The Cuban Missile Crisis
Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations


Washington, November 3, 1962, 8:44 p.m.

1189. Eyes only for Stevenson and McCloy. Following is text of an instruction from the President to all concerned with present negotiations in Cuba:

"It is time for a review of our basic position in these negotiations and for a clear restatement of our policy and purpose.

We have good evidence that the Russians are dismantling the missile bases. We have no decisive evidence of what they will do with this equipment. The assembly of IL-28's continues. There is some evidence of an intent to establish a submarine-tending facility. The future of the SAM sites is unclear. We have no satisfactory assurances on verification. Our aerial surveillance still proceeds without guarantee of safety.

This crisis is likely to move in one of two major directions in the next few weeks. On the one hand, we may be able to make arrangements which will in fact ensure the verified removal of all Soviet offensive weapons systems from Cuba and establish reliable safeguards against their reintroduction. This is the object of our policy and it is precisely stated in my letter to Khrushchev of October 27:(1) `You would agree to remove these weapons systems (previously defined as "all weapons systems in Cuba capable of offensive use") from Cuba under appropriate United Nations observation and supervision; and undertake, with suitable safeguards, to halt the further introduction of such weapons systems into Cuba.' Chairman Khrushchev's message of 28 October(2) contained an explicit undertaking to dismantle, crate and return to the Soviet Union `the weapons which you describe as "offensive"' under UN verification. It is the position of the United States Government that this is a clear acceptance of my proposal of October 27.

This requirement means removal of all offensive missiles and supporting equipment, and of all bombers and their equipment. These items and associated equipment are generally described in my statement of September 13 and in my address of October 22; they are clearly defined in my Proclamation of October 23.(3) All Americans should stick firmly to this position. We should add that a submarine base is equally unacceptable--as Chairman Khrushchev has acknowledged by clear inference in his assurances on the fishing facility.

In blunt summary, we want no offensive weapons and no Soviet military base in Cuba, and that is how we understand the agreements of October 27 and 28.

If in fact the Soviet Government executes this kind of removal with the associated and necessary inspection, supervision, and safeguards against reintroduction, then we in turn will hold with equal clarity to the undertaking given in my letter of October 27, as follows: `(a) to remove promptly the quarantine measures now in effect and (b) to give assurances against an invasion of Cuba.' We also have an obligation to work with other Western Hemisphere countries to get them to take a similar position. The exact terms and meaning of this undertaking require further work, but its broad implication is clear: in the absence of other provocation or justification, we will give an undertaking not to invade Cuba if we are properly assured that Cuba ceases to be a Soviet military base and ceases to harbor weapons. This commitment in no way derogates from our Hemispheric obligations to deal with aggressive or subversive activities by the present regime in Cuba.

There is another major course which events may take. It is one with which all who have negotiated with the Soviet Government in the past are familiar. It is a course in which bargains are fudged, secrecy prevents verification, agreements are reinterpreted, and by one means or another the Soviet Government seeks to sustain and advance the very policy which it has apparently undertaken to give up.

There is much evidence to support the conclusion that this is what is now beginning.

This second line of Soviet conduct is unacceptable to the United States. To prevent it we must make it very clear, at every stage, by both word and act, that the United States Government will not accept a mere gentlemen's agreement relating only to visible missiles on identified launch pads. We must have adequate arrangements for verification and inspection to be sure both that offensive weapons are removed and that no more are introduced. Without them, both surveillance and the quarantine must be continued and both may need to be extended. (This condition does not exclude temporary relaxation of either quarantine or surveillance in return for useful steps toward fully effective arrangements. Such a relaxation is foreseen in connection with our plans for ICRC inspection of certain inbound cargoes.) All the offensive weapons systems, including anything related to a submarine base, must be removed, or we shall have to consider further action of our own to remove them.

Finally, and most generally, the undertaking of the United States against invasion cannot take effect in any atmosphere of ambiguity or uncertainty such that the American Government or the American people would lack proper assurance against the existence in Cuba now, or at any future time, of any Soviet military base or offensive weapons. The Soviet Government must recognize that the events of the last three weeks have made it impossible for opinion in this Hemisphere to be satisfied with Soviet assurances alone. Verification is essential if the Governments of the Western Hemisphere are to be able to live with this situation without further action.

I repeat that this statement of policy should be taken as binding guidance by all who are engaged in the framing of instructions or the conduct of negotiations on this matter. It is of fundamental importance that we speak as one voice and continue to keep it entirely clear to all Soviet representatives that the agreements of October 27 and 28 must be carried out in full--and that otherwise the United States Government will find it necessary to move again by its own means to insure itself against a repetition of the extraordinary act of deception which initiated this crisis. In this situation the Soviet Government has a clear choice between verified removal of all offensive weapons systems and renewed action by the United States. It has no middle choice, and we believe its own interests should lead it to accept the honest and full execution of the Kennedy-Khrushchev agreement, and to see to it that Castro provides the necessary cooperation.

Detailed guidance in support of this general policy has been provided in approved instructions to USUN earlier this week. The basic messages are 1147 of October 31,(4) as amended, 1159 of November 1,(5) 1166 of November 1,(6) and 1177 of November 2.(7) A codification of this guidance is planned. My only addition at present is that I now believe we should not be satisfied, as 1147 suggests, with aerial surveillance and post-removal ground inspection for departing offensive weapons. We must also have some way of verifying the reexport of the missiles, and the best practicable way seems to be to count them on departing ships. This can be done with no violation of Soviet security by reliable and non-technical non-Americans, and we should insist on this or an equally effective verification."


1 See Document 95. Back

2 Document 102. Back

3 For texts, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, pp. 674-681, 806-809, and 809-811, respectively. Back

4 Document 125. Back

5 Telegram 1159, November 1, instructed Ball to stress to Soviet negotiators the importance of verification, the consequences of attacks on U.S. reconnaissance planes, and the fact that IL-28 bombers were part of the agreement and should be dismantled. (USUN Files: NYFRC 84-84-001, Incoming Telegrams, Top Secret, Exdis, etc.) Back

6 Telegram 1166 contained instructions and suggestions on how to get ICRC inspectors into action as soon as possible. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.56361/11-162) Back

7 See footnote 7, Document 134. Back

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.56361/11-362. Top Secret. Drafted by McGeorge Bundy, cleared by Rusk, and approved by U. Alexis Johnson.

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