Conversation of General Raúl Castro Ruz with comrades Yu. V. Andropov, D.F. Ustinov and K.V. Rusakov

Moscow, December 29, 1982

True copy of the original document

(See original document)

RAUL CASTRO. First of all, comrade Fidel asked me to convey his greetings to you and the other members of the Political Bureau.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV. Please convey to comrade Fidel our warmest greetings, our congratulations for the New Year and the anniversary of the Revolution on behalf of all the members of the Political Bureau and myself.

We had a meeting with him. The interview was brief, but we had a good conversation. In my opinion we were both satisfied.

RAUL CASTRO. Exactly. He informed the Political Bureau. It was a very brief conversation, but of very good essence. It set very good standards of relations.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV. We agreed with him that we should start with your asking. If we can, we give. If we cannot, we honestly say that we cannot. So that there is no deception. Secondly, if we do something wrong, you should tell us directly, without fear of undesirable consequences. If something of yours is not going as it should, we will comradely draw your attention to it.  I believe that this is what comrade Fidel called the new rules of relations.

RAUL CASTRO. Exactly. And he was very happy. Satisfied with the meeting he had with you.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV.  The conversation was good, a conversation of two comrades.

RAUL CASTRO. And also with comrade Ustinov and with Nikolai Vasilievich Ogarkov. So how do we do it? I listen, I listen…

Yu. V. ANDROVOV.   The guest has the privilege.

RAUL CASTRO.  Well, then I open the book. I have already fulfilled Fidel’s first order, to greet you.

Secondly, on behalf of our Party and on my own behalf, we would like to thank you and you in particular, Yuri Vladimirovich, for taking the time to hold this meeting with me. Really, taking into account the great amount of work that you have at the moment, the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the creation of the USSR, the end of the year, the enormous number of delegations, heads of states, secretaries general of parties… We really thought that you would not have time for this conversation.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV.   But you are our friends.

RAUL CASTRO.  Because we are friends we should keep that in mind, and understand it. As Fidel said to you, we belong to the same family and there is no problem with us in that sense. We think that, and that was the reason why, when comrade Ambassador Katushev asked us in Havana what issues we intended to raise here, we replied that we basically intended to propose to the Soviet side a meeting here at the end of January or the beginning of February to analyze the situation in Angola and to give each other mutual guidance, before going to talk to the Angolan side, an issue we consider essential. As I understand it, we will hold a meeting tomorrow with comrade Gromiko, with Ustinov and comrade Ponomariov.

Subsequently, already here in Moscow, we received instructions from comrade Fidel in the sense that, in the event of a meeting with you, as far as possible, we should continue the exchange of criteria that we have started on the subject of security, with the purpose of continuing to make progress in this field, if you have nothing against… if we do not change the subject.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV: Why should I object? I am for the security of Cuba.

RAUL CASTRO.  We agree, and as you yourself said to Fidel during his recent visit that we should continue thinking, then we should meet again and continue discussing. In the light of these ideas, I would like to explain to you some more considerations, whose complete and deep analysis, at a later date, at the appropriate time, I think that you and comrade Fidel will conclude it.

To begin with, I believe that there is no need to explain to you the danger of the Reagan administration and imperialism in general with regard to Cuba in this case. As a brief summary, we would like to mention the tightening of the economic blockade, to the point that some semi-clandestine companies that we have in some places, clandestine meaning not public, in some places, such as Panama itself, these people are after us… we use these companies to be able to buy some things. A major obstacle to the renegotiation of our foreign debt that we are carrying out, to

such an extent that, in a meeting with Western specialists headed by a Frenchman, who recently met with Cuban technicians in Havana, our Chekists managed to obtain the instructions of the U.S. government, which they had sent to their allies participating in the talks, giving them precise instructions in every aspect about how they should approach it, including the statement that they demanded from the Cubans that they should also discuss, simultaneously with the Americans, the value of the expropriations in Cuba.

At the end Fidel met with these specialists and told them: “Look, I am going to take out a piece of paper -and he took it out- from which I want to read you some paragraphs”.

When Fidel began to read some of the paragraphs, those representatives looked at each other… Fidel did not present it to them as a criticism of them, but as the fact that they too are victims, just like us, of imperialism, which imposes these things on them. After that they changed their attitude somewhat. Of course, all the western embassies were taking additional measures to protect their safes, but that is Ramiro Valdez’s problem.

