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* the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C., including reports from the USSR's newly-arrived ambassador to the United States, Anatoly F. Dobrynin, on the situation in Washington and his meetings with leading personages, and from Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko on his conversation with Kennedy on October 18;

* the United Nations in New York, from which USSR ambassador Valerian Zorin reported on debates in the Security Council, and on contacts with other delegates and U.N. officials, and then more senior Soviet officials sent to handle the diplomacy of the settlement, such as Deputy Foreign Minister Vasily V. Kuznetsov and Mikoyan, reported on their negotiations with U.S. negotiators John J. McCloy and Adlai Stevenson as well as conversations with U Thant;

* and the Soviet Embassy in Havana, from which USSR Ambassador Aleksandr Alekseev reported on Cuban developments, including the fervor gripping the country when it seemed war might be imminent, the leadership's angry reaction when Khrushchev accepted Kennedy's request to withdraw the missiles without advance consultation with Castro, and the difficult conversations which ensued as Soviet officials, in particular Mikoyan, tried to mollify the upset Cubans and at the same time secure Havana's acquiescence to the measures Moscow had accepted in order to resolve the crisis.

The fact that almost all of the documents below came from the Foreign Ministry archive should induce some caution among readers seeking an understanding of Soviet policy regarding the crisis. Not surprisingly, for instance, they illuminate diplomatic aspects of the events far more than, for instance, either military or intelligence aspects. In fact, the Russian Defense Ministry has declassified a substantial amount of material on “Operation Anadyr"—the code-name for the Soviet missile deployment to Cuba—and other military actions related to the crisis, and the Bulletin plans to present some of those materials, with translation, annotation, and commentary by Mark Kramer (Harvard University), in a future issue.” As for Soviet intelligence archives, these have not been opened to researchers except on a highly selective basis; however, a book scheduled for publication in 1997 by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali is expected to draw on these sources. Finally, as noted above, documentation on decision-making at the highest level of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CC CPSU) remains classified, presumably in the Archive of the President, Russian Federation (APRF).

It is not possible to provide a comprehensive commentary on the significance of the documents, both because of space limitations and also because they may be used by researchers for so many different purposes—not only historians of the Cold War but political scientists, specialists in bureaucratic politics, nuclear theory, and "crisis management," psychologists, specialists in U.S., Soviet, and Cuban foreign policy, biographers of key figures, and many others have looked to the Cuban Missile Crisis for answers and illumination. Best read in conjunction with the other Russian documents published in Bulletin 5 and elsewhere, as well as American materials, the documents below are offered merely as useful raw primary source material rather than as evidence for any particular interpretation. Nevertheless, some preliminary reactions can be offered on a few issues.

Pre-Crisis U.S. Military and Covert Policies Toward Cuba

One issue of vital importance during the run-up to the crisis on which the documents here (and in Bulletin 5) provide some evidence is the question of how the Soviets perceived the Kennedy Administration's policies and actions toward Cuba, particularly Washington's covert operations against the Castro regime and the likelihood that it would take more direct military action. They clearly show that Moscow's representatives noted, and blamed the United States government in general and the Central Intelligence Agency in particular for, what it called the “piratical raids” by anti-Castro Cuban exile groups being carried out with U.S. support against the island. Although one does not find specific references to “Operation Mongoose”—the code-name for the massive CIA covert operation undertaken with the aim of toppling Castro after the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961—the reports of Ambassador Alekseev in Havana and Ambassador Dobrynin in Washington in September and early October 1962 show that Moscow had no doubt as to who was responsible for what the former called the “landing of counter-revolutionary bands of spies and arms” and “constant acts of provocation.”6 Dobrynin's cable of 15 October, for instance, lays out the role of the CIA in supporting actions of the exile group “Alpha 66."

