118. Note From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


Re Cuba:

I was not able to work on the options this morning because of the SALT section of the President’s Report.

But I believe strongly that we must consider a really hard option whereby we in effect tell the Soviets that their practices have convinced us that it would be inconsistent with the Understandings if they put a tender and a nuclear submarine into Cuba or adjacent waters simultaneously.

It is argued that this would require them to stop doing something that has been going on for four years. So what? We now have an understanding, or interpretation of the 1962 understanding, that precludes servicing of nuclear submarines. That is the basis from which we must start. Talmudic distinctions near the edge of the understanding simply will not do in an area of the world where we have all the major cards. It is bad enough that other naval “business calls” have not been contested since in fact the “business” includes activities that force us to make expensive dispositions in return.

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Obviously the maximum position (not all that maximum) could land us in a confrontation. But what if we told the Russians that as long as they do what they are doing now we find it very difficult to resist the constant pressures from Cuban refugees to harass Castro.

On the matter of stopping someone from doing something he has been doing for a long time I refer to the Berlin talks where twenty-year old practices are constantly being challenged, and, if our proposals were accepted, successfully so.

I hope you will consider the strong option and discuss it fully.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 128, Country Files, Latin America, Cuba [Jan/Feb 71]. No classification marking.