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Vladimir Pozniakov is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of General History of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.
Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del (People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs), and Narodnyi Komissariat Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti (People's Commissariat of State Security) are the predecessors of the KGB. 2
In early 1937 the NKVD/NKGB Chief N.I. Ezhov sent a special agent (code name “Journalist") to the US and Britain to investigate supposed penetration of the US and British Communist Parties' apparatus by the Trotskyites as well as by the FBI and MI5. Though the investigation was focused on “Trotskyist functionaries and their entourage" it led to accusations that a number of Soviet illegals working within the underground structures of the CPUSA and British Communist Party had ties to Trotsky and his followers.—see: Minaev (NKGB Deputy Chief) to Dimitrov (Comintern Secretary General) 23 April 1937Russian Center for the Storage and Study of Contemporary History Documents (RTsKHIDNI), Moscow, f. 495 (Communist International), op. 74 (G. Dimitrov's Secretariat), d. 465, 11. 1-4. Soon after this mission, many Soviet rezidents and agents abroad were charged with being a part of a Trotskyist conspiracy. They were summoned to Moscow for execution. Among them were such outstanding intelligence officers as Theodor Maly, Ignace Poretskii (aka Reiss), Walter Krivitskii and Alexander Orlov. Krivitskii defected and Poretsky refused to return and was subsequently killed in Switzerland. For details see: E. Pretsky, Our Own People. (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1969), pp. 214-216, 231; A.Orlov, The Secret History of Stalin's Crimes. (New York, 1953), pp. 231; B.Starkov, “The Tragedy of Soviet Military Intelligence” in V. Krivitsky, I Was Stalin's Agent. (Moscow, 1991), pp. 39-52 (in Russian); J. Costello, O. Tsarev, The Deadly Illusion. (New York, 1993), pp. 293-314, 315-340. 3
More generally on information provided by Soviet intelligence throughout WWII see: V.A. Novobranets, "Memuary,” Znamia (June 1990), pp. 165-192; P. Sudoplatov, Special Tasks. (Boston, 1994), pp. 116-120, 126-171, 172-220; A. Foote, Handbook for Spies. (London, 1964), pp. 88-99, 118-125; L. Trepper, The Great Game. (New York, 1989), pp. 126, 136-137, 140-197; S. Rado, Codename Dora. (London, 1990), pp. 53-59, 61-114, 130-151, 196-211; Christopher Andrew and O. Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Story of its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev. (New York, 1991), pp. 270-279, 305-311, 312-340. 4
For details see: C. Willoughby, Shanghai Conspiracy.: G. Prange et al., Target Tokyo: The Story of the Sorge Spy Ring. (New York, 1985); Trepper, especially pp. 96-329; D. Dallin, Soviet Espionage. (New Haven, 1955), pp. 234-272. 5
See: Foote, pp. 37-148; Dallin, pp. 182-233. 6
State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), f. 9401 (Stalin and Molotov Special Files), op. 2, d. 67, 1. 275. 7
Ed. Note: The evaluation of intelligence's historical role is problematic. The case of atom spying will serve to illustrate, since the procurement of an industrial method or bomb design represents an idea that might take a Russian scientist but a moment to have. It is also possible that the crucial moment might not come for years. Furthermore, since the Venona project had cracked the Soviet radio code, most of this information was available to the enemy. 8
Minutes of Politburo Decisions, No. 7, paragraph 229/213, 25 May 1934—RTsKhIDNI, f. 17, op. 162, d. 16, 1. 65. One can probably assume that NKVD/NKGB priorities were basically the
9 Dallin, pp. 396-414; Andrew and Gordievsky, pp. 226, 228229, 279. 10