However, the documents suggest that the Soviets had only a general knowledge of “Operation Mongoose”—although Soviet military intelligence (GRU) archives might well contain more detailed reports—and Moscow remained uncertain as to the significance of the American support of the harassment operations—i.e., whether they presaged a direct U.S. military intervention to overthrow Castro— right up to the eve of the crisis. As the crisis approached, however, Soviet officials appeared to feel more assured that U.S. military action against Cuba was not imminent (which to those in the know in Moscow signified that the secret deployment of missiles could proceed safely). In a document published in Bulletin 5, Foreign Minister Gromyko, in fact, cabled Moscow after meeting Kennedy on October 18 in the Oval Office—unaware that the American already knew about the Soviet missile bases in Cuba—that “Everything we know about the position of the USA government on the Cuban question allows us to conclude that the overall situation is completely satisfactory... There is reason to believe that the USA is not preparing an intervention and has put its money" on economic sanctions.?

The actual Soviet record of the Gromyko-Kennedy conversation, excerpted here, offers readers a chance to follow in detail this duplicity-filled conversation, in which neither man told the other the most important fact in the situation under discussion. Gromyko dutifully criticized Washington for its actions against Cuba, and acknowledged only that Moscow was providing Cuba with “exclusively defensive armaments” which could not “represent a threat to anybody.” Kennedy, for his part, with the U-2 photographs of the Soviet missile bases in Cuba under construction lying in his desk drawer, told Gromyko that the United States “take[s] on trust” Soviet statements about the defensive character of the weapons it was shipping to Castro but reiterated his public warnings that “were it otherwise, the gravest issues would arise.” While stressing that the situation had taken a turn for the worse since July as a result of Moscow's stepping-up of military aid to Cuba-calling the situation “perhaps the most dangerous since the end of the Second World War"— Kennedy made no mention of the missiles.

After reading the account of the conversation, it is hard to explain Gromyko’s smug assessment that the situation was completely satisfactory,” other than as a spectacular case of wishful thinking (or a blase memo to mask a more candid assessment relayed through other channels). It is clear, from his repeated statements of concern, that Kennedy was trying to caution Moscow to rethink its adventure without tipping his cards—and perhaps even signalling a possible way out of the crisis that had (so far as Moscow knew) not even begun. Repeatedly assuring Gromyko that the United States had “no intentions to launch an aggression against Cuba," Kennedy noted pointedly that, “If Mr. Khrushchev addressed me on this issue, we could give him corresponding assurances on that score," and repeated the offer twice later in the conversation. A little more than a week later, of course, after the world had been brought to the brink, precisely such a declaration from Kennedy would give Khrushchev the fig leaf he needed to swallow his pride and accept the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba.

The Russian documents reveal nothing new on the issue of whether, in fact, the Kennedy Administration had been moving toward taking military action against Cuba even before it discovered the existence of the Soviet nuclear-capable missiles on the island in midOctober. In a previous publication, the current author presented evidence that the U.S. government and military undertook serious contingency planning, and even some preliminary redeployments, in September and the first two weeks of October 1962 toward the objective of achieving, by October 20, “maximum readiness” for either an air strike against or invasion of Cuba, or both, although the article remained agnostic on the issue of whether Kennedy had actually made a decision to attack Cuba or simply wanted the option available.8 Recently, a potentially crucial, yet still problematic, piece of evidence from American archives has surfaced to suggest that, literally on the eve of the crisis, the Kennedy Administration was not on the verge of imminent military action against Cuba.

