60. Letter From President Kennedy to Chairman Khrushchev0

Dear Mr. Chairman: A copy of the statement I am making tonight concerning developments in Cuba and the reaction of my Government thereto has been handed to your Ambassador in Washington.1 In view of the gravity of the developments to which I refer, I want you to know immediately and accurately the position of my Government in this matter.

In our discussions and exchanges on Berlin and other international questions, the one thing that has most concerned me has been the possibility that your Government would not correctly understand the will and determination of the United States in any given situation, since I have not assumed that you or any other sane man would, in this nuclear age, deliberately plunge the world into war which it is crystal clear no country could win and which could only result in catastrophic consequences to the whole world, including the aggressor.

At our meeting in Vienna and subsequently, I expressed our readiness and desire to find, through peaceful negotiation, a solution to any and all problems that divide us. At the same time, I made clear that in view of the objectives of the ideology to which you adhere, the United States could not tolerate any action on your part which in a major way disturbed the existing over-all balance of power in the world. I stated that an attempt to force abandonment of our responsibilities and commitments in Berlin would constitute such an action and that the United States would resist with all the power at its command.

It was in order to avoid any incorrect assessment on the part of your Government with respect to Cuba that I publicly stated that if certain developments in Cuba took place, the United States would do whatever must be done to protect its own security and that of its allies.

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Moreover, the Congress adopted a resolution expressing its support of this declared policy.2 Despite this, the rapid development of long-range missile bases and other offensive weapons systems in Cuba has proceeded. I must tell you that the United States is determined that this threat to the security of this hemisphere be removed. At the same time, I wish to point out that the action we are taking is the minimum necessary to remove the threat to the security of the nations of this hemisphere. The fact of this minimum response should not be taken as a basis, however, for any misjudgment on your part.

I hope that your Government will refrain from any action which would widen or deepen this already grave crisis and that we can agree to resume the path of peaceful negotiations.

Sincerely,

JFK
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  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. Eyes Only. At 7:41 p.m. on October 21 the Department of State had sent Ambassador Kohler the first draft of this message. (Telegram 961 to Moscow; ibid.: Lot 77 D 163) Subsequent changes and additions resulted in only the second and final paragraphs remaining as originally drafted. The message was delivered to the Foreign Ministry at about 6 p.m. Washington time. Another copy of this letter is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, USSR, Khrushchev Correspondence. Also printed in Department of State Bulletin, November 19, 1973, pp. 635-636, and Claflin, The President Wants To Know, pp. 205-206. This letter and the letters and messages exchanged through December 14 ( Document 84) were published in English and Russian in United States Information Agency, Problems of Communism, Special Edition, Spring 1992.
  2. For text of the President’s October 22 radio and television report to the American people on the Soviet arms buildup in Cuba, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States:John F. Kennedy, 1962, pp. 806-809. A 3-paragraph memorandum of Rusk’s conversation with Dobrynin at 6 p.m., during which the Secretary of State gave the Soviet Ambassador copies of the President’s address and this message is in Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/10-2262.
  3. For text of this resolution, October 3, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 389-390.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears these initials in an unidentified hand.