News


DATE=5/6/98
TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT
NUMBER=2-231827
TITLE=PENTAGON / CUBA (L)
BYLINE=JIM RANDLE
DATELINE=PENTAGON 
CONTENT=
VOICED AT: 

INTRO:  U-S MILITARY AND INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS SAY CUBA NO  
LONGER POSES A THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES OR CUBA'S OTHER 
NEIGHBORS.  THE ASSESSMENT COMES IN A LONG-DELAYED AND 
CONTROVERSIAL REPORT TO CONGRESS.  V-O-A'S JIM RANDLE REPORTS 
FROM THE PENTAGON, THE REPORT MAY SPARK CRITICISM FROM 
CUBAN-AMERICAN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS. 

  TEXT:  THE REPORT SAYS THE END OF SOVIET SUBSIDIES FORCED 
HAVANA TO CUT ITS ONCE-ROBUST MILITARY BY 50 PER CENT, TO BETWEEN
50 AND 65-THOUSAND TROOPS.  IT SAYS THE NAVY HAS SHRUNK TO ONLY 
ONE DOZEN SHIPS, THE AIR FORCE TO TWO DOZEN COMBAT READY PLANES. 
THE REPORT SAYS TRAINING FOR PILOTS AND OTHERS IS BARELY ADEQUATE
TO MAINTAIN PROFICIENCY. 

 HOWEVER, THE REPORT ALSO CONCLUDED THAT DESPITE THESE 
WEAKNESSES, CUBA'S FORCES HAVE ENOUGH "RESIDUAL STRENGTH" TO MAKE
AN INVASION VERY COSTLY, AND THAT CUBAN MILITARY LEADERS ARE 
"COMBAT-EXPERIENCED AND DISCIPLINED."   

//OPT// THE HEAD OF A PRIVATE GROUP THAT STUDIES LATIN AMERICAN 
ISSUES, SAYS PRIOR PENTAGON REPORTS OVERSTATED THE CUBAN THREAT 
TO HELP JUSTIFY LARGE U-S MILITARY BUDGETS.  BUT THE DIRECTOR OF 
THE COUNCIL ON HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS, LARRY BIRNS, SAYS THIS LATEST
ASSESSMENT SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT TO HIM. 

                       /// BIRNS ACT  /// 

         CLEARLY THE CUBAN THREAT NO LONGER EXISTS.  THESE 
         SOLDIERS, THAT CUBA HAS TODAY, AND IT'S MENTIONED IN THE
         REPORT, ARE LARGELY FARMERS AND NOT SOLDIERS.  THE CUBAN
         ECONOMY IS IN SUCH REDUCED STATES THAT THE ARMY, HAS TO 
         MAINTAIN ITSELF THROUGH GROWING CROPS AND ENGAGING IN 
         VARIOUS KINDS OF BUSINESS ACTIVITIES.  

                     /// END ACT & OPT ///  

 WHEN WORD OF THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT REPORT LEAKED TO THE PRESS 
SEVERAL WEEKS AGO, TWO CUBAN-AMERICAN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS 
DENOUNCED ITS CONCLUSIONS.  THEY URGED THE PENTAGON TO PAINT A 
MORE THREATENING, AND THEY SAID MORE ACCURATE PICTURE OF CUBA -- 
NOTING THAT, AMONG OTHER THINGS, CUBA'S NUCLEAR REACTOR PROGRAM 
COULD BE USED FOR MILITARY PURPOSES.  

IN A LETTER TO CONGRESS ACCOMPANYING THE REPORT, DEFENSE 
SECRETARY WILLIAM COHEN SAYS INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES IN CUBA ARE 
STILL A CONCERN FOR THE UNITED STATES.  HE ALSO EXPRESSED CONCERN
THAT ACCIDENTS AT A CUBAN NUCLEAR PLANT MIGHT RELEASE RADIATION, 
OR THAT CUBAN BIOTECHNOLOGY SKILLS MIGHT PRODUCE BIOLOGICAL 
WEAPONS.  

MR. COHEN ALSO SAYS HE LOOKED OVER U-S MILITARY CONTINGENCY PLANS
FOR  DEALING WITH CUBA, AND SAYS THEY ARE APPROPRIATE FOR THE 
LEVEL AND NATURE OF THE THREAT TO U-S SECURITY. (SIGNED)

NEB/JR/WFR 

06-May-98 6:47 PM EDT (2247 UTC)
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Source: Voice of America
.