At issue is a recently declassified purported fragment of notes of a conversation on the afternoon of Monday, 15 October 1962, between Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor. (At that point, the U-2 photographs taken over Cuba the previous day had not yet been identified as revealing Soviet missile sites under construction, a development that would take place only later that afternoon and evening and be reported to the president the following morning, October 16.) During a discussion of contingency plans concerning Cuba, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) minutes obtained by the National Security Archive through the Freedom of Information Act-paraphrase McNamara as saying: “President wants no military action within the next three months, but he can't be sure as he does not control events. For instance, aerial photos made available this morning show 68 boxes on ships that are not believed to be Il-28s and cannot be identified. However, the probabilities are strongly against military action in the next 30 days."9 Similarly, a recently-declassified JCS historical report prepared in 1981 evidently relies on those

„ notes in stating (without citation) that in their meeting on October 15, “the Secretary [McNamara) said that President Kennedy wanted, if possible, to avoid military measures against Cuba during the next three months.” 10

If accurate, the notes would certainly constitute a strong piece of evidence against the hypothesis that the Kennedy Administration believed it was headed toward, let alone desired, a military confrontation with Cuba in the immediate future, just before news of the missiles. The evidence is problematic, however, due to an unfortunate case of destruction of historical evidence by the JCS that apparently makes it impossible to evaluate the context or provenance of McNamara's reported remarks (see footnote for details). 11

Berlin and Cuba

One issue which has long intrigued students of the crisis is the nature of its connection, if any, to the simmering U.S.-Soviet confrontation over Berlin—which had quieted somewhat since the erection of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 and the Checkpoint Charlie confrontation between Soviet and U.S. tanks two months later, but remained unfinished business and a potential flashpoint. Given the centrality of Berlin and Germany to the Cold War in Europe, in fact, some U.S. officials jumped to the conclusion upon the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba that their deployment was actually a Khrushchevian gambit to distract American attention and energy from Berlin, where Moscow might make its next move. Indeed, during the crisis, a special subcommittee of the White House “Excomm" (Executive Committee) was formed, under the chairmanship of Paul H. Nitze, specifically to assess the situation in Berlin in the event that the crisis spread there, perhaps if the Kremlin applied renewed pressure there in response to U.S. threats or use of military force against Cuba.

Some evidence has surfaced to show that at least some Soviet officials did suggest the option of opening up a Berlin front in response to Kennedy's speech announcing the blockade of Cuba on October 22. In a toughly-worded cable the next day, Ambassador Dobrynin cabled an analysis from Washington recommending an “appropriate rebuff" that might include "hinting to Kennedy in no uncertain terms about the possibility of repressions against the Western powers in West Berlin (as a first step, the organization of a blockade of ground routes, leaving out for the time being air routes so as not to give grounds for a quick confrontation)."12 Deputy Foreign Minister Vasily Kuznetsov also suggested that Khrushchev respond with a troop build-up around Berlin. 13 Years later, in his smuggled-out memoirs, Khrushchev blustered that during the crisis, “The Americans knew that if Russian blood were shed in Cuba, American blood would be shed in Germany."14 But in fact Khrushchev acted cautiously with regard to Berlin and rejected suggestions to mass Soviet forces around the city.

