56. Memorandum From William Odom of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron)1


  • Soviet-Cuban Military Relationship: Mini SCC

These points are important background, in my view, for you to take to the mini-SCC today.2

—The military character of Soviet activities, capabilities, and potential support in Cuba has grown markedly since 1976. (S)

—Other than the MIG–23 deployment, nothing has come close to being a clear violation of the overlap between our understanding of that understanding. In CIA’s afteraction report, they argue that we muffed our dealings with Moscow on the MIG–23 and let the Soviets off the hook so that we have, in effect, codified a significant change in the 1962 understanding in favor of greater air capabilities there. (S)

—The “quantitative” increases in Soviet military presence and supply to the Cubans has reached a point of “qualitative” change in the character of the threat to our security and security in the Caribbean region. We have real security problems, not just an intelligence problem and a public relations problem with the Congress. The danger of a blow-up with the Senate is not really SALT ratification (except secondarily) but rather being propelled into actions to reduce the security threat which will be too hastily conceived and therefore feckless. (S)

Against these realities and considerations, I strongly recommend that we tell Stone—in private if possible—that:3

(a) There is a threat, a quantitative buildup in funding, resources, conventional arms, and ship visits. (S)

(b) There is no clear violation of the 1962 understanding which is worth a crisis confrontation at present. (C)

(c) We will need to build a Congressional and public consensus to support a strategy, yet to be fully developed, for carefully reducing that threat in the next year or two. (S)

[Page 121]

Obviously, this approach will require a certain modification of our past policy toward Cuba, but that is overdue. Weaning Castro away from Moscow is not a U.S. option because we cannot offer him the world-wide role of revolutionary and expeditionary. The “weaning away” policy simply lets Castro have the best of both worlds, the benefits of our benevolence without yielding anything in his tie with Moscow. Failure to take this reality into account will soon put the Administration into trouble with more Senators than Stone, and not without grounds.4 (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 15, Cuba, Soviet Brigade, 9/1–18/79. Secret. A stamped notation on the first page reads, “DA has seen.”
  2. No record of the meeting has been found.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 55.
  4. In a memorandum to Brzezinski on July 30, Odom concluded that “Soviet capabilities in Cuba are the greatest threat to our national security,” and proposed a new policy that would “seek the reduction of Soviet presence and Cuban military capabilities.” He presented a list of policy options including re-raising the issue of Soviet MiG aircraft in Cuba, blockading Cuban ports against certain shipments, and stopping wheat sales to the Soviets. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 16, Cuba, Soviet Brigade, 10/2/79–5/80)