344. Summary Record of 7th Meeting of the Standing Group of the National Security Council0

The discussion of the attached sugar paper1 emphasized the necessity of increasing domestic and world sugar production. Deputy Under Secretary of Agriculture Sundquist was asked to develop for consideration a program of action to force down the world sugar price. The interest of the Standing Group in this subject is a desire to deny high sugar prices to the Castro government. The attached Record of Action summarizes the study which the Department of Agriculture and a task force will make.2

There was a brief discussion of Sherman Kent’s paper on “Possible U.S. Actions in the Event of Castro’s Death.”3 The general view was that all of the courses of action discussed were singularly unpromising.

[Page 822]

Mr. Bundy asked the question: What do we do about Cuba? He said he was coming to believe that we could not say that by a date certain we could overthrow Castro. He believed that we should face this prospect. Of the various contingencies which we might exploit, none were controllable by us. It is possible that changes in the Castro government cannot be brought about until Soviet troops are out of Cuba. Even a blockade involves a naval confrontation with the USSR. Because the level of danger is now equal to that of last October, a nuclear confrontation with the Soviets is not feasible. He suggested that at the next Standing Group meeting the comments he had made should be fully discussed.

Mr. McCone argued for courses of action which would increase economic hardship in Cuba. Such actions, supplemented by sabotage meas-ures, would create a situation in Cuba in which it would be possible to subvert military leaders to the point of their acting to overthrow Castro. He acknowledged that any sabotage measures taken in Cuba would create a very high noise level.

Secretary McNamara repeated his view that sabotage measures would not be conclusive and suggested an examination of those economic pressures which could upset Castro.

Mr. FitzGerald summarized a paper containing a list of all covert actions which could be taken against Castro Cuba. (Copy attached)4

Secretary McNamara said there were three lines of action. The first would be to over-react to some action taken by Castro or made to appear to have been taken by him. For example, a Cuban attack on Guantanamo, even one inspired by us, might create a situation which we could exploit and thus justify courses of action adequate to overthrow Castro. The second line would be long-range economic warfare against Cuba. The third would be to buy off Castro.

Mr. McCone said Castro’s visit to Moscow was inspired by a Russian desire to forestall any effort by the U.S. to negotiate with Castro. Under Secretary Harriman flatly disagreed, saying that Khrushchev invited Castro to Moscow in order to prove the success of Russian policy toward Cuba and to refute Chinese accusations that Khrushchev’s “softness” toward the U.S. had produced no returns.

There followed a discussion as to where we thought Cuba would be five years from now. Secretary McNamara indicated his belief that the Russians would and could make Cuba a showcase for Communism in the Western Hemisphere. Under Secretary Harriman doubted they would try to do this and stated that they could not, even if they tried.

[Page 823]

The Attorney General, who entered the meeting in the middle of Mr. FitzGerald’s briefing, said the U.S. must do something against Castro, even though we do not believe our actions would bring him down.

Mr. Bundy acknowledged that we can give an impression of busyness in Cuba and we can make life difficult for Castro.

Mr. McCone said that economic measures, such as restriction of trade, were wasting assets because of the increasing reluctance of our allies to act with us. In addition, Cuba has money obtained from selling sugar futures. Such sales amount to $40 million already. Thus, economic warfare is very difficult to carry on. In response to a question by the Attorney General as to what Mr. McCone recommended should be done, the Director repeated his earlier proposal of sabotage and subversion of the Cuban military.

Mr. Bundy summarized by saying that the best we could do was to decide now what actions we would take against Castro, acknowledging that the measures practical for us to undertake will not result in his overthrow.

Bromley Smith5
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Standing Group Meeting, 5/28/63. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Reference is to the second paper cited in footnote 1, Document 343.
  3. According to Bundy’s May 28 record of action, the Department of Agriculture would develop for consideration a U.S. program to reduce substantially the price of sugar on the world market. The program should outline measures to be taken, their estimated costs, and take into account U.S. balance of payments consequences as well as consequences to friendly sugar-producing countries. The Department of State, CIA, and IAD would make available to the Department of Agriculture experts to assist in the study. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series)
  4. See Document 338.
  5. Reference is to the second paper cited in footnote 3, Document 343.
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.