Created: 12/7/1962

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible


ion, o. c.

O'ncz or the deputy dirccto* (inteiligence)



MS50RANDUK FOH: Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Cuban Venture in Retrospect

I thought that you night he interested in our assessaect of Khrushchev's Cuba venture.

LIBE Deputy Director (intelligence)


fgp set.

tcp secret




1 lUtjJJw



basic motivation underlying Khrushchev's bold ganble in deploying strategic missiles to Cuba was the com-pelliog needramatic breakthrough which would strengthen the USSR'shole range of questions in the contest with the US. The Cuban venture had the direct and immediate purpose of strengthening Khrushchev's positionajorshowdown on the Berlin and German questions which ho planned to launch before tbe end of tbe year.


Khrushchev had beenover the past yearalf for some means ofhimself from the impasse created by his failure to force the West toerlin settlement on Soviet terns. His statements during this periodrowing concern over the steady erosion of the USSR's over-all positionis the West. The introduction of strageticinto Cuba provided* in his mind, the most effective means oframatic victory over the US which would enable the USSR tothe diplomatic initiative andew round ofnegotiations.

Khrushchev also believed the creation of Soviet missile bases in Cuba would greatly enhance the USSR's ability to deter another US-supportedto destroy the Castro regime.

The opportunity forbold stroko arose when it became apparent last spring that the rapidof the Cuban economy and the growing demands in the US for active intervention in Cuba

required prompt andaction torisis for the Castro regime. Moscow was thustrong position to exchange vital economic and military assistance for Castro's consent to theof missiles in Cuba*

A second major element in Khrushchev's decisionajor reassessment in early May which substantiallythe prospects fora Berlin settlement on acceptable terms * This new estimatearked change froa the optimistic view which prevailed in Moscow followingalks with Secretary Rusk at Geneva in March.

Bloc spokesmen in late March expressed confidence in an early Berlin settlement, and the USSRariety of steps designed to improve the atmosphere. These included the suspension of Soviet flights in the Berlin air corridors and measures to restore normal relations betucen tho Soviet and US commandants in Berlin.

In an interview with an American publisher onpril, Khrushchev said he was prepared to meet with President Kennedy again and professed toglimmer of hope"erlin agreement. Gromyko alsoopeful line in his speech to the Supreme Soviet onpril. He stated that,obstacles remained, his talks with Secretary Rusk had demonstrated the desire of both governments to "searchapprochement of positions."

These hopeful appraisals were based on Moscow's reading, or misreading, of the proposalsodus vivendi which Rusk bad outlined to Gromyko in March. The Soviet leadersthese proposals as



ignificant change in the US position and as an indication that tbe US was finally ready to undertake serious negotiations.

Moscow's euphoria,was short-lived. Tbe Soviet press began to display uneasiness over the future course of the negotiations after the NATO ministerial meeting in Athens in early May. Pravda charged the US with 'raising new obstacles in order to stall the talks and displayed sensitivity to state* rccnts by Secretary Rusk and General Clay which contradicted optimistic assessments ofand Gromyko inril.

By raid-May, the Russians had begun to draw back from their earlier efforts tonormal relations _the_Berlin commiiiij:

By late May or early uune, it seems likely that Khrushchev had decided to set aside further diplomatic efforts on Berlin and toapidof offensive weapons in Cuba during the summer months.

In mid-June, Cuban Army officers reportedly stated that the danger to Cuba would be over by Septemberember of the Cuban Communist Party predicted that, io September, Cuba would be the "buckle in the belt" of NATO basesthe USSR. At the end of September, this same Cuban Communist boasted that Cuba wasormidable position to loosen the belt of NATO bases and prevent the "strangulation of the Soviet Union."

Buildup In Cuba

Khrushchev would never have undertaken the Cubanif he had not persuaded himself that he could complete

the clandestine introduction of the missiles and confront the USait accompli which would deter any effective IS military reaction. He must have recognized that inSoviet strategic power to Cuba he was greatly reducing the -cargin of safety which had characterized his major decisions in the past. He apparently permitted himself to believe, however, that the very high stakes involved justified the increased risks.

