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Digital Archive International History Declassified

August 31, 1962

SPEECH BY SENATOR KEATING, "SOVIET ACTIVITIES IN CUBA"

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    Keating alleges that the Soviet Union is building "rocket installations" in Cuba and urges President Kennedy to take action.
    "Speech by Senator Keating, "Soviet Activities in Cuba"," August 31, 1962, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, 87th Congress, 2nd session, Congressional Record 108, part 14 (August 31, 1962), 18358-18361. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/134658
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SOVIET ACTIVITIES IN CUBA


Mr. KEATING. Mr. President. I have prepared some remarks for delivery to day on the subject of Cuba and the activities of Russian military personnel, which are probably in an effort to interfere with our operations at Cape Canaveral.


This morning additional facts came to my attention which indicate the danger of the stepped -up flow of Soviet so called technicians to Cuba and the threat which their activities pose to the security of the United States, largely as a result of their effort to interfere with our operations at Cape Canaveral.

I am reliably informed—when I say "reliably informed" I mean that has been checked out from five different sources, and I am certain I can state it as a fact—that between the dates of August 4 and August 15, 10 or 12 Soviet vessels anchored at the Marante dock area at Mariel. The dock area previously had been surrounded by the construction of a high cinder-block wall. The Soviet ships unloaded 1,200 troops. Troops is what I mean, and not technicians. They were wearing Soviet fatigue uniforms.


On August 13 five Soviet torpedo boats unloaded from Soviet ships, and are now moored at La Bsise. There is every indication that the naval complement to handle these boats disembarked at the 5am.e time.


Again let me emphasize that these could not reasonably be called technicians.

On August 13th  1,000 non-Cuban personnel in fatigue uniforms were seen working in the area near Finca La Guatana, in all probability on or near a missile base located in that area.


On August 3 a large convoy of military vehicles manned by Soviet personnel was observed on the highway in Las Villas Province. The convoy moved in military order and contained the first amphibious vehicles observed in Cuba; also jeeps, 6x6 trucks, and tracked trucks.

On August 5 there was a movement seen of a 64-vehicle convoy heading west on Carretera Central. The convoy was moving in military order. It included tanks, cannon like trailers, and flatbed trailers.


On August 8 there was observed a night movement of a convoy on Carretera Central. Flatbed trucks were observed transporting concave metal structures supported by tubing. The convoy included a number of closed vans. The convoy appeared to be moving toward an installation 4 to 5 kilometers from Canimar in a closely restricted area believed to contain a rocket installation.


There have been other observations of activities there, which have been confirmed.

On July 27 the unholy alliance between Castro's Cuba and the Soviet Union took its most serious turn. Between July 27 and August 15 their joint activities have been coordinated in an alarming way, which poses a serious threat to the security of the Western Hemisphere.


So far no action has been taken by our Government. The President has said that he has no evidence of Soviet troops in Cuba. If he has no evidence, I am giving him evidence this afternoon, Mr. President

The American people have not been informed of the dangerous situation which exists 90 miles off our mainland.

Mr. President, the American people are asking with new urgency. What is going on in Cuba.  So far the answers received are unsatisfactory.


Since July the Soviet Union has greatly stepped up shipments of men and equipment. More than 20 cargo ships have arrived from Communist ports in the last few weeks. Many have been unloaded under maximum security. Between three and five thousand so called technicians' have arrived in the course of the past year Soviet statistics reveal that by the end of the year the Soviets will have shipped nearly $1 billion of goods and equipment to Castro, Cuban trade with non-Communist countries will be down to about 30 per cent next year and Cuba will be virtually isolated from the free world—a Communist enclave within the free world where the Soviets can operate unchecked and to a large extent unobserved.


What are the Soviets planning to do with their new island fortress? It is hardly a showplace of communism, since conditions there are worse now than they have been in years. What are they going to build with all this new equipment? What will the array of technicians be required to maintain? So far we have had a number of answers, but in my judgment, none of them tell the true story.

Tass, the Soviet press agency, has announced that the shipments consist of industrial equipment, flour, food, and fertilizer and that the "technicians" are agricultural experts and economists who will try to get the faltering Cuban economy back on its feet. That is not true, Mr. President.

There is no doubt that Cuba needs food and needs expert help. Castro and his fellow travelers have plunged the country into a state of depression, privation, and hardship that has not been matched for generations. But the Communists are not known for their humanitarian motives and impulses. I for one very much doubt that the Soviets are sending any large amounts of their own food, which is in short supply, to help Castro out of his difficulties.


More ominous reports suggest that the Soviets are constructing missile bases and sending over technicians and experts to man them. In this way the Soviets could expect to discourage determined refugees of other nations of this hemisphere from any kind of concerted attack on the Cuban dictatorship. They could also strengthen Castro to resist increasing internal dissatisfaction against his regime. That supposition, which our Government has never openly admitted or discussed, is a source of serious concern to the people of all the Americas. It should be fully aired. The dangers inherent in the situation should be known and appreciated by all the people of this hemisphere, and particularly by those nations which so far have actively blocked measures to combat the menace of Castroism.