Instead, a different Berlin connection seems to emerge from the Russian documents—that Soviet leaders had, in September and early October 1962, deliberately floated the idea of an imminent intensive diplomatic effort (or possibly a renewed superpower showdown) on Berlin, to take place in late November after the U.S. Congressional mid-term elections, in order to distract American attention from Cuba long enough to allow Moscow to complete its secret missile deployment. Such is, at any rate, the strategy that Anastas Mikoyan privately described to Fidel Castro and the Cuban leadership on 4 November 1962 (published in Bulletin 5) as the one the Kremlin had followed in the weeks and months preceding the crisis: “We let the Americans know that we wanted to solve the question of Berlin in the nearest future. This was done in order to distract their attention away from Cuba. So, we used a diversionary maneuver. In reality, we had no intention of resolving the Berlin question at that time."15 In the memorandum of the Gromyko-Kennedy conversation on October 18, one can see the Soviet Foreign Minister dangling the Berlin bait, suggesting that a summit meeting between Kennedy and Khrushchev take place in the United States “in the second half of November”—when Khrushchev would attend a session of the U.N. General Assembly—"in order to discuss the issues that separate (the USA and USSR) and first of all the questions of the German peace treaty and West Berlin."16 Gromyko’s message, in turn, came on the heels of a letter from Khrushchev to Kennedy dated 28 September 1962 threatening to sign a German peace treaty—the same vow that had triggered the Berlin Crisis in November 1958, for it implied an agreement between Moscow and East Berlin that would cut off Western access to West Berlin—but grandly (and ominously) informing Kennedy that in deference to the passions of American domestic politics, “we decided to put the German problem, so to say, on ice until the end of the elections” and will “do nothing with regard to West Berlin until the elections ... (afterwards), apparently in the second half of November, it would be necessary in our opinion to continue the dialogue."17 “Some sort of crisis relating to Berlin is clearly brewing now, and we will have to see whether we can surmount it without recourse to military action,” Dobrynin quoted Kennedy as saying in a background meeting with reporters on October 16 in a cable to Moscow three days later.18 On the same day, with evident satisfaction, Gromyko reported to the CPSU CC after his conversation with Kennedy that in recent days “the sharpness of the anti-Cuban campaign in the USA has subsided somewhat while the sharpness of the West Berlin question has stood out all the more. Newspapers bleat about the approaching crisis vis-a-vis West Berlin, the impending in the very near future of a [Soviet treaty) with the GDR, and so on.” Gromyko even detected a White House-inspired propaganda campaign “to divert public attention from the Cuba issue."19

Only afterward did Mikoyan, at least, realize that at the October 18 encounter Kennedy had been playing along with Gromyko just as Gromyko had been deceiving him—as soon as they discovered the missiles, he related to Castro, they “began crying about Berlin," and both the Soviet Union and United States were talking about the Berlin Crisis but simultaneously knew that the real crisis was about to

erupt in Cuba. 20

Soviet Perceptions of Washington During the Crisis

While evidence (such as Politburo minutes) necessary to judge the evolution of Kremlin perceptions of Kennedy during the crisis is still lacking, and intelligence assessments remain off-limits, the reports of USSR Ambassador in Washington Dobrynin between 22 and 28 October that have emerged thus far raise some interesting questions about the accuracy and impact of Soviet reporting on its “main enemy” at a critical moment. How is one to evaluate, for example, a cable sent over Dobrynin's name on 25 October 1962 relaying gossip around the bar of the Washington Press Club at 3 o'clock in the morning to the effect that Kennedy had “supposedly taken a decision to invade Cuba” that night or the next one? Of similarly questionable accuracy was Dobrynin's "line-up” of hawks and doves within the Kennedy Administration as reported (without giving sources) in a cable of 25 October-listing Robert Kennedy, McNamara, National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy and the military as the most ardent supporters of an attack on Cuba, and Secretary of State Dean G. Rusk and Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon as holding a more “restrained” and “cautious” position; actually, although almost all members of the Excomm shifted their positions during the “13 Days” of the crisis, some more than once, Robert Kennedy and McNamara had been among the less militant, preferring a blockade to an immediate airstrike, while Dillon had more frequently sympathized with military action. Perhaps most interesting, though, in this assessment is the Soviet diplomat's jaundiced view of John F. Kennedy, who is described as a “hot-tempered gambler” who might be tempted into an “adventurist step” because his reputation, political future, and 1964 re-election had been put at stake. 2

21 Many other interesting details emerge from Dobrynin's accounts-above all the evolution of his back-channel relationship with Robert F. Kennedy, the president's brother and Attorney General (see box)—but perhaps most interesting are the possibilities such documents offer for reassessing with far more precision how nuclear adversaries perceive (and misperceive) each other during crises.

At the United Nations

The documents from the United Nations also permit a much fuller analysis of the difficult U.S.-Soviet negotiations in New York to work out the terms to resolve the crisis, particularly in combination with the large amount of American documents on the talks between McCloy and various Soviet envoys that have been declassified by the State Department in recent years.?