The outcome of this venture strongly suggests thatsimply did not candidly examine the consequences of failure. The great advantages that would flow from this operation combined with the heavy pressures on him toa strategic breakthrough oade Khrushchev especially vulnerable toestern ambassador in Moscow has described as "an incurable pQlitical shortsightedness which prevents him fromthe remoter consequences nf his words and actions,"

Throughout most of May and June, the USSR applied forced-draft measures to assemble the necessary personnel andfor the rapid shipment and installation of an advanced weapons system in Cuba. At the end of June, Khrushcheva threatening tone in discussing Berlin with Austrian leaders in order to convey an impression that the Soviet position was hardening. He complained that the US was the captive of Bonn on Berlin policy and that the resulting US inflexibilityerlin solution impossible.

The beginning of theof equipmentto Cuba inaccompanied byhe stage for tfr*showdown on2 and to attention from :hebuildup in Cub- announcedreplace Western occupation



West Berlin with troops of four smaller NATO and Warsaw Pact powers under United Nations jurisdiction-Bloc spokesmen hinted privatelyeparate peace treaty would be signed within the next two months. Onuly, Moscow announced its intention to resume nuclear testing.

Despite these efforts to persuade the West to believe that events were covingorlin showdown, Moscowfrom breaking offwitb tbe US and from generating fear of anacute crisis- It ained insteadradual buildup of the war of nerves whichwas intended tolimax after the missiles were in place and Khrushchev was ready to make his dramatic appearance at the UN in late November.

The Crucial Period

The Soviet leaders appear to have regarded the period from late August through tbe first part of October as the tine of greatest danger and



owevir, seems to have been less concerned about tbe possibilitySthanavalor other measures toSoviet shipping to Cuba, at least in the initial phase of US reaction.

Throughout this crucial period, the Soviet Union did its best to divert Western attention away from the heavy

influx of Soviet equ ipment and personnel into Cuba. On the diplomatic front, the Russians spread the impression that they were developing major newwith regard to Berlin, and Khrushchev told visitors that he was considering placing Berlin before tbe Generalpersonally. In Berlin, the Russians exploitedalong the wall in late August to fill the air with charges of Western "provocations" against East Germany. They dominated the headlines with the "crisis" over the use of Soviet armored personnelto transport guards to the Soviet war memorial in West Berlin. Moscow also keptteady drumfire against alleged US preparations for an invasion of Cuba a

Under the pressure ofUS attention tomilitary deliveries, Moscow decided in early September to abandon the pretense about the nonmilitary character of these cargoes. oint communiqueeptember at the end of the visit to Koscow ofuevara and Eailio Aragones, Moscow publicly acknowledged for the first time that it was providing military assistance and technicians to Cuba. propaganda, however, denied that the USSR was sendingforces to Cuba ormilitary bases on the island.

The Soviet statement ofeptember was Moscow's most important effort to deter US intervention in Cuba or US actions against Soviet shipping and to gain sufficient time to complete the installation of the missiles. It may have beenby the Soviet leaders' concern that Presidenteptember action in requesting congressional authority to calleservists might have been only the firsteries of US actions against theand that the US had detected the true nature of the equipment being introduced into Cuba.

The statement charged that the US was "preparing for aggress

against Cuba and other peace-loving states" and warned that an attack on Cuba would signal the "beginning of the unleashing of war." It sought to check the growing alarm in the US over Moscow's intentions by stressing that Soviet military equip-.ent in Cuba was designed "exclusively for defensiveand by denying that the USSR planned to establishile bases there.

But the USSR's mostmaneuver to inhibit US reaction, and undoubtedly tbe most effective in Khrushchev's judgment, was the declaration in theeptember statementpause" in Berlinuntil after the US This was calculated toink between Berlin and Cuba, with the clearthat the USSR would not aggravate Berlin tensions if the US would refrain fromin Cuba. Khrushchev clearly believed that hisdeterrent against US action to halt the buildup in Cuba was to portray Berlin as ahostage.

Although Moscow displayed considerable concern in the first half of October about US intentions and uncertainty about the extent of USregarding the nature of the military equipment arriving in Cuban ports, Khrushchevto have remained confident as late as raid-October that US reaction would be confined to verbal protests, agitation in tbe UN, and possibly limited action to reduce the volume of Soviet shipnents to Cuba. He seems to have interpreted the US posture in September and the first half of October as having confirmed his confidence that the Cuban gamble wouldand that the US in the end would accept the presence of Soviet missiles rather thanossible direct military confrontation with the USSR.