We have also noted an intensification of CIA activities against Cuba throughout the world. They have considerably increased their activities in terms of recruitments, incitement to desertion of officials contacted abroad by Westerners. All this is done on a scale reminiscent of the 1960s. Not to mention the American Interests Section, which has been very active. During the first years they refrained from espionage activity. Now they have changed their composition and have a group of CIA agents actively deployed. We have already captured some modern plants from them which they have handed over to the so-called agents in operational games. Espionage of all kinds is intensified in the territory of the country, in addition to propaganda resources, psychological warfare, etc. All the actions of the Reagan administration point directly in these aggressive directions… all of them, all of them, all of them. Refusing in public and in private to adopt a position that would tend to improve, to soften this pressure.  This situation may worsen depending on how events continue to develop in Central America, which, by the way, is not a very pleasant situation for the imperialists.

In this situation of aggressive foreign policy on the part of the United States and the existing tensions in the area, we attach importance to the frequent declarations of U.S. leaders, U.S. government spokesmen, political and military personalities, important press organs, administration officials of different levels, who publicly and privately maintain, starting in 1980-81, above all, that the USSR would not react or act in favor of Cuba in the event of aggression by the United States.  With different nuances or words that is the essence of their statements.  I selected two or three out of a large number of such examples. I could cite many more examples, it is not necessary. For example, M. Franchet, who is the head of the Office of Cuban Affairs in the State Department, has maintained that the predominant opinion in the U.S. government is that the USSR would not react to an attack by the United States…

Yu. V. ANDROVOV: What does it mean, that it will not fight or that it will not react in general?  There is a difference here.

RAUL CASTRO.  I repeat what they said.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV.  Of course. But how do you understand this?

RAUL CASTRO. I am making my conclusions, how we understand this.

For example, in March of this year, Secretary of the Navy J. Leman stated the same thing Franchet said to the press, emphatically, and published it as well.

In connection with this type of pressure and threats, a “political controversy” over the scope and interpretation of the agreements has taken place and continues to take place periodically in the United States.

of 1962. I remember this in the Johnson, Nixon, Carter administration, they always form this public discussion. Some allege one thing, others another. With a real or supposed pretext. I say a real pretext, for example, when the MIG-23 planes arrived, or alleged. In other words, they throw the problem into the public arena and begin to make their speculations. For example, John Kennedy’s former advisor at the time of the October crisis A. Shelesinger, went so far last October that he told American television that there was no commitment on the part of the United States not to invade Cuba, since such a commitment was conditional on allowing an inspection by the UN to verify the withdrawal of the rockets, and since this was not done, it follows that there is no agreement now. And President Reagan himself, who, on several occasions, in different terms has referred to this issue, in his electoral campaign. But already in power, on January 27 of this year, in a televised interview with the CBC, he said that his country had discussed with the Soviet Union the shipment of Soviet weapons to Cuba and to a question from journalists he answered that he did not rule out anything as a countermeasure, including a blockade.

At the same time, these people, in these public polemics, interpret the ’62 agreements in their own way. As I was saying, in the different governments they touch this issue, to see what reaction there is. In the Reagan administration this is more continuous. For one reason or another, whether it is the Central American issue… or even Poland. One way or another they have stopped seeing that they can act against Cuba. In other words, they give their interpretation to these agreements, both in terms of the category of offensive weapons, as well as the scope of the commitment made by the United States. Those are the two things. For example, they speculate whether some of the weaponry that Cuba receives, such as the submarines, the MIG-23s, the large patrol boat that was received, etc. are offensive, and, therefore, that constitutes a violation of the 1962 agreements. Apparently, according to them, we should only have horses and sabers. In turn, in interpreting these agreements, they say that the U.S. commitment is not to produce an invasion. It is a very wide range that goes from not accepting them to accepting them conditionally, to interpreting them. So those who have to accept that there is a commitment not to invade Cuba, but that a total blockade and other retaliatory measures, such as using their aircraft to bomb us and undermine our orchards, would not be a violation, according to them, of the 1962 agreements. That is, on the basis of all this, that is, unilaterally determining the alleged violations…. At the appropriate time they opposed the visits of Soviet nuclear submarines to the Cienfuegos naval base in southern Cuba and the presence of Soviet troops in Cuba, as happened at the end of 1979 with the Brigade, which had been in Cuba for 17 years, and suddenly the Carter administration, in a presidential declaration with great fanfare, turned that brigade, which had been in Cuba for 17 years, into a violation of the 1962 agreements, into a threat to the rest of the continent.

