Cuban President Fidel Castro disclosed tonight that there were "dozens of nuclear missiles," more than 40,000 Soviet soldiers and "IL-28 bombing squads" in Cuba during the October 1962 missile crisis.
In an interview broadcast on the CBS program "60 Minutes." Castro gave what was believed to be the first disclosure of Soviet troop strength 17 years ago when President Kennedy faced down Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev over the introduction of Soviet missiles into Cuba.
Castro said the 1962 crisis was different in every way from the present dispute about the 2,000 to 3,000 Soviet soldiers in what President Carter says is a combat brigade.
In the CBS interview, Castro said, "The October crisis was a real crisis. This is an invented crisis. The October crisis could have been a tragedy. This is a comedy.
"Now then, during the October crisis, there were dozens of nuclear missiles in Cuba. There were over 40,000 soldiers, Soviet soldiers, in Cuba. There were IL-28 [jet] bombing squads present," Castro said. "None of that exists here.
Castro said Carter has manufactured the present confrontation in an attempt to improve his image and to overcome "the difficulties that Carter is facing for his reelection."
He reiterated that what the United States calls a combat brigade is called a training center by Cuba and has been the same size and in the same place since the 1962 crisis ended.
That confrontation ended with Soviet withdrawal of its missiles and most of its manpower in exchange for an American pledge not to invade Cuba.
"That facility was established after the October crisis, in conformity with the spirit of the October crisis and according to the status quo created at the October crisis. It is nothing new," Castro told interviewer Dan Rather.
[In Washington, White House spokesman Dale Leibach said the administration had no comment on any part of the interview with Castro, adding that the president's nationally televised speech Monday night would address the Soviet combat brigade "and related issues."]
Carter is scheduled to announce then what steps the United States will take to alter the Soviet troop presence in Cuba. Carter has said the present situation is unacceptable and has denied that the confrontation over the Soviet troops is artificial.
Castro said Cuba will not be intimidated by U.S. moves. He said he would respond favorably to a suggestion for a meeting between Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Cuba's foreign minister to discuss the Soviet troops but that he would not propose such a meeting.
"If President Carter tomorrow says there has been a change in the nature or function of Soviet military personnel since 1962, it will be telling a great lie to the U.S. public opinion and the world opinion," Castro said.