Chapter 18 - Taking on Soviet-Cuban Imperialism in Latin America and Africa

[Cuba] Cuba plays a central role in Soviet relations with Latin America not only as a dependent client serving Moscow’s interests but also as an independent actor influencing Soviet policies and tactics. Fidel Castro’s vigorous support of Nicaraguan revolutionaries, for example, was originally a Cuban initiative and had a marked impact on Soviet attitudes and policy toward the region. Soviet leaders came to share Castro’s assessment that the prospects for the success of revolutionary forces in Central America were brighter than they had earlier calculated. The Soviets have been working closely with the Cubans to consolidate the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, which both view as central to promoting leftist gains in the region.

[Soviet Strategy] The Soviets have by and large successfully implemented a policy of encouraging unrest in various Central American states, gaining a foothold in Nicaragua, and improving their relations with the governments of the more important South American countries. From the Soviet perspective, such a policy has potential for distracting American attention from other regions; is relatively cheap in economic terms; has not required major commitments to local allies; and has not raised confrontation with the United States to an unmanageable level. The Soviets are thus likely to persist with this strategy.11

“Active Measures.” The report next outlines the Soviet strategy of combining support of revolutionary violence to gain power while also fostering more traditional diplomacy, economic relations and “active measures” depending on the circumstances. Soviet support and guidance for Latin American revolutionary movements now focus on:

  • Encouragement of broad revolutionary coalitions, uniting pro-Soviet Communist parties with their traditional leftwing rivals.
  • Creation of military components loyal to the revolutionary coalitions.
  • Use of hemispheric and extra-hemispheric intermediaries.
  • Training of revolutionary cadres.

[Moscow’s Targeted Latin American Nations] [While currently focused on Central America (e.g., El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras),] Moscow undoubtedly sees potential opportunities for the left in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Chile, [while] in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, Moscow’s policy has aimed largely at cultivating positive state-to-state relations.

[Soviet Covert “Active Measures” Activities] Even in countries where the USSR’s policy is keyed to developing bilateral state-to-state ties, as in Mexico, Moscow continues to conduct a variety of covert activities and other ‘active measures’ to improve its position and play upon domestic vulnerabilities over the longer term. These activities include:

  • Funding local Communist Parties and front organizations.
  • Disseminating disinformation and forgeries aimed at the United States.
  • Drumming up support for hemispheric revolutionaries.
  • Infiltrating military and security services as well as other important sectors of Latin American bureaucracies.
  • Manipulating the media and mass organizations.
  • Developing and using agents of influence, mainly through the Cubans.

[Nicaragua] The large and growing quantity of military hardware in the hands of Soviet clients has major implications for the region. In addition to defending both Cuba and Nicaragua against attack, such military power—especially in Nicaragua—facilitates support to the Salvadoran insurgents and provides shelter for the guerrilla infrastructure. Within the term of this Estimate, other objectives behind arms supply from the USSR and various intermediaries probably include:

  • Intimidating Nicaragua’s neighbors, thus disposing them toward acquiescence in the Soviet-Cuban foothold in Central America.
  • Supporting insurgents in Guatemala.
  • Laying the groundwork for support of possible future insurgencies in Honduras, Costa Rica, and elsewhere in the hemisphere.12

Note on Four Trans-Hemisphere Soviet Proxies. At this point, the SNIE also references other Soviet proxies engaged subversively in Latin America specifically naming East Germany (DDR), Libya, Algeria, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Supported by such Soviet satellites and radical allies, Cuba is the Soviet Union’s paramount proxy to assure the forcible consolidation of pro-Soviet power in Nicaragua through force of arms and a springboard for expanding Sandinista-style revolutionary insurgencies elsewhere.

[Book pg. 429]