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423. Telegram From the Department of State to the United States Interests Section in Cuba1

251232. Subject: Cuba and the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Ref: Havana 170.2

1. Principal reasons given by Cuba for not attending Treaty of Tlatelolco negotiations and, subsequently, for not adhering were: (A) “aggressive policies” of the US toward Cuba; (B) need to denuclearize US military bases in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and Canal Zone; and (C) “illegal detention” of Guantanamo. Officials of Mexican Government and Organization for Proscription of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (OPANAL), the Treaty of Tlatelolco implementation organization, have from time to time consulted Cuba on adherence to treaty. Ambassador Gros Espiel, Secretary-General of OPANAL, recently told Amd. Lucey that he considered present Cuban attitude toward treaty to be very negative,3 and that he planned to postpone further efforts to persuade Cuba to join until US had completed Protocol I ratification. Mexican CCD Rep and principal author of Tlatelolco Treaty, Garcia Robles, has expressed opinion that Cuba is likely to join only in context of continuing improvement in US-Cuban relations.

2. Cuban adherence to Treaty of Tlatelolco is one of few remaining requirements for bringing treaty regime fully into force throughout region, which would involve acceptance of full-scope IAEA safeguards by all Latin American states and would be a major step forward in global non-proliferation efforts. Remaining requirements under Treaty’s entry into force provision are Argentine ratification (they have already signed), Cuban signature and ratification, Soviet adherence to Protocol II and French and US adherence to Protocol I (President Carter signed Protocol I on behalf of US on May 26, 1977, and Protocol will soon be sent to Senate for ratification). Brazil and Chile have already ratified but (unlike the 22 other Latin American states that have done so) have exercised their right under Treaty’s entry into force provision not to waive conditions for bringing treaty into force for themselves. [Page 1066]When above requirements fulfilled, these two would become automatically bound.

3. Soviet Union has maintained that it has not adhered to Protocol II because Treaty of Tlatelolco (A) does not unambiguously ban indigenous development of nuclear explosive devices ostensibly for peaceful purposes, (B) does not ban transit with nuclear weapons through the territorial sea, overflight, and port visits, and (C) does envisage expansion of zone of application to large areas of high seas.

4. In recent months, we have approached Soviets on several occasions at high levels to urge them to adhere to Protocol II (and to urge them to encourage Cuban adherence to treaty). We have sought to allay Soviet concerns on legal grounds by (A) explaining our interpretation, which was formally stated in association with our ratification of Protocol II and which is shared by all present parties to the treaty, that the treaty bans indigenous development of any nuclear explosive device; (B) explaining our interpretation, which will be presented formally when we ratify Protocol I, that treaty zone of application does not affect freedom of navigation on high seas; and (C) pointing out that the US view on transit privileges (i.e., that the treaty does not affect the right of parties under International Law to grant or deny transit privileges, including port visits, to states outside the region) is based on an agreed interpretation by the Latin American states and does not give the US special privilege. We have recently heard from Soviet officials that chief problem is political in nature—their relationship with Cuba.

5. On NPT, Soviet MFA disarmament Chief Timberbaev told US on August 10 that USSR was trying to get Cuba to sign treaty.4

6. US interest in obtaining Cuban adherence to Treaty of Tlatelolco has so far mainly been served by urging Latin American proponents of treaty to encourage remaining Latin American holdout states to join. There may, however, be value in direct US-Cuban contacts on this question. Therefore, if USINT Havana considers it advisable you are authorized, in whatever manner you consider most promising, to raise question of Tlatelolco adherence with Cubans. In doing so, you may wish to draw on following points:

—By signing Protocol I this year and earlier by adhering to Protocol II, the US is formally committing itself not to deploy nuclear weapons anywhere in the Latin American region. In addition, Protocol II contains an assurance against the use of nuclear weapons against parties to the treaty. We hope that these actions will contribute to bringing the Treaty of Tlatelolco regime fully into force throughout Latin America. In particular, we hope that our actions will encourage [Page 1067]others who are in a position to take steps toward achieving that objective to reconsider their attitudes towards the treaty.

—We believe that completion of this important Latin American endeavor will make a major contribution to the security of the entire Western Hemisphere and would serve as an important example to other regions of the world.

—At the Protocol I signing ceremony, President Carter expressed his support for the initiative taken by the people of Latin America to rid their region forever of the threat of nuclear war. “As I said in my own inaugural address, our ultimate hope is that we can eliminate completely from the earth any dependence upon atomic weapons, and I think it is significant and typical of our Latin American neighbors and those countries in the Caribbean that tens years before that time they had already made this worthy commitment which sets an example for the world.”

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Subject, Treaty of Tlatelolco, Box 66, Brazil, 3–12/77. Confidential; Priority. Sent for information Priority to Mexico City, Moscow, Panama City, and London. Drafted by Robert Einhorn (ACDA/NP) and Lorna Watson (ACDA/NP); cleared by Oplinger, Lawrence Scheinman (T), Philip Farley (S/AS), Mark Garrison (EUR/SOV), Emery Smith (ARA), and Luigi Einaudi (ARA/PCC); and approved by Charles Van Doren (ACDA).
  2. See Document 421.
  3. Gros Espiel’s remarks are reported in telegram 15579 from Mexico City, September 16. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770337–0740)
  4. See Document 418.