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


November 13, 1962.

Stevenson--Kuznetsov started by saying that he had a very serious protest against the over-flights over Cuba.(1) They were unlawful in that they violated Cuban airspace, and they would only make negotiations more difficult. The Soviets understood the categorical objections of the Cubans, and these were a violation of the feelings and integrity of the Cubans. They complicated settlement, and we should stop them now. The Soviets have fulfilled all their obligations. The Americans have no convincing arguments for continuing such over-flights which only injure the feelings of the Cubans and increase tension. He hopes the US will consider this protest with due attention. Our answer was that the President's letter provides for UN observation and supervision of the fulfillment of this agreement. That has not been possible because the Soviet Union was unable to make such arrangements; we have had to use this means of reassuring ourselves that there was in fact compliance. These flights are in fact, Jack McCloy said, an element of stability. They have given us our only assurance of compliance. They have enabled us to detect what went, what was going on in Cuba, and we must continue to use these over-flights until the IL-28's are removed and any suggestion that they should be ended is most disquieting.

Ball--Did we just put it on the removal of the IL-28's?

Stevenson--No, that they should be ended. He said is most disquieting.

Ball--But you didn't say that we would have to continue until the IL-28's were removed.

Stevenson--That was sort of the tenor of what was said. Had it not been for these, we might have been at war, etc. Kuznetsov said regarding on-site inspection by the UN and the allegations that the Soviets did not fulfill its obligation, the obligation stated in Khruschev's letters of Oct. 27 and 28(2) on which they base their position. In the letter of the 27th he spoke of agreement in principal for verification and stressed that it could be done only by agreement of the Cubans. On Oct. 28, he referred to the letter of the 27th, and then he went on to say that he believes that the Soviets have made many efforts to prove that they are doing everything to come to an agreement with the US in order to assure us that the obligations would be fulfilled. They have made many steps forward. They permitted ship-side verification of the removal of the missiles, and that he is here to explain our position and settle this problem. He believes that all conditions have been created to solve all of our questions in a spirit of mutual confidence in order to normalize the situation in the Caribbean. All the Soviet acts show is, that its obligations have been fulfilled. They had gone further than the agreement in the letter in fact by removing the missiles when the President had only asked for them to be rendered inoperative and the sites dismantled. Then he started off on the usual say about the IL-28's not being offensive, but only defensive, and he volunteered to tell us in detail why they could not be included, were not included, in the agreement between Khrushchev and Kennedy. He said that the flights over Cuba don't create stability. They are over foreign territories; they create indignation and disrespect for the sovereignty and are a violation of the Charter and international law. They can lead only to further aggravation of the situation. If the parties could come to an agreement, all people would be relieved. As to the proposition that the U-2 had prevented war, what had prevented war was the patience and understanding of K and K, and that they had noted that the leaders could come to agreement quickly, so all questions could be decided if there was a desire to settle them on both sides. They don't think that the U-2 violation of air-space eases tensions; it only aggravates them. He recalled the incident of May, 1960 and the increased tensions resulting from the failure of the Summit Conference in Paris. Also, the recent U-2 flights over the Soviet Union didn't make the situation more favorable. Also the low altitude planes before the eyes of the Cubans are a source of great irritation. Continued flights indicate that the US does not recognize international law and that they are not in the interest of peace or settlement about Cuba. They cannot be justified. In answer we said, we quoted the letters of Oct. 27 and 28 on the agreement for UN observation and supervision to verify compliance. This position was not objected to by Khrushchev in his final letter. We had tried to accommodate the USSR by ship-side inspection and aerial reconnaissance in lieu of on-site inspection by the UN. McCloy referred again to the fact that these photos had helped stability; they disclosed facts that had been denied and the secrecy with which these weapons had been placed, and suggested that they now be stopped before other assurances contemplated by the agreement were completed would be very disquieting. I said that the way to stop these aggravations of Cuba is to conclude this agreement to remove the weapons as quickly as possible. We had tried to accommodate the realities of the situation to help conclude it, and that we expected them to do the same. The best hope for an improved climate is to end this episode as quickly as possible, and to let us hear the Soviet proposals for safeguards against reintroduction of these weapons in the future. As long as these negotiations go on, people are not reassured. All differences have in fact been isolated. We know our respective positions; now let's settle them. Kuznetsov said that he agreed on desirability of prompt solution; that they were making every effort to solve; if the matter were still prolonged, it was the US that doesn't show the same approach to the desirability of the solution that they did. I referred to the President's letter of Oct. 27 with regard to the removal of the quarantine without delay and as to the UN, that they had agreed to stop building the bases and to dismantle them, and that he had gone even further, that they had actually withdrawn the weapons, the missiles from Cuba. That that could have been done only on a final settlement after verification by the UN, had they chosen to interpret the agreement that way. In other words, the Soviet Union has done everything possible to complete the agreement. Then he went on to say--what shall we do to come to a quick agreement. We have been waiting to hear from you so long. The US had fulfilled obligations in some document to be presented to the Security Council. The Soviets bear no responsibility toward the delay. That they too could put forward many questions to prolong the agony if they wanted to. The time has come to agree on all matters and draft a document for the Security Council. They said they wanted to clarify the position of the Soviets on other questions. They discussed McCloy's thing (the open sky proposal) that there should be no secrecy and that to achieve this we have to complete disarmament. The US had refused to accept their proposals to start such observation over some parts of the United States and the SU; also the Soviet proposal to establish observation posts together with certain disarmament measures. These had also been rejected by the United States. Regarding the reconnaissance flights over Cuba, what would be the reaction of the United States if the Soviets overflew our bases all around the Soviet Union? They said that Mr. McCloy said that flights over the Caribbean clarified the situation. If that is so, why do we continue? The way out is to compromise constructive proposals. They asked us what to do to come to quick agreement. That the way to do it was that we would engage in no recriminations about who was responsible to the prolongation of the discussion. That if they didn't know how to do it, we could only repeat what we have said before on many occasions. That was to remove the IL-28s and give assurances with respect to removal of all nuclear components, obtain from Cuba its cooperation for observation, verification, give us their assurances against reintroduction of such weapons and their suggestions for the safeguards for the future. As to what we, the United States, would do--as the agreement says, we would lift the quarantine and then we would give assurances regarding no invasion. Then I went on to say indeed we would lift the quarantine now if the Soviet Union would give us the promise that it was going to remove the IL-28 bombers within, say, three weeks--and the warheads. This was yesterday's proposition, you will recall.