Another very real possibility and, in my judgment, a probability that should be a source of even greater concern to the United States and which Las so far not been openly discussed at all in this country is that the Soviets are deliberately taking advantage of the proximity between Cuba and Cape Canaveral to conduct other activities. There is no question at all of the possibility of interference with American space flights by sensitive equipment mounted in Cuba and operated by Communist experts. It is entirely possible for any nation with the advanced electronic resources which the Soviet Union now possesses to construct elaborate and sensitive listening devices. Such devices could monitor all the direct communications and other radio signals used to control missiles in the early stages of flight. With skill and effort it would be very possible for the Soviets to duplicate the signals. Thus they might be able to alter the direction, the thrust, or the .speed of a missile to defeat completely the purpose of any launching.

At the most, what this means is that U.S. astronauts to be launched in the future could be sitting ducks for any kind of interference the Soviets might want to stage. At the very least, it means we must move urgently to develop the techniques necessary to combat this kind of Soviet interference. At the very least, it is an additional hazard, an additional delay, and an additional expense that we will have to face in the space race.


The other possibility, of moving our launching site from Cape Canaveral would be an equally difficult operation that would slow down our program substantially. Moreover, Cape Canaveral offers advantages, in its eastern outlook, its proximity to the equator, and its relative remoteness from heavily built up areas, that would be hard to duplicate anywhere in the country.


Mr. President, let me make this clear. So far there is no evidence to indicate that the Russians have yet played any part in the rather alarming number of launch failures at Cape Canaveral. But I have spoken with a number of technical experts in this field both in and out of Government. All agree that caves dropping and actual interference in U.S launchings is entirely within the capability of the Soviet Union. And we all know that it is just the kind of thing that might be expected of the Soviets.

Mr. President, there is no doubt that such an effort would be expensive. But we all know that right now the Soviets are spending more money just to jam our Voice of America programs than we spend on our entire Information Agency budget. How much more worthwhile, from their point of view, it would be to take advantage of the strategic location of Cuba, less than a hundred miles from our critical launching facilities, to additional roadblocks in the way of our
space program and thereby guarantee Soviet success in reaching the moon and other objectives, first.


In my judgment, Mr President, all the Soviet equipment, which undeniably includes radar and other electronic devices, is not only to prop up Castro economically; it is not only to build missile bases, which could easily be sabotaged; but it is also designed deliberately to put the Communists in a position where they can interfere with the American space effort at Cape Canaveral. The thousands of technicians arc arriving, not only to teach the Cubans how to build their economy, not, only to fight dissidents, not only to discourage common action by all the nations of this hemisphere, but above all to build and to man espionage and interference stations and to keep a constant eye on and very possibly also a finger in the important US launchings scheduled to take place at Cape Canaveral through the coming years.


Mr. President so far the American people have not had a frank answer from their Government as to what the real dangers of a Communist build-up in Cuba are. Our present policy is just to look the other way in the hope that somehow Castro will just disappear. The present influx of Soviet men and technicians shows what a vain, blind, and misleading hope this has been. Castro is not a bad dream or a night mare that will go away when morning comes. He is a dangerous reality. He will not go away merely because we rub Aladdin's lamp and wish for his disappearance. And he is not very likely to fall, no matter how much he abuses and antagonize the people of Cuba, for the Soviet forces that stand behind him are now too much for mere refugees and rebels.

Therefore, at this point, Mr. President, Castro has virtually handed the Communists a gigantic monkey wrench that can be turned right through the middle of our entire space effort, that can endanger the lives of our astronauts, and that can critically slowdown vital defense developments. It is time for the people of this country and of this hemisphere to have the truth, the whole truth, about what Castro and his Soviet cohorts are up to. Only with full knowledge of the seriousness of the situation can we develop a strong national policy with the support of the people of the United Slates.


Our present look-the-other-way policy in Cuba depends to a large extent on popular ignorance of the facts and wishful underestimation of the dangers that are involved. Will we have to wait until more and more of our launchings at Canaveral go wrong before we suspect the worst? Will we have to wait until the Russians have established a space monopoly before we weigh the dangers of their activities in Cuba? Will we have to wait until Castro dies of old age before we recognize that the Soviet strong hold which is being established at this minute on the Island of Cuba is undoubtedly a loaded gun that can be aimed directly at our military and space efforts?


Mr. President, the time for the truth is now and I hope the American people will be provided with the truth while there is still time to deal with it, before it is too late.


In my judgment, the first step which should be taken—immediately—would be to present the matter to the Organization of American States. We should lay the facts before them and urge upon them the necessity for prompt and vigorous action in a concerted way to meet this threat to their future security as well as to the security of the United States. Time is short. The situation is growing worse. I urge upon my Government that prompt action be taken.

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