216. Summary of Conclusions of a Mini-Special Coordination Committee Meeting1

SUBJECT

  • Soviet Military Presence in Cuba (S)

PARTICIPANTS

  • State
  • David D. Newsom, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • James E. Goodby, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • Defense
  • Walter Slocombe, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs
  • CIA
  • Frank Carlucci, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence
  • Harry Gelman
  • JCS
  • Lt. General John Pustay, Assistant to the Chairman
  • NSC
  • Marshall Brement
  • William E. Odom
  • Madeleine Albright

The meeting reviewed the talking points recommended by State for use in a demarche with the Soviet Embassy and the Cuban Government on the presence of Soviet ground forces in Cuba. State expressed the view that we have only a short time before the latest information, confirming the presence of Soviet ground units in Cuba, will be leaked to the press, creating public pressures for action. Secretary Vance, therefore, wants to make a demarche informing both the Soviet and Cuban Governments that we are aware of the Soviet troop disposition.2 Having taken this step we will be better prepared to deal with the Congress, public pressures, and other factors. (S)

Defense expressed serious reservations about making such a demarche until we know what our larger policy objective is and what next steps we can take. (S)

CIA expressed similar concerns but acknowledged State’s legitimate need to do something now. CIA also judged that the intelligence loss, which might occur through cancellation of a scheduled Soviet bri[[Page 640]gade training activity on September 3, is marginal at this point and not a strong reason for withholding the demarche. (S)

The NSC Staff expressed similar concerns as Defense about next steps and our policy objectives. It was pointed out that a demarche could easily draw a Soviet denial and the statement of a Soviet position which would become firm and difficult to change later on. It was also pointed out that a demarche could, on the one hand, cost us an intelligence loss through the cancellation of the September 3 exercise, or on the other hand, demonstrate disdain for our demarche by letting the exercise take place. Finally, it was explained that State has an answer to public reactions in the event of disclosure of the confirming evidence of the Soviet ground forces presence: we are planning to raise the issue at a much higher level when Gromyko comes to the United States in September, and we have scheduled meetings of the NSC principals on the matter in early September. Furthermore, the recent Shulman/Barry demarche to the Soviet Embassy has already communicated the seriousness with which we view a Soviet ground force presence in Cuba. (S)

No agreement was reached on whether or not to make a demarche. It was decided to ask Secretary Vance to take up the issue by telephone with Dr. Brzezinski and Acting Secretary of Defense Claytor.3 (S)

The wordings of the State Department draft demarches for the Soviet Union and Cuba were edited extensively by the group to leave the greatest latitude for policy choices later on and to reduce the possible difficulties we might encounter with the Soviets, Congress, and Senator Stone. There was some discussion of the advisability of including or excluding the Cubans as a recipient of the demarche and its significance for the level of relations between our two countries. (S)

There was agreement on the revisions of the two demarches, which were made as close to identical as possible. (S)

The President is to be made aware of the new intelligence before he meets Senator Stone in Florida on Thursday.4 (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 61, Cuba: Soviet Brigade Additional Documents: 9/5–20/79. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See Document 217.
  3. W. Graham Claytor.
  4. August 30.