CubaBrief: Remembering how Henry Kissinger ended multilateral sanctions against Cuba in 1975, only to have detente fail later.

Remembering Henry Kissinger ( 1923 – 2023 )

Secretary Henry Kissinger and Presidents Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford sought detente with Fidel Castro

Warming of relations between Washington and Havana did not begin until the tail end of the Nixon Administration, following the start of detente with China and the Soviet Union. Nixon traveled to China in February 1972 and met with Mao Zedong dropping opposition to Beijing’s entry to the United Nations, and in May 1972 Nixon traveled to the Soviet Union and met with Leonid Breshnev and supported a nuclear arms agreement. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had laid the groundwork for both meetings, and the overall detente.

In 1973 Henry Kissinger assumed the position of Secretary of State while also retaining his position as National Security Advisor in the Nixon Administration, and began to explore the possibility of a detente with Fidel Castro. Nestor T. Carbonell, in his important 2020 book Why Cuba Matters: New Threats in America’s Backyard, describes what happened next.

“Cuba remained a controversial political issue in the United States, so Kissinger guardedly looked for an intermediary to make initial contacts with the Castro regime (as President Kennedy had done with journalist Lisa Howard following the Missile Crisis). The choice this time was Frank Mankiewicz, a freelance journalist and former spokesman for Robert Kennedy who had recently shot a documentary on Cuba for CBS and was returning to Havana to interview Castro…” According to Kissinger, Nixon was not enthusiastic about the emissary, but he went along with a message to Castro along these lines: “America in principle was prepared to improve relations [with Cuba] on the basis of reciprocal measures agreed in confidential discussions … and was willing to show our goodwill by making symbolic first moves.”

Fidel Castro responded to the outreach with Mankiewicz with a box of Cuban cigars for Kissinger and a message expressing interest in “relaxing tensions” – the definition of détente. In the meantime, Watergate led to the early departure of Nixon from the White House on August 9, 1974 and Gerald Ford, his vice president, replacing him. [However, Kissinger continued with both positions through November 3, 1975, and as Secretary of State until the end of the Ford Administration on January 20, 1977.]

“A preliminary meeting was held on January 11, 1975, at a cafeteria in New York, by Deputy Undersecretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger with two Castro representatives: Ramón Sánchez Parodi, a senior official of the Cuban Communist Party, and Néstor García, first secretary of Cuba’s UN mission. This was followed by a substantive discussion on July 9 at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan, led by Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs William Rogers, who covered some of the steps approved by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to relax tensions, phase out the embargo, and normalize relations. […]

“Eager to clinch a deal with Castro, the Ford administration offered several inducements to the Cuban ruler without any quid pro quo. First, the United States voted in favor of the July 29, 1975, OAS resolution, effectively ending the multilateral diplomatic and economic sanctions against the Castro regime. Then on August 19, President Ford eased the US embargo, allowing foreign subsidiaries of US companies to trade with Cuba, dropping foreign aid penalties on countries trading with the island, and permitting ships en route to Cuba to refuel in the United States.”

The hoped for “easing of tensions” did not occur, but instead the Ford Administration ended up with egg on its face.

Castro’s response was to send thousands of Cuban troops to Africa, first to Angola. According to the [Department of State Bulletin Volume 89 – February 1989] On September 23, 1975 “Secretary of State Henry Kissinger declared that events in Angola had taken a ‘distressing turn’ and that the United States was ‘most alarmed at the interference of extracontinental powers,’ i.e., the Soviet Union and Cuba.” [ Cubans had been there since at least March 1975]

All pretense that Cuba only had an advisory role was dropped on November 5, 1975, [Department of State Bulletin Volume 89 – February 1989] when thousands of Cuban troops were fighting in Angola; by February 1976, the number had increased to an estimated 14,000.” Cuban involvement in Angola would continue until 1991.

Kissinger was so angered by the Cuban intervention in Angola, and the failure of detente that he entertained the idea of air strikes on Cuba.

This pattern of opening up to the Castro regime with unilateral concessions, legitimizing it internationally, providing it more resources, followed by negative consequences was established by Henry Kissinger during the Nixon and Ford Administrations and would be repeated on greater scale by the Carter, Clinton and Obama Administrations over the next four decades.

Henry Kissinger ( May 27, 1923 – November 29, 2023) The U.S. National Archives via Picryl.com

The Herald, December 3, 2023

KEVIN MCKENNA’S DIARY

Henry Kissinger was on the ball when it came to the Russian presence

By Kevin McKenna

THE death of the American statesman and diplomat Henry Kissinger brought forth a torrent of analyses about his role in shaping the world in the late-20th century.

What wasn’t so well-known about Dr Kissinger was his lifelong devotion to football which had begun when he was growing up in Bavaria.

He would often deploy his knowledge of football to significant effect during his intrigues and shenanigans in the world’s hotspots.

For many years after the Cuban missile crisis, which had taken America and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war, the US government remained paranoid and vigilant regarding its thorny little Communist neighbour.

American spy planes regularly traversed the Cuban landscape watchful lest the Soviets try once more to establish a military base on the island.

Thus it was that in 1970 that a set of seemingly unremarkable aerial pictures of Cienfuegos, a naval base on Cuba’s south coast, landed on Kissinger’s desk.

As soon as he saw them, Kissinger signalled the alarm and insisted that President Richard Nixon immediately be alerted.

Senior staff in the president’s office were bewildered at Kissinger’s startled response about the reconnaissance pictures.

Official accounts of the proceedings, released decades later, record Kissinger exclaiming: “These pictures show the Cubans are building soccer fields. Those soccer fields could mean war.”

