93. Information Memorandum From the Chairman of the Policy Planning Council (Bosworth) to Secretary of State Shultz1


  • The Soviet Union and the Western Hemisphere

This memorandum assesses the Soviet Union’s growing involvement in the Western Hemisphere. The Executive Summary, Tab 1, includes suggested talking points for your meeting with Gromyko at the UN. Tab 2 provides additional background information on: the Soviet Union’s evolving attitude toward the Americas, possible future Soviet actions, the U.S. response, and how to discuss this problem with the Soviets.2

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Tab 1

Executive Summary of a Paper Prepared in the Policy Planning Council3

(Executive Summary)

The Soviet Union’s growing assertiveness in the Western Hemisphere poses new challenges for the U.S. Until the mid-1970’s the Soviets placed the region at or near the bottom of their foreign policy agenda. But during the 1970’s the Soviets had reason to reevaluate their assumptions about Latin America. The Soviets apparently have now accepted the validity of the Cuban “armed struggle” thesis, at least for Central America.

Elements of the trend toward greater Soviet involvement include the use of Cuba as a political-military proxy, increased weapons deliveries to Cuba, intensified use of Cuba as a Soviet military platform, military assistance for Nicaragua and Grenada, and expanded trade with South America.

The cumulative effect of Moscow’s actions in the Western Hemisphere is to undermine the two-ocean security buffer that the U.S. traditionally has relied upon for protection of the Americas from its major adversaries. There is also a growing danger that Soviet miscalculation of how important the region is to the U.S. could lead to a superpower military confrontation.

Soviet deployment of nuclear weapons in the Western Hemisphere seems unlikely, even in response to INF deployments in Western Europe. There are, however, a number of steps Soviets might take over the next few years that would cause the U.S. serious problems. Of most immediate concern is the possibility of:

—expansion of direct Soviet military involvement in Nicaragua,

—support for Cuban combat troops in Nicaragua,

—delivery through intermediaries of sophisticated weapons to the Salvadoran guerrillas.

There are no magic “linkage” or “talking tough” strategies that will make the Soviet threat in this hemisphere disappear. The core of our response must remain the set of concrete actions we take in this [Page 322] hemisphere to demonstrate our resolve and to make the region a less favorable environment for the Soviets.

But our concrete actions can be reinforced by a policy of communicating our concerns clearly and forthrightly to the Soviets so that they can avoid a miscalculation that could be disastrous for both sides. Our recent actions—the President’s strong public commitment to protecting U.S. interests in Central America, the contra program, the training facility in Honduras, and large-scale military maneuvers—provide a window in which we can now convey a somewhat sterner message to the Soviets.

Our most serious and immediate concern is the Soviet/Cuban role in Central America. We want the Soviets to 1) pressure Cuba and Nicaragua to end their support for Salvadoran and other Central American revolutionaries, and 2) sever Soviet/Cuban military ties with the Sandinistas. By setting forth these long-range objectives to the Soviets at this point, we can help them avoid miscalculation and condition them to their ultimate acceptance. We should place our Central America concerns within the broad trend of increased Soviet involvement in the Western Hemisphere, however, lest the Soviets be encouraged to move in areas where we have neglected to raise objections.

We suggest that you make your UN meeting with Gromyko the primary vehicle for a broad discussion on Latin America. Following are points that might be included in the discussion:

—Soviet and Cuban actions in the hemisphere have grown increasingly bold and provocative over the last few years.

—These actions include support for Central American subversives, the military buildup in Nicaragua, the modernization of the Cuban armed forces, growing Cuban/Soviet security ties with Grenada and Suriname, and more intensive Soviet use of Cuba as a military platform (mention as an illustration the recent TU–142 Bear F ASW aircraft flights out of Cuba, since we have not raised this with the Soviets yet; we should not, however, label the flights “unacceptable.”)

—We do not view these as isolated actions, but as part of a pattern of increased Soviet interference in the Americas. We note with particular concern that the Soviet Union now seems to support fully the Cuban doctrine of “armed struggle” as the best path to revolution in Central America.

—The U.S. has important interests in Central America; the Soviet Union does not. The Soviet Union and Cuba should have no illusions about our determination to uphold our interests. Such illusions will only increase the chance of dangerous confrontation, which neither side seeks.

—You should also know that we will hold the Soviet Union responsible for the activities of its clients that directly or indirectly affect U.S. interests in the Americas. This includes the sending of jet fighters or armed Cuban forces to Nicaragua, or any similar escalation, which would be simply unacceptable.

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—We are pursuing a policy that we hope will lead to a peaceful solution to the Central America crisis.

—U.S. policy is working. We intend to provide the Salvadoran government with enough military assistance to turn the tide against the FMLN-FDR, and we will continue to press for reforms to broaden that government’s popular appeal. In contrast, there is every indication that the Sandinista government in Nicaragua is losing popular support and that the contras are growing, and will continue to grow, in strength.

—In sum, it is clear that events in Central America are running in our favor.

—We intend to press our advantages until Nicaragua and Cuba terminate their support for Central American revolutionaries and Nicaragua severs its military ties with the Soviet bloc. We also support the Contadora process, and hope that it can reach a solution consistent with these goals, as well as the other goals of the Act of San Jose.

—But if the negotiations process fails, you should know we are prepared to employ the other means at our disposal to uphold our interests.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/P, Memoranda/Correspondence from the Director of the Policy Planning Staff, Lot 89D149, S/P Chrons PW 9/1–15/83. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by R. Braibanti on September 2; cleared by M. Wiznitzer (PM/RSA), L. Einaudi (ARA/PPC), and for information by M. Minton (EUR/SOV). Braibanti initialed for all clearing officials. A stamped notation reading “GPS” appears on the covering memorandum of this packet, indicating Shultz saw it.
  2. Tab 2 is attached but not printed.
  3. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Braibanti.