221. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • A Soviet Submarine Base in Cuba


  • Senator Charles Percy
  • Senator Marlowe Cook
  • Senator Robert Mathias
  • The Acting Secretary of State
  • Mr. David Abshire
  • Mr. Ronald Spiers
  • Mr. Colgate Prentice

After an extended discussion of the situation in the Mediterranean, Senator Percy asked what the State Department position was on the construction of a Soviet Submarine Base in Cuba. He said that he had been asked about this subject by a newspaper reporter the previous day and was convinced that he was going to get more questions on this topic. Without official guidance, he said, Senators and Members of Congress would begin to formulate their own positions on the subject because of the pressure of public concern. He mentioned Congressman Mendel Rivers’ statement as a case in point.

The other Senators strongly endorsed Senator Percy’s statement and began asking questions about the nature of the Soviet installation and the USG’s intended response to it. The State Department participants initially attempted to avoid a direct answer on the grounds that complete information on the nature of the installation was unavailable, and therefore a decision on our policy in this matter was premature.2 The Senators were not satisfied with this response, however, pointing [Page 666] out that they were all already under considerable pressure to take a position on this issue.

Mr. Abshire then informed the Senators that the Administration had not yet decided its position on this issue and that we had been enjoined by the President from making any further statements on the subject until his return from Europe.

The Senators then insisted that we communicate with the President and inform him of their feeling that public concern was reaching a critical stage and that without firm guidance from the Administration the President would find himself plagued with a rash of public statements, many of them unhelpful, by Senators and Congressmen. They emphasized that they were anxious to support the Administration on this issue, but could not do so without guidance and could not remain publicly silent on this subject much longer.

Mr. Abshire assured them that we would communicate their concern to Secretary Rogers.

  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. Secret. No time indicated. Sent by Theodore Eliot on October 1 to Kissinger. An October 2 memorandum from Vaky to Haig transmitting this memorandum of conversation bears Kissinger’s initials. The Acting Secretary of State on that day was Irwin. Abshire was Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations; Spiers was Director of Politico-Military Affairs; and Prentice was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations.
  2. On September 26, Kissinger informed the Secretaries of State and Defense, the DCI, and the Chairman of the JCS that, “The President has directed that no comment, speculation, or backgrounding of any kind be undertaken by U.S. spokesmen or officials and that future inquiries on the subject of a possible submarine base in Cuba be responded to with the following line: ‘I have nothing to add to what has already been said on this subject.’” (Ibid.)