371. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Cuba


  • US
    • The President
    • The Secretary
    • Ambassador Thompson
    • Assistant Secretary Tyler
    • Mr. Akalovsky, A CDA/IR
  • USSR
    • Foreign Minister Gromyko
    • Deputy Foreign Minister Semenov
    • Ambassador Dobrynin
    • Mr. Sukhodrev, Foreign Ministry

Mr. Gromyko recalled the President’s remark about Soviet personnel in Cuba and said that, as Mr. Khrushchev had told Mr. Harriman, there were now no Soviet troops in Cuba. The Soviet personnel now in Cuba were specialists training the Cubans in the use of arms supplied by the USSR. When this limited task was accomplished these would be withdrawn. As to what had been done in Cuba so far, there was no need to repeat that now because the President was informed on this matter. The Soviet Government was acting in Cuba on the basis of the understanding the President and Mr. Khrushchev had reached in their correspondence.

The President asked how many Soviet military specialists would remain in Cuba in, say, six months.

Mr. Gromyko said that he was unable to answer this question. He preferred not to speak in terms of dates but he wished to ask the President to understand that the USSR had in Cuba only military specialists with a limited mission.

The President commented that it would be helpful if, when the specialists were completely withdrawn, Mr. Khrushchev were to consider making a statement to that effect.

[Page 876]

Mr. Gromyko said he would inform Mr. Khrushchev about this. However he suggested that the President take into account the difficulty of mentioning specific dates. So if Mr. Khrushchev did not mention any dates, this did not mean that specialists would stay forever.

The President said this might be so, but perhaps Mr. Khrushchev could make such a statement to one of the visiting newsmen in terms of an accomplished fact.

Mr. Gromyko said that he did not think there was any need to remind the President that Cuba was being subjected to constant pressure and provocation on the part of some forces which engaged even in such things as sending planes with bombs. The President probably knew better than he, Gromyko, who those forces were. The Soviet Government was convinced that if the US Government and the President personally wished to stop these activities, they would cease immediately.

The President said we believed we had stopped harassment by planes and had given warning, although perhaps if someone was close enough he could still fly in and drop a bomb. In any event, he did not see any benefit to the US from harassment. This would not unseat Castro and serve no useful purpose.

Mr. Gromyko commented that those air raids must be originating somewhere. If they originated outside the US, they could be stopped too, because the USSR had a high opinion of US influence in Latin America.

The President said we were not sure that the planes came from Latin America. Of two recent flights over Cuba, one has perhaps come from Central America, and some plane may have come even from Florida. We tried to stop the planes, but there were many fields in Florida, light planes were used and it was very difficult to keep them under control.

The Secretary recalled his remarks to Mr. Gromyko about activities in the other direction, noting this made it more difficult for us to deal with this situation. He also observed that the Chinese may be involved in this matter.

Mr. Gromyko asserted that the USSR had no information about such activities. If the US regarded speeches by Castro or other Cuban leaders as subversive, then Soviet speeches about capitalism and US speeches about communism were also subversive. In any event, the USSR had no information about any subversive activities from Cuba.

The Secretary asked whether Mr. Gromyko thought Cuba had said its last word regarding the signing of the Test Ban Treaty.

Mr. Gromyko said the US was familiar with the Cuban position on this matter. As he had told the Secretary earlier, the USSR believed that this question was under consideration by Cuba. Thus the USSR believed that the Cubans had not spoken their last word, although they did take the position that the policy of the US Government prevented them from [Page 877] signing. However, Mr. Gromyko noted that he could not speak for the Cubans.

The President commented that the Cubans might not like our policy; we did not like Cuban policy, but we wanted the Cubans to sign. He wondered whether the Cubans took this attitude because of China.

Mr. Gromyko said the USSR had no information which would confirm such a supposition. The USSR gave credence to the Cuban statement that it was the US policy which was the reason for their present stand.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, USSR, Gromyko talks with President. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Akalovsky and approved by the White House on October 21 and by S on October 16. The meeting was held at the White House. This memorandum was one of eleven covering a conversation that lasted until 6:10 p.m. (Ibid., President’s Appointment Book) For conversations on U.S.-Soviet relations in general as well as an accounting of the other memoranda of this conversation, see volume V.