218. Memorandum of Conversation0
- The President
- The Secretary
- Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson
- Mr. E.S. Glenn, LS
- Miss N. Kushnir, LS
- Anastas I. Mikoyan, First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR
- Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin
- Mr. Yuriy N. Vino-Gradov, Soviet Delegation to XVII General Assembly (Interpreter)
- Mr. Igor D. Bubnov, Third Secretary, Soviet Embassy
After a few brief remarks about lung cancer, the President asked Mr. Mikoyan how he had enjoyed his stay in Cuba.[Page 546]
Mr. Mikoyan said that he enjoyed his stay very much. The weather was ideal and nature beautiful. This was the second visit of Mr. Mikoyan to Cuba. He finds the Cubans a most interesting people. The brothers Castro, Fidel and Raoul, are also very interesting. There is also an older brother who was at one time against the Cuban revolution but who now approves of it. As a matter of fact, he told his brother Fidel that if he had known how history would develop he would have joined the revolutionary cause sooner. The Castro family were large land owners. Fidel and Raoul gave away their holdings a long time ago. The older brother gave up his holdings only recently. Their mother has retained one-half of her holdings to pursue the family tradition but has given up the other half. At the time of the first visit of Mr. Mikoyan, Fidel Castro was not yet a Marxist and the flag under which he waged his revolution was that of liberalism. He became a Marxist more recently under the influence of the wishes and thoughts ot the Cuban people.
The President asked Mr. Mikoyan when Castro became a Marxist.
Mr. Mikoyan said that it was one or two years ago. Raoul Castro, Che Guevara, and the eldest Castro brother [?]1 were Marxists already before the revolution. Not so Fidel, who was moved towards Marxism by the play of the revolution itself. Mr. Mikoyan said that the same thing would happen in regard to “you also”. Perhaps not the President personally but later on.
The President said that Mr. Mikoyan obviously believes that it will happen to the President's brothers.
Mr. Mikoyan said that he spent two days traveling through Cuba. He admires greatly the liveliness of the Cuban people and the progress accomplished in Cuban agriculture. He saw a ranch with many lakes, 120,000 ducks and much cattle. Castro is doing a lot personally to mechanize agriculture and he is personally known by most of the farmers. Mr. Mikoyan saw Canadian milking machinery. He also saw a national cattle breeding farm with 12,000 cattle and 65 pure-bred bulls. Within five years this farm expects to increase the cattle herd to 70,000. Mr. Mikoyan also saw rural schools; one of these has 1,000 students fully supported by the government and expects within three years to increase the number of students to 20,000. All told, more schools were built in three years in Cuba than had been built during the 50 year period before Castro. There are in Cuba 70,000 students fully supported by the government and the enthusiasm of Cuban youth is impressive. The mansions of capitalists who have left Cuba—which the Cuban Government permits them to do—have been made into youth hostels. During the recent events the militia has been mobilized though on an entirely voluntary basis. The [Page 547]places of the men on the jobs were taken by the women who managed to fulfill their work quotas in all cases. Mr. Mikoyan was most impressed by all those young women at work.
The President said that now he understood why Mr. Mikoyan had liked his travels in Cuba.
Mikoyan said that indeed his visit to Cuba reminded him of his youth when he also was working for the cause of the revolution. He also made speeches at several universities and felt that the students greatly distrusted the United States. He must admit that they have some reasons for such an attitude. Since, however, it is expected that the exchange of correspondence between Chairman Khrushchev and President is to be registered with the United Nations, it is possible that the fears of the young Cubans will be calmed by the very fact of such a recording of this memorable correspondence.
The President said that the relations between the United States and Cuba are bad. What Mr. Mikoyan said about Cuban internal developments may be quite interesting; however, this is not the part of Cuban events which is of primary concern to us. What we are concerned with is the use of Cuba as a springboard for subversion, meaning both Soviet subversion and Castro's own efforts in that direction. There is no reason why statements that the United States does not intend to invade Cuba should not go on record. Yet this is hardly necessary since it is obvious that the United States could have invaded Cuba any number of times beginning with April 1960 but did not do so. This should suffice to make United States intentions clear. As a matter of fact, only recently the President was speaking against those Americans who suggested an invasion of Cuba. Thus, once again the attitude of the United States was clear. However, beginning in July the Soviets have sent over 100 ships loaded with arms and military materiel to Cuba. While this was going on the President, trusting official statements by the Soviet Union, continued to affirm that there was no danger to the United States from an arms build-up in Cuba. This had led to very serious political difficulties on all levels. It is difficult for the President to say at the present moment that the situation with Cuba is in any way satisfactory, since it is not known what will happen next month or what the Chinese will do. Maybe the Chinese Communists will start an arms build-up in Cuba in January, or maybe the Soviet Union itself will start again such a build-up. After all, what the Soviets did once they could do again and no one could blame a certain feeling of mistrust on the part of the United States after what had happened.
Mr. Mikoyan stated that what the President had said presents an extremely serious matter. Yet the Soviet Union does not deserve any reproach. No one can believe that the arms build-up in Cuba was offensive and intended against the United States. It had, in fact, been decided [Page 548]as early as June, by Chairman Khrushchev and his colleagues, of whom Mr. Mikoyan was one, that the United States would be told about the arms build-up, in every detail, by the Soviet Union at an appropriate moment. First it was intended to communicate with the United States Government on a confidential basis and then to make an announcement to the press. Of course, this was something which the Soviet Union was not obligated to do since after all, the United States does not inform the Soviet Union of its military moves. As for the purpose of the military build-up, it was obviously not offensive; no military man and not even a civilian could ever believe that rockets in Cuba could be necessary or even useful for an attack against the United States. The decision had been made to inform the United States after the elections so as to avoid influencing