MEETING OF THE SECRETARY OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA WITH MIKOYAN IN THE PRESIDENTIAL PALACECITATION SHARE DOWNLOAD
get citationMinutes of the meeting between Anastas Mikoyan, Fidel Castro, and other members of the Secretariat of the ORI in the Old Presidential Palace. The purpose of this meeting is to resolve differences between the Cuban and Soviet governments in order to protect Marxist principles. Among other things, they discuss economic sanctions against Cuba, military intervention by other Latin American countries, the importance of the Cuban revolution to Marxism, and Cuba's relationship with the United States."Meeting of the Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba with Mikoyan in the Presidential Palace" November 04, 1962, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Institute of History, Cuba, obtained and provided by Philip Brenner (American University); translation from Spanish by Carlos Osorio (National Security Archive). http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110879
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MEETING OF THE SECRETARIAT OF THE ORI WITH MIKOYAN AT THE NATIONAL PALACE,
SUNDAY, 4 NOVEMBER 1962.
Preamble by Mikoyan:
He says he has come to Cuba to discuss their differences with the Cuban Companeros [comrades] and not to [discuss] what has been stated by the imperialists. They trust us as much as they trust themselves. He is willing to discuss for as long as it takes to solve the differences. The interests of the Soviet Union are common to ours in the defense of the principles of Marxism-Leninism and in all the other interests.
FIDEL: Summarizes our differences in terms of the procedures used to deal with this crisis.
DORTICOS: Asks whether Mikoyan considers that they have obtained the guarantees that president Kennedy offered.
CARLOS: Asks whether the victory mentioned by the Soviets has been attained.
MIKOYAN: Says he will respond to the questions, and asks to be excused for he will speak for a long time. He says he will start with the doubts expressed by Fidel in order to explain them.
He thinks that the main problem consists in explaining why they have sent troops and strategic weapons. If this is not understood, it is very difficult to understand the whole situation. He did not think we had doubts about this. He said that "the fate of the Cuban revolution is a permanent preoccupation of ours, especially since its socialist character was declared. When the imperialists were defeated in Giron [Beach at the Bay of Pigs--ed.], we congratulated ourselves, but we also worried. The yanquis [Yankees, i.e., North Americans--ed.] did a stupid thing but we knew they would continue harassing because Cuba is an example that they could not tolerate. Our assessment was that they had two parallel plans; the first one consisted of the economic strangulation of Cuba in order to bring down the regime without a military intervention. The second one consisted of an intervention organized by Latin American governments and their support, as an alternative to the other plan.
We consider the victory of the Cuban revolution as an enormous contribution to Marxism-Leninism. Its defeat would be an irreparable damage to Marxism and to other revolutionary movements in other countries. Such a defeat would mean the preponderance of imperialism over socialism in the world. Such a defeat would mean a terrible blow against the world revolution. It would break the correlation of forces. It is our duty to do everything possible to defend Cuba.
"Our comrades told us that the economic situation in Cuba had worsened due to the yanquis' pressure and the enormous military expenses. This worried us for it coincided with the plans of the yanquis. We had a discussion about the economic decline and we have helped without you requesting it. You are very modest in your requests and we try to help you. We decided to give you weapons for free and donated equipment for 100,000 men. In addition, in our commercial negotiations, we have looked at all the possibilities and we have tried to provide everything you needed without payments in kind. We have given you 180 million roubles in order to help you. This is a second phase of help because before that there were commercial and credit agreements but these last deliveries have been in aid.
When Khrushchev visited Bulgaria [on 14-20 May 1962--ed.] he expressed many things to us, he said "although I was in Bulgaria, I was always thinking of Cuba. I fear the yanquis will attack Cuba, directly or indirectly, and imagine of the effect on us of the defeat of the Cuban revolution. We cannot allow this to happen. Although the plan is very risky for us, it is a big responsibility for it exposes us to a war. Cuba must be saved[.] "They thought it over for three days and later all the members of the Central Committee expressed their opinions. We have to think a lot about this action in order to save Cuba and not to provoke a nuclear war. He ordered the military to develop the Plan and to consult with the Cubans. He told us that the main condition was to carry out the Plan secretly. Our military told us that four months were needed for the preparations. We thought the enemy would learn about it right in the middle of the plan and we anticipated what to do. We thought the plan would not be carried out to the end, but this was an advantage, for the troops would already be in the Island. We foresaw that, in order not to provoke a war, we could use the UNO [United Nations Organization] and the public opinion. We thought the Plan would not provoke a war but a blockade against weapons and fuel instead. How to solve this - your lack of fuel? Considering the geographic situation of the Island, it has been very difficult to avoid the blockade. If you were closer we could have used our Air Force and our Fleet, but we could not. The yanquis do have bases surrounding us in Turkey and blocking the Black Sea. Given the situation, we cannot strike back. Okinawa is too far away too. The only possibility was to cut the communications with West Berlin. In Berlin this is possible.
