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Khrushchev said he wanted to express his disappointment at one thing that adds fuel to fire of the cold war, namely, that US now is trying to stop Soviet airplanes from flying to Cuba. After I interjected confirmation, he said they regard this as unfriendly act. This is not wartime. We should be developing trade and culture between our countries. He could not understand why we were acting this way. Perhaps we were frightened and our leaders' nerves were bad. If we were going to start a war, then he could understand it. US was boycotting trade with Cuba and appealing to all countries to stop their ships from going there. US is great country with population 183 million, while Cuba has only seven million. Could it really be that US was afraid of Cuba? Who would believe that Cuba was a nightmare for US? It was too small; even if it wanted to gobble up US, it couldn't. (There followed some good-natured byplay about census figures.) Khrushchev said that what US was doing complicated life of simple people and did not simplify it. Result was to make Cuban people go hungry. What did US want? To start war? If not, what was happening? "Are you too afraid? Do you want to commit suicide?" When last war started in USSR, on third or fourth day, a certain General came to him, where he was serving as member of military council of front, and said everything was lost, just as in France. General said command must be changed. General went to sleep that night and next morning came into peasant hut in which Khrushchev was staying and shot himself. He was a coward, lost his self-control, and let his nerves dominate his mind. Had US become a coward? Such people end by shooting themselves. Did US want to commit suicide? Is this the state in which American imperialism now finds itself?
I said I should of course report his remarks to President. At Vienna, President had spoken very frankly to him about Cuba. Chairman was misinterpreting Castro regime. Not only US, but all Western Hemisphere countries, feel Castro has let Cuban people down. US and other Western Hemisphere states are not going to help Cuba. We are certainly not afraid of them but we don't intend to help them. Of course, we have different views than Chairman about situation. Speaking as frankly as he had, I felt I must add that size of Soviet shipments to Cuba has increased feeling in US on this problem.
Khrushchev said we must be responsible, since our countries are great powers. We cannot demand that other countries live as we like or there would be war. US has bases in countries neighboring USSR, such as Turkey, as well as in Greece, Italy, France, West Germany and Pakistan. But USSR does not attack these countries. If US thinks it has right to do as it likes about Cuba, why hasn't USSR right to do as it likes about these countries? If we acted that way, might would make right. UN Charter would lose its force. That would be policy of banditry. Cuba is small; US is big. "You are so afraid of Cuba, you almost lost your pants." US is located in Western Hemisphere; what is it doing in Eastern Hemisphere? USSR does not recognize right of US to be everywhere in world and to rule everywhere. It was one thing when US was very powerful, but now there is a force as great as yours. We will never agree to your capitalistic way of thinking. Our policy is, let us live in peace. Let us have our socialism and you can have your capitalism. Let's respect internal affairs of other countries and not interfere with life of other countries. Take, for example, Shah of Iran, whom we don't like. But we have no intention of attacking him. Or take Afghanistan, country with monarchical government. Its King recently visited me here and I entertained him. He is a nice fellow. We have good relations with him and this is the way it should be.
I said I took note of Chairman's remarks. President has made it clear we are not going to interfere in Cuba by force. But we are not going to help Cuba, which does not mean we intend to interfere there.
Khrushchev accepted this, saying he also understood President that way but must still express his disappointment about blockade, which is inimical action. Let the people choose their own system. As a result of blockade, Cuban people are suffering and will become more embittered against US. You should trade with Cuba, as we do with Turkey and other of your allies. Why are you not trading with us? You want to strangle us. But you've lost any real understanding of history.
1 Parts I, II, and IV of Kohler's conversation with Khrushchev on October 15, transmitted in telegrams 973, 974, and 979 from Moscow, October 16, are in volume V; Part V, transmitted in telegram 981 from Moscow, October 16, is in vol. XV, pp. 359-362. Back
Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.3722/10-1662. Secret; Priority; Eyes Only. Received in the Department of State at 2:35 p.m. October 16.