Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin today will continue their negotiations on Soviet troops in Cuba amid new political controversy on the subject.
Vance, in a brief exchange with reporters at the State Department, continued his tight-lipped policy of avoiding comment on the talks. He would say only that he hopes the dispute can be resolved in the near future "in a way that is satisfactory to the United States." He did not define what that resolution might be or when it might be achieved.
Despite a hard-hitting attack on the U.S. position in Pravda, the Soviet Communist Party newspaper, senior American officials continued to express optimism about an eventual settlement of the issue with the Soviets.
There is no indication that Carter administration leaders have reached agreement on what terms would be acceptable here. Several senators have demanded a verified withdrawal of the Soviet combat brigade that the United States reports is now in Cuba, but President Carter and Vance have been vague on what Washington would consider a minimum acceptable result, saying only that the "status quo" is unacceptable.
Meanwhile, D.S. intelligence analysts privately voiced concern that the slow but steady growth of Soviet military systems and facilities in Cuba over the past few years represents a more serious challenge to the United States than the combat brigade.
"The brigade is only one part of a general increase," was the way one intelligence analyst described the Cuban situation. "Everything they have done is small in itself, but they are building a 'Fortress Cuba' that down the road has strategic significance for us."
The analyst ticked off the rearming of Cuban army units, beginning in 1976; the installation in 1977 of an advanced electronic antenna capable of eavesdropping on U.S. satellite transmissions; new construction of naval port facilities in Cienfuegos Bay, starting that same year; the arrival of advanced Mig23 fighter-bombers in 1978; and the supplying of one training and one ocean-going submarine this year, along with a fleet of 24 two-engine turboprop military transport planes.
Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.), one of the most outspoken anti-Soviet figures in Congress, charged in a Senate speech that a major upgrading of Cuba's military capabilities over the past two years has begun the development of "Fortress Cuba." Jackson demanded that Soviet high-performance ground attack aircraft as well as Soviet combat units be removed from Cuba and said the United States must insist that no more Soviet submarines or threatening naval forces be supplied to the island state.
Former California governor Ronald Regan, the front-running contender for the Republican presidential nomination, said in Sacramento that the United States "should not have any further communications with the Soviet Union" until the troops are sent back to Russia, according to United Press International.
Former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger, on the other hand, said the Cuban troops question "is a subject for negotiations" with the Soviets. After a lunch meeting with Vance, Kissinger said the question is "in no sense a partisan issue" and expressed support for Vance's objectives in "a very delicate negotiation."
Senate Minority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr., (Tenn.), who is expected to be a contender for his party's presidential nomination, said he would give the Carter administration 10 days to resolve the situation before urging another course of action, which he did not specify.
On the broader issue of growing Cuban military strength, the 1977 resumption of construction of a naval facility at Cienfuegos Bay and the transfer to the Cubans this year of the two diesel-powered Soviet submarines are cited by several analysts as the type of "pinprick" that could develop into a serious problem for the United States.
The Cienfuegos site was considered in 1970 as a proposed facility for Soviet navy vessel servicing, according to the Nixon administration. Nixon has claimed he halted the Soviet plan through diplomatic pressure.
According to the State Department, the new Cienfuegos construction "is virtually complete" and consists of "a number of naval support-type buildings and a deep-water pier."
It is far too large for just two submarines, and U.S. intelligence analysts expect the facility to serve additional subs supplied to the Cubans and perhaps Soviet vessels as well.
"Down the road these increased navy elements will require us to guard our flank," one analyst said yesterday. He pointed out that Cuban-Soviet subs could provide coverage of the U.S. base at Charleston, S.C., and Kings Bay, Ga., that serve as home ports for Poseidon submarines, which carry strategic missiles.
"They will begin to tie down our resources," the analyst added, describing how U.S. destroyers would be required to watch the Cuban subs.
The Mig23 fighter aircraft, though introduced into the Soviet air force in 1971, presented a stepped-up capability for the Cubans when they arrived last year.
Some of the air craft are interceptors, but some are Mig23F's that in Europe are considered capable of carrying nuclear bombs.
It was the arrival of this latter model that late last year caused a flurry of concern that the Soviets were violating the 1962 settlement of the Cuban missile crisis.
Under that agreement, the Soviets promised not to introduce into Cuba any offensive weapon systems. Last December, the Soviets told the Carter administration the new Mig23s did not violate that understanding, and U.S. intelligence was said to have verified that the aircraft were not wired to carry nuclear weapons.
The 24 Antonov-26 military cargo planes that apparently arrived in Cuba this year are 10 years old. Models previously had been sold or given to such diverse countries as Yugoslavia and Bangladesh. When configured to carry paratroopers, the plane can handle only 34 to 40. In itself the fleet presents no major threat to Western Hemisphere countries, but it could be used to support guerilla movements, U.S. officials say.