We have not thought of building a Soviet Base on the Island to operate against the North Americans. In general, we consider that the policy of bases is not a correct one. We only have bases in [East] Germany, first because of the right we have as an invading country, and after that due to the Warsaw Treaty. (Stalin did have bases abroad). In the past, we have had them in Finland and in China too (Port Arthur) - those bases we have abandoned. We only have troops in Hungary and Poland, to protect the troops in Germany and the communications with Austria.
We do not need bases to destroy the United States because we can attack with the missiles deployed in our territory. We do not have a plan to conquer North America. The only thing we need to do is to launch a counter strike, but that will serve to destroy them without having to send in our troops.
We have sent the troops and strategic missiles only to protect the Island's defense. It was a plan of containment [contension] so that the yanquis could not provoke an explosion in Cuba. If the missiles are well camouflaged and the yanquis do not know where they are deployed, then they can help to contain them. The military told us that they could be well hidden in the palm forests of Cuba. The yanquis were not going to locate them. They could not destroy them. During July and August, they did not find anything, it was not until October that they have been found. We were surprised that Kennedy only made reference to technicians and not to our troops. At first, it seems that that is what he thought. Later we learned that he knew more than he was saying, but he was not revealing it not to hinder the electoral campaign. We let the yanquis know that we were going to solve the Berlin problem, in order to distract their attention from the other problem. We did not intend to act on Berlin. I can explain this later.
It was known through diplomatic channels that Kennedy did not want to make matters more serious and asked us not to move on the issue of Berlin before the elections. We told him that we agreed to this. We would please him and we would solve it later. We thought it was convenient to please him. In addition, we had not thought of bringing up this problem. When the North Americans learned about the transports to Cuba, they also concentrated their campaign on Berlin. Both sides had their principal interest in Cuba, but appeared as if concentrated on Berlin. In the middle of October, they [the North Americans--ed.] learned about it through Cuba, via the West Germany information service who passed it to the CIA, they first learned about the missiles. They took aerial pictures and located them. Khrushchev ordered that the missiles be laid down during the day and that they be raised only during the night. Evidently, this order was never carried out. Kennedy did not want to talk about the missiles until the end of the elections. But two Republican Senators learned the news and they had no alternative but to act. We did not know what Kennedy would do and we worried about the preparations or maneuvers of Vieti - an operation named after Castro but backwards. When Kennedy talked about the blockade, we did not have data showing whether it was a maneuver or a preparation for aggression. On the morning of the 28th we received the news confirming that it was an aggression. Although it was announced that the maneuvers were suspended due to a storm, the storm was over and the maneuvers were not carried out. In the meantime, the concentration continued. Khrushchev has strongly criticized Kennedy's words about the blockade. They did not approve of the kind of weapons that Cuba should own and thus they organized a direct aggression. Their plan consisted of two parts: using missiles with conventional loads to destroy the nuclear missiles and then landing and destroying the resistance.
In case of the latter, we would be forced to respond because it is an attack against Cuba and against us too - because our troops were here and this was the unleashing of the World War. We would destroy North America. They would inflict huge loses on us; but they would make every effort to destroy Cuba completely. All the measures we took were taken to protect Cuba. What would have been the result if the plan of the yanquis was carried out? Lose Cuba, inflict enormous damages upon the Socialist countries with a nuclear war? While we were in the midst of our discussions, we received a cable from Fidel that coincided with other information in the same vein. After that, ten to twelve hours were left. Given that such a short time was left, we used diplomatic channels. Because when policy-makers want to avoid a war, they have to use diplomatic means. It's important to underscore that Kennedy says now that he was not against the presence of troops here and that he accepts ground-to-air missiles. But once known, the strategic weapons, were not useful anymore...(paragraph missing) [notation in original--ed.]
The withdrawal of the missiles, was a concession on our part. But Kennedy also makes a concession by permitting the Soviet weapons [to remain in Cuba], in addition, declaring that they will not attack Cuba nor permit that it be attacked. In assessing the outcome, we have gained, because they will not attack Cuba and there will be no war.
