The Cuban Missile Crisis
Memorandum From the Chairman of the Planning Subcommittee of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (Rostow) to the President's Special Assistant for National Security (Bundy)


Washington, October 29, 1962.


Report Number Five of the Planning Subcommittee

1. The Planning Subcommittee reviewed the situation as of Monday morning, October 29, 1962.

2. The only operational issue addressed was the need to maintain continuity in our aerial inspection of the offensive weapons in Cuba, both for evident reasons of national security and as a basis for later movement to legitimize photo reconnaissance on a collective basis (either UN or OAS). This issue, in its longer run aspects, is referred to below.

3. The following tasks were discussed and assigned as follow-up of the crisis:

a. It was agreed that the Soviet adventure in Cuba in part reflected a high degree of anxiety concerning the nuclear balance. The most likely assumption is that, having failed in the Cuban ploy, they will consider other methods for retrieving or appearing to retrieve their position in the nuclear arms race; for example, a radically accelerated ICBM program, the positioning of weapons in space, etc. It was judged urgent that these possibilities be explored and that we take countermeasures for two reasons: first, to insure ourselves against some Sputnik-like move which would endanger our present favorable posture; second, to maximize the influence in Moscow of those who may argue that the only realistic road to Russian security is by inspected arms control. This task was assigned to DOD (Mr. Rowen) in consultation with other appropriate parts of the Government.

b. The crisis will evidently have implications for Soviet policy: for the Sino-Soviet split; and for the position and policies of Communist parties in every part of the world. The group chaired by Mr. Harvey will continue to explore these implications and propose courses of U.S. action.

c. The situation inside Cuba, in the wake of the Russian defection, may open to us possibilities of change in the character of the Cuban government or its policy which, evidently, should be fully explored. This task was assigned to Mr. Hurwitch (ARA).

d. It was judged possible that there are certain lessons to be drawn from the recent confrontation over Cuba for our Berlin contingency planning. Mr. Rowen and Mr. Kitchen will seek to formulate these in consultation with Mr. Nitze and his committee.

e. Viet Nam. Although it is probable that the Soviet Union will be extremely sensitive to any further pressures we may mount against the Communist position in the wake of this crisis, it was judged appropriate to consider what political and other measures may be considered to induce or force the Soviet Union to honor its pledge given at Geneva that infiltration into South Viet Nam via Laos would end after the Laos settlement. I will raise this matter with Mr. Harriman.

f. With confidence strengthened in the credibility of the U.S. deterrent, it was judged time to make a major push in the Atlantic partnership. There is an urgent need to improve the machinery of political consultation; to press on with various trade, currency and aid problems within the orbit of the OECD; and to look to a multilateral resolution of the nuclear problem at an earlier date than might have otherwise been envisaged. (Action: EUR)

g. In the wake of the crisis, it was judged essential that we seek to consolidate the new unity and confidence of the OAS; press forward vigorously with the Alliance for Progress; and exploit the crisis to weaken the Communists; to reduce the fear of Communists in Latin America; and to draw leftist and neutralist groups away from the Communists and towards the center. It was noted that, in the face of U.S. strength, there was a danger that right wing groups might now assume that reform and development were less urgent than previously. Steps to discourage this view should be considered. (Action: ARA and AID in consultation with other interested agencies)

h. Negotiations with the USSR. An initial paper on this subject, of October 27th, is available to the Executive Committee.(1) Further staff work will go forward within the Department of State and ACDA. Two observations emerged on the subject of negotiation with the Soviet Union. Historically, the instinctive reaction of the USSR to an international setback is to regroup, to consolidate, and to avoid, for a time, fresh initiatives. If that is their reaction on the present occasion, they may use it merely as an occasion to hold to firm previous positions. In that case, there may be no significant movement forward. On the other hand, it is conceivable that Khrushchev himself may wish to move forward towards a detente on Berlin and to leave behind him some achievement in the field of arms control and disarmament. In this case, some forward movement at a summit is conceivable. There is as yet no basis for a judgment as to the course Moscow will, in fact, follow. In the light of these alternatives, we should be prepared, should a summit take place, with an array of proposals, ranging from a mere reaffirmation of the status quo through limited to quite radical steps forward; and use the occasion of such negotiations as a means of assessing the policy and intention of the Soviet Union.

i. The crisis has implications for every region and virtually every country with which we have relations in the world outside of NATO and the OAS. Courses of action designed to strengthen our position vis-a-vis these countries have to be designed on a case-by-case basis. (Action to be initiated by Mr. Jorden, with relevant regional bureaus and S/P officers.)

j. The crisis bears on future disarmament negotiations and meas-ures in two specific respects. First, the Soviet performance in Cuba dram-atizes beyond any doubt the case for inspection. Ways for driving home this lesson should be devised. (Action: ACDA) In addition, we should explore ways of consolidating the de facto precedent of our unilateral inspection of Cuban bases and the OAS ruling that secrecy is inappropriate in this Hemisphere. (Action: ACDA, IO, ARA)

4. The possibility of a White Paper on the Cuban crisis was discussed. It was universally agreed that such a paper, if it were decided to issue one, should be factual with no elaborate effort to draw lessons for propaganda purposes. The question of whether such a paper should be organized to provide a full record of what now can be made public, both for our own people and for the world, as well as the terms of reference for such a paper, were referred to Mr. U. Alexis Johnson and Mr. Edward Martin.

1 Attached to an October 28 memorandum from Brubeck to McGeorge Bundy. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba) See the Supplement. Back

Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, General, Planning Subcommittee. Top Secret. The source text bears Rostow's handwritten notation: "The President may wish to see what we're up to." A summary of the Berlin/NATO subcommittee's work on October 29 is printed in Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. XV, pp. 411-419.

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