.22 Issues dealt with at length include the terms of verifying the withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba, haggling over which Soviet weapons should be removed under the rubric of “offensive" weapons, and a good deal of give-and-take over the basic divisions between the United States and Cuba. One dog that did not bark in New York City was that of U.S. withdrawal of Jupiter missiles from Turkey—a subject that was covered in a special understanding reached between Robert Kennedy and Dobrynin in Washington—and one finds (on November 1) a firm instruction from Gromyko in Moscow to “Comrades” Kuznetsov and Zorin “not in any circumstances” to touch on the Turkish issue (despite its having been raised only days earlier in Khrushchev's public October 27 letter to Kennedy), "since it is the subject of direct negotiations between Washington and Moscow."

The documents also permit a far fuller analysis of the role of the United Nations, and particularly Acting Secretary General U Thant, in trying to navigate a delicate neutral role between the superpowers and actively seeking a United Nations role in the resolution of the crisis. Writing both Khrushchev and Kennedy to propose compromise measures to assuage the crisis, traveling to Cuba to seek Castro's approval for UN inspection of the missile removals, negotiating with Mikoyan, Kuznetsov, and Zorin over the mechanisms to conclude the dispute, U Thant emerges as a fuller figure, particularly as the Soviets courted his support (by backing his inspection plan) even at the price of additional tensions with Havana.

Soviet-Cuban (and Khrushchev-Castro) Tensions

The reports of Soviet envoys' reports dealing with Cuba, particularly those of USSR ambassador Alekseev in Havana, add to the emerging story of differences between Khrushchev and Castro that has long been known of in general but which became far more vivid and concrete with the appearance, first, of the third volume of Khrushchev's posthumously-published tape-recorded memoirs in 1990,23 followed by the release later that year of the Castro-Khrushchev correspondence at the height of the crisis, 24 and finally, in January 1992, with the holding of an oral history conference on the crisis in Havana with Castro's enthusiastic participation.25

From a peak of ostensible revolutionary solidarity in the early days of the crisis, Soviet-Cuban ties became strained as the crisis wore on by a series of disagreements—from Moscow's concern that Cuban zeal (reflected in the shooting down of an American U-2 plane on October 27) might provoke a U.S. invasion, to Khrushchev's belief (hotly disputed by Castro) that the Cuban leader had advocated a recourse to nuclear war (if the U.S. attacked Cuba) in his cable to Khrushchev on October 26, to Khrushchev's failure to consult with Castro before agreeing to Kennedy's terms for withdrawing the missiles on October 28, to a dispute over whether to permit UN inspection of Soviet ships in Cuban ports to verify the withdrawal of missiles, to a Cuban anger over Moscow's succumbing to Washington's demand to pull out Soviet IL-28 bombers as well as the nuclear missiles.

The alarming reports received by Moscow from its envoy in Havana helped lead Khrushchev to dispatch his trusted trouble-shooter,

MORE ON BOBBY AND THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

by Jim Hershberg In accounts of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Robert F. Kennedy—the Attorney General and brother to President John F. Kennedy—has occupied a singular place, and not merely because his posthumously-published memoir, Thirteen Days, became a best-selling (and sometimes controversial) account of the crisis as well as a unique portrait of what it felt like to be a high-level decision-maker looking down the gun barrel of nuclear war. RFK also garners special attention for his key role at two particular points in the crisis. One came early on, in the secret debates in the White House “Excomm” (Executive Committee) after the missiles were discovered in mid-October, when he ardently opposed a surprise U.S. air strike against the sites under construction in Cuba, likening such an action to Pearl Harbor (“I now know how Tojo felt,” he noted at one point in the debate) and condemning it as morally unworthy; the argument helped turn the tide in the debate away from an air strike and toward a blockade or “quarantine,” which Kennedy announced to the world on October 22. The second key moment came at the climax of the crisis, on Saturday evening, October 27, with Moscow and Washington seemingly on a collision course, when Robert Kennedy met secretly with Dobrynin at the Justice Department and the two men hammered out the terms of a secret arrangement whereby the Attorney General conveyed his brother's oral pledge that Washington would quickly pull its Jupiter missiles out of Turkey, as Khrushchev had publicly proposed earlier that day, so long as the Soviets removed their own missiles from Cuba and kept quiet about the Turkish aspect of the deal.2