In normal conditions, it would be natural that we send you a project [draft--ed.] for you to study and you could then publish it. But that can be done only in normal conditions. An invasion was expected within the next 24 hours. When Fidel sent his cable, there were only ten to twelve hours left. If a cable was sent it had to been crypted, that would take more than 10 to 12 hours. Consultations would have been appropriate, but Cuba would not exist and the world would be enveloped in a war. After the attack, they would have never accepted a truce, due to the warmongers of the Pentagon. Our attitude has produced difficulties, but in making an overall evaluation, in spite of the psychological defects, we can see that the advantages are undeniable.
Com[panero]. Dorticos asks: What guarantees offered by Kennedy have really been obtained? We consider that all agreements cannot be rejected in a nihilistic fashion. Although agreements can be breached, they are important for they are useful for a certain period of time.
In addition, a problem arose with the Turkey issue. [Mikoyan said:] Why did we include the problem of Turkey and the bases? We did not have in our plans to discuss Turkey; but while we were discussing that issue, we received an article from [U.S. journalist Walter] Lip[p]man[n] saying that the Russians will discuss that, [and] that is why we included it. The bases in Turkey are of no importance because in case of war they would be destroyed. There are also bases in England that could damage all the bases anywhere in the world.
Fidel asks whether there were in fact two letters [from Khrushchev to Kennedy], one that mentioned the issue of Turkey, which was broadcast on Radio Moscow, and another in which the issue was not mentioned. [Mikoyan replied:] We sent two letters, one on the 26th that was not published, and another one on the 27th. The issue of Turkey was not included at the beginning, we included it later. But we can describe all that in more detail through a reviewing of the documents. We have had discussions about your question whether the dismantling of the base at Guantanamo is better. That would be better for Cuba, but from a military point of view of the interest of Cuba, it is not possible. If we decided to withdraw all the weapons from Cuba, then we could demand the withdrawal from Guantanamo, Guantanamo has no importance in military terms. That would be more dangerous, and that is important from a political perspective. Concerning the inspection: if we said we reject any inspection, the enemy could interpret that as an attempt to trick them. All it is about is seeing the sites, where the weapons were and their shipping for a few days. Cuba is in the hands of the Cubans. But because we were the owners of those weapons... (paragraph missing). [notation in original-ed.] We thought that you, after the consultations, you would accept the inspection. But we never thought of deciding anything for you. Why did we think that we could accept a verification of the dismantling by neutrals, without infringement of the Cuban sovereignty? It was understood that no State would accept an infringement of your sovereignty. In very particular cases, a State can... [ellipsis in document--ed.] its acts, by agreement and not due to pressures from abroad - the territory of the Embassy within a sovereign State for example. When discussing the problem of Indochina and Vietnam in Geneva [in 1954], an agreement was reached to create an International Control Commission.
We spoke about the problem of dismantling with [U.S. negotiator John J.] McCloy in New York. He said that "given that Cuba is opposed to the North American inspection, he did not insist on this formula - for them to verify that the weapons will not be kept hidden in the forest. [no close quotation marks in original--ed.]
I talked to them about the aerial photographic inspection, but I responded that Cuba has the right to its air space. I told them that their planes have flown over Cuba and they were convinced that the dismantling is been carried out. They admitted that, but pointed that not everything is finished. We told them that this is nearly completed and he did not talk further about it. [McCloy said:] We have to be sure that they are not going to hide them in the forest. We do not want data pertaining to your military secrets; but we need assurances that the missiles will go.
We can provide the pictures of the dismantled weapons and how they are loaded. Nor we will oppose that you observe the ships on the high seas, at a particular distance. They (or you) will see something on the decks. I did not tell them that, but that is our opinion and we will provide them with the materials to convince them that we have withdrawn the missiles. So we will not contradict your [Cuban] declaration, against the inspection or the aerial verification. They feared that the Cubans would not allow us to withdraw the missiles, given that they have 140,000 and you only have 10,000 men. I did not talk about these numbers. He said that the U-2 that was shot down here, was shot at with Russian missiles and probably operated by Russians. Although they think there may be Cubans who are able to operate those weapons. We kept on insisting that they lift the quarantine immediately. I told them that if they wanted the missiles withdrawn faster, they should lift the blockade. Because the ships that are now in Cuba are not able to take those missiles out. [underlined in original]. I told them they should issue instructions so that the inspection of the ships be carried out without anybody boarding the ships. It would rather be carried out in a symbolic manner, asking by radio, as it was done with the tanker Bucharest.
Stevenson said they will accept the proposals of U Thant. We reproached him that he proposed not to bring weapons to Cuba and to lift the blockade. We have complied with this and they continue.