A. Feklisov, Bevond the Ocean and On the Island. (Moscow, 1994), pp. 55-58, 77-78, 81-107. 11 Circumstantial evidence of this shift was reflected in the list of salaries set by Politburo decision for Soviet diplomats posted abroad. According to this “Table of Ranks” the United States was listed second, right after Germany. Britain, Japan and China followed. Feklisov,
51-52. 13 Feklisov, pp. 50, 60-63. [Ed. note: Amtorg was the Soviet organization responsible for trade with America.) 14 Sudoplatov, pp. 186-187. [Ed. note: The Comintern, previously the main conduit to the American party, was disbanded in 1943.) 15
Sudoplatov, p. 187; also, see: Information from “Brother" and "Son" (codenames of Rudy Baker and of an unidentified American Communist functionary) to Georgii Dimitrov, Approx. Jan. 1943. Photocopy of the original typewritten report in English–RTsKhIDNI, f. 495, op. 74, d. 480, 11. 1-4. On R. Baker see also: The Secret World of American Communism. Ed. by Klehr, Haynes, and Firsov. (New Haven, 1995), pp. 205-216. 16
Information from “Brother” and “Son” for G. Dimitrov, ca. Jan. 1943—ibid., 11. 3-4. 17
Feklisov, p. 32; V. Kravchenko, I Choose Freedom. (Garden City, 1945), p. 465. 18 Feklisov, pp. 100-101: Kravchenko, pp. 445, 461, 465; Dallin, pp. 428-432. 95
Feklisov, pp. 65-105; M. Vorontsov, Capt. 1st rank, Chief Navy Main Staff, Intelligence Directorate, and Petrov, Military Commissar, NMS, ID to G. Dimitrov, 15 August 1942, No. 49253ss, typewritten original; G. Dimitrov to Pavel M. Fitin, 20 November 1942, No. 663, t/w copy; P. M. Fitin to G. Dimitrov, 14 July 1944, No. 1/3/10987, t/w copy; P. M. Fitin to G. Dimitrov, 29 September 1944, No. 1/3/16895, t/w copy. All these documents are NMS ID and FCD Chiefs' requests for information related to Americans and naturalized American citizens working in various US Government agencies and private corporations, some of whom had been CPUSA members. The last two are related to a certain Donald Wheeler (an OSS official), Charles Floto or Flato (who in 1943 worked for the “...Dept. of Economic Warfare”), and Harry Magdoff (War Production Board)—the request dated 29 Sept. 1944—and to Judith Coplon who according to the FCD information worked for the Dept. of Justice.—RTsKhIDNI, f. 495, op. 74, d. 478, 1. 7; d. 484, 1. 34; d. 485, 1. 10, 14, 17, 31, 44. 20
P. Wright, Spy Catcher. (New York, 1987), p. 182. This is close to the NKVD/NKGB statistics cited above in the Berijal Merkulov document. 21 GARF, f. 9401, op. 2, d. 67, 1. 276. 22 Feklisov, pp. 14, 106. 23
GARF, f. 9401, op. 2, d. 67, 1. 276. 24
Lamphere R.J., Shachtman T. The FBI-KGB War. A Special Agent's Story. (New York, 1986), pp. 25-26. 25 Ibid, pp.
164-165, 167-177. 26 Feklisov, pp. 23, 51. 27
Lamphere and Shachtman, pp. 25-26; Feklisov, p. 51. 28 Feklisov, pp.
23, 51-53. 29 GARF, f. 9401, op. 2, d. 67, 1. 281. On Feklisov's role in atomic espionage see: Feklisov, pp. 154-163. On Klaus Fuchs see also: R. Williams, Klaus Fuchs, Atom Spy. (Cambridge, Mass., 1987), pp. 100-101; Sudoplatov, pp. 200-210, 212-220. 30 GARF, f. 9401, op. 2, d. 67, 1. 278. 31 Dallin, pp.436-7.
The Pitsunda Decision: Khrushchev and Nuclear Weapons By Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali
Nikita Khrushchev has left us with tantalizing clues with which to solve one of the essential mysteries of the Cold War: were the Soviets ever close to using nuclear weapons? Two documents photocopied by General Dmitrii Volkogonov from the Defense Ministry files in Moscow and now available at the Library of Congress (where they were located and obtained for CWIHP by Vladislav M. Zubok, James G. Hershberg, and David Wolff) shed additional light on what we described in our book, One Hell of a Gamble: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-1964 (WW Norton and John Murray, 1997), as the Pitsunda decision.
