210. Memorandum From Viron Vaky of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- The Cuban Side of the Soviet Military Activity in Cuba
In concentrating on the Soviet intention and plans regarding Cienfuegos, we should not ignore the other side of the equation—what does Cuba get out of lending its territory for this purpose? The answer would be illuminating as to what Cienfuegos is all about.
Cienfuegos may be the key to a number of puzzling and otherwise unexplainable things that have happened in the past two or three years:
- Evidence that the Soviets are increasing their control over the Cuban regime, and some reports that Castro is unhappy at this and somewhat impotent. The attached memo which I sent to you on September 8 describes some of these; note Castro’s alleged comment on Soviet “coldbloodedness and ruthlessness.”
- In several speeches last Spring, castigating exile activity, Castro made curious references that they (exiles) would not stage out of Central America or the Bahamas if Cuba had long range military aircraft. He would add “but of course we don’t.” However, the references were almost in the sense of “just wait.”
- Cubanologists have long puzzled about why Castro made such a
point of a ten million ton sugar harvest when it was such an
improbable thing to achieve. The most interesting theory is one
Rand researchers have developed linking back to Cuba’s support
of the USSR in the
- —At that time Castro delayed for about a month before speaking out, and it seemed fairly clear that he was struggling with himself. He finally came out for the Soviets. If, the theory goes, the Soviets put the economic squeeze on him at that time because they needed his support in international socialist terms, Castro is the type to chafe at this dependence and seek to build his base to contest this kind of control.
- —The ten million ton harvest was a typical Castroist mission—the subjective willing of a goal—which if he succeeded would have refurbished his leadership and his charisma—and his control over the society.
- —To have failed and to have had to admit it decreases this control and leadership. He is now weaker; he gambled and lost. The Soviets can work their will with less sensitivity for Castro’s wishes.
With reference to Cienfuegos, there are several possibilities; moreover, they are not mutually exclusive:
- The Russians forced Cuba’s consent with economic blackmail.
- They bribed Castro with promises of additional economic and military aid, and perhaps a promise of protection against overthrow.
- They bribed Castro’s cooperation with promises to underwrite the export of revolution—Soviet naval units in the Caribbean could provide cover for clandestine guerrilla expeditions.
The last seems the least likely; to stimulate Castro’s revolutionary exploits again goes counter to every other stance they are taking as to the via pacifica. On the other hand, the Russians could possibly have made a conscious decision to press the erosion of US influence in the continent by a variety of means.
There is no evidence of increased aid, either military or economic, but that of course could be in the future. An intelligence effort to check on weapons flow would be particularly interesting.
I am most intrigued, however, by the possibility that the Russians made a cold decision and then proceeded to ram it down Castro’s throat. It is a tactical decision which may well have sprung out of their success in forcing Castro to bow to their wishes on Czechoslovakia—if we accept that theory for the moment. This may have made them realize—after clashes with Castro’s maverick ideology—that Cuba could be theirs in absolute terms.[Page 631]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 782, Country Files, Latin America, Cuba, Soviet Naval Activity in Cuban Waters (Cienfuegos), Vol. I. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent for information. Vaky’s memorandum is Tab A of a September 22 memorandum from Haig to Kissinger for the NSC meeting on Cuba held September 23. Sent for information; designated “non-log.”↩
- Secret. Sent for information. The memorandum is initialed by Kissinger.↩
- CIA Intelligence Information Cable TDCS DB–315/04525–70, September 2, on “Indications of Increased Soviet Control Over Communist Party of Cuba and Reaction of Fidel Castro” is attached but not printed.↩