225. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance, Secretary of Defense Brown, and the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • U.S. Strategy to Cuba

In our concern with the issue of Soviet combat forces in Cuba we should not lose sight of the longer-term issue of U.S. strategy toward Cuba itself. After Cy’s trip to Ecuador,2 before we confirmed the presence of the Soviet brigade, and more recently we have discussed U.S. strategy to Cuba. We agreed that we ought to continue to seek to contain Cuba as a source of violent revolutionary change. Specifically, we agreed that our policy should be directed at the following four objectives:

—To reduce and eventually remove Cuban military forces stationed abroad. (S)

—To undercut Cuba’s drive for Third World leadership. (S)

—To obtain Cuban restraint on the Puerto Rican issue. (S)

—To inhibit the Soviet buildup of Cuba’s armed force. (S)

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To pursue these objectives we agreed to adopt a six-prong strategy (these are longer term measures, independent of whatever we do in connection with the Soviet brigade):

—With the Caribbean and Central America, we intend to work with like-minded Latin American governments in an effort to compete with the Cubans and increase the chances of peaceful and democratic change. We intend to explore the possibility of increasing our presence in the area.3 On the military side, this would include port visits and training in order to demonstrate our concern for the region and enhance the security of the region. Also, the U.S. should be prepared to provide greater amounts of economic and military assistance to governments in the region that respect human rights and democratic values, and also resist Cuban influence. [The drop from 2.2 percent (in FY 79) to 1 percent of the FMS budget allocated to Latin America in FMS credits will have (FY 80) to be reversed, and perhaps even increased to 4–5 percent.] (S)

—With key Western allies and with selected governments in Latin America and the Third World, we will share intelligence information on the Soviet buildup in Cuba and on Cuban intelligence, political and military activities abroad.4 (With Latin American governments, we should seek to raise their consciousness of the Cuban problem as their problem—not just ours—in order that they begin to seriously consider actions to curb Cuban adventurism.) We should also hold periodic consultations with these governments about measures that might be taken individually or collectively to counter expansionist actions by Cuba. We should encourage them to adopt an approach, which denies the Cubans the recognition they seek and raises the costs to the Cubans of continued intervention abroad, including the denial of credit—an economic area where concerted action might give us considerable leverage. (S)

—With moderate members of the NAM we should urge attention to issues like human rights, arms restraint, non-intervention and foreign aid which could lead to criticism of Cuban and Soviet activities. We should continue to encourage the moderates in the NAM to resist strongly and publicly efforts by the Cubans to use their three-year NAM chairmanship to impose pro-Soviet positions of the kind reflected in the Cuban draft declaration for the NAM Summit.5 (S)

—We should continue to press vigorously to preclude Cuba from gaining a seat on the UN Security Council or from hosting the next UNCTAD Summit.6 (S)

—With the USSR, we should—both in the context of the brigade issue and otherwise—make very clear the depth of our concern about [Page 658] Cuba’s activities in the Caribbean and in Central America7 (as well as in Africa) and inform them of the costs to our relationship of continued Soviet support (or even acquiescence) in Cuba’s activities. In this connection, we are transferring a few limited examples of dual-use high technology to the PRC. (S)

—With Cuba, we should seek to use the Cuban Americans as a potent force for influencing the Cuban people. They are returning to the island for frequent visits, and we should benefit from the insights gained during their visits. We should also increase the influence of U.S. culture on the Cuban people by promoting cultural tours and by permitting an arrangement to distribute U.S. films on the island.8 (S)


That you approve the objectives and measures described above.9 (U)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 61, Cuba: Soviet Brigade Additional Documents: 9/26/79–10/4/79. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. Brackets are in the original.
  2. Vance traveled to Ecuador August 9–12 for the inauguration of Ecuadorian President Jaime Roldós Aguilera.
  3. Carter wrote in the margin next to this point: “How do OAS states line up now? (US vs Cuba).”
  4. Carter wrote in the margin adjacent to this sentence: “With which ones?”
  5. Carter wrote in the margin adjacent to this paragraph: “Let’s answer NAM ‘manifesto’ from Havana mtg.”
  6. Carter wrote in the margin next to this point: “ok.”
  7. Carter wrote in the margin next to this point: “ok.”
  8. Carter wrote in the margin next to this point: “ok.”
  9. Carter checked his approval and initialed the memorandum. Carter’s decisions were disseminated as Presidential Directive/NSC–52. PD/NSC–52 is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXIII, Mexico, Cuba, and the Caribbean.