On the face of it, these two Defense Ministry documents do not appear that startling. The first discusses the movement of tactical nuclear weapons to Cuba. The second lists all of the components of Operation ANADYR. But it is the dates of these documents, 6 September and 8 September, respectively, that arguably make them more revelatory about Khrushchev's understanding of nuclear weapons than any other documents currently available from Russian archives. As has been known for some time, Khrushchev decided to send ballistic missiles to Cuba in May 1962. Since the Havana conference organized by James Blight, David Welch and Brown University in January 1992,2 we have known that the Kremlin included tactical nuclear weapons along with the ballistic weapons. But Khrushchev's personal role in adding the tactical weapons, which, unlike the SS-4s (R-12) and SS-5s (R14), were not primarily weapons of deterrence, was not known. Moreover, it was assumed by some scholars that the Defense Ministry simply added these weapons as a matter of course to the large shipment.
Historians naturally look for turning points, when actions of human beings or a timely gust of force majeure shifted or could have shifted subsequent events. September 1962, as these documents attest, belongs in the pantheon of Cold War turning points. The planners of the original version of Operation ANADYR, and Khrushchev himself, assumed that the United States would not try to invade Cuba in 1962. Soviet intelligence detected increased US planning, without creating any basis for belief that an attack would come that year. The single most important piece of information in shaping Khrushchev's understanding of the threat to Soviet interests in the Western Hemisphere seems to have come from President Kennedy himself. At a meeting with Khrushchev's son-in-law, Aleksei Adzhubei on 30 January 1962, Kennedy promised the Kremlin that he expected to be able to treat Cuba as Khrushchev had handled Hungary in 1956. Neither the KGB nor the GRU could detect timetable for aggression, but Khrushchev understood that Kennedy was as unwilling to accept a challenge to the US
sphere of influence THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE
in the Caribbean as CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS
the Soviets had
1962 to September OF A
1962, the Kremlin mounted an operation to create a deterrent to US
aggression in Cuba. KHRUSHCHEV
"The thing is we CASTRO & KENNEDY
were not going to 1958.1964
Khrushchev later ALEKSANDR FURSENKO explained to his TIMOTHY NAFTALI Kremlin colleagues
when the operation
began to unravel in October, "[w]e just wanted to intimidate them, to deter the anti-Cuban forces."3 The operation was cloaked in secrecy because the Kremlin assumed that Kennedy would only accept a deterrent if presented as a fait accompli.
From the very beginning, the Kremlin was aware that the plan had a glaring flaw. As of spring 1962, Soviet intelligence and presumably the Communist Party leadership knew that Washington regularly flew U-2 reconnaissance missions over Cuba. Yet Khrushchev apparently only began to worry about the effect these flights would have on the secrecy of the operation in July, two months after the plan was adopted. He decided at that point that SA-2 surface-to-air missiles, which were credited with shooting down Gary Powers' U-2 in May 1960, would be erected around the island before the strategic missiles arrived. Up to that point, no priority had been assigned to these weapons. Later, American analysts, chiefly CIA Director John McCone, would "deduce” the existence of nuclear missiles in Cuba from the elaborate SA-2 net arrayed around the island. Until July 1962, however, the Kremlin had not considered the SA-2s as a possible shield to ward off U-2 spying.
By September 1962, Khrushchev had successfully willed himself to believe that the operation would remain secret and, even if it did not, that Kennedy would somehow swallow the deployment without incident. Then an event in Washington roiled these assumptions, triggering a dramatic reassessment by Khrushchev of ANADYR. On September 4, in an effort primarily to quell domestic criticisms of his Cuba policy, John F. Kennedy had his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, read a statement that "[t]he gravest issues would arise" if the Soviets sent organized combat troops, offensive ground-to-ground missiles or anything else with “significant offensive capability" to the island. 4 This was the signal that Khrushchev had dreaded. There had been some information from the Cubans in August that suggested the Americans knew the missiles
were going to the island. In Khrushchev's mind, it appears, the Kennedy statement was Washington's way of signaling that it knew about ANADYR and was planning to do something about it.
