The Cuban Missile Crisis
Letter From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy


Moscow, November 14, 1962.

I have read with great satisfaction the reply of the President of the United States(1) and I agree with the considerations expressed by the President. It is of particular pleasure to me that we seem to have the same desire to liquidate as soon as possible the state of tension and normalize the situation so that to untie our hands for normal work and for solving those questions that are awaiting their solution. And this depends in the main on agreement between us--the two greatest powers in the world with whom special responsibility for ensuring peace lies to a greater degree than with other countries.

The question of the withdrawal of the IL-28's within mentioned 30 days does not constitute any complicated question. Yet this period will probably not be sufficient. As I already said in my oral message(2) I can assure the President that those planes will be removed from Cuba with all the equipment and flying personnel. It can be done in 2-3 months. But for me, for our country, it would be a great relief if the state of tension that evolved in the Caribbean were liquidated as soon as possible. I have in mind what I have already said, namely: to lift immediately the quarantine, that is, blockade; to stop the flights of the US planes over Cuba; to write down the mutual commitments ensuing from the messages of the President and mine of October 27 and 28(3) to which end your representatives and ours have to prepare with the participation of the UN acting Secretary General U Thant an appropriate document. This is the main thing now.

You understand that when we say that it is necessary to announce now the withdrawal of the IL-28's at the time when your planes are flying over Cuba it creates for us no small difficulties. I have no doubt that you will understand--and the Cuban Government understands this--that such actions constitute violation of sovereignty of the Cuban state. Therefore it would be a reasonable step to create in this respect also conditions for the normalization of the situation and this in a great degree would make it easier to meet your wish of expediting the withdrawal of the IL-28 planes from Cuba.

If we attained all that now and if this were announced, then more favourable conditions would be created for our country to solve the question of time table for the withdrawal of IL-28 planes.

Now our main difficulties lie precisely in the fact that, as it is well known to everybody and it is being rightfully pointed out to us, we have removed from Cuba missiles and warheads, that is, we have fulfilled our commitments while the US is not carrying out its commitments--the quarantine continues, the US planes continue to fly over Cuba and there is no agreement that would register the pledges of the US. And all this finds ears that are listening and listening attentively. It is difficult for us to give explanations to such unjustifiable state of affairs. Therefore to carry out the final procedure after the missiles and warheads have been removed, already now the quarantine must be lifted, the flights of the American planes over Cuba must be stopped and mutual commitments of the sides must be written down in an appropriate document with the participation of the UN.

It is hard to say for me what specific agreement is possible on the question of UN observation posts. But we as well as the Government of Cuba have already expressed a desire to come to terms on this question. If the question of the observation posts is of interest to the US--and I think it must be of interest--then I consider it wise to come to an agreement on this. I think that the Government of Cuba will not object to the UN posts, of course on the condition of respect for the sovereignty of Cuba, on the condition of treating her as equal which must mean that on the territory of other countries of the Caribbean and in a corresponding region of the US there will be also set up similar UN posts, that is on the condition that reciprocity will be observed in this question.

You understand, Mr. President, that no country can assume unilateral commitments, and it would be wise to make them mutual.

I have already said that perhaps it will be necessary for us in the negotiations on disarmament between our countries at the first stage to return to our proposals providing for the establishment of posts at airfields, in major sea-ports, at railway junctions, on highways in order to give guarantees to all the countries of the world that no country will be able to secretly concentrate troops and get prepared for an attack against or invasion of another country. It is wise, it appeals to us.

If you would give your representatives--McCloy, Stevenson and others--appropriate instructions on the question of UN posts in the Caribbean region and adjoining regions of the US--and our representatives have such instructions--and if they would come to an agreement then all this could be made public. Then there would be removed the difficulties connected with making a public announcement on the withdrawal of IL-28 planes and we would name then specific dates. These dates will be probably much closer than those which I name and maybe even closer than those which were named by you.

That is why we should make a final step in this direction. Then we would really cut the knot which was tied tightly enough and having cut it we would create normal relations between our countries to which our people aspire and which your people, we are sure of that, also want.

I will allow myself to express some other considerations and I believe you will not take offense and will not consider that I intrude too much into the sphere of our internal affairs. Voting in the elections to the Senate, the House of Representatives and in gubernatorial elections which just took place has resulted in the defeat of your former rival who was clearly preparing again for the next presidential elections. It is significant that as a result of the elections precisely those candidates were defeated who, if I may use such an expression, were making most frenzied bellicose speeches.

This indicates that the American people already begin to feel that if the arms race continues further, if a reasonable solution is not found and an understanding is not achieved between our countries then our peoples will feel still more strongly the threat of the dreadful catastrophe of a thermo-nuclear war.

Let us then not keep people of peace all over the world in suspense, let us give them joyous satisfaction. Having cut the knot in the Caribbean we would thereby immediately create better conditions and would reinforce people's hope for coping with other questions which are now awaiting their solution. Peoples expect wisdom from us, first of all from our two states. Of course our two states can not do everything, but all that depends on us in the sense of reaching an understanding will be of decisive importance. Needless to prove that other states would be also satisfied. And he who was especially displeased will have to agree after this understanding is reached that there is no other way of meeting the aspirations of all states, all peoples.


1 Apparent reference to Document 155. Back

2 Document 171. Back

3 See Documents 95 and 102. Back

4 Printed from an unsigned copy. Back

Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, USSR, Khrushchev Correspondence (Cuba), Vol. I-C, 11/3/62-11/16/62. No classification marking. At 4:35 p.m., Ball telephoned McGeorge Bundy to say that "Bobby [Kennedy] has an answer [from Khrushchev], which is not too encouraging. It keeps it wrapped up." Bundy told Ball that the President wanted the Under Secretary and Thompson to come to the White House to look over Khrushchev's message with the President and Rusk. (Memorandum of telephone conversation between Ball and Bundy; November 14; Department of State, Ball Files: Lot 74 D 272, Telephone Conversations--Cuba)

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