When the US reaction tho vreek of ctober ribiuptly transformed what had been Khrushchev's boldest

foreign policy gamble into his greatest defeat, the Soviet premierery sober understanding of the real "correlation of forces" in the world. Re recognized that he had no choice but to cut his losses and that any meaningful Soviet military response, not only io Cuba but in Berlin or elsewhere, was impossiblethe failure of his Cuban venture also meant the failure of this bid to overcome US global strategic superiority.

The Week of Crisis

The Soviet leaders' initial reaction to President Kennedy's address onctober wasto deter US military fn-tervent'.on in Cuba and to gain time in which to extricate themselves. Thoy were careful to refrain from any commitments to specific countermeasures but, at the same time, they sought to avoid the appearance of acquiesc

I'statenBULk uy nbvmr ouviec spokesmen that the ships would proceed to Cuba and refuseby US naval vessels. Khrushchev's first concern was to prevent incidents which mightthe crisis moreto control.

The Soviet leaders also promptly announced measures intended to underscore the USSR's military preparedness to meet any eventualities. Tho Soviet statement of 2jin response to thespeech was aimed at gaining time for maneuvers to generate pressure on the US to lift the quarantine andfron military action against the missile bases. The statement did not specifically deny the existence of the nis-slles but repeated theclaim that Soviet military equipnent in Cuba was "designed exclusively for defensive."


(IP rT


Moscow denounced the US quarantine, it avoided any threats of counter-measures. The only specific actionin tbe statementallN Security Council meeting on tbe US violation of the UN charter and the threat to peace.

Khrushchev's immediate aim was to inhibit Washington's freedom of action by drawing the US into negotiations. Onctober he calledummit meeting and, on the following day, promptlyhant's appeal for negotiationsemporary suspension of Soviet military shipments and the US quarantine.

Tbe Soviet leaders sought to convey an impression ofand calmness ia dealing with the crisis. Khrushchev and other top leaders wentto greet an American opera singererformance onctober. The Soviet premier went out of his way to meetS industrialist for overours on tbe same day.

In this interview, Khrush cbevonfident stance asserting that it was too late for the US to "take Cuba" and that the US would have to get accustomed to living withmissiles in Cuba. He warned that the US could stop Sovietew times, but at some point be would order his submarines toS quarantine ship. Although be stressed the USSR's readiness to face upar, heby indicatingeeting with President Kennedy was bothd necessary.

Moscow's desire to prevent any escalation of the crisis and to avoid provoking the US was also reflected in themilitary preparedness measures that were undertaken. There was oo evidence of any significant major redeployments of forces or of any readiness

measures by the Soviet Long Range Air Forces. The USSR also avoided any threats of retaliatory action in Berlin or at other points of East-West contention. Soviet propaganda played doan the possibilitye* Berlin crisis and even professed tomoreapproach" to tbe Gernan problem io debates at the UN General Assembly.

Khrushchev's Retreat

ctober,had become convincedsituation wasand had to beat once. The firmnessUS attitude made itSoviet maneuvers toand involve tho US innegotiations wereaddition to tbe rapidof US forces inarea, the Sovietprobably receivedled them to believeUS air strike againstinstallations or an ii1 ii il ii iiwrnvmssmwl

conjrontwo mm xnese ominous prospects, Khrushchev decided that mmodiato action was required to avert USintervention which would spell complete disaster for his Cubau venture, inflict enormous daxage on tbe USSR's world position, and make the risks of any meaningful Soviet response elsewberc in the world Onctober, behis long, ranbling private letter to President Kennedy, indicating in guarded language Soviet willingness to accept US termsttle-roent.


set- t


less thanours, Khrushchev sent another letter to the President which wasimmediately in Moscow. It called for reciprocal Soviet-US withdrawals of offensive weapons from Cuba and Turkey under international supervision and for mutual nonaggression guarantees covering these two countries. This letter may have been partovietplan prepared in advance toine of retreat if tbe Missile buildup should be detected prenaturely and if US reaction was stronger than

