226. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Liaison at the National Security Council (Robinson) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Cuba

Attached at Tab A2 is a draft response to the Soviet note concerning recent naval activity in Cuba (Tab B).3 The proposed reply makes clear that we understand the Soviets will take no action to:

  • —Handle or store nuclear weapons in Cuba.
  • —Construct or maintain submarine or surface ship repair facilities or tenders in Cuban ports.
  • —Undertake visits by ballistic missile submarines.

We considered it prudent to include all submarine/surface ship repair facilities in our interpretation since the Soviets could convert any repair installation to one with an offensive weapon capability on short notice. Similarly, although it would be desirable to restrict visits to Cuban ports by all submarines and surface ships with a surface missile capability, we have not done so for several reasons:

  • —Their cruise-missile submarines, missile cruisers and destroyers have visited Cuba without U.S. protest on several occasions during the past 18 months. A challenge at this time might undermine the credibility of our note.
  • —U.S. Polaris submarines do not visit any foreign ports (other than Rota and Holy Loch). We should expect the Soviets to abide by this same restriction, but they probably would refuse to agree to a greater limitation.

One aspect of the 1962 US–USSR “Understanding” concerned the U.S. pledge of no U.S. invasion of Cuba and U.S. prevention of invasion by other countries, contingent upon verification of removal of the missiles from Cuba. Since Castro prevented on-site verification, President Kennedy never gave an unequivocal guarantee not to invade Cuba [Page 675] (Tab C).4 A possible Soviet ploy for removal of the base at Cienfuegos might be to have the U.S. make an explicit non-invasion guarantee. Our proposed note has not addressed this issue.

In arriving at a set of conditions acceptable to the United States, a number of activities were considered. These are enumerated at Tab D. You will note that those items which would be difficult to verify or confirm were not included in the draft note.

For your information, the nomenclature of Soviet submarines and missile-equipped surface ships is appended at Tab E.5

Tab D

List of Soviet Activities in Cuba6

Unacceptable Activity

  • —Facilities ashore for handling/storage of nuclear weapons.
  • —Facilities ashore to repair and maintain submarines or surface ships armed with nuclear-capable surface-to-surface missiles.
  • —Basing or extended deployment with semi-permanent facilities of tenders or other repair ships capable of repair and maintenance of submarines or surface ships armed with nuclear-capable surface-to surface missiles.
  • —Facilities to transfer nuclear weapons afloat.
  • —Communications support facilities for submarines.
  • —Visits by ballistic missile submarines.
  • —Stockpiling of repair parts for submarines or surface ships armed with nuclear-capable surface-to-surface missiles including parts for propulsion and weapons (difficult to verify).
  • —Facilities for provisioning submarines or surface ships armed with nuclear capable surface-to-surface missiles to extend deployment (difficult to verify).
  • —Presence of Soviet technicians to repair and maintain submarines or surface ships armed with nuclear-capable surface-to-surface missiles (difficult to verify if no tender present).
  • —Facilities ashore for submarine crew rest and crew transfer (difficult to verify if transfer occurs at sea).7

Acceptable Activity

  • —Port visits except by ballistic missile submarines.
  • —Harbor improvements such as placing buoys, building additional pier space, dredging to widen and/or deepen channel.
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 36, Geopolitical File, Soviet Union, 7/70–1/71. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only.
  2. Attached but not printed. The draft response to the Soviet note is virtually identical to the final version printed as Tab A, Document 228.
  3. The text of the Soviet note on Cuba is in Document 224.
  4. Attached but not printed. See footnote 7, Document 194. After providing part of Kennedy’s remarks from his November 20, 1962, press conference, Robinson added, “In the context above, and considering the current situation at Cienfuegos, the following should be considered ‘offensive weapons’: all submarines; nuclear missile surface warships.”
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. No classification marking.
  7. The four previous paragraphs were bracketed with the marginal comment: “Not included in U.S. Reply to U.S.S.R. note.”