215. Memorandum for the Record1
- Meeting of Senior Review Group on Cuba
- Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
- Deputy Secretary David Packard
- Under Secretary U. Alexis Johnson
- Admiral Thomas Moorer
- Director Richard Helms
The group met briefly for the purpose of discussing contingency press guidance to be used in the event that information concerning a Soviet base in Cuba became known publicly.
Dr. Kissinger began the meeting by cautioning that it was necessary to be prepared for possible press stories on the Cuban base. He suggested that the Government’s public response be along the following lines:
“We are aware of the reports. The President has reviewed these reports with his senior advisors. The Soviets are well aware of the fact that establishment of a base would be of great concern to us. We are keeping the situation under constant review.”
Under Secretary Johnson stated that, because of the statements made by President Kennedy in 1962, we could emphasize that the Soviets are well aware of the seriousness with which we would view such a development. He suggested that we use President Kennedy’s language when he stated that we would expect that they would be kept out of this hemisphere in the future.
Dr. Kissinger commented that we wouldn’t want to imply that if the Soviets stopped now, we would acquiesce in what they have done.
Director Helms then commented that we were dealing with a period of 10 days or so and asked whether we couldn’t get by with reassuring reports along the lines that ever since 1962 we have been concerned about missiles in Cuba and have been checking the situation and will continue to check.
Dr. Kissinger remarked that because so many analysts were now aware of recent developments, there were two dangers: (1) it might be built into a Cuban missile crisis, and (2) on the other hand, if we kept it too low-key, then the Congress might build it up.
Director Helms indicated that he was worried about saying that the President had been briefed, feeling that this might dignify the situation. Dr. Kissinger interjected that we have to say that the President has been briefed on the situation.
Director Helms then spoke of the difference between a naval base and a naval base with special equipment. He pointed out that we know there is special equipment at Cienfuegos. Secretary Packard remarked, “But we haven’t seen submarines.”[Page 655]
Dr. Kissinger then indicated that we needed to find a happy medium that would keep the public calm and quiet and at the same time stir up the Soviets enough to get them to close down the base.
Secretary Packard commented that he wanted to see more information before drawing a final conclusion about what is actually going on in Cienfuegos. Dr. Kissinger asked him if it would be acceptable if the Soviets stopped what they were doing right where they were. Secretary Packard replied, “No.” He would say he knows of reports but wants more information.
Admiral Moorer stated that the Soviets have done everything necessary to provide a base. All the fundamental elements are there now. Even if the ship leaves, the buoys and the communications are there. Dr. Kissinger then asked what we wanted the Soviets to take out. Admiral Moorer answered, “It boils down to whether we will let them use it.”
Dr. Kissinger then turned to the issue of whether to mention the President in the statement or not. He suggested doing two statements which would be distributed to the principals. The President could then decide.
Admiral Moorer then stated that there should be mention in the statement of previous Soviet deployments.
Dr. Kissinger cautioned the group that nothing should be said to the Soviets until a scenario had been developed. The President wanted to have such a scenario worked out.
Dr. Kissinger closed the meeting by summarizing the consensus of the group. He asked Secretary Packard to submit what the Defense Department proposed to say limited purely to the facts of the situation. Secretary Johnson would prepare a statement along the lines outlined at the meeting and dealing with the political aspects of the question. Dr. Kissinger stated that he would blend these submissions into a composite set of instructions for the guidance of all. The guidance would be used as follows: Defense would limit itself to responses dealing with the facts of the situation but only if pressed. Any questions on the political issue or contacts with the Soviets should be handled by State or the White House as appropriate.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–111, SRG Minutes, Originals, 1970. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. On September 24, Richard Kennedy sent Kissinger talking points for the meeting. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 782, Country Files, Latin America, Cuba, Soviet Naval Activity in Cuban Waters (Cienfuegos), Vol. I)↩