SPECIAL NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE
REACTIONS. LOW-LEVEL OVERmGHIS OF CUBA
Central Intelligence Agency
Submitted by the
DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE
The following intelligence organizationshe preparation of this estimate: The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departmentstate, Defense, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and NSA. -
Concurred in by the
UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD ononcurring were the Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State; TheDefense Intelligence Agency; the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army; the Assistant Chief of Naval Operationsepartment of the Navy; the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF; the Director for Intelligence, Joint Staff; and the Director of the National Security Agency. The Atomic Energy Commissionto the USIB and the Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.
SUBJECT: : REACTIONS TO US LOW-LEVEL OVERFLIGHTS OF CUBA
To estimate Sonet and Cuban reaction to tb* resumption of US low-level wconnaisssnce of Cuba on tbe baslaceekwo-weeknd to estimate reactionsore extensive programontinuing basis.
1. Soviet and Cuban forces both generally refrained from hostile action against the program of low-level flights last fall. No hostile action was taken against the two low-level mlssionaebruary. Thie policy may bo influenced by Soviet/Cuban estimates that their capabilities against low-lerel intrusions are poor, but the controlling factor probably
1/ n ar/prtaixsation of the number of missions required to cover the fixed targets recocoended by CCHOReparate paper.
been their alaost certain belief that eraec actionS plane would invite prompt and serious reprisals, therebyrisis in which the US would again enjoy major military advantages.
It does not automatically follow, however, that the Soviets and Cubans would adhere to this policy in the face of repeated low-level They recognize tbat tha mora effective photographic coverage obtained froa these scissions would prevent them from concealing manywhich tbey might hope to hide from high-altitude reconnaissance. More important, low-level penetrations are far more conspicuous than high-altitude ovarfllgbts and could not be so easily Ignored. Considerable numbers of Cubans would be aware of these infractions of sovereignty, and Costro and the Soviets would be reluctant to be revealed as unwilling or unable to counter them. In addition, repeated low-level fllghta woulda new factor Into the situation because, unlike the case of high-altitude penetrations, the Soviets would no longeronopoly of the means of military response.
Soviet and Cuban reactions would depend ln part upon theirof their capabilities to shootow-level intruder. If they regarded their chances of shootinglight as virtually nil, then their alternatives for counteraction wouldeneral politicalagainst the US or some form of Soviet reprisal elsewhere. However,
we think it unlikely that the Soviet* vould he willing to take major action against US interests elsewhere, mainly because effective reprisals against the US in auch areas aa Berlin carry tooanger of acrisis and military escalation.
k. In the remainder of this estimate, we assume that Soviet and Cuban forces can take hostile action against lov-level penetrations, and thus regard themselves as faced vith the decision of whether to dourther, we assume tbat Castro can take such action independent of Soviet cooperation. Thectta which follow, moreover, are subject toreview baaed on our appraisal* of Soviet/Cuban reactions to the program undertaken.
Reaction* Under Various Circumstances
Soviet and Cuban reactions would vary in accordance with several factors. In addition to tbe possible influence of developments elsewhere in world affairs, the chance*oatile response would rise with the frequency of overflights, the use of night photography, the nueber of Cubans exposed to overflights, the publicity given tbe program by the US, andthe length of time during which the program continued.
In the case of three or foureekvo-week-period, we believe that Soviet and Cuban reaction would be minimal. They probably
2/ See the attached vulnerability study.
expect lew-level flights to verify their announced troop withdrawals and will not actively oppose such observations. During this phase the Soviets could not be certain whether tbe US was only verifying withdrawals of personnel and equipment or was carryingew program directed against other IntelUgenee objectives. Their suspicions about the purpose of the flights might be aroused by tbe specific targets, but we doutt tfcat this would influence their reaction, nor do we believe ttey would bait the withdrawals.
7- After the scheduled withdrawal was completed, if the flights continue at about the same frequency, we do not believe that either the Soviets or the Cubans would Immediately take hostile actlM- They would be likely to conclude tbat the US was still trying to collect specificinformation rather thanalculated political affront. Moreover, the cost to their prestige and dignity would not be too great lnrogram of thla scopeew weeks.
8. If this program continued without interruption. or if theof missions increased, the pressures on both Cuba and the CSSP for an active response would grow. Castro fcr his part would be inclined torolonged period of overflights on an increased scaleJS attempt to encourage passive resistance by demonstrating 'JS power arid the regime's Impotence to the Cuban population. His fears of an invasion
would be Intensified, and he would probably feel himself under mounting pressure to make scce effective and demonstrative response. The USSR, more concerned with the dangers of escalation and less concerned withCuban pride, would probably respond to Castro's demands forby counselling continued restraint.
',. In these circumstances, the USSR would probably try to temporizeime, perhaps privately warning the US that it could not befor Castro's actions. If overflights continuedairly frequent basic, hovever, the Soviets would suffer some loss of prestige aodggravation of their relations with the Cuban regime, all the while running the danger that tbey would be involuntarily committed by unilateral or even Irresponsible, trigger happy Cuban action. It ia entirely possible tbat they would seek to end overflights by cooperating with Cuban forces in an attackow-level intruder, but we do not believe that they would choose this response unless they had somehow persuaded themselves that they could keep the resulting tensions within manageable limits. Weto believe that the USSR would not accept serious risks of general war over Cuba.
10. Alternatively, the Soviets might resortajor political and propaganda campaign, hoping toN resolution condemning US Or they might explore the possibility of concessions to US demands
if tbey cone to feel that lt vas essential totop by some means to systematic lev-level overflights; these might take the form of even more withdrawals of Soviet forces made in the hope that tbey could persuade the US to cease Its program. Another possibility is that they would limit themselves initiallyeopening of diplomatic ccovarsatloos on Cuba, holding out the prospect of further reduction In Soviet farces If the US first halted low-level reconnaissance.
U. If Castro were facedrogram of frequent flightsoviet refusal to take military counteraction, he probably would at some point order Cuban forces to act against lov-level penetrations. We are unable, however, to predict at what point he wouldnilateral response.
12. While tbe Soviets and Cubans would weigh their actions In the light of tbe risks Involved, there is always the possibility of anehootdovn, or the accidental losslane over Cuba. In these circumstances tbe US might be unawareua cause of loss and could accordingly be faced with an ambiguous situation.
13- Bight Photography. Detonation of the flash cartridges used In night photographic missions would considerably lncreaae the chances that air defense units would believe that they were under attack, thusincreasing the chance of their spontaneous hostile response.Original document.