What do we think of this, comrade Andropov, that it seems that due to the circumstances, the speed and the moment in which the ’62 crisis was solved, there remained obscure and ambiguous terms, which has been systematically exploited by the United States to exert pressure on Cuba and limit our right to modernize our armaments and perfect our defensive capacity. And what we consider even more important. The enemy is pressuring international public opinion with an interpretation of the agreements, as I have already explained above, which would allow them to carry out variants of aggression against our country, without, according to them, violating the agreements.

In summary, these are some of the considerations why comrade Fidel told you at the November meeting that it was necessary to analyze what political measures could be taken to discourage the enemy and, above all, to avoid an error.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV: Do you have any considerations?

RAUL CASTRO. We have thought of something, following your opinion. We think that in the first place the security of Cuba, to strengthen it, are measures that are due to the effort we must make; in addition, with the supply of modern and adequate weapons, just as the USSR has resolved in a fully satisfactory manner. It depends on the preparation, as I was saying, of our people, of our party, of our government, of our state?

F. USTINOV. And from the army.

RAUL CASTRO. Of course. To reject aggression, as we are doing. It depends on the unity, on the solidity and depth of the ideological cohesion of our revolution. I am not going to mention other measures as a consequence of this, such as the successful creation of the militias of territorial troops, the preparation of the party and the state, and so on. Likewise, as the army is only a small vanguard, all our people would fight, it is also vital to maintain a minimum of social and economic conditions, in the midst of these economic difficulties suffered by most of the countries of the planet…

Yu. V. ANDROVOV.  Including the Soviet Union.

RAUL CASTRO.  Line that we are following at this moment, guaranteeing this necessary minimum. Naturally, because of the magnitude of this problem, we know that these measures are indispensable, but they are not enough.

What have we thought could be done? I believe that this is what Fidel also referred to in his conversation with comrade Andropov, that it is indispensable for the USSR to let the United States know clearly and categorically that military aggression against Cuba will not be tolerated.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV: And after that what would follow?

 RAUL CASTRO.  I think that practical ways must be found to approach this, about the enemy…

We are not asking for a world war to defend Cuba, we do not agree with that.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV. We do everything possible so that it does not arise already because of our own relations with the United States. Our relations with the United States seem to be worse than yours with them.

RAUL CASTRO.  Of course. Fundamental factor.

D.F. USTINOV. Years ago we used to make such statements.

RAUL CASTRO. I was telling comrade Andropov and the other comrades that we would have to study the practical way of expressing this decision to the enemy. In all these moments we have to take into account the political factor, inevitably, the circumstances of the moment, etc. I assume that each situation must be analyzed in its own moment. But, for example, we think that perhaps visits from some Soviet naval detachments, such as the one in Cuba at the moment, might help us. If possible we carry out some joint maneuvers. We do not publish it, but the enemy gets to know about it. More frequently. In short, their ships go all over the world, including Cuba. We do not violate any international law or principle, any international norm. And I think that visits of high-level military delegations help that, like the one made by comrade Orgavok, chief of the General Staff, or, even more important, like the one that could be made by comrade and friend, Minister of Defense of the USSR, Marshal of the Soviet Union D. F. Ustinov. And it would be better in this winter than in the summer.

This type of visit, I believe, would have a great political and security connotation for our country.

I think that this very meeting that we have today, if it is published, first of all, because of the presence of comrade Yuri Vladimirovich, the very composition of the Soviet side… the enemy is weighing it up, and it will help to give a complete rejection to all the statements of these Pharisees of the United States. For the time being we think so.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV: May I speak on this subject, or do you wish to continue?

RAUL CASTRO. I am concluding now. I have said the basics… we could continue meditating.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV. Comrade Raul, I will begin with the most unpleasant and most important part of a communication that both you and we always keep in mind: we cannot fight in Cuba. Simply because you are 12,000 kilometers away from us. You are a military man, Ustinov can also confirm that…

D.F. USTINOV. That’s right.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV. We have discussed this issue on more than one occasion.  And it is a fact just like Afghanistan. Afghanistan is next door. It was necessary to help the revolution. We went and helped. The Americans to this day are hopping around the country, but they are afraid to go in there, even though they have their troops over there, and so on. But we are next door, and they would need very distant communications.

It is not because someone is afraid. We discussed this matter with Che Guevara, and at that time we explained this to him. He raised the issue of us engaging militarily. And I said that it was not a question of wishing or not wishing, of fearing or not fearing, but of sober military calculation. We are doomed to failure. To go there to have our faces smashed? No! It will not be a relief for you or for us.

Now, with respect to all the other issues that you have raised, which can be included in the question of whether we are going to react or not, there should be no doubt on your part.

