The Cuban Missile Crisis
Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State


New York, November 19, 1962, 1 a.m.

1856. Department pass White House. Eyes only for the Secretary. Cuba--meeting between McCloy and Kuznetsov, Sunday, November 18, 1962.

Arrived at Soviet residence, old George Pratt Estate at Locust Valley, accompanied by Mrs. McCloy and son. Met by Kuznetsov, Zorin, Mrs. Zorin, Mendelevich, Morozov and translator Zherebtsov. Played Russian billiards and then had lunch. After lunch in presence of Kuznetsov, Zorin, Mendelevich and translator we had coffee and talk, which was conducted entirely in English.

Kuznetsov said he thought we were stalling in our negotiations; that they felt they had done all that could be expected of them and we had done very little to bring about rapid solution of Cuban problem. Then Kuznetsov said he would like to ask McCloy his impression of where we stood. McCloy said that he was glad to have opportunity to tell Kuznetsov just where he thought we stood.

In first place, we were getting nowhere by constant repetition on their part that they had done everything and we had done nothing. This simply not case and reiteration merely interfered with progress. It was necessary state what we had done.

In spite of assurances we had received directly from highest levels of Soviet Government no offensive weapons in Cuba and more specifically no weapons there capable of reaching targets in U.S. Soviet nuclear weapons had been secretly introduced into Cuba at same time we were receiving these assurances. Yet President, who was shocked by this revelation, did not thereupon take direct action against these weapons as we had full capacity to do. Instead President, although misled by these assurances, determined upon action which gave both sides time to work matter out. This was first important thing that we had done. This was done in spite of continuation of Mr. Zorin's false position in UN.

Next, we had advised Kuznetsov that on temporary basis and in order to avoid direct confrontation with Soviet ships we had worked out hail and pass arrangement in connection with quarantine on Soviet assurance that no more weapons were being introduced into Cuba from Soviet Union. President had done this to relieve tensions and we were glad to note that Soviet Premier had responded in kind by prompt action in taking out 42 missiles which Soviets stated they had introduced into Cuba, as well as providing for reasonable means checkout at sea.

Next, President, in spite of fact that Soviet Premier had committed himself to removal of jet bombers as weapons that we considered offensive, offered to raise quarantine on assurance from Soviet Premier that orders had been given to remove bombers within limited period. This major concession on part of President as he had stated and it had been agreed in the October 27-28 exchange that quarantine would not be lifted and assurance against invasion given until there had been UN verification on ground of removal of weapons and adequate assurance against their reintroduction. Soviet Premier had stated that weapons were to be removed under UN observation but no steps leading to this observation had been accomplished due large part to obduracy of Cuban Government. Although we felt Soviet Union in position to compel Cuba to permit such observation we aware irresponsibility of Castro and have sincerely attempted to cooperate with Soviet Union pending such time as verification worked out. This problem related to Soviet commitment to provide adequate arrangements to guard against reintroduction of weapons. We aware this not easy problem but must be solved and does no good to pretend that problem does not exist or that one can act as if prior conditions had already been fulfilled. They have not been.

Removal of bombers cannot be indefinitely postponed based on accomplishment of some vague future event. Offer to lift quarantine very difficult step for President to take inasmuch as he had announced to nation that lifting of quarantine was dependent upon UN observation and upon receipt of adequate assurance against reintroduction of weapons. In other words, President was prepared to waive one of preconditions even though public opinion throughout US demanding that no relief from quarantine be given until all conditions met. President had taken this action largely in response to Soviet Premier's prompt and effective action largely in regard to missiles. This action shows we are neither trying to starve out Cubans nor to be unresponsive to any constructive action taken by Soviet Union. If this offer does not result in removal of bombers President will have no choice but to reimpose quarantine in fully effective form. Effort to relate removal of bombers to some final conclusions regarding verification and arrangements for guaranteeing against reintroduction is no more appropriate than it would have been to delay removal of missiles. McCloy suggested though he could not commit his government it might be possible to work arrangements out for checking out bombers without stopping Soviet ships as had been arrangement with missiles. McCloy then stated that President was going to have a press conference this Tuesday;(1) that he had postponed it in the interest of giving Soviets ample opportunity to respond to his request regarding IL-28's but on Tuesday he will have to say something about bombers. President will be placed in very difficult position if not able to say that Soviets have agreed to get bombers out without further conditions. If he cannot do this it will put in question whether in fact we have an agreement with Soviet Union in regard to removal of offensive weapons from Cuba.

