304. National Intelligence Estimate 85–1–751

[Omitted here are a title page and a table of contents.]



During the last five years, Fidel Castro has wrought dramatic changes in national plans, priorities, and methods of governing Cuba. As a result:

—His revolution has become more institutionalized, with the Communist Party assuming an expanding policy-making role.

—Economic conditions are better than at any time since 1959; however, the economy has recently benefited from exceptionally high sugar prices and remains heavily dependent on Soviet trade and assistance.

—A new governing consensus has emerged which better relates policy and its implementation to current Cuban needs.

—Castro’s power and popularity have increased.

These accomplishments—combined with Castro’s view that the world power alignment is changing in favor of the Socialist bloc—seem to have persuaded him that the revolution is secure and successful, and to have reinforced his conviction that Cuba is triumphing over “imperialism.”

As a consequence, he has had increasing success in fulfilling the often divergent roles of:

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—a leader of the Latin American and Caribbean communities and a spokesman for Third World and revolutionary causes, while remaining a loyal member of the Soviet camp; and

—an intermediary between Third World and Communist countries and a catalyst in forging a greater convergence of interests among them.

Castro desires a normalization of relations with the U.S. because he believes it will:

—confirm to the world the legitimacy and permanence of his revolution;

—give him access to U.S. products and markets; and

—facilitate the accomplishment of his foreign policy objectives.

In maneuvering toward normalization, he will weigh the sometimes divergent views of his leading advisers:

—Hardliners support normalization but with serious misgivings; they are likely to urge Castro to take strong positions and to move slowly.

—Pragmatists in the leadership want to secure the economic benefits that they believe would result from a lifting of the sanctions, and would concede the most to reach a settlement soon.

We believe that Castro is ready to enter into preliminary discussions with the U.S. now, but he probably calculates that a negotiated settlement with the U.S. is unlikely soon, and that a protracted process of negotiation would be more to his advantage than to that of the U.S. We believe that he will not agree to negotiations on substantive issues without further action by the U.S. to lift its sanctions against Cuba. There is a better-than-even chance that a partial reduction in the scope of U.S. sanctions would be enough to lead Castro to engage in substantive negotiations. He would of course expect that one consequence of the negotiations would be the complete lifting of the sanctions, and he might believe that the conduct of negotiations would of itself improve the climate for trade.

Castro will be prepared to make concessions on some issues. He:

—will probably be willing to pay a small percentage of the claims for compensation for expropriated U.S. properties after a great deal of hard bargaining.

—will probably be willing to curtail some of Cuba’s activities in behalf of Puerto Rican independence, but Cuba can be expected to continue lending propaganda support to the Puerto Rican independence movement, though increasingly through international front organizations.

—will be less conciliatory on issues relating to Cuban sovereignty, and is likely to demand a definite commitment by the U.S. to relinquish the naval base at Guantanamo Bay and to terminate overflights.

Castro will be inflexible about negotiating Havana’s relationship with the USSR and he will not jeopardize his broader foreign policy ob[Page 818]jectives in Latin America, the Third World, and the Communist camp simply to get quick solution to his bilateral problems with the U.S. Rather, he hopes that rapprochement will enable him to pursue a more energetic foreign policy in these areas and enhance his prestige as a leading Third World statesman.

[Omitted here are the discussion section and an annex on the Cuban economy.]

  1. Summary: This estimate examined Cuba’s changing international role, concluding that Castro would be willing to make concessions on some issues in talks with the United States but would not jeopardize broader foreign policy objectives in order to resolve bilateral problems.

    Source: Central Intelligence Agency, National Intelligence Council Files, Job 79R01012A, Box 499, Folder 6. Secret; [handling restriction not declassified]. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors. According to a note on the cover sheet, the Central Intelligence Agency, the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, Defense, and Treasury, and the NSA participated in the preparation of this estimate. All members of the U.S. Intelligence Board concurred in the estimate except the representative of the FBI, who abstained. A July 23 memorandum prepared in the Office of Current Intelligence, CIA, concluded that Castro desired to negotiate an improvement in relations but did not want to appear anxious for reconciliation. (Ibid., Office of Current Intelligence Files, Job 79T00865A, Box 26, Folder 17) Defense Intelligence Notice 2951–75, November 14, concluded that Cuban interest in a rapprochement was waning, as indicated by recent statements by Cuban officials and by Cuban involvement in Angola. (Washington National Records Center, OSD Decimal Subject Files, 330–78–0058, 092 Cuba 14 Nov 1975) Telegram 1527 from Luanda, October 10, reported the landing of Cuban troops in Angola to support the MPLA. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D750352–1190)