AES--That I would defer any discussions of the open skies until some other time as we had all we could manage to resolve this problem at the present. Jack [McCloy] enlarged on the ending of the quarantine on the assurances of the removal of the IL-28s now. This was a further concession on our part and meanwhile we would have to continue the reconnaissance flights to confirm the fact of removal of the 28s. Then Kuznetsov came back and said regarding the 28s you know our position--that they are defensive weapons and can't be regarded otherwise. And if your experts say to the contrary they are deceiving you and they are deceiving the President; that they are used only for training purposes and coastal defense under antiaircraft cover (almost the same language, by the way, as from the latter). We must be trying to delay working out the final guarantees; that we should be talking about a document containing all of our obligations to be presented to the Security Council. That the United States should say to them how we envision working out such a document contemplated by the letter. Regarding the reintroduction of these weapons into Cuba that they would obey strictly the letter of Chairman Khrushchev. Now as to the IL-28s they will study and they will consider the US suggestion, but they want us to know that the Soviet position (and here are some significant words) "as it now stands" is clear. That we should now discuss the longstanding, outstanding issues (I wasn't sure what he meant). Discuss all the questions to see if we can agree. How do we propose to implement our obligation? In response I listed the things that we expected the Soviet Union to do; that the quarantine was already lifted; that we had only one remaining obligation and that was the declaration of the SC regarding the assurances on invasion. I summarized the outstanding obligations of the Soviet Union--the position that we were in now, which was: (1) that the Soviet Union study the removal of the IL-28s; (2) that if they agreed to remove them, we would lift the quarantine at the time that was proper; (3) that we would expect assurances on the removal of the nuclears; that we would expect assurances against reintroduction of the weapons; that we would expect verification in Cuba; that we would expect proposals regarding future safeguards regarding the reintroduction by anyone; and finally that with all of these accomplished that we would make a declaration regarding assurances on invasion in the SC. As to the language on assurances and safeguards we would refer the matter to Washington and we would be glad to discuss our language along with theirs. Kuznetsov said he was not going to deal with the previous questions which had been reviewed during the afternoon but regarding the IL-28s that he must make a further clarification. He wished the US to understand that they reaffirm their position; that the IL-28s are defensive but that he would report the consideration advanced by the US to his Government and then we adjourned. We got the impression today for the first time it looked as though Mikoyan might be waiting to hear from Kuznetsov on what he could get on the overflights and on the guarantees. I thought on the whole it was a more constructive meeting than we had had since the beginning. At least we isolated the problems that are outstanding and that we got on the table all of the things we expected from them and made it clear that the quarantine was already lifted and our declaration on the invasion would be made in SC. I don't think we are through with Zorin on that. He will probably want to have a further argument on that ahead of us. That was about it. He obviously had been fully briefed on the letter and knew it by heart. He spoke again from documents much of the time (position papers) rather than just free style. I think that you can report to the President that we are back where I was talking about on Friday/3/ by getting the whole package before him, and I think personally it is a very good thing and we will now begin to hear one by one as to what they are going to reject and what they are going to take. I rather think they are going to go along on the ILs but we will have arguments on the form of assurance and probably they will never be able to concede the aerial surveillance. They can't do that and we will just have to go on arguing that.

GWB--They are probably doing this so that they can tell Mikoyan they made a protest.

AES--Yes, I think that is right. It did occur to me that while they were making this protest that depending on what other considerations may be involved that I am not clear about that if we can slow up a little for a day and run high instead of low it might be a good thing--to see if we can bring them along on agreement on the ILs.

GWB--Well, let me see what we can do on that.

AES--If you can just tell them to leave out the low flights tomorrow and to confine it to the U-2s . . . . At least that is my judgment.

GWB--I think there may be something in that.

AES--I think Jack disagrees with me on that. He doesn't think we ought to change our practices. It seems to me that maybe this is the time when they might be in a crisis there with Castro and that anything that would help there to get agreement on the ILs. I don't know if it is the thing . . . . (checking with McCloy) He feels that if they think they should run low, go ahead and do it. If they don't feel that they have to, then it would be a good idea to ease up a bit. We will send you an overnight on this.

GWB--I'll report this to the President. I think it sounds a little encouraging.

AES--If he wants anything directly on atmosphere, etc. he can call me.

1 This meeting was summarized in telegram 1762 from USUN, November 13, 8 p.m. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/11-1362) See the Supplement. There is also a 25-page memorandum of conversation of the meeting, which lasted from 3:15 to 6:40 p.m., in USUN airgram 24, November 14, 2:30 a.m. (USUN Files: NYFRC 84-84-001, Outgoing Telegrams, 1953-1963) Back

2 Documents 91 and 102. Back

3 November 9; see Document 165. Back

Source: Department of State, Ball Files: Lot 74 D 272, Telephone Conversations--Cuba. No classification marking. Stevenson was in New York; Ball was in Washington. There is no time on the dateline of the memorandum, but the call had to have taken place after 6:40 p.m. when the meeting between Stevenson and Kuznetsov concluded.

127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.