McCloy next referred to assurances that we were prepared to give in regard to invasion. First, he made it clear we were not going to have anything to do with so-called document for which Zorin had been pressing,(2) presenting as it does a lot of things never mentioned or covered in letters of October 27-28 and including in very thinly disguised form conditions Castro has insisted upon before he will cooperate in any way with settlement of issue which he did so much to create. We will not sign any document embodying these or any other such conditions. We prepared to give our solemn declaration in UN based upon Soviet declaration and fulfillment of conditions precedented that have so often been specifically stated. Cubans can make any declarations they see fit in UN or elsewhere but we will not be a party to them. Castro has defied Soviet Union, US and UN and any proposal to conform to his wishes in return for this defiance is out of the question. Certainly it is nothing with which US can be associated.

US prepared, assuming we can dispose of the IL-28 matter, to sit down with Soviet representatives and attempt to draw our respective declarations in UN. We will do all we can to hasten and record them. US declaration will be very simple. It will be not to invade, assuming fulfillment of conditions and we will be prepared to recommend to or use our good offices in connection with other Western Hemisphere countries to take same position as we do assuming Cuba does not institute aggression against them. We should not have much trouble in dealing with wording of declaration but are only wasting time in talking about any such document as has been presented to US by Kuznetsov. McCloy also referred to fact that any suggestion of document with two or three signatories appended to it such as was suggested by Soviet Union would take on character of treaty which might well require consent of two-thirds of Senate and it might be years before such consent could be obtained. Moreover, in McCloy's judgment would never be recommended to Senate by President. Way to proceed is to get IL-28 issue settled and they would find US quick to give our best thought to next steps to wind up whole transaction.

There was no doubt that we have problem in connection with verification and reintroduction but suggestion that in order to obtain Castro's consent we should have reciprocal UN observation in US as well as in Cuba is something entirely new and never contemplated by October 27-28 exchange. We should not attempt to appease Castro in this form. No inspection of US would be reciprocal without inspection also of Soviet Union.

At this point McCloy said that one of reasons that caused US to look carefully at assurances regarding reintroduction of weapons into Cuba was full development now of our information in regard to extent of Soviet military presence in Cuba. We were not introducing any new conditions but we were pointing out that military presence there so far transcended any technician status that we had to be cautious about this matter of reintroduction. We had confirmed presence of Soviet combat command and presence of number of fully manned Soviet combat teams organized in precisely same manner as army units in Soviet Union. We have identified units and at proper time we would be prepared to give evidence of this military command before UN or elsewhere. We were convinced that introduction of these units and formation of this command was component of whole attempt to change nuclear balance by introduction of nuclear weapons into Cuba. They bore no relation to the defense of Cuba as such but were part of defense of Soviet missile batteries that have been installed in Cuba.

There could be no hope of "normalization" of conditions in Caribbean as long as these units were there in this form and quantity. As long as they were there possibility of another surreptitious reintroduction of nuclear weapons into Cuba which these units would again be in position to defend, exists. Soviet Union must therefore understand our caution in regard to assurance against reintroduction of these weapons and giving of our own assurance against invasion. McCloy emphasized we were not introducing any new conditions but were simply pointing out emphasis which we had to place on presence of these units and their relation to matter of reintroduction of nuclear weapons.

