The Cuban Missile Crisis
Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Rusk and the Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Stevenson)


October 31, 1962.

Stevenson: When Khrushchev said to Kennedy on Sunday(1) morning that he was going to dismantle, Castro had not been consulted. He immediately stated five points three hours after Khrushchev's letter to Kennedy.(2) He made it purposely in order to complicate the situation for the Russians. Sooner or later there will be a show-down and that is the reason, of course, for Mikoyan's arrival. So now the question of UN inspection becomes important. He wants everyone to respect our integrity. . . . outside agency to inspect on Cuban soil. No Cuban has been permitted to visit the sites. They don't even know when the construction started of the sites, or when the dismantling started. Today U Thant asked the Soviet Ambassador to come in and asked him two questions. The US is concerned about the launchings of the missiles and want urgent dismantling. When will the dismantling start? Secondly, how long will this take? The Soviet Ambassador's answer was that he would have to refer the question to the military and ask Moscow. This morning, before the second meeting with Castro, the Soviet Ambassador telephoned him. Then he arrived at U Thant's place with the General in charge of the dismantling at 2:30 this afternoon and made the following answer to the question. With regard to Khrushchev's order to dismantle on Sunday "we received it between 1 and 3 p.m. We started the dismantling on Sunday at 5 p.m. It will be all over by tomorrow night, and by the latest on Friday,(3) when we will have finished the bulldozing of the sites by Friday night. We have asked for ships. We don't know when they will be in the ports. But the equipment will be in the ports Thursday night or Friday morning. We are crating the equipment at the ports for sea voyage. Most of it will not have to be crated because of deck loading. The bases no longer exist. Even the pads will be gone, but no Cuban observation of the dismantling is permitted." This is what the Russians say. "By Friday there will be nothing." The instruction of the UN was that this included aircraft. Although they were not very specific as to whether or [not] they have interrogated them about aircraft. As to the aircraft, the Russians assured them that the Cubans had not been trained to fly them. There was no discussion of the SAM sites. Any equipment, Soviet-manned, will go. Anti-aircraft manned by all the anti-aircraft, both SAM and conventional is manned by the Cubans. It was a Cuban Colonel that shot down our plane. Castro says all anti-aircraft commanded by Cubans will stay, including the SAM sites, they assume. Castro was apparently ranting most of the time and pretty sarcastic and kept screaming no inspection would be permitted under any circumstances, either . . . but that they must go through the blockade. Kuznetsov said in Cuba, "We'll tell them at the UN what the ship schedule of arrival will be in Cuba." Castro said "Pushoff should not have promised verification." My notes say that since the Soviet guarantee we can inspect on the high seas. The Cubans won't know what to do with what is left behind. They are using only Russian labor, only Russian equipment, like bulldozers, etc. Castro talked a lot about aerial reconnaissance, even by the United Nations, as a violation of Cuban integrity, soil, airspace, etc., as an intolerable offense. U Thant's suggestion is that the blockade continuation is not necessary if we can establish some system like . . . .

Secretary: We've already done that.

Stevenson: On the incoming ships. He says the economic situation in Havana is incredible. There are no foodstuffs, no meat--all of this confirmed by the Legations there. They are shut off from the outside world. The people are getting desperate. We should be satisfied with these assurances; that the Red Cross inspection on the seas of incoming vessels. Castro is frustrated, intense, psychotic, infuriated by the US radio constantly stating that the US was coming to inspect instead of the SYG arriving with a large team to inspect. It was impossible to get across anything before 2:15--before the meeting first started. This morning he was in a better mood. U Thant decided to see him alone. He has with him Dorticos and Rowan. He said they would fight to the last man, wanted everybody to inspect their soil, their integrity, etc. They would discuss the future of Cuba only on the basis of the five points, and he distinguished in the future--not the present problem. If the SC, in other words, discusses the Cuban problem, it can only be on the basis of the five points. When the question of Major Anderson was brought up, Castro became much softer and said he would be glad to return him alive, but he is not alive, and "I will return his body under the auspices of the UN." He rejected again and again any United Nations inspection to verify. He said the Soviets have done this whole thing on Cuban soil; but the future of the UN should be involved but only on the basis of the five points. This is the long-term problem which must be done by the UN. It is his impression that the Soviets don't want to stay a single hour; that the General said that he was going at once and that he was glad to leave. There is thought there will be a show-down some time between the Cubans and the Russians. He said the Brazilian would confirm all this in two or three days--after he got back to Rio. He can't suggest what we should do but implied that maybe we should verify on Friday, after the bulldozing has been completed. The Soviet General said "ask us any questions you wish". Now they must arrange for ships to come in. The blockade, if it continues, will make the Cubans more and more angry. I told him that we had already instituted a pass on incoming ships not to in any way interrupt the shipping to get the stuff out of there. He said there is no shortage of conventional hardware in Cuba. There is so much they don't want to know what to do with it--machines, anti-aircraft, etc. What they need is food, not hardware. Then as I left the room with Jack McCloy Rikhye stopped me at the door and sort of whispered to me as a final concluding remark which the SYG apparently never felt it was appropriate to say. He said "Please lay off the aerial reconnaissance until Friday. After that you will find they have bulldozed all of the sites." . . . They will call us after they have talked with . . . in the morning. I don't know what time; I should think it will probably be after they have had a good night's sleep--possibly 10 o'clock. I think that is the substance of the thing.

Sec: Thanks a lot.

1 October 28. Back

2 For text of the five points, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 447-448; Khrushchev's letter is printed as Document 102. Back

3 November 2. Back

Source: Department of State, Ball Papers: Lot 74 D 272, Telcons--Cuba. No classification marking. The conversation probably took place after the 14th meeting of the Executive Committee since Rusk's Appointment Book shows that he met with Ball at 11:09 p.m. (Johnson Library)

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