Recently-released Russian archival documents, published in English translation in the Cold War International History Project Bulletin (the present issue and no. 5, Spring 1995), shed additional light on Robert F. Kennedy's actions during the crisis, particularly his back-channel contacts with Soviet ambassador Dobrynin. This article seeks to note briefly some of these new findings, and also appends Robert F. Kennedy's own declassified memorandum of the controversial 27 October 1962 encounter with Dobrynin to supplement the Dobrynin's version (and other accounts) published in the Bulletin in early 1995.3 (The Bulletin thanks Prof. Peter Roman of Duquesne University for providing this document.)

First worth noting from Dobrynin's cables is his initial impression of Robert Kennedy as a hardliner and “hot-head," driven by political ambition, liable to support impulsive actions, and hardly a character one would predict that Dobrynin would end up collaborating with to resolve the crisis. This is not altogether surprising given the contentiousness of the issues, the combativeness of Robert Kennedy's personality, and the fact that President Kennedy had used his brother to transmit personally to Dobrynin on 4 September 1962 a strong message of concern regarding Soviet military aid to Cuba. Moreover, in Dobrynin's cabled report of his first meeting with Robert Kennedy during the crisis, late on the evening of October 23 (the night after the president's speech), RFK's deep anger and sense of personal betrayal toward Khrushchev continued on page 344

mm

.

Anastas Mikoyan, to smooth the Cubans' ruffled feathers, and the Soviet records of Mikoyan's conversations with Cuban leaders in early November 1962, published in Bulletin 5, dramatically reveal the emotional rift which had emerged between the two communist allies.

26 (Cuban authorities subsequently released their own minutes of two of those conversations, which are printed below; see box.)

The Alekseev cables printed in the current Bulletin, when read in conjunction with the other sources noted above (particularly the Castro-Khrushchev correspondence) helps show how these tensions developed. On October 23 and 25, as the crisis mounted, Alekseev sent highly positive reports on the Cuban people's “calm," confidence, and preparedness for military confrontation, even noting that the imminent danger had prompted a “special business-like efficiency and energy" that had even dispelled the “ostentation and verbosity that are characteristic of Cubans.” In the second of the aforementioned cables, however, a glimmer of disagreement appears when Alekseev states that Castro “approves of our policy of not giving in to provocations, and (avoiding) unnecessary conflicts,” yet at the same time “expressed a belief in the necessity of shooting down one or two piratic American (reconnaissance) planes over Cuban territory.” Another potential disagreement begins to surface when U Thant explores using Cuban President Oswaldo Dorticos' proposal to the UN General Assembly of October 8—in which the Cuban said a guaranteed U.S. pledge of non-aggression against Cuba would remove the need for Cuban military preparations; while Moscow echoed this formulation in Khrushchev's secret October 26 letter to Kennedy, the Cubans were now deeply distrustful that such a promise could be trusted.

By October 27, a new fissure had opened up over Khrushchev's public letter that day to Kennedy, which for the first time raised the possibility of a trade of Soviet missiles in Cuba for U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey—an idea raised without regard to the sensibilities of the Cubans, who thought they had an iron-clad agreement with Moscow to deploy the missiles that could not be “swapped” for American missiles elsewhere in the world. When Gromyko dispatched a message to Castro through the Soviet Embassy in Havana informing him that it would be “advisable” for him to quickly endorse Khrushchev's letter to Kennedy, Castro responded via Alekseev complimenting Khrushchev’s “great diplomatic skill” but also noting that it had provoked “symptoms of a certain confusion in various sectors of the Cuban population and among some members of the military,” who were asking “whether it constitutes a rejection by the USSR of its former obligations.” Castro also defended the downing of the American U-2 that day, brushing aside Alekseev's admonition not to "aggravate the situation and initiate provocations."

