211. Paper Prepared by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Moorer)1


  • Assessment of Soviet Military Activities
Our latest intelligence indicates that the Soviet Union may be developing the port of Cienfuegos, Cuba, into a base capable of supporting nuclear submarines. This is but the latest in a series of moves that appear to fit into a pattern which indicates increasing Soviet hostility toward the United States and a willingness to take greater risks in pursuing objectives inimical to the security of the United States. Several Soviet actions which illustrate this pattern are listed below:
  • —Soviets continue to construct strategic missiles, SSBNs, and a new strategic bomber during SALT.
  • —Soviets have increased the threat to NATO Europe by deployment of ICBMs with improved accuracy replacing older MRBM/IRBMs.
  • —Soviet conventional forces in Europe have been strengthened. General Goodpaster has pointed out that the land, sea, air and missile forces of the Warsaw Pact represent a concentration of military power far in excess of defensive needs.
  • —Soviet actions in Czechoslovakia indicated that they will not hesitate to employ military force when their vital interests—as they define them—are at stake. The continuing occupation force has served to strengthen Soviet forces in Eastern Europe by five divisions.
  • —Soviet Navy deployments are increasing in scope and frequency, and in April 1970, the Soviet Navy conducted the most extensive exercise ever attempted by any navy, operating simultaneously in three oceans.
  • —Soviet merchant fleet has increased from 432 to 1,717 ships in the post-World War II period.
  • —Soviet influence in the Arab world, Soviet military presence in the Middle East and Soviet naval operations in the Mediterranean have increased dramatically in the past three years.
  • —Soviets have virtual control of UAR air defense and have challenged US peace initiative by violation of standstill provision with massive buildup of missile defenses along Suez Canal.
  • —Soviet airfield construction activity has been reported on Socotra Island in the Gulf of Aden.
  • —A Soviet naval task force has been operating in the Indian Ocean on a semi-permanent basis since November 1968, and aircraft landing rights have been acquired in Mauritius. Somalia recently has become pro-Soviet in its orientation.
  • —Election of a Marxist President in Chile may present the Soviet Union with an opportunity to expand military as well as political influence into the southern cone of the Western Hemisphere.
  • —Three Soviet fleet visits have been made to Cuba (July/August 1969, May/June 1970 and September 1970), and TU–95/BEAR D reconnaissance aircraft made three flights to Cuba in April and May of this year.
Military implications of the Soviet pattern of increasing military capabilities are clear. In the strategic field, they have attained a position of relative strength that makes the US nuclear deterrent credible only in extremis. They are developing the airlift, sealift, and submarine forces to project and support military power throughout the world. The establishment of Soviet bases in the Western Hemisphere or Indian Ocean would spread our ASW forces thinner, make our sea LOCS even more difficult to protect, and enhance Soviet efforts to penetrate the areas economically and politically. It would appear that the Soviet Union is boldly pursuing more aggressive policies in the Middle East, Indian Ocean, and Western Hemisphere.
Offsetting, in part, this steady buildup in Soviet capabilities has been some ostensible cooperation in diplomatic moves. They have agreed to SALT—even though they continue to build while talking. They have signed a non-aggression pact with the FRG and have raised the possibility of a Conference on European Security and force reductions in Europe. The Soviets urged the Arabs to accept a Middle East ceasefire, but have assisted in violating the standstill aspects of the ceasefire. (This makes one wonder how reliable Soviet adherence to a SALT agreement would be.) However, while professing peaceful intentions, military capabilities have been improved across the board.
The latest and perhaps the most serious challenge to US security interests is occurring in Cuba. Recent port improvements and construction activity at Cienfuegos indicate that the Soviets are establishing a facility that will support naval units, including nuclear submarines, in the Caribbean and the Atlantic. A detailed assessment of the military significance of a Soviet naval base or naval support facility at Cienfuegos is contained in enclosure 1.2
Soviet use of Cienfuegos to directly support Y-class submarine operations, or indirectly by basing support ships there for at sea rendezvous, would represent a significant increase in the strategic threat to the United States due to the additional on-station time and extra stations that could be covered, for example, in the Gulf of Mexico. A sharp reduction in transit time would have the effect of increasing the size of the Soviet submarine fleet and decreasing the time available to detect submarine movements. Early model SSB/SSBNs could be employed without a long, noisy transit. Sustained operations in the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico would threaten additional areas of the US and increase the vulnerability of SAC to SLBM attack.
