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Director McCone presented the intelligence summary.
Upon being informed that Castro's letter to the UN Acting Secretary General had been released to the press,(1) the President authorized the immediate release of a statement covering our continuing aerial surveillance of Cuba. The President asked that any reply to Castro's letter be made by the OAS.(2)
The members read a summary of the current status of the negotiations on the removal from Cuba of the IL-28 bombers.(3)
The President asked how we would prove that strategic missiles would not be reintroduced into Cuba. Secretary Rusk said we could watch the Russian ships with big hatches and [1 line of source text not declassified] monitor the unloading of Russian ships. General Taylor said we should continue low-level reconnaissance. As to a Latin American nuclear-free zone, the President said Ambassador Stevenson had predicted that the UN would not accept this idea.
There was a discussion of the Soviet suggestion that the inspection of Cuba by the UN be matched by similar inspection of the U.S.(4) The point was made that inspection of Cuba and the U.S. cannot be equated. If inspection of the U.S. were to be allowed, we would have to insist on inspecting Russian ports from which the missile ships could sail. The question was asked whether we would be prepared to accept inspection of Guantanamo Base, of Cuban camps in the U.S. and of Puerto Rico.
Secretary Rusk said that the short-term problem of inspection of offensive missiles related only to Cuba. The long-term problem of inspecting to prevent the reintroduction of missiles might be done by a UN commission charged with maintaining peace in the Caribbean. This commission might look at all complaints that peace in the area was being disturbed. Thus, the commission would not be limited geographically to Cuba but could inspect in the U.S. and in Latin American countries.
The President said that it appeared the Soviets were offering inspection in Cuba in return for inspection in Florida. Mr. Bundy said we might discuss some reciprocal inspection which we would not be prepared to implement as long as Castro was in Cuba.
The Attorney General commented that aerial reconnaissance upsets both the Russians and Castro. He predicted that Castro would accept inspection.
The President repeated his view that we should not give a pledge not to invade Cuba until we have adequate assurances protecting us against the reintroduction of strategic missiles. He asked whether we could not insist that only Cuba be inspected.
The Attorney General said he did not think that we could sell to the American people an inspection of Florida. Any adequate inspection must include not only Cuba but also two or three Soviet ports.
Secretary Rusk suggested that we not try to spell out the geographical limitations of the inspection. The President responded that we would have to limit inspection to Florida in any proposal that we might consider.
Mr. McCone expressed his concern that the Soviet military base would remain in Cuba. He considered this a more important consideration than the IL-28 bombers. If we allow a continuing Soviet military presence in Cuba we must have an inspection system. The SAM sites could ensure that we could not use U-2s to tell us of any military buildup. Without the U-2s, the Russians could secretly build up their forces in the interior of Cuba.
Mr. McCloy expressed his view that the Soviet military presence in Cuba will die on the vine. With the missiles and the IL-28 bombers removed, the remainder of the Soviet forces would then be withdrawn. The best Russian equipment now in Cuba will gradually be withdrawn because it was put there to guard the strategic missiles.
Mr. McCone expressed a reservation by pointing out that the Russians may have decided to use Cuba as a staging area for subversion in Latin America.
The President said we had the alternative of making a realistic proposal or a proposal which we know in advance they would reject and therefore provide grounds for us to hold back on any assurance against invasion. He asked what effect the two courses of action would have on our worldwide policy toward the USSR.
Ambassador Thompson replied that Khrushchev must decide shortly which road to go down. He needs to get the Cuban problem buttoned down and go on to other problems in order to continue along the existing coexistence line.
Secretary Rusk argued that we should stay put on our present position of lifting the quarantine in return for getting the IL-28 bombers out of Cuba. He would hold off on proposals covering the long-term inspection problem. He pointed out that a UN presence in Cuba had been turned down, that the proposal to have the International Red Cross conduct the inspection had been turned down, that the UN proposal to name five Latin American Ambassadors as inspectors, and later any five Ambassadors as inspectors, had also been rejected. He said it was not necessary for us to keep on making new proposals. He opposed any Cuba/Florida inspection deal now. He urged that we stay where we are and felt that we should continue to support an arrangement based on reciprocity rather than on geography.