Khrushchev had a chance to stop the operation. As of September 5, when he learned of Kennedy's statement, there were no missiles or nuclear warheads in Cuba. As he would do on October 25, he could have terminated the deployment. But he didn't. As these two "Pitsunda" documents show, Khrushchev not only decided to stay the course, but his reaction to Kennedy's effort to deter the deployment of missiles was to ratchet up the incipient crisis by introducing tactical nuclear weapons into the picture.
Pitsunda was the location of Khrushchev's dacha on the Black Sea. As his daughter Rada Adzhubei recalls, Khrushchev ordered this dacha to be built after he discovered that his rival Georgii Malenkov had a similar one down the road. It was here that foreign leaders caught a
5 glimpse of the famous Khrushchev pool and the rotund Khrushchev posed in his intlatable rubber ring. As he did every summer, Khrushchev had left Moscow in August and was carrying on the affairs of state by his pool when the news from Washington arrived.
The first thing that needs to be said about the two Volkogonov documents evidently sent to Khrushchev at Pitsunda is that they were handwritten. So obsessive was Soviet security that the marshals and generals at the Defense Ministry, who did not themselves know how to type, did not trust their own secretaries to prepare these documents on nuclear deployments.
The first document, which is a report to Khrushchev from Defense Minister Marshal Rodion Malinovski, makes plain that Khrushchev had asked his armed forces for a crash program to save Cuba. The US military might be preparing to move against Cuba in the next few days or weeks and as of September 5, the Soviet Union was in no position to save Castro. According to the schedule of deployments approved in July, the medium-range missiles would not be operational until mid-October, and the intermediate range missiles would not be ready until even later, at least the end of November. Since abandoning Cuba was not an option that Khrushchev would consider at that time, the Soviet leader reached for a dramatic stopgap measure. He needed weapons that were small enough that they could be rushed to Cuba in a matter of days, but powerful enough to stop a US amphibious landing. In 1962, only tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons could meet both criteria. With this in mind, Khrushchev asked his defense minister Rodion Malinovskii whether tactical nuclear weapons could be flown to Cuba immediately.
In this report, Malinovskii explained that the shortrange Luna missiles, with their nuclear warheads, and the newest nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, the “R-11m" could go by plane. 6 Although the operation was feasible, the Defense Ministry discouraged rushing the tactical weapons
to Cuba by airplane. Either the generals did not share Khrushchev's anxiety or the risk of flying nuclear weapons was too great. In light of these concerns, the Ministry recommended to Khrushchev that one squadron of Il-28 light bombers, with six 8-12 kiloton nuclear bombs, be shipped in crates. The Soviet Defense Ministry also recommended sending an R-11m missile brigade and between two and three divisions of Luna missiles.7 In terms of the timing of these reinforcements, the Ministry suggested sending the missiles and the bombers in the first half of October. The warheads would go separately on board the ship Indigirka, which was already supposed to take 45 warheads for the medium range ballistic missiles, and would be leaving the Soviet Union on September 15.
Because Khrushchev annotated the report in his own hand, we can see Khrushchev's extraordinary response to the Defense Ministry. On 7 September 1962, he chose to put the maximum reliance on nuclear weapons. The document bears his signature where that day he personally authorized the sending of 6 atomic bombs for the Il-28s and where he asked for Luna missiles. The Ministry had suggested two or three detachments, with 8-12 missiles. Khrushchev, betraying his concerns and his belief in the value of battlefield nuclear weapons, chose the higher figure. Khrushchev, however, decided not to send a regiment of R-11m cruise missiles.
Khrushchev understood the importance of the decision he had just made and took pains to maintain direct control of these special weapons. The day after Khrushchev authorized the new shipment, the Defense Ministry drafted an order permitting the Soviet Commander in Cuba, General Issa Pliev, to use these battlefield nuclear weapons in the event that communications to Moscow were cut and a US-led invasion had begun. The order required two signatures. Malinovskii's deputy, Marshal Zakharov, signed in his capacity as Army Chief of Staff, but Malinovskii did not. Malinovskii was Khrushchev’s man, selected to replace the independent-minded Marshal Georgii Zhukov in 1957. (Ed. Note: On Zhukov's replacement, see Mark Kramer's essay in the “Plenums” section of this Bulletin.] Since Khrushchev did not want to lose control over the decision to use nuclear weapons, the document would sit unsigned in the files until events in Cuba warranted a change.
