The Cuban Missile Crisis
Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Among the Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Stevenson), the Under Secretary of State (Ball), and the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)


November 9, 1962, 12:30 p.m.

AES: We had a long one last night. The report was sketchy on it.(1) They started off by trying to inject right away at the outset the guarantees and wanted to know why we evaded the subject, etc. Then we brought it around to the IL-28s and the other items we were interested in, and they keep pulling it back to the guarantee and set forth all of Castro's points in their language. We kept it right on the language of the letters. We broke up with another deadlock. Now they have asked for an emergency meeting for 1:30.(2) I think we are at a point where unless something breaks in Havana or Moscow, or unless they have something new to present today (it might be Mikoyan's return or something from Moscow, I don't know), we are at the point that they have said all the warheads relating to the missiles have been withdrawn. Whether there are any aerial bombs withdrawn they don't say on that. We are at a point where we have [to] decide on the subject of the warheads. Whether we are willing to accept a certification that all warheads from planes have been withdrawn and won't be reintroduced, or whether we have to take a position later on the IL-28s; and then do we have another problem in the post-facto verification. Then the question of continuing safeguards. On that we have come to the conclusion there is nothing we can do [sic] their promise they won't reintroduce these weapons until we get around to some inspection system regarding a nuclear-free zone or some other action through the UN. If there is some other idea on that, we would like to know what it is.

Ball: I think that here it is certainly not accepted that we could simply take their word for it because of the fact that in the President's letter itself he specified as one of the conditions some continuing safeguards. I think what the real posture probably is that unless they are willing to provide for some kind of continuing inspection on the ground which, with Cuban cooperation, might be worked out under the UN arrangement, that we would have to continue to assure ourselves of the situation through the closest kind of surveillance, which would mean continued aerial reconnaissance, etc. I would hope we would not have to be too specific at the moment.

AES: I wouldn't agree altogether, if I may say so. I think we would continue the surveillance without arguing and announce publicly.

Ball: I think that is probably right, as far as any specifications of the surveillance is concerned, but I think that we reserve the point on safeguards on the assumption that they have to be some kind of arrangements or something of the sort on the ground.

AES: That immediately becomes reciprocal with them, and they say, well how about mutual observation on your ground?

Ball: On this one, I would avoid getting into any specification on the thing.

AES: We can't avoid it.

Ball: The reason why they are pressing so hard on Castro's five points, etc. is to make a record for the negotiations in Cuba that they want to be able to go back and tell Castro that they fought his battle to the bitter end, but that there is no give on our side. I think the way to get a clear definition of position here, which we are going to try to do later this afternoon, but certainly our tentative strategic direction is to say that as far as the Russians are concerned they are doing what they can subject to their being able to control Castro. We have the option of accepting their arguments that they can't control Castro or trying to take the position that Castro is, after all, just a creature of theirs and holding them to the performance themselves. We should insist that we still have to have the safeguards provided in the arrangement, which means some form of ground inspection and some form of being able to satisfy ourselves against reintroduction. This is something we would then have to work out with Castro. But since the guarantees are for the benefit of Castro, without Castro's cooperation in these things, we couldn't possibly give securities. The advantage of this course is that it permits the Russians to disengage if they want to which would leave us free to pursue other subjects with them without the embarrassment of the Cuban problem, while reserving freedom of action on our own part to deal with Castro.

AES: There are two problems here. One is how we liquidate our deal with the Russians as to ground inspection. I don't think we should talk about surveillance.

Ball: I agree. What we have to say to them is that we obviously cannot give assurances as long as Castro is in position on the IL-28s which are an offensive weapon and could be used against the other LA countries and against us, nor can we give such assurances unless we have some ability to safeguard ourselves against the reintroduction of weapons into Cuba. If we are unable to work these things out with Castro, then there is really a problem if the decision is in Castro's hands and it leaves the problem between Castro and ourselves.

AES: All right. This is exactly where we are. We are not a fraction of an inch ahead. The question is whether we go any farther today.

Johnson: I think we have to wait to see what they say at 1:30, whether there has been any reflection from the exchange.

AES: I wonder if you think the time has come that we talk about the alternative of verification of warheads by ship inspection as we proposed and the aerial bombs, or whether we would be inclined to take their certification.

Johnson: I wouldn't do that yet.

Ball: I don't see how we can. I don't see how we could ever defend it.

Johnson: If we get the IL-28 question resolved, then we might consider what is fact--that you have no way of verification. They have no means of delivery.

AES: Your feeling is as far as today's meeting is concerned you don't go any farther than we have?

Ball: Right.

1 See Document 163. Back

2 The emergency meeting turned out to be merely a protest by Kuznetsov over the way that three U.S. naval commanders were intercepting Russian ships, see Document 166. Back

Source: Department of State, Ball Files: Lot 74 D 272, Telephone Conversations--Cuba. No classification marking. Stevenson was in New York; Ball and Johnson were in Washington.

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