280. Transcript of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meeting1


  • Secretary of State Kissinger
  • D Mr. Rush
  • P Mr. Sisco
  • EA Mr. Ingersoll
  • EUR Mr. Hartman
  • L Mr. Maw
  • S/AM Mr. McCloskey
  • AF Mr. Easum
  • INR Mr. Hyland
  • NEA Mr. Atherton
  • S/P Mr. Lord
  • S/P Mr. Boeker
  • SS Mr. Eagleburger
  • S/S Mr. Springsteen
  • S/PRS Mr. Anderson
  • EB Mr. Enders
  • ARA/LA Mr. Kubisch
  • C Mr. Sonnenfeldt

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Cuba.]

Jack, what about the Cuban export business?

Mr. Kubisch: Well, in the week since we announced the exception for those three automobile companies in Argentina, we’ve had a reaction around the hemisphere and around the United States. There haven’t been any real surprises that it wasn’t a necessary step—and, if anything, it may be a little late.

The only real criticism of it—well, there have been two kinds of criticism: the criticism that we did it has come really from only one person—Senator Gurney from Florida. He said, “You shouldn’t do it. You should rescind it.” He sent letters to three Cabinet officers—Commerce, Treasury, and you, I think.

But whereas Fascell and the Miami Herald and others down there realize that this was a step we had to take, press reaction has been crit[Page 753]ical—of the editorials that I’ve seen, there’s one—Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the Post—and the Baltimore Sun. Those are the only one’s I’ve seen thus far. They said that this was a fine step. We’ve gone in the right direction. But you’ve marred a splendid performance in Latin America by not going farther and re-examining more our whole policy.

Secretary Kissinger: They’re idiots. Even Venezuela, which talks as if we should go further, as you remember, told us privately we shouldn’t do what we should under the sanction. Isn’t that right?

Mr. Kubisch: That’s right. And Brazil too.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. But Brazil doesn’t want to go further.

Mr. Kubisch: In the Congress—aside from Senator Gurney—four Congressmen—Congressman Wayland and some others—are introducing a resolution asking us to re-examine our policy and loosen up on policy. And on the Senate side, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted, 13 to nothing, since the resolution that Javits proposed.

Secretary Kissinger: But this does give us the greatest options. We can move towards Cuba if we want to, but we can hold tough without OAS pressure. We can get through this week without the OAS taking a stand.

I saw Rabasa yesterday. He tells me it’s the first OAS meeting in nearly a decade where there was no attack on the United States.

Mr. Rush: That message—it was the first time that an American State has been praised in his time. They’ve all been ignored or criticized.

Mr. Kubisch: He’s been really full of praise—and, even, really, of the U.S. business community—including Donald Kendall, President of Pepsi Cola. He testified before the Senate Banking Committee and recommended that the United States discard the policies of trying to enforce its laws abroad on subsidiaries and so on.

Secretary Kissinger: Bob, I interrupted you.

Mr. McCloskey: I’m so unaccustomed—I forgot what I was going to say.

The Wall Street Journal had the same kind of an editorial one day.

Secretary Kissinger: Not far enough.

Mr. McCloskey: Not far enough. And somehow or other, then imputed a meanness in the way that we handled it.

Secretary Kissinger: Why?

Mr. McCloskey: That on the face of it it’s really a change of policy—well, it’s a chink in the change of policy.

Secretary Kissinger: Certainly.

Mr. McCloskey: That the Department wouldn’t acknowledge that.

[Page 754]

Secretary Kissinger: That’s right. We had to position ourselves between those who didn’t want to change the policy—those who pretended to want to change the policy and the very few who actually want to change the policy—which may be two or three countries: Argentina, Peru, Mexico maybe. Mexico wants to get credit for our change of policy. I’m not sure they give a damn for what actually happens. Who else wants to change the policy? Nobody.

Mr. Kubisch: Although with the new more liberal governments in Venezuela and Colombia, during the course of the year they’ll probably swing around. They’ve been making allowances along that line.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, that’s exactly where we positioned ourselves. If we hadn’t gotten out ahead, we would have panicked everybody there.

Mr. Kubisch: There’s some of the editorial reaction in Latin America saying “change,” “slow change,” “opening possibilities,” and so on. The same thing in Europe—Germany and London.

Mr. McCloskey: What kind of reaction and comment was there in Cuba?

Mr. Kubisch: No official reaction so far.

Secretary Kissinger: Who gives a damn at this stage? But, secondly, the Cubans understand what we’re doing and the Cubans know damn well if they pop off they’ll blow something. So will the Japs.

We’re going to sell every step along this route. Why should we give it away to please the editorial writers of the Times?

We’re going to be driven step by step in this direction—for a price.

Mr. Kubisch: I think, as we can expect—

Secretary Kissinger: It’s not the first Communist country to which we open. No—right now we have to give ourselves the option without exercising it. What would we gain for it? Nothing. We’d gain nobody’s goodwill. We got maximum goodwill from Argentina for what we did. We’re in good shape with Peru. Venezuela—we’re doing exactly what Venezuela wants. We are in good shape with Brazil.

Who’s driving us? Nobody.

Mr. Kubisch: We’ll find probably that other businesses and other businessmen will begin pecking away at this field—

Secretary Kissinger: All right.

Mr. Kubisch: —and, as of now, your authority is on a case-by-case basis to see if you want to make any more exceptions.

Secretary Kissinger: That’s exactly right. And before we go to an irreversible point, Cuba has to start paying something. We’re not going to do it just for the goodwill of Castro. We don’t need the goodwill of [Page 755] Castro. They don’t understand the policy. Whose goodwill would we have gained by going one inch further than we did? Nobody.

In fact, as you know, we were prepared to go a slight step further, and everybody urged us not to do it.

Mr. Kubisch: Precisely. It didn’t happen. So the one thing that was potentially—

Secretary Kissinger: We’ve got to sell the connection between political and military things again—six times. (Laughter.)

Mr. Kubisch: The one thing that could have made a real disaster for us right here in Washington and split that conference right down the middle was Cuba.

Mr. Sisco: You didn’t get my suggestion? It was “Partners, yo’all.” (Laughter.)

Secretary Kissinger: I like the Chinese system. Their Under Secretaries don’t speak. (Laughter.)

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Cuba.]

  1. Summary: During a discussion of reaction to the granting of exceptions to the U.S. ban on exports to Cuba in the case of certain Argentine companies, Kissinger stated that Castro would have to begin making concessions before the U.S. Government moved further towards an improvement in relations.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Kissinger Staff Meetings, Entry 5177, The Secretary’s Principals and Regionals Staff Meeting, Thursday, April 25, 1974. Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors. The newspaper articles mentioned in the discussion are not further identified.