Bob Haldeman, the president’s chief of staff (who, along with Nixon, would be toppled in the Watergate scandal three years later) remained perplexed – whereupon Kissinger shouted: “Cubans play baseball. Russians play soccer.”

He’d concluded that the pictures of football pitches, which hadn’t been there the previous week, indicated that the Soviet Navy was once more messing about in Cuba.

He was right too.

Regarding Henry

Eight years later, Kissinger’s love of the beautiful game featured in a much more infamous episode. During the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, he was a guest of the brutal, right-wing military junta then governing the country as the host nation lifted the trophy.

It was becoming known by then that the Argentinian government was engaged in a widespread programme of torturing and murdering any internal dissenters.

Kissinger’s presence there was consistent with the aims of US diplomacy in South America, which was basically to undermine and remove governments in the region displaying signs of socialism.

Like the rest of us watching the 1978 World Cup back then, he would not have given a second thought to the black bands which curiously appeared around the goalposts during many of the matches.

In 2017, The Guardian published a superb article by the writer David Forrest of the “In Bed With Maradona” football blog which revealed the poignant story that lay behind these black bands.

Forrest had travelled to Argentina to discover the truth about the black bands and tracked down a former stadium worker called Ezequiel.

They had been painted by workers at the stadium where Argentina played its matches as a silent protest about the junta’s murderous activities.

Forrest writes: “And what of the black bands at the base of the posts?

Ezequiel touched his bicep and at once I realised: ‘They were black armbands? They were a protest against the disappearances?’ They were not a protest. Rather, they were a form of remembrance.

‘Everyone knew someone who knew someone that had been disappeared. The staff all wanted to protest’.”

Power play

AMONG the responses to the death of Henry Kissinger was one by the Celtic Hail Hail History Twitter account which pointed out that the old diplomat had a soft spot for the Hoops.

Several years ago, the New York Celtic Supporters Club was invited to become a member by John Butterfield, its Scots-born treasurer.

The New York Celtic Supporters

Club published a small article about it. Kissinger, the club said, “had jumped at” the invitation to become a member and quoted Butterfield’s recollections of it.

Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger who died at the age of 100 (Image: .)

THE death of the American statesman and diplomat Henry Kissinger brought forth a torrent of analyses about his role in shaping the world in the late-20th century.

What wasn’t so well-known about Dr Kissinger was his lifelong devotion to football which had begun when he was growing up in Bavaria.

He would often deploy his knowledge of football to significant effect during his intrigues and shenanigans in the world’s hotspots.

For many years after the Cuban missile crisis, which had taken America and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war, the US government remained paranoid and vigilant regarding its thorny little Communist neighbour.

American spy planes regularly traversed the Cuban landscape watchful lest the Soviets try once more to establish a military base on the island.

Thus it was that in 1970 that a set of seemingly unremarkable aerial pictures of Cienfuegos, a naval base on Cuba’s south coast, landed on Kissinger’s desk.

As soon as he saw them, Kissinger signalled the alarm and insisted that President Richard Nixon immediately be alerted.

Senior staff in the president’s office were bewildered at Kissinger’s startled response about the reconnaissance pictures.

Official accounts of the proceedings, released decades later, record Kissinger exclaiming: “These pictures show the Cubans are building soccer fields. Those soccer fields could mean war.”

Bob Haldeman, the president’s chief of staff (who, along with Nixon, would be toppled in the Watergate scandal three years later) remained perplexed – whereupon Kissinger shouted: “Cubans play baseball. Russians play soccer.”

He’d concluded that the pictures of football pitches, which hadn’t been there the previous week, indicated that the Soviet Navy was once more messing about in Cuba.

He was right too.

Regarding Henry

Eight years later, Kissinger’s love of the beautiful game featured in a much more infamous episode. During the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, he was a guest of the brutal, right-wing military junta then governing the country as the host nation lifted the trophy.

It was becoming known by then that the Argentinian government was engaged in a widespread programme of torturing and murdering any internal dissenters.

Kissinger’s presence there was consistent with the aims of US diplomacy in South America, which was basically to undermine and remove governments in the region displaying signs of socialism.

Like the rest of us watching the 1978 World Cup back then, he would not have given a second thought to the black bands which curiously appeared around the goalposts during many of the matches.

In 2017, The Guardian published a superb article by the writer David Forrest of the “In Bed With Maradona” football blog which revealed the poignant story that lay behind these black bands.

Forrest had travelled to Argentina to discover the truth about the black bands and tracked down a former stadium worker called Ezequiel.

They had been painted by workers at the stadium where Argentina played its matches as a silent protest about the junta’s murderous activities.

Forrest writes: “And what of the black bands at the base of the posts?

Ezequiel touched his bicep and at once I realised: ‘They were black armbands? They were a protest against the disappearances?’ They were not a protest. Rather, they were a form of remembrance.

‘Everyone knew someone who knew someone that had been disappeared. The staff all wanted to protest’.”

Power play

AMONG the responses to the death of Henry Kissinger was one by the Celtic Hail Hail History Twitter account which pointed out that the old diplomat had a soft spot for the Hoops.

Several years ago, the New York Celtic Supporters Club was invited to become a member by John Butterfield, its Scots-born treasurer.

The New York Celtic Supporters

Club published a small article about it. Kissinger, the club said, “had jumped at” the invitation to become a member and quoted Butterfield’s recollections of it.

“He [Kissinger] has always loved the game and was delighted to accept membership of our club.”

https://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/23964523.henry-kissinger-ball-came-russian-presence/