The Cuban Threat to U.S. National Security
This report has been prepared by the Defense Intelligence
Agency in coordination with the Central Intelligence Agency, the
Department of State Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the National
Security Agency, and the United States Southern Command Joint
Intelligence Center pursuant to Section 1228 of Public Law No.
105-85, 111 Stat. 1943-44, November 18,1997
Cuban Armed Forces Significantly Weakened
The disintegration of the Soviet bloc in 1989 triggered a profound
deterioration of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), transforming
the institution from one of the most active militaries in the
Third World into a stay-at-home force that has minimal conventional
- The end of Soviet economic and military subsidies forced Havana
to cut the military's size and budget by about 50 percent after
- In 1989 Cuba was the largest Latin American military
on a per capita basis. Today the FAR is estimated to have about
50,000 to 65,000 regular troops and is comparable on an active
duty per capita basis to countries like Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador,
and El Salvador.
- Severe resource shortages have forced the FAR
to reduce training significantly.
- A substantial portion of the FAR's military heavy
equipment is in storage. Cannibalization of equipment is used
sustain active duty equipment and make up for shortages of spare
Economic support and sustainment tasks have become
as important as protecting the national territory, further weakening
the FAR's conventional capabilities.
- The FAR must now grow its own food and raise
money to pay for some of its own expenses. Significant numbers
of active duty forces are devoted to agricultural, business, and
manufacturing activities that help feed the troops and generate
- The military has also increased the level of
economic and social services it provides to the civilian sector.
The FAR now supplies more construction, engineering, manufacturing,
health, and transportation services than it did in past years.
- These tasks diminish conventional military training
efforts and further weaken the FAR's conventional capabilities.
The FAR retains some residual combat support strengths that are
essentially defensive in nature.
- The military's intelligence and counterintelligence
systems directed at the United States appear to have suffered
little degradation. Cuba has shared intelligence with other countries
including U.S. adversaries.
- Cuba has an agreement with Russia which allows
Moscow to maintain a signals intelligence facility at Torrens
also known as Lourdes which is the largest such complex outside
the Commonwealth of Independent States.
- Cuba's military early warning radar systems
are aging but remain generally intact.
- The military leadership is combat-experienced
The ground forces remain primarily armor and artillery units.
Their readiness level is low due to severely reduced training.
- The FAR generally is not capable of mounting effective operations
above the battalion level.
- Most equipment is in storage and unavailable
on short notice.
The Navy has no capability to sustain operations beyond its territorial
waters and focuses on defense of the Cuban coast.
- Cuba no longer has any functioning submarines
in its inventory.
- Perhaps a little over a dozen of its remaining
surface vessels are combat capable.
- The Navy retains a weak antisurface warfare capability
using fast attack boats that carry S-TYX surface-to-surface anti-ship
missiles. The Navy also retains an extremely weak antisubmarine
warfare capability. The Cuban Navy can pose a more substantial
threat to undefended civilian vessels.
The Air and Air Defense Forces are now incapable
of defending Cuban airspace against large numbers of high-performance
military aircraft. Slower or less sophisticated aircraft, however,
would be vulnerable to Cuban air and air defense systems.
- The Air Force probably has less than 2 dozen
operational MiG fighters.
- Pilot training is judged barely adequate to maintain
- Fighter sorties have declined significantly in
- Cuba would rely on its surface-to-air missiles
(SAM) and its air defense artillery to respond to attacking air
Special Operations Forces
Cuba's special operations units are smaller and less
proficient than they were a decade ago, but they can still perform
selected military and internal security missions.
- The FAR retains a battalion-size airborne unit
and other special operations forces.
- Special operations training continues, albeit
on a smaller scale than in the past.
Cuba's paramilitary units -- the Territorial Militia
Troops, the Youth Labor Army devoted to agricultural production,
and the naval militia -- have suffered considerable degradation
of morale and training over the last seven years. However, their
core personnel still have the potential to make an enemy invasion
Negligible Conventional Military Threat to the United States
Cuba's weak military poses a negligible conventional threat to
the U.S. or surrounding countries.
- The Cubans almost certainly calculate that any
attack on U.S. territory or forces would draw a swift, forceful
- Cuba could theoretically threaten small, undefended
countries in Latin America. However, such action would run counter
to its efforts in recent years to improve relations with neighboring
countries. There are no current indications that Cuba would undertake
any such action.
Biological Warfare Threat
Cuba's current scientific facilities and expertise
could support an offensive BW program in at least the research
and development stage. Cuba's biotechnology industry is one of
the most advanced in emerging countries and would be capable of
producing BW agents.
Threat of Mass Migration Currently Low
The threat of another government-sanctioned mass
migration from Cuba is assessed as low as long as domestic political
conditions remain stable.
- The 1994 accord indefinitely permits 20,000 Cubans
per year to enter the United States, the largest legal annual
number since the U.S. airlifts of 1965-1971. The Cuban government
uses such a safety valve to help minimize social tension prompted
by the poor economy.
- The 1995 accord, which provides for the return
of illegal migrants to Cuba, also deters many Cubans from leaving
unlawfully. The perception by the Cuban populace that Washington
can and will repatriate most illegal migrants has sharply reduced
the flow of rafters and will remain a key determinant of migration
- Moreover, mass illegal migration discourages
tourism and foreign investor confidence, two factors that Havana--now
dependent on dollars from abroad--urgently needs to keep its economy
Nonetheless, pressures for migrants to flee to the
United States despite Cuban and U.S. prohibitions would increase
substantially if Cuba's economy--currently growing slowly--resumed
a downward spiral, if the government was perceived to relax its
position on illegal departures, or in the event of sustained political
Potential for Internal Strife
The prospects for widespread civil unrest in Cuba that involves
U.S. citizens, residents, or armed forces currently appear to
- There is undoubtedly widespread desire for greater economic
and political freedom and weariness with continuing hardship,
deprivation and repression. Nonetheless, relatively few Cubans
now appear willing to risk the consequences of pressing for sweeping
Over the longer term, stability is likely to depend on the circumstances
under which Castro leaves the scene. Pressures for change are
likely to grow that the regime may find difficult to manage.
Threat of Attacks on U.S. Citizens and Residents
Cuban attacks on U.S. citizens or residents while
they are engaged in peaceful protest in international airspace
or waters currently appear unlikely.
During exile commemoration ceremonies since Cuba
shot down two unarmed U.S. aircraft in international airspace
in February 1996, the Cuban government has acted with restraint.
At present, Cuba does not pose a significant military
threat to the U.S. or to other countries in the region. Cuba has
little motivation to engage in military activity beyond defense
of its territory and political system.
Nonetheless, Cuba has a limited capability to engage
in some military and intelligence activities which would be detrimental
to U.S. interests and which could pose a danger to U.S. citizens
under some circumstances.