World: An Interview with Fidel Castro

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A. If I have to rely on information released in the U.S., then I would have to agree [that there has been a buildup]. But the Soviets have had an experience that Americans have not. In World War II their country was occupied, there were 20 million casualties and great destruction. That's why they are so sensitive. The Soviet Union was surrounded by military bases after World War II. In a certain sense the Soviet Union still feels encircled.

Q. We also often feel encircled—politically—when regimes hostile to the U.S. are being encouraged by the Soviet Union.

A When change takes place in a country you almost see it as an enemy of the U.S. This has led you to cooperate with governments which were very unpopular. It happened with Somoza with the Shah of Iran. You cannot conceive that a revolutionary government may have friendly relations with the U.S. Yet how can the U.S. be hurt if we are able to develop our country? Look, Cuba already has the best educational level and the best health rate in Latin America. We have solved the problems of unemployment, beggars, prostitution. No other people in Latin America have solved these problems.

Q. Do you believe that you have ever restrained the Soviet Union in any way?

A. We should not speak about that; it could seem conceited and politically not wise. But on many issues we agree. I think that the Soviet Union would be very much interested in stopping the arms race. The Soviet Union would gain a lot if it did not have to spend what it does on armaments because it needs that money very badly to improve the living standards of the people. But you Americans also need that money for social expenses, for education, for assistance to the unemployed. I don't think it makes sense to throw away $150 billion.

Q. After Viet Nam, the U.S. did not want bigger military budgets. What changed that perception were Soviet activities in Africa and elsewhere, and a general feeling that the Soviet Union was not playing by the rules of détente.

A. That makes us feel remorse because we had a lot to do with the support for Angola and Ethiopia. I do not understand how all that could have made the difference and changed public opinion. That was not our aim.

Q. We feel that the Third World only criticizes the U.S. for arming and excuses the Soviet Union.

A. Maybe we do criticize the U.S. more than the Soviet Union because the U.S. is very close by. But in general the Third World countries do not want the arms race, and they demand that part of the money devoted to armaments should be given to them for development.

Q. If Santa Claus should offer Cuba a big hydrogen bomb, on condition that it would give up progress in housing, health care and education for one year, would that be worth it?

A If it were for a year, it wouldn't be much. But if Santa Claus asks me whether I want the hydrogen bomb, I say no, I don't want it! It's ridiculous, a bomb. Can you imagine if we had a bomb here, or ten bombs? What do we need them for? They will solve nothing. Maybe to open a canal? I think that nuclear energy can be very useful for peaceful means. Today the amount of weapons existing in the world is really insane. It's folly!

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