The Cuban Missile Crisis
Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between the Under Secretary of State (Ball) and the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)


Washington, November 9, 1962, 9:25 a.m.

Bundy: Who is going to take the planning burden on the business the President clearly wants to work through of what we do short of direct reimposition of the quarantine in the event of IL-28 trouble?

Ball: I thought I would get together with Alex over the weekend,(1) and we will try to figure out something.

Bundy: Is that good enough timing? That is really the puzzle in my mind. Are we going to want to do more this weekend or do we want to let this thing sit a few days.

Ball: There are two big unknowns in this. One is the reply from Moscow,(2) and the second is the Mikoyan report.(3)

Bundy: Yes, it would be hard to make a concrete plan.

Ball: It is hard to go too far without knowing at least one of the two. On the other hand, we can come out with some planning on assumptions. This business of reimposition of a quarantine is much too brutal and much too hazardous. This is the last resort of solution because it would have to be undertaken in an atmosphere where we would be really going it alone, I think. But there are other things; I wasn't at all satisfied with what we came up with yesterday. I was not feeling well the last couple of days.

Bundy: I know. The raw materials are in these papers, but someone has to go work and actually develop the scenario. One of the immediate questions is how soon do we begin to say in a relatively disagreeable tone that if the bombers don't go the deal is off. Our view is it is not only off but pressure needs to be applied on this.

Ball: That is right. Furthermore I think we have to have a fairly definite philosophy about where we are going to aim our barrage--whether we are going to try to let the Russians off the hook to some extent and concentrate on the Cubans, or whether we are going to try to hold their nose strictly to it with whatever consequence there may be.

Bundy: It might be better--one could just make a shift--OK, we are now going to treat this as a Cuban problem.

Ball: That's right, and much could be said about that, I think. As a matter of fact this is what I put forward with McNamara before you came in the meeting yesterday.(4) That it would be better to try to move it over and then treat it as a Cuban problem and help the Russians themselves to disengage from the situation, get maximum freedom of action there ourselves, so that we can really bring that problem to a solution without prejudicing our larger interests with the Russians, is the way I would see it. Now the Russians are helping it this way, and particularly the Cuban assertion yesterday in the UN which was reported that the bombers were theirs; if we could build up this kind of a set of documentation, then we would be in a position to say we appreciate the Soviet Union had done what it could; that the Cubans are being recalcitrant, and we couldn't possibly give assurances. Furthermore, since the Soviet Union has indicated that they are not in control of the situation, we must have freedom of action.

Bundy: Yes. Would you press on to direct action against Cuba?

Ball: Well, I think it could lead there. But leave the second stage business; then we would start in on pressures on the Cubans. In the meantime, with a kind of tacit understanding with the SU, this may be the best course. I don't think that is an impossible direction.

Bundy: Nor do I.

Ball: I will get some of this stuff pulled together.

Bundy: I think we would do better not to try to do contingency planning; although the President wants work to go on, he won't sit still for the thing that he doesn't know and what I would say to him today is what I would like to do is to ask the Department, let your office be the center, to be the center of production of a respectable plan for a situation in which these things become Cuban property and we react accordingly. I think that probably is the likeliest development. If they say they will get them out, our whole planning problem changes. I think the President's view is that he would buy this if it doesn't lead him to a nose-to-nose with the Soviets, and he would want the strongest program that doesn't do that. I'll talk to him along those lines.

Ball: This, I think, is the best possibility.

Bundy: I'll talk to him along those lines. I think we will probably have to have an Executive Committee meeting later this afternoon,(5) for news and wrap up for the weekend the best we can. He is not going to Glen Ora until tomorrow midday. I think he would probably want to get the thing organized this afternoon if he can. Do you see any objection to that? The President does not want to take a weekend, I am sure, in any way that would complicate process, but the UN isn't going to be a lively forum, and Mikoyan hasn't come back, etc.

Ball: We just have too many unknowns in the equation.

Bundy: That is the way I feel about it.

1 November 10 and 11. Back

2 Reference is to Khrushchev's November 12 reply (Document 171) to Kennedy's letter of November 6 (Document 155). Back

3 The report of his discussions with Castro. Back

4 See footnote 3, Document 160. Back

5 There was no Executive Committee meeting the afternoon of November 9. Back

Source: Department of State, Ball Files: Lot 74 D 272, Telephone Conversations--Cuba. No classification marking.

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