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Robertson Says Soviet Missiles Placed in Cuba

February 15, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Pat Robertson charged in a Republican presidential debate Sunday that the Soviet Union has secretly placed 25 intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Cuba.

A Robertson aide said later the former religious broadcaster meant missile delivery systems, not warheads themselves.

In California, a White House official traveling with President Reagan said: ″There’s no indication of any nuclear missiles or weapons in Cuba.″ The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Soviet Union did place missiles in Cuba in 1962, but agreed to remove them after a tense showdown between Nikita Khrushchev and President John F. Kennedy that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

Robertson, at the League of Women Voters debate in Goffstown, N.H., said he obtained the information from a source in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he declined to identify.

Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., the ranking minority member of that committee and leading opponent of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, recently introduced an amendment demanding that the Soviets allow the United States to inspect the Cuban missile sites. Helms also has asked administration officials about whether the Soviets might have left some missiles behind when they pulled 42 out in 1962.

During a discussion of the INF accord, Robertson said,″Some information came to me that the Soviets, in violation of the so-called Khrushchev-Kennedy accords, have put some SS-4s and -5s in Cuba, which are intermediate-range nuclear weapons. And somehow, in all this brilliant negotiation that these gentlemen are so proud of, they’ve left that out of the treaty.″

″It seems like, to me, nukes pointing at the United States are more vital to our security than nukes pointing to Europe,″ Robertson added.

The surprised moderator, Edwin Newman, said, ″You say you have learned that Soviet SS-3s and SS-4s have been placed in Cuba?″

″Twenty-five of them, fours and fives, that’s correct ... You can check it,″ said Robertson.

″This may be a major flaw in that treaty we certainly should look into, if there are nukes in Cuba,″ said Robertson.

After the debate, Marc Nuttle, Robertson’s political director, said the candidate was referring to missile delivery systems, not warheads themselves. Nuttle says he doesn’t know how many of these systems are in Cuba and he said the information did not come directly from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, ″but that’s where some of the information was compiled.″

Jim Lucier, the Republican minority staff director on the committee, said Sunday night, ″He’s probably referring to the testimony of Admiral Crowe before our committee″ on Feb. 4.

Admiral William J. Crowe Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, under questioning by Helms, said that although Cuba is under constant and intensive surveillance by U.S. satellites and other intelligence-gathering devices, he could not say with 100 percent certainty that new Soviet missile deployment would be detected.

But Crowe said U.S. surveillance is effective enough that, ″We have high confidence tha we know whether or not there are Soviet missiles in Cuba.″ He said he could not discuss the matter further in public.

Helms said, ″My amendment on Cuban inspection rights woud eliminate this gaping loophole.″

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