The President pointed out that our policy of not giving an invasion assurance until we have acceptable inspection arrangements puts Khrushchev under heavy pressure. Secretary Rusk replied that we should be in no hurry to work out long-range arrangements. Khrushchev knows we are not going to invade Cuba. We should keep the situation fluid in the event that the Soviets come to favor a coup in Cuba. In such event they would want assurances that we would not interfere with their staged coup.
The President said it would be all right to wait unless Khrushchev is blocked on negotiations on other problems and if he is not further pushed by the Communist Chinese.
Secretary Dillon doubted that our negotiations with the Russians over Cuba would affect the Russians' worldwide policy.
Mr. McCloy expressed Ambassador Stevenson's view of the current situation:
a. The negotiations in New York are deadlocked.
b. The Soviets can't deliver arrangements for on-site inspection because of Castro's opposition, and hence, we can't give assurances against invasion. We can give a conditional assurance if the Soviets continue to behave, i.e., take out the missiles, move to take out the IL-28 bombers, and assure us there are no nuclear warheads in Cuba.
c. There has been considerable talk about a nuclear-free zone, but if we choose to support this idea, we will have to go through the OAS and this will take a considerable amount of time.
Secretary Rusk called attention to the difficulty of formulating any statement about our not invading Cuba. If we put in the conditions which we must, the statement comes out sounding as if we were all ready to invade.
The President asked that a statement covering our policy toward invasion be prepared for his use at his Tuesday press conference.(5) If we have no agreement from the Russians, the statement would take one form. If the Russians have agreed in New York to our current position, Mr. McCloy could tell the Russians what the President was planning to say at his press conference, namely, we will invade Cuba only if it becomes a military threat to its neighbors or if civil war develops. The President said that we would understand privately that such a position would cover only the next two years. Reference should be made to the President's September 13th statement which said that pending arms verification arrangements in Cuba, we would continue our overflights unobtrusively.
The President suggested that we give to Kuznetsov the evidence we have of the Soviet military presence in Cuba. He asked that the State Department spell out exactly what we would accept as verification of Soviet arms in Cuba.
Mr. McCloy said we scared the Russians off their insistence on a protocol containing our invasion assurances by telling them that a protocol would require Congressional approval.
The President said he did not want any protocol on the invasion guarantee but merely a statement of our position. He asked that by Tuesday there be a detailed response to accusations that Soviet missiles are being hidden in Cuban caves. He said Mr. McCloy should ask the Russians in New York what their intentions are concerning their continued military presence in Cuba. He also said we needed to be in a position to respond to a Brazilian proposal for an atom-free zone.
The President asked for an analysis of the Soviet-Chinese differences including an estimate of the effect of the split on Khrushchev's authority and on Communist parties worldwide.
Secretary McNamara requested authority for high-level flights but said he did not favor flying low-level missions. General Taylor reported that the Chiefs wanted to continue low-level missions. Secretary McNamara said the decision should be made on political grounds rather than military. The President decided to suspend low-level flights planned for tomorrow in the expectation that we might receive a reply from Khrushchev today. High-level flights were authorized.
Concluding a discussion on what we would do if a surveillance plane were shot at or destroyed, the President accepted Secretary McNamara's recommendation that we defer a decision on the proposed courses of action until we have further word from Khrushchev with respect to the negotiations in New York.(6)
2 A statement justifying surveillance and promising continuation of aircraft surveillance of Cuba was released by the Department of State through spokesman Joseph Reap at 12:23 p.m. on November 16. Back
6 McGeorge Bundy prepared a record of action of this meeting, November 16. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Executive Committee, Vol. III, Meetings, 24-32a) Back
Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Executive Committee, Vol. III, Meetings, 25-32a. Top Secret; Sensitive.