We are quite as anxious as Soviet Union to wind up this transaction for there are number of things we ought to be discussing in order to keep this situation from arising again. Today it is Cuba and combination of this bearded figure who is dictator in Cuba and certain miscalculation on part of Soviet Union that almost brought us to war. Tomorrow it may be something else. In this connection McCloy said he was concerned about Chinese-Indian war. This seemed to be reaching very substantial proportions. It could easily develop into something that would cause both of us trouble in future and he wondered what thinking of Soviet Union was in regard to this. It may not be too soon for us to exchange some thoughts about it so that we would not have to act hastily and without careful prior thought if we were faced with some development there that again challenged peace of the world. Did Kuznetsov have any thoughts about China and how this war could be kept from becoming new threat to peace?

To this Kuznetsov responded that this situation caused them some concern. That was problem that troubled them and perhaps at some time some discussion could be undertaken about it. Said that this was his view but he could not speak for his government at this point. He added, however, that it was situations such as this that pointed to necessity for concluding Cuban affair promptly so that other matters and problems of concern to us both could be faced with benefit of successful solution of Cuban problem behind us.

Kuznetsov then repeated position of Soviet Union; namely, that they were prepared to consider removal of IL-28's but that this must be done in connection with solution of other problems relating to Cuba. They would like to have removal coincide with final solution. He repeated that they had impression that we were merely putting up one obstacle after another and if IL-28 matter were solved we would have another precondition. At this point he said that we should undertake at time IL-28's were removed to stop our overflights.

McCloy said he was disappointed Soviets were still attempting to postpone dealing with bombers until all problems connected with verification and reintroduction were settled. This would take some time and we would have to have some consultation with other countries in this hemisphere before we could give all assurances against invasion that Soviet Union was seeking. McCloy again referred to need for clearing up this matter before President's Tuesday press conference. Though it was clear that Kuznetsov had no authority to accept proposal in regard to IL-28's which had been offered, he did ask McCloy to repeat just what offer consisted of, which was done.

Kuznetsov came back to U Thant's proposal for reciprocal UN observation and each time he did McCloy said he found great difficulties with it and stressed necessity if there was to be UN observation in US there had also to be reciprocity UN observation in Soviet Union.

Kuznetsov said in regard to assurance against reintroduction he did not know what Soviet Union could do except to solemnly declare it was not going to reintroduce weapons and asked what other guarantees we had in mind.

Kuznetsov also said he wanted to repeat at this time that he was now authorized to say that no nuclear weapons whatsoever were any longer on territory of Cuba. Please, he said, do not complicate situation by insisting upon interminable inspection on ground. It would be impossible to go all over Cuba turning over every stone, looking into every cave and into every bathroom to determine whether nuclear weapons still existed there. They were going to reaffirm that all nuclear weapons had been removed and that they were not going to reintroduce them.

McCloy said he wanted to have it clear that we were not in any way contemplating stopping of overflights in Cuba unless and until we were sure that there was not going to be any reintroduction of these weapons. We are doing utmost to keep overflights to minimum but in absence of any adequate verification this was only thing we could do and he repeated that overflights had probably saved us from war and they might do so again. McCloy made it clear that we would return fire if our planes were shot at; that we were going to do as we had been doing in past, i.e., keep overflights to minimum necessary to protect ourselves and hemisphere.

Kuznetsov was cordial throughout. Zorin was as difficult as ever. At end Kuznetsov said that he was glad to have had this frank discussion of our position; that he was troubled about our position in regard to verification and assurances against reintroduction as he could see how discussions in regard to these might go on interminably with our putting up obstacles to giving our assurance against invasion.

We left with no understanding in regard to future meeting and with no indication from Kuznetsov that they would give way in regard to IL-28's other than to say that they would consider removal of IL-28's in connection with solution of verification and reintroduction problems.

McCloy asked Kuznetsov if he had any word about Mikoyan. Kuznetsov said he still had no definite word as to when he was coming back.


1 See footnote 2, Document 189. Back

2 The text of this document was transmitted in telegram 1798 from USUN, November 15. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/11-1562) See the Supplement. Back

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.56361/11-1962. Top Secret; Priority. Received at 2:32 a.m. Passed to the White House at 2:44 a.m.

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