219. Information Memorandum Prepared in the Department of State1 2

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  • Cuban-Soviet Relations

A series of more than routine events have marked recent Cuban-Soviet relations.

A) A seven-ship Soviet naval squadron, including two diesel submarines, visited Havana last July. This was the first Soviet naval visit to a Western Hemisphere port. (After the visit, the Soviet squadron picked up two nuclear-powered submarines at different stations in the Caribbean south of Cuba. These submarines were attack submarines with no capability for nuclear warheads on their missiles.)

B) Soviet Defense Minister Marshal Grechko visited Cuba for eight days on November 12–19, 1969. This marked the first time that a Soviet Defense Minister had visited the Western Hemisphere.

C) On April 4, Fidel Castro’s brother Raul, who is Cuba’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense, arrived in Moscow, ostensibly to return the Grechko visit to Cuba. Early this week, he was preparing to leave Moscow after meeting with Brezhnev on May 12. Moscow radio reported on May 12 that the two exchanged views “on current problems of the international situation in the light of intensified actions by imperialist reaction in various parts of the world.” Castro was joined later in Moscow by a high-ranking Cuban delegation to the Lenin Centennial headed by Cuban President Dorticos. That delegation has since returned to Cuba.

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D) Since April 18, three flights of two TU–95 “Bear” Soviet reconnaissance aircraft on separate dates landed in Cuba. The last flight landed yesterday, May 13. Department of Defense stated that the April 18 landing marked the first time such aircraft had landed outside the Soviet Union.

E) In the course of his major foreign policy speech of April 22, which marked the Lenin Centennial and was characterized by many references to the warmth of Cuban-Soviet ties, Fidel Castro stated that Cuba “is always ready to have more military ties with the Soviet Union.”

F) There are now six Soviet naval vessels standing off the port of Cienfuegos, in southern Cuba, preparing to enter the harbor on the second Soviet naval visit to Cuba. The visit was announced from Moscow on May 12. The announcement said that while the ships are on a courtesy visit, they would also refuel, replenish supplies and undergo repairs.

The six vessels, which include two diesel submarines, were joined this morning by an Echo-2 cruise-missile armed nuclear-powered submarine which the Navy informs us is “probably nuclear armed.” Echo-2 submarines can carry eight SS–N–3 cruise missiles with either nuclear or high-explosive warheads. The missiles have a maximum range of 450 miles.

G) The Czech Ambassador to Washington, who represents Cuban interests in the U.S., was on his way to Havana via Nassau last night. While he was still in Nassau, he was requested by the Cubans to return to Washington where he would be needed “in connection with the two fishing boats.” At present, we have no factual basis for relating his return to Washington to any or all of the foregoing events.

H) As a result of our recent request, the intelligence community is making an analysis of the implications of this series of events.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL CUBA–USSR. Secret. Sent to Kissinger on May 15, 1970, under cover of a memorandum from Eliot to Kissinger. (Ibid.)
  2. This Department of State memorandum, sent to Kissinger, reported on Soviet naval and aircraft deployments to Cuba.