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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cuban Missile Crisis: A Memo from 50 Years Ago Today

On October 13, 1962, Ambassador Chester Bowles sent a memo to President Kennedy summarizing a discussion with Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States:
He answered that in spite of our worries, the U.S.S.R. was not shipping offensive weapons and well understood the dangers of doing so. Moreover, it was unreasonable for the U.S., as a major power, to expect a small, weak country such as Cuba to make such public concessions to U.S. public opinion even though both the U.S.S.R. and Cuba might accept all three points in principle.
Why, he asked repeatedly, do we get so excited about so small a nation? Although the U.S.S.R. could not let Cuba down, they had no desire to complicate the situation further. Was it not possible for us to negotiate a modus vivendi with Castro directly?
I commented that Cuba had initiated the current conflict. Indeed, in 1959 most Americans had strongly applauded Castro's revolution. If Dobrynin were misinformed about the types of weapons now arriving in Cuba, it would not be the first time in diplomatic history that this had occurred. As long as Soviet weapons flowed into Cuba and Cuban money was used to subvert Latin American countries which we were striving to assist into the 20th century, the situation would remain dangerously explosive.
Of course, the Soviet Union was shipping offensive weapons, as the United States would soon confirm.