The Cuban Missile Crisis
Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between the Chairman of the Coordinating Committee (McCloy) and the Under Secretary of State (Ball)


Washington, December 5, 1962, 5:30 p.m.

McC: I feel very strongly we are losing ground by this delay, and I feel that what we ought to do . . . I think there is misconception as to what our position is, and it is very serious. People are getting crystallized on this on-site inspection business, and I just think we are not wise in telling Kuznetsov that "Look, there are certain things that we can agree to, and there are certain things we can't agree to". What I would do is tell him, in the first place he didn't like that word "minimum" inspection. Of course it doesn't mean anything; we can strike that out. Secondly, I would tell him that the words we used there in regard to "nuclear or other weapons capable of offensive use." He brought up the point of the pistol. If we can find something else to cover him on that. We aren't talking about every kind of weapon that is capable of offensive use. So that I would say we were ready to change. Furthermore, I am ready to strike out "the Rio Pact" in this thing, because the Rio Pact exists anyway, and the President could say it on the side. And of course, nothing he says in connection with this in any way irrigates from the obligations and rights of our existing treaties. I would say we do have to reserve our intent to use such methods as we feel are necessary by way of observation and verification pending the adoption of other means that are satisfactory to us, and that we can't give way on that, because if we say that we have no intent to invade and the next day we sent a U-2 over there, in some interpretations it is an invasion, an invasion of their aerial territory. So we just have to reserve the fact that our intent is to continue the ordinary precautions. Then on the word "threat" that Thompson introduced, I would go back to "attack" or "commit aggression" or something like that, because I do think that with "threat" security is rather illusory. You know, Castro could make a speech and could say we're off the hook then. I believe it is good tactics to tell him irrespective of his declaration. His declaration is going to be . . . if we don't get something in to indicate that we're compromising, there is still going to be the reputation of Cuba, and then there will be a wrangle. But if he thinks that we are really trying to meet him, I believe he will come part way. And we may very well wind this thing up with a something less than transigent wrangle on both our parts, which may very well prejudice Berlin, or something else.

(Ball left to meet with the Secretary and on return called McCloy back.)

GB: I undertook to talk with the Secretary briefly about this. His feeling, and this is I am sure the President's feeling, is that if we were really anxious on our part to close this thing up, what you are suggesting would be the thing to do it. But quite frankly the President doesn't want to close it up right now, unless it were closed completely on our own terms. What he would propose (and this has been cleared with the White House) to do would be send it up tonight.

McC: Don't tie our hands--don't tie our hands. Well maybe . . . I don't agree . . . what I'm telling you is that I think we can close it out, but we have a chance of closing it out on our terms if we do this. I think this dragging our feet is absolutely wrong. Now I can't say anything since this is the President's decision. I think we are petering away the victory, and I believe we have a reasonable chance by giving away nothing in this thing in consolidating the victory, and I'm not in doubt when I am saying that. I just think that you are getting them hardened up unnecessarily--at Geneva, on Berlin--and I don't think that's wise and I don't think that anything that I am suggesting that we give way . . . . we're not giving away anything when I strike out the word "minimum," or don't use the word "threat" . . .

GB: That's right.

McC: I do think we have to hold onto the word "intend" and would intend to hold onto those words, but I would also hope that we could put into the operating clauses that there is nothing here in any way interrogates our intention to use all the observation and clarification facilities we have.

I just don't believe we are giving away anything. But I do believe we are losing. And I am convinced we are losing. We are losing every day that goes by. I was at the Board meeting at Chase today. Everybody wanted to know what was going on here. Are we in another snarl? There is so much emphasis on the on-site inspection. If we don't get the on-site inspection, which we don't want, it's going to be thought around the country we're losing. Yet if we say that pending getting such an inspection as satisfies us we intend to use the facilities we already have. Everybody will applaud that. The world will applaud that.

GB: How would you envisage this thing. Let's suppose that you were to make those amendments. How would it work out with Kuznetsov. What could he do then?

McC: I would say to Kuznetsov, "Now, look, if you . . . we've come a long way here toward meeting you on this business. You've talked all these things. We've met you on two out of four of them. We can't give way on the intent business. But now if you say that you could acquiesce in this statement and give us a statement that doesn't cause a wrangle in the UN, if it represents a real consensus, then, I would say let's go to the UN together, file that thing," and then let the SC head--he has seen these documents and congratulates the heads of state which worked out a situation in averting the crisis, and go on our way rejoicing. We have some language up here--it doesn't amount to anything but that, and I think he would take it as being an indication that we were not trying to welch or to introduce new conditions and that we were holding out on one thing that Khrushchev is anxious to get. At the same time we don't give up a thing that is of any value to us.

GB: I am going to have to . . . Let me see what kind of an advocate I can be here. I've got to get this back up to the President; because right now the posture of this thing that has come back from the White House cleared out, and I am going to have to let it go tonight with the idea that before you act on them we can have another look at this. I will see if we can get the Committee together in the morning if we can.

McC: Now, I have spelled this all out to Ros.(1) He tells me he agrees with it. There is one thing I have asked him to do and that is to give me the right definition of the "introduction of nuclear weapons or other weapons capable of offensive use". We can change that language. But naturally we're not going to limit it to merely these weapons that he took out, but we can use some such word as "major offensive weapons" or something like. I do this purely on the conviction that I have that we are not gaining ground now--that I think if we do close it up on that basis the President has nothing to fear. And I think we may have a better atmos-phere for stuff that may be coming up in the future.

GB: I'll get this thing cranked up here. I'll let it go tonight because I have no way of stopping it. Let's talk first thing in the morning. In the meantime, I'll get hold of the WH and see if we can set something up.

McC: I've got an [un]fortunate situation coming up Friday and Saturday. I've been postponing meetings with clients of mine for 60 days, so I just have do that then. And I have to testify in North Carolina on Monday. But you can reach me tonight or tomorrow.

GB: I'll get back to you one way or another.

McC: You talk to Gilpatric about it.

GB: You bet.

1 Roswell Gilpatric. Back

Source: Department of State, Ball Files: Lot 74 D 272, Telephone Conversations--Cuba. No classificaiton marking.

127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.