Of course, we are going to raise up the whole world in defense of Cuba. And everything that can be done from the point of view of political and moral support, of arming, we are going to do it, we are doing it and we will continue to do it. There should be no doubt about this.

Well, as far as armaments are concerned, you yourself say that they are arriving, and according to the existing plans everything is going well. We highlight Cuba among the other countries we are helping.

D.F. USTINOV. Comrade Raul knows this.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV. And this is so simply because we know that this armament goes to safe hands.

We, as you see, in the Middle East we help the Lebanese, the Syrians morally and politically, and also with weapons, but if they do not fight…. They don’t fight and they say that the weaponry is bad. Then it is useless to help them.

The Cubans, in our conception, are revolutionaries, communists, and, no questions asked, help is and will continue to be given.

As for the visits of military vessels, it is an applicable thing. We start with this one now and then we are going to make them more frequent.

Military delegations… I understand that it is also possible, but, of course, not to start with our friend Ustinov. We have to sympathize with him: he has undergone a very difficult operation and is still convalescing. He is a strong, strong-willed fellow, but we should sympathize with him. Comrade Sokolov could be sent, or any other leader of the Ministry of Defense. We will have to think of solid publications of our press in support of Cuba.

D.F. USTINOV. I would also like to point out that the new armament we have, including the defensive one, can reach from Cuba to Florida, that is, the territory of the United States. In this way it becomes, let us say, a strategic armament of local importance. We will continue to supply it to Cuba in the future. On the other hand, Yuri Vladimirovich is absolutely right from the point of view of grand strategy when he points out how the Americans have clung to Euro-rockets. For them it is not so simple to ensure the defense of Western Europe. This requires a powerful air and sea bridge. It is difficult for the Americans to withstand this tension. Our situation with respect to the American continent is exactly the same. It is difficult for us to maintain this bridge.

RAUL CASTRO. We are clearly aware of this. I want to explain to comrade Andropov and comrade Ustinov that we understand all this very well.  It is like two and two are four. We are talking about the search for practical forms of action to help appease these adventurists.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV. Surely it would be right for one of your colleagues to come here. Let’s say, may be, from MINFAR and MINREX, and work out here a joint plan of concrete actions: when and what delegation to send, when to send the ships, etc., when to publish an article in the press. That is to say, to coordinate the concrete plans in this sense.

D.F. USTINOV. Comrade Raul knows what is planned to be done on our part.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV. These issues can also be seen by the MINREX line.

D.F. USTINOV. We honestly fulfill our commitments. Even before the deadlines.

RAUL CASTRO. It is absolutely true.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV. So, all the issues you have raised we support, except a statement with a threat addressed to the United States. Because I do not understand what we can threaten them with. When the Chinese attacked Vietnam. we made a similar statement: don’t touch Vietnam, because then we…. The Chinese laughed and went on with their business. I think that if we are going to threaten, it is necessary that the threat works.

RAUL CASTRO. I would like to clarify once again to comrade Andropov that the warning to the Yankees not to attack Cuba can find a practical form of expression through concrete circumstances, such as, for example, the visits of military ships, etc., which are like a silent warning.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV. With this interpretation of the matter I fully agree.

RAUL CASTRO. In other words, it is a matter of finding ways of such a warning, which will make the Americans understand that it is better not to touch Cuba. It could be the visits of naval detachments, the visit of comrade Ustinov or other military leaders.

Comrade Andropov, comrades:

For our Political Bureau, for comrade Fidel, and even for the most immature Cuban communist, it would be immoral to ask the Soviet Union to unleash a thermonuclear war for our cause.
That does not fit in anyone’s head. Within the framework of this approach to the matter we would like to analyze what can be done. The Americans are great opportunists. They are just
watching where a fissure is opening up and trying to squeeze through it.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV: Why am I talking about this? Because in 1963 Khrushchev said precisely what you want: Americans do not touch Cuba, we will defend it with all the means at our disposal. We do not want to repeat that, but we are going to defend you.

RAUL CASTRO. I completely agree with you.

Thank you for the conversation. Can’t take up any more of your time and judging by the windows in Moscow it’s already dark.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV. Send a big greeting to comrade Fidel from all of us. Send your comrades here. We are going to plan our actions. Maybe they will suggest something else.

D.F. USTINOV. Tomorrow we will have another conversation in which comrades Gromiko and Ponomariov will participate.

Yu. V. ANDROVOV. Well, tomorrow you can “take a tour” of these matters.

The End