Department of State
Foreign Policy Briefing
Washington, D.C.
March 27, 1962
Afternoon Session: 4:17 - 4:45 p.m.
The President of the United States

They also change. They also have to go through a period of transition. That is one of the hazards of life. I don't know any sure answer to your question. There are a lot of other things that could happen too - even those who are most experienced can find themselves involved in fatal actions - so all we can do is the best we can.

Q: Mr. President, you mentioned the confusion of the American people sometimes in our policy in one country and what would seem to be the same thing in another, but is different. How would you explain in your own terms our policy with respect to what we propose to do in Cuba? Is it one in which we propose to embargo even at the expense of starving the people to a point where they turn against their masters, or is it possible to stopping short of that some day?

A: I don't think the embargo has the effect of causing the people to starve and turn against their masters. I don't think any Communist system, as I said in my speech - the ability to maintain their power is quite, Viet-Nam, Viet-Minh, North Viet-Nam, China itself under adverse conditions, Ulbrecht in East Germany - there isn't any doubt that this police apparatus is most effective.

Cuba itself is a garrison - informers every block. And it's extremely difficult, therefore, for any opposition to become organized and to become effective. We wish to isolate Cuba because what we are now concerned about is the prevention of the spread of Communism to other areas. I don't know anybody who could make a prediction about Cuba or what its fate will be, what the power struggle within Cuba may bring. I don't think anyone can tell you what's at the end of the road. What we are concerned about is that the infection may spread to Brazil, to Mexico, the Argentine, and the others.

Cuba can, or was being used as a major base for that. Cuban diplomats were heavily involved in those kinds of actions. So for the time what we are attempting to do is isolate Cuba and cut its contacts to the extent possible in this Hemisphere. The embargo does not have the effect that you have suggested. The Communists will continue to assist Cuba to the extent of maintaining certainly minimum standards of life for them, because their prestige is very heavily involved in the success of Cuba. But I can't tell you how Mr. Castro is going to be undone at this time. But we are attempting to prevent the spread into other areas which would be more serious once Communism had a base on the geographic heartland of South America.

Q: It has been stated that there would be no winner in a nuclear exchange. Do you feel that our present program of fall-out shelters and Civil Defense will change this prognosis to any great extent?

A: No. But I think it may make it less likely that there would be annihilation, but not a victory by Civil Defense.

Q: Bringing up the question of our nuclear strategy, which had a recent article in the New York Post, what would be the effect on our prospects and that strategy if the Soviets develop the equivalent of the Nike-Zeus before we do?

A: Well, I would think if they develop an effective anti-missile missile before we do and base it in the Soviet Union, that the balance of power would have been turned against the United States. We are, as you know, devoting a substantial amount of money for research on an anti-missile missile. But I'm sure you may have been briefed by the Defense Department.

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