In his talk with the US industrialist onctober, Khrushchev bad raised theof US missile bases in Turkey, suggesting that he had some move of this nature in mind at that point. Onctober, the Soviet ambassador in Ankarawo-bour discussion with the Turkish foreign minister in which he attempted to induce the Turks to acquiesce in the deal proposed in Khrushchev'sctober letter. Khrushchev probably hoped his offer ofeal would help cover bisand stimulate UN pressures on the US to accept this offerasis for immediate


Despite the inconsistency between his two letters, probably believed that tbe US leaders would regard the unpublished private message ofctober as bis real position and would dismiss tbe later oneace-saving propaganda maneuver.

President Kennedy'sctober reply stating that Khrushchevrivate proposaIs ofctober "seem generally acceptable" opened tbe way for the Soviet premier's public backdown onctober> He ther informed the Presidentnew order" had been issued to dismantle the missiles andthem toUSSR. He the President's offer to give assurances against an invasion of Cubaormal commitment and declared that, in view of this alleged pledge, "tbe motives which induced us to render assistance ofind (offensive weapons) to Cuba disappear." Khrushchev also committed tbe USSR to reach agreement "to enable UN represent atives to verify tbe dismantling of these means."

Postcrista Negotiations

Khrushchev then moved quickly to get negotiationsettlement under way, to the US witb bis good faith in carrying out bis commitments, ind to Binlmize Sovietfor any complications which might arise. DeputyMinister Kuznetsov, who was immediately dispatched to New York, assured Ambassadoronctober that thewould be dismantled and removed in two or three weeks, after which verification could be carried out by any means the US desired. Gromyko alsoto Ambassador Kobler on tbe same day tbe Soviet desire to reach an agreement as quickly as possible.

Moscow's desire to guardollapse of tbeand possible US action to

JJilc oyaa urgentu Havana via New York alsothe Soviet leaders'that Castro's tactics might jeopardize the negotiations,the danger of US military action, and thwart the VSSR's efforts to salvage its position in Cuba and the world.

In tbe firstf, Soviet negot itors took


of Castro's rejection of any form of UN inspection in Cuba and the easing of the crisis atmosphere to maneuver the USSR out of the embarrassing agreement to UN verification of the removal of the missiles. Although Khrushchev felt he bad no choice at tbe height ofrisis but to agreeN role, Moscow was concerned that this would create aprecedent in the future, particularly with regard to controls over any disarmament or nuclear test ban agreements.

irst step was to agree to inspection by an International Red Cross team of Soviet ships en route to Cuba. After stalling on the implementation of this scheme, he proposed thearrangement whereby US naval vessels contacted Soviet ships carrying missiles back to the USSR for the purpose of counting the missiles.

After tbe withdrawal of tbeissiles was completed onovember, the Russians turned their attention to countering US pressure for the removal of tbeet light bombers. They charged that the US was seeking to use this issueeans oformal noninvasionKuznetsov argued that US demands regarding theerenonsense" because these bombers were obsolete and could be used only on defensive missions.

Castro's unwillingness to release the bombers was almost certainly one of the principal areas of sharpin Mikoyan'stalks in Havana. At one point, Moscow attempted to evade this problem byclaiming that the

were the "property of tbe Cuban armed forces."

However, the growingthat the US intended to impose more stringentmeasures apparentlyMikoyan with tbe leverage which finally resulted in Castro'sovember agreement to remove the bombers, which he now acknowledged "belong to the Soviet Government." itter "showdown" session witb Mikoyan--enabledto inform President Kennedy that theould be withdrawnew hours before the President's press conference onovember.

Moscow probably regarded this as the final step in liquidating tho Cuban crisis. Onovember, tbe USSR and other Warsaw Pact countries announced the cancellation of the special militarymeasures that were put into effect onctober. All that remains, in the Soviet view, is for tbe US and tbe USSR to issue formalin the UN setting forth the fulfillment of thecontained in the exchange of letters between President Kennedy and.

The USSR's final goal, therefore, will be toa cloar US noninvasion pledge without undertaking any further Sovietregarding UNof the removal ofweapons and of the nonreintroduction of such weapons into Cuba in the future. I

Original document.

Comment about this article or add new information about this topic: