspection by non-Communists—or all three. Such a program again might be developed at varying rates of speed and with varying combinations of political and military pressure. Probably it would require a clear willingness to move to the level of a POL blockade, and at a guess such a blockade might in fact have to be established at some point.

The U.S. could move in the direction of gradual development of some form of accommodation with Castro.

Faint hints of this possibility appear in Donovan explorations and elsewhere. There is always the possibility that Castro or others currently high in the regime might find advantage in a gradual shift away from [Page 778]their present level of dependence on Moscow. In strictly economic terms, both the United States and Cuba have much to gain from reestablishment of relations. A Titoist Castro is not inconceivable, and a full diplomatic revolution would not be the most extraordinary event in the 20th century. The Special Group may feel that this possibility also should be explored.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the three possibilities sketched above are not wholly exclusive of one another. In particular, the process of gradual pressure outlined in b. could be developed in support of both course a. and course c. Indeed, it is possible to begin on course b. without deciding between a. and c., and conceivably the process of gradual pressure could be so developed that Castro could be made to confront a decisive choice between his overthrow and an accommodation on terms acceptable to us.

McGeorge Bundy
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Standing Group Meetings, 4/23/63, Part A. Top Secret.
  2. See Document 322.
  3. Annex 3 stated that the Cuban economy had continued to decline, with sugar production 60 percent of the 1961 levels, GNP 25 percent below the 1958 level with 20 percent less goods available. It concluded that Castro was the unchalleged leader of Cuba, with the mass of Cubans resigned to his rule and resistance weak and disorganized. The annex estimated that 9,600 Soviet troops and technicians had left Cuba, while in the same time 300-1,000 had arrived. Soviet withdrawals would continue slowly, but a large number of Soviet technicans would remain in Cuba indefinitely. See the Supplement.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Annex 6 suggested that economic restrictions were working. Free world shipping to Cuba was sharply reduced, international civil aviation to Cuba had almost been entirely cut off, free world trade to Cuba was 20 percent of the 1959 figure, and strategic commodities had been blocked from going to Cuba. See the Supplement.
  6. Annex 7 indicated that the U.S. refusal to support Miro Cardona's demand for an alliance of exile groups for military action under the Cuba Revolutionary Council (CRC) had caused Miro's resignation and would probably cause the disintegration of the CRC, a “desirable development.” The annex noted that uncontrolled hit and rUN raids had been stopped, members of the Cuban Brigade were offered civilian and military opportunities, and 50,000 Cuban refugees had been resettled outside the Miami area, leaving 125,000 still in the Miami area. See the Supplement.
  7. Annex 8 contained a description of CINCLANT OPLANSfor Cuba. See the Supplement.
  8. In this memorandum, April 18, INR concluded that the Cuban economy would deteriorate, the economic cost of Cuba to the USSR would be somewhat greater, the isolation of Cuba would increase, but otherwise the situation would remain essentially unchanged. It was therefore difficult to reach a definitive judgment on whether time was running out for Castro. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, General, 4/1/63-4/20/63)
  9. Attached, but not printed.