Attack submarines utilizing Cienfuegos would have additional time on station for operations against our SSBNs and other naval forces based at Charleston, Mayport, Key West, Guantanamo, and Roosevelt Roads. The vulnerability of our naval forces, merchant ships and sea LOCS would be increased. As with SSBNs, supporting attack submarines at Cienfuegos would have the effect of giving the Soviets a net increase in available force levels.
If the foregoing assessment is valid, then appropriate countermeasures appear necessary. They fall into two categories: those dealing with the overall trend in Soviet capabilities, and those focusing on the specific activity at Cienfuegos. The countermeasures are, of course, related to our national objectives which remain sound and should not be changed. In connection with the overall expansion of Soviet capabilities, the following broad politico-military countermeasures seem appropriate:
Intensified intelligence effort to deepen our knowledge of Soviet capabilities and trends in ballistic missile submarines, ICBMs and MRBMs.
Tough negotiating line with the Soviets in such areas as Berlin, SALT, MBFR. We should not pass up opportunities to point out the stark inconsistency between the Soviet’s professed intentions to ease tensions, and their growing world-wide capabilities and actions.
Shore up NATO. Actions include initiatives to bring France into closer cooperation, efforts to prevent any unravelling effect on NATO by the FRG’s Eastern policy, and revalidation of our military posture in Western Europe.
Provide sufficient economic and military aid to counter growing Soviet influence in less developed nations.
Increased world-wide US naval presence. This would counter demonstratively the increased Soviet naval presence in areas such as the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and possibly off Chile if that situation develops to Soviet advantage.
Enhance the capabilities of our Strategic Forces and General Purpose Forces.
Turning to specific countermeasures for Cienfuegos, we must first determine the extent of the capability to support SSBNs and the [Page 635] pattern of operations. This will involve a cautious increase in aerial and off-shore surveillance to detect levels of sea and shore activity, types and numbers of vessels, types and quantities of equipment and supplies, and personnel. If Cienfuegos does develop into an SSBN base, the countermeasures listed below should be considered:
Protest the existence of the submarine support base and demand its removal, claiming violation of the 1962 understandings. This could involve a direct confrontation over such measures as quarantining Cienfuegos, boarding and search of enroute Soviet ships, surface and sub-surface surveillance of Soviet vessels, clandestine sabotage efforts, or placement of negotiation hazards. Additional illustrative actions both to signal our resolve and to remove the base are listed in enclosures 2 and 3.
Negotiate removal. This would involve determining some suitable US quid pro quo in exchange for Soviet withdrawal from the base. While these actions would avoid a direct confrontation, they would clearly erode our military capabilities and freedom of action.
Obtain assurances on the non-offensive nature of the base. However, the long history of Soviet deviousness makes this a high-risk action for the United States.
In conclusion, if Cienfuegos emerges as an active submarine base, it would increase significantly Soviet capabilities in the Western Hemisphere. The missile crisis in 1962 drew a line against Soviet military expansion in this Hemisphere and we should toe that line now even though our relative strategic posture has deteriorated since October 1962. If we do not, the Soviets might mistake acquiescence for weakness and be encouraged to develop other bases in this Hemisphere. Accordingly, the following actions should be undertaken:
Increase intelligence operations to determine conclusively whether Cienfuegos is an active submarine base. If it is, then appropriate countermeasures should be employed to force removal. We could not rationalize the continuing presence of such a base, nor should we negotiate its removal by sacrificing some of our freedom of action or capabilities.
Continue the urgent, detailed assessment of Soviet military capabilities in relation to our capabilities in order to determine appropriate countermeasures.
Maintain tight security over disclosure of all aspects of Soviet activities in Cienfuegos to avoid a premature disclosure which could foreclose options available to the United States.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 782, Country Files, Latin America, Cuba, Soviet Naval Activity in Cuban Waters (Cienfuegos), Vol. I. Top Secret; Sensitive. On September 22, Haig forwarded this paper to Kissinger for the NSC meeting on Cuba held on September 23.
  2. Attached but not printed. Also attached but not printed are enclosures on “Actions to Signal Resolve and to Prepare for Military Action to Eliminate or Neutralize Soviet Base at Cienfuegos” and “Actions Designed to Eliminate or Neutralize Soviet Base at Cienfuegos.”