Former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger today strongly criticized the Carter administration's response to the presence of Soviet troops in Cuba.
He called it the "first organized hostile force in this hemisphere since the Monroe Doctrine that we have accepted."
The Soviet troops in Cuba "are incompatible with any definition of coexistence," Kissinger said.
For his first substantive comment on the Soviet troops issue, Kissinger selected the annual convention of the American Bankers Association. He was cheered repeatedly by a standing-room-only crowd in the Hilton Hotel ballroom and thousands more in adjoining hallways and meeting rooms who heard the speech over loudspeakers.
After his address, Kissinger said he is trying to avoid "getting into tactical discussions" about the foreign policy of the Carter administration. He also voiced "enormous regard" for Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance. But in his speech, Kissinger was strongly critical.
"I am uneasy when we say the status quo is unacceptable and two weeks later say we have accepted the status quo," Kissinger said. "I am uneasy about the impact this makes on the rest of the world."
The Soviets obviously had refused to accept even a "face-saving formula that took account of our sensitivities on the combat troops issue, he added. "And what concerns me is that it is business as usual afterwards."
Kissinger, who was secretary of state under presidents Nixon and Ford, stated emphatically that when he was in office there was no intelligence or other information to indicate the presence of Soviet combat troops on Cuban soil, though the United States was monitoring Cuba carefully during the Cuban-troops-in-Angola crisis.
"I cannot believe the theory" that the Soviet brigade had been on the Caribbean island a long time, he said. "I have to believe it is a fairly recent development."
Carter officials have said the brigade may date back to 1962.
Moreover, Kissinger warned the bankers, "one cannot underestimate that Soviet brigade in Cuba, except as part of a global pattern of expansionism" by the Soviet Union. Among other developments, he cited the presence of up to 50,000 Cuban troops in Africa, communist interventions from Nicaragua to Yemen, Soviet supersonic fighters in Cuba and asked: "When is it we decide to call a halt?"
He described the troops in Cuba "as a symbol of Soviet power at a time when Central America is in potential turmoil" and emphasized repeatedly his view that Soviet expansionism started in Angola, when Kissinger headed the State Department. In 1975, the Ford administration sought approval from Congress for funds to use in fighting Soviet-backed troops in Angola but was turned down.
"This is not a partisan issue," Kissinger said in calling for bipartisan development of foreign policy to meet what he called a serious crisis in the next decade. He said there should be some "linkage" in current U.S. policy to react on an issue such as the Soviet troops in Cuba.
Calling himself a representative of the "government in exile" at the start of his talk, Kissinger went on to warn of "a period of extraordinary difficulties . . . built up over many years.
"A little Caribbean country sending expeditionary forces around the world, to a continent with unstable governments," helps make the "impression of a forward march of aggressive forces almost unavoidable," Kissinger said of Cuban troops in Africa, which he called a "threat to vital American interests."
"I believe that it is essential for the Soviet Union to understand that detente, to be meaningful, must cover the broadest range of activities . . . we can't permit the Soviet Union to choose those issues where they want to deal with us," he said.
Kissinger said he is "disturbed by the disdainful nature by which the Soviet Union and Cuba have reacted" to Carter and Vance. Citing a speech last week in Berlin by Soviet President Leonid I. Brezhnev, Kissinger warned that it was "designed to split our allies from the United States." Brezhnev offered to withdraw troops and tanks from Eastern Europe and voiced opposition to a modernization of NATO forces.
Kissinger said "a new reality" of the 1980s will be reduced strength of American military forces compared with the Soviet Union. For this reason, he said, the strategic arms limitation treaty must be coupled with "significant increases" in U.S. military spending.
If SALT II is not approved under such conditions, "we must still preserve peace and arm ourselves unilaterally . . . we cannot take the position that we alone have responsibilities for maintaining the peace," he declared to strong applause.