The Cuban Missile Crisis
Memorandum Prepared by the Planning Subcommittee of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council


Washington, October 26, 1962.



1. Background. The optimum setting for US-Soviet negotiations, particularly at the Summit, would be one in which Soviet offensive weapons had already been removed from Cuba. This may not be feasible. If so, the question of how to undertake negotiations with the Soviets will present itself against the background of either:

(a) Soviet acceptance of some proposal involving cessation of Soviet site construction and perhaps of Soviet shipping to Cuba; or

(b) ascending US economic and military pressures on Cuba.

These two alternatives are not wholly mutually exclusive. The actual situation may include both some diplomatic progress and some increased US pressure.

2. Basic Strategy. Our purpose, in negotiations, should be:

(a) To afford the Soviets face-saving cover, if they wish, for a withdrawal of their offensive weapons from Cuba.

(b) To pave the way, if the negotiations fail, for expanded US economic or military action to remove the weapons.

(c) To use the crisis to reach agreement on other measures that would, in any case, be in our interest.

3. Allied Interests. In pursuing these purposes:

(a) We must have full and intimate consultation with our allies.

(b) It is essential to avoid any implication that we are trading off pre-crisis allied or US interests to secure removal of Soviet offensive weapons from Cuba.

Failure on either of these fronts could undermine the Alliance.

4. Level. The best way to attain the purposes in para 2 may be through a Summit meeting. At this level, it may be easier to widen the scope of the negotiations in such a way as to resolve the crisis without an obvious and humiliating Soviet backdown. Other levels and forums are also available, however, the situation may well develop so as to make these alternatives more feasible and useful.

5. Prior Action. Before any negotiation opens, we should take two actions to help set the stage:

(a) Assuming that negotiations take place before the Cuban issue is settled, we should make clear that, if negotiations do not succeed, we will take early action to remove Soviet offensive weapons.

(b) We should seek an immediate allied decision in principle to set up the small pilot NATO Southern Command multilateral seaborne force (Italians, Turks, Greeks, US, and perhaps Canadians) proposed by Ambassador Finletter in Polto 506,(1) and we should make clear our intent to provide interim coverage with Polaris and other external forces. We should then urge the Turkish and Italian governments to get quietly on the NAC record what we would take to be their intent, in any event, in this circumstance, i.e., to phase out IRBM's in view of both the prospect of a Southern Command force and the interim Polaris and other US coverage.

6. Negotiations. We should make crystal clear, in negotiations, the sharp division between Cuba and other subjects on which we would wish to negotiate regardless of whether there was a Cuban crisis. In negotiations about Cuba, we should demand early agreement on removal of Soviet offensive weapons, possibly in the context of a Latin American (and, if necessary, African) "nuclear free" zone, in return for the end of the quarantine. In respect of other subjects, some of which could be dealt with rapidly and simultaneously with Cuba and some of which would take longer, we might try to do business as follows:

(a) Arms Control.

(i) US and Soviet non-diffusion declarations;

(ii) US and Soviet declarations of intent not to facilitate procurement of MRBM's for land deployment in NATO and Warsaw Pact countries other than US and USSR. (The US would only enter into such an exchange of declarations after full allied consultations, and would base its declaration on the previously stated US policy only to facilitate MRBM procurement for multilateral sea-based force.)

(iii) Safeguards against miscalculations, e.g., exchange of US and Soviet military observation teams, direct communication facilities between US and Soviet national command centers, etc.

(iv) Review of key differences of approach in the Geneva Disarmament and Test Ban negotiations, to determine whether any useful new directive can be given to the US and Soviet negotiators.

(b) Berlin. We would make clear that the troop issue was non-negotiable, but that we were prepared to reach a "Solution C" type agreement, which did not purport to be a final Berlin settlement but which put the matter on ice and allowed East Germans to substitute for the Soviets in access functions. This could be dressed up in various ways--UN observer, no nuclear arms in Berlin, etc.--for face-saving purposes. If the Soviets were interested, this matter could be pursued further at the minister level with other interested parties.

(c) Germany. We might suggest to the Soviets that feasible aspects of the German question--mixed commissions to increase inter-German contacts, and declarations regarding non-use of force to change the demarcation line and change the external frontiers--might be pursued further at the foreign minister level with other interested parties.

(d) Future Summitry. It might be agreed that the heads of the UK and French governments would be invited to meet in a future quadripartite Summit, to review any work done at the foreign minister level in the meantime on Berlin and Germany and to consider new topics, e.g., NATO and Warsaw Pact non-aggression declarations, which might be more appropriately handled in a more relaxed atmosphere than the present crisis.

7. Action. If this general course of action commends itself, we should:

(a) move immediately to consultation with our allies;

(b) then move to negotiations with the Soviets, preferably at the highest level.

Speed is of the essence, since passage of time may make less credible our resolve soon to take action to remove Soviet offensive weapons if negotiations fail.

1 Document 75. Back

Source: Department of State, S/S Files: Lot 65 D 438, WW Rostow. Secret; Eyes Only. The source text is attached to an undated memorandum of transmittal to the President and to an October 26 memorandum from Rostow to Rusk, which states that it was prepared in response to a "direct request" from Bundy on October 24.

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