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Soviet Combat Troops in Cuba Remarks to Reporters

September 07, 1979

I want to take a few minutes to speak to you about the presence of the Soviet combat brigade in Cuba. The facts relating to this issue have been carefully laid out by Secretary Vance, both in his public statement and in his testimony before the Congress. The facts, in brief, are as follows:

We have concluded, as the consequences of intensified intelligence efforts, that a Soviet combat unit is currently stationed in Cuba. We have some evidence to indicate that such a unit has been in Cuba fox- some time, perhaps for quite a few years.

The brigade consists of 2,000 to 3,000 troops. It's equipped with conventional weapons, such as about 40 tanks and some field artillery pieces, and has conducted training as an organized unit.

It is not an assault force. It does not have airlift or sea-going capabilities and does not have weapons capable of attacking the United States.

The purpose of this combat unit is not yet clear. However, the Secretary of State spoke for me and for our Nation on Wednesday when he said that we consider the presence of a Soviet combat brigade in Cuba to be a very serious matter and that this status quo is not acceptable.

We are confident about our ability to defend our country or any of our friends from external aggression. The issue posed is of a different nature. It involves the stationing of Soviet combat troops here in the Western Hemisphere, in a country which acts as a Soviet proxy in military adventures in other areas of the world, like Africa.

We do have the right to insist that the Soviet Union respect our interests and our concerns if the Soviet Union expects us to respect their sensibilities and their concerns. Otherwise, relations between our two countries will inevitably be adversely affected. We are seriously pursuing this issue with the Soviet Union, and we are consulting closely with the Congress.

Let me emphasize that this is a sensitive issue that faces our Nation, all of us, and our Nation as a whole must respond not only with firmness and strength but also with calm and a sense of proportion.

This is a time for firm diplomacy, not panic and not exaggeration. As Secretary Vance discusses this issue with Soviet representatives in the coming days, the Congress and the American people can help to ensure a successful outcome of these discussions and negotiations by preserving an atmosphere in which our diplomacy can work.

I know I speak for the leadership in Congress, with whom I have met this afternoon, as well as for my own administration, when I express my confidence that our Nation can continue to show itself to be calm and steady, as well as strong and firm.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 4:15 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Soviet Combat Troops in Cuba Remarks to Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249498

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