The second document, also classified the equivalent of "eyes only" for Khrushchev and dated 8 September, reflected the Soviet leader's new concerns in September 1962, too. A revised operation plan for ANADYR, it stresses two very significant points: a) That the mission of ANADYR was to defend Cuba b) That the use of nuclear weapons can only be authorized by a direct order from Moscow (po signalu iz Moskvy). Khrushchev is clearly girding himself for a limited war in Cuba, something he had perhaps not really contemplated before. To be able to defend the island, he might have to use nuclear weapons, but he wished to retain final control over that momentous decision. This second
document should dispel any remaining doubt that the Soviet commander in Cuba, General Pliev, was not given oral authorization to use the tactical nuclear missiles.
The other principal rationale for ANADYR, improving Moscow's position in the strategic balance, is not completely absent from the new operational plan. But it is indirectly expressed. As part of this new version of Operation ANADYR, Khrushchev approved an order that equipped Soviet submarines with nuclear-tipped torpedoes and instructed them to be prepared, upon receipt of an additional order from Moscow, to launch nuclear torpedo attacks on US coastal targets. A list of these targets was appended to this mission statement. It is inconceivable that Khrushchev would have envisioned making nuclear strikes on the US coastline as a means of retaliating for a US strike on Cuba. Certainly, these coastal attacks were designed only to play a part in a general US-Soviet war.
Khrushchev read and approved the revised plan as he did the new tactical deployments. Although the formal date on the document is 8 September, it bears Khrushchev's signature and the marking 9.7.62 (7 September 1962). Khrushchev was shown this reworked plan in Pitsunda at the same time he formally selected which additional means would be deployed to defend Cuba (Document 1).
had intended. Instead of deterring Khrushchev, Kennedy provoked him to take a greater risk of nuclearizing the superpower conflict over Cuba. The presence of tactical nuclear weapons, which the Soviet leadership intended to use, increased the danger of nuclear war far more than the presence of ballistic missiles, which Khrushchev had always understood to be a deterrent.
What should one make of this? In brief, as we demonstrated in One Hell of a Gamble, the Soviet Union in 1962 was both an insecure and a risk-taking power. These two characteristics are the equivalents in international politics of dry wood and gasoline. All that was needed was a spark to set off a conflagration. In his “Long Telegram” of 1946, the father of containment theory, George F. Kennan, argued that Soviet leaders were insecure but unlike Adolf Hitler, they were risk-averse. 9 Paul Nitze, in NSC-68, suggested that the Kremlin was self-confident and prepared to take reasonable risks for world domination. But, as high-level materials from the Cuban crisis make clear, the Soviet Union did not consider itself equal to the United States, or as Khrushchev put it so colorfully, “a member of the World Club”: yet Khrushchev was prepared to risk the battlefield use of nuclear weapons to defend his interests in the Caribbean. It is no wonder that Washington proved incapable of predicting Khrushchev's behavior in the summer of 1962.
Aleksandr Fursenko is a historian and member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Timothy Naftali teaches history at Yale, where he is a fellow at International Security Studies.
Khrushchev's embrace of a nuclear warfighting strategy in September 1962 has widespread implications for understanding the Cold War. Few would have predicted that in response to a US challenge to Cuba that Moscow would put tactical weapons in harm's way. There is no evidence, and there is unlikely to be any, that Khrushchev intended to announce the existence of the Lunas, the FKR cruise missiles and the nuclear payloads for the IL-28s as he was planning to do in the case of the ballistic missiles. The conclusion is inescapable that Khrushchev sent the tactical weapons to Cuba for use in battle, not as a deterrent. In addition, there is much to learn from the celerity with which Khrushchev made this decision about the Soviet Union's willingness to use nuclear weapons. There is no evidence that Malinovskii or the Defense Ministry provided Khrushchev with any military assessment of the implications of placing tactical weapons in Cuba. 8 This was not included with the report for Khrushchev. The sequence of events happened too fast. It seems we must come to the conclusion that Moscow placed tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield without any analysis of the threshold between limited and general nuclear war.
The timing of Khrushchev's decision also has interesting implications for students of US foreign policy. Kennedy designed his statement of 4 September for dualpurpose deterrence. He hoped to deter Khrushchev from placing missiles on Cuba—an unlikely event—while deterring (or placating) domestic critics with a stern statement. Now we can say with confidence that Kennedy's maneuver had the opposite effect from what he
Ed. Note. Discussed on pp. 206-212 of One Hell of a Gamble. 2
Ed. Note: For a description of the Havana Conference and an account of the discussions among the participants, see CWIHP Bulletin 1, 2-4. 3 “Kratkie zametki o zasedanjiakh Prezidiuma TSK KPSS” [Brief notes on the sessions of the Presidium of the CC of the CPSU), Protocol 60, 22 October 1962, Archives of the President of the Russian Federation. 4 “President Kennedy's Statement on Soviet Military Shipments to Cuba,” 4 September 1962, New York Times, 5 September 1962. 5 Interview with Rada Khrushchev Adzhubei, 5 January 1995. 6
For technical reasons, only two aircraft in the Soviet Air Force, the AN-8 and AN-12, were capable of transporting the missiles and the warheads. The workhorse of the Soviet air force, the larger Ilyushin 114, had the necessary range, 8,000 kilometers, but lacked a cargo opening large enough to move the nuclear weapons and the missiles onto the plane intact. The Defense Ministry calculated that the smaller AN-8 and AN-12 could each carry 2 Lunas and one R-11m. Because these planes were smaller than the IL-114, there would be no room for any additional equipment or the personnel to operate the missiles. 7
An R-11m brigade comprised three divisions, 18 missiles, and a support crew of 324. A Luna division would have two missile launchers and 102 people. 8
We did not find any in the Cuba files at the APRF; and Volkogonov apparently did not find any in the files he consulted at the Defense Ministry archives. 9
Ed. Note: The “Long Telegram” can be found in Foreign Relations of the United States 1946, Vol. 6, Eastern Europe; The Soviet Union, pp. 696-709; NSC-68 is in the same series, 1950, Vol. 1, pp. 238ff.
Top Secret (Sovershenno sekretno) will have two launch installations and 102 men. Particularly Important (Osoboi vazhnosti) (Overwritten:) Three Luna divisions. N. S. Khrushchev
Sole (opy (ekz. edinstven.) 7.IX.62
To the Chairman of the Defense Council of the USSR, Comrade N. S. Khrushchev
With the Luna divisions, send 8-12 rockets and 8-12 special battle parts. For the preparation and storage of special battle parts for the Luna rockets, send one PRTB (150 men).
I am reporting (dokladivaiu)
I. About the possibility of strengthening Cuba by airplane
The indicated squadron of one R-11M rocket brigade with PRTB and two-three Luna divisions with PRTB with rockets to be sent to Cuba in the first half of this October. Atom bombs (six pieces), special head pieces (warheads) for the R-11M rockets (18 pieces) and for the Luna rockets (8-12) to be transported on board the (ship) Indigirka on 15 September.
1. [Numeration follows the original) About the transport by plane of special battle parts (spetsial'nye boevye chasti) [Trans. note: atomic warheads) for the Luna and R-11M rockets.
Training tests have been conducted and practical instructions have been worked out for the transportation of the special battle parts for R-11M rockets on board AN-8 aircraft for two (rockets) and AN-12 for four.
The transport of battle parts for the Luna rocket is practically analogous to that for the R-11M. The transport of special battle parts by TU-114 is not possible for lack of a freight hatch and fasteners.
2. About the transport by plane of R-11M and Luna rockets The loading, fastening and transport of training R-11M and Luna rockets has been carried out in practice on AN-8 and AN-12 aircraft
(Source: Volkogonov Papers, Reel 6 (Library of Congress-Manuscript Division). Translated by David Wolff. ]