On the following day, October 28, Cuban anger deepened as Moscow and Washington settled the crisis over their heads, and to add insult to injury Moscow began pressuring Castro to agree to allow United Nations inspectors to examine the Soviet missile sites on the island to verify that work had stopped. “Confusion and bewilderment are reigning inside the Cuban leadership” as a result of Khrushchev’s agreement to dismantle the missiles, Dorticos told Alekseev, adding that “under the present conditions of great patriotic enthusiasm of our people this report would be perceived by the infinitely electrified masses as a cold shower.” Alekseev's excuses that technical problems had delayed the sending to Havana of an advance copy of Khrushchev's letter to Kennedy—which had been read out over Moscow Radio before Castro (let alone Kennedy) received a copy-made hardly a dent in the “picture of incomprehension” painted by another senior official, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez.

In subsequent days, as Castro and Khrushchev jousted in their correspondence and Cuban forces continued to fire on American U2 planes, the Soviets implored the Cubans to display “self-restraint" and not take actions that could "give the aggressors a pretext to blame our side,” and vainly reiterated that “we consider it necessary" to satisfy U Thant's desire to have the UN conduct on-site inspections on Cuban territory—a demand Castro and the Cuban leadership angrily rejected in an open show of defiance.

But it was Khrushchev's letter of October 30 that sent Castro's anger to an even higher pitch; in it the Soviet leader acknowledged that “some Cubans” wished that he had not declared his willingness to withdraw the nuclear missiles, but that the alternative would have been to “be carried away by certain passionate sectors of the population and to have) refused to come to a reasonable settlement with the U.S. government,” leading to a war in which millions would have died; Khrushchev also said he had viewed Castro's cable of October 26 “with extreme alarm,” considering "incorrect” its proposal that the Soviet Union “be the first to launch a nuclear strike against the territory of the enemy [in response to a non-nuclear U.S. invasion of Cuba] ... Rather than a simple strike, it would have been the start of thermonuclear war.

-"27 Reading the letter “attentively,” as described in Alekseev's report of the meeting (printed below), Castro had only two, terse responses: there were not merely “some” Cuban comrades who failed to understand Khrushchev's position, “but the whole Cuban people”—and as for the second item, Castro denied proposing that Khrushchev be “the first in delivering a blow against the adversary territory," only in the event that Cuba had been attacked and Cubans and Soviets were dying together; perhaps Khrushchev misunderstood or the translation was in error. Alekseev, unfazed, not only defended the translation but made it clear that Khrushchev had understood him all too well—"even in this case (of aggression),” the Soviet envoy admonished Castro, “it is hardly possible merely to approach mechanically such an important issue and to use nuclear arms without looking for other means." The message: just as West Europeans had cause to wonder whether Americans would “trade New York for Hamburg,” linking local to strategic deterrence, the Cubans were sadly mistaken if they believed Moscow was ready to undertake global thermonuclear war—with the suicidal consequences that entailed—in defense of the Cuban Revolution.

1

Books that have appeared on the crisis in English in recent years incorporating newly-available evidence include: James G. Blight and David A. Welch, On the Brink: Americans and Soviets Reexamine the Cuban Missile Crisis, 2nd ed. (New York: Noonday, 1990); James G. Blight, Bruce J. Allyn, and David A. Welch, Cuba On the Brink: Castro, the Missile Crisis, and the Soviet Collapse (New York: Pantheon, 1993); James A. Nathan, ed., The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992); Laurence Chang and Peter Kornbluh, eds., The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: A National

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