We have loses because the ships wait on the high seas. The losses are considerable, that is why we have allowed the control of the Red Cross. The Red Cross is better because it is not a political institution, nor a governmental institution. U Thant proposed two inspections, one at the shipping harbors and another on the high seas. Not wanting to hurt his feelings, we responded that we accept the inspection on the high seas and not at the shipping harbors.
U Thant, when returning from Cuba, told me that you did not agree, although this verification is easier at the harbors. U Thant is ready, he is choosing the personnel and has already two ships. I do not know more about it, for it is [Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister V.V.] Kuznetsov who deals with this issue.
In this situation, Thant has played a good role. You cannot ask more, given his situation, he even seems to have a little sympathy for our position. While in Moscow, we received a plan of guarantees. We thought this plan seemed interesting and useful for Cuba.
Why: If the inspection of Cuba, the southern coast of the U.S. and other countries in the Caribbean will be approved (Central America[)] because this way you deprive the aggressor of the possibility to carry out its goals. Of course, this can be circumvented, however. I have been interested in this variant from another point of view. There is an OAS [Organization of American States], and it is the U.S. who profits from it instead of using the UN. But if this plan is approved, it is the UNO that will deal with this part of the American Continent, this constitutes a blow to the Monroe Doctrine. U Thant said that the representatives from Latin American countries agree with this plan, the North Americans avoid responding to it. I asked Mc Cloy and he said at the beginning (as did Stevenson) that the U Thant Plan does not exist. But afterward they discarded the U.S. inspection and they said they can give their word that in Latin America all the camps [of anti-Castro Cuban exiles--ed.] are liquidated. I asked him if all were, and he avoided the question. They said that Cuba was a revolutionary infection, he said that the Latin American countries fear Cuba. A formula can be searched in which Cuba will abandon the clandestine work in exchange for their not attacking.
Fidel was right when he said that it's easier for the USSR to maneuver and maintain a flexible policy than it is for Cuba, all the more as the yanqui radio reaches Cuba easily. It is not just to say that we are more liberal. The Cuban revolution cannot be lost. You have to maneuver to save the Revolution by being flexible.
In retrospect the question that arises is whether it was a mistake to send the missiles and then withdraw them from the Island. Our Central Committee says that this is not a mistake. We consider that the missiles did their job by making Cuba the focus of the world diplomacy. After they were captured in photos, they cannot accomplish their role of containment.
In Latin America no country has the power that Cuba has. No Latin American bloc can defeat Cuba.
In order to understand on what victory rests, you may compare the situation of Cuba now and four months ago (in July). The first advantage is that the North Americans stopped talking about the Monroe Doctrine and before, the whole basis for their policy toward Latin America was that doctrine.
Before, they declared they would not tolerate the existence of a Marxist-Leninist regime in Latin America, now they declare that they will not attack Cuba. Before they did not tolerate a country from abroad in the Caribbean and now they know of the existence of Soviet specialists and do not say a thing.
Before, you could not have any action of the UN in favor of Cuba and now it is working in that sense, all the peoples are mobilized.
The prestige of the Socialist Camp has grown because it defended peace. Although the United States brought the world to the brink of a war, the USSR, by pacific means, was able to save Cuba and the [world] peace.
Peace has been secured for several years and Cuba must be consolidated for it to continue building socialism and continue being the Light-house for Latin America.
The prestige of Cuba has grown as a consequence of these events.
Fidel asks whether he [Mikoyan] will speak about the Soviet policy in Berlin. Mikoyan agrees to do so in a later interview.
 The reference to the West German role in revealing the existence of the missiles to the U.S. administration is obscure, as no such link is present in most historical accounts of the American discovery. Soviet officials may have been inferring a West German role from the presence in Washington on October 16-17 of the Federal Republic of Germany's foreign minister, Dr. Gerhard Schroeder, for meetings with senior American officials, though there is no indication that he brought any intelligence data concerning Soviet missiles in Cuba. See, e.g., Dino A. Brugioni, Eyeball to Eyeball: The Inside Story of the Cuban Missile Crisis (New York: Random House, rev. ed. [1992?]), 206, 252.
 A reference to U.S. Marine exercises, code-named PHIBRIGLEX-62, scheduled to begin on 15 October 1962, practicing amphibious landings of 7,500 Marines on the Caribbean island of Viecques to overthrow a mythical dictator known as "Ortsac"--a fact which was leaked to the press in an obvious psychological warfare tactic. The exercises themselves were also planned to mask preparations for a possible U.S. Navy blockade of Cuba. See citations in James G. Hershberg, "Before `The Missiles of October': Did Kennedy Plan a Military Strike Against Cuba?" in James A. Nathan, ed., The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited (New York: St. Martin's, 1992), 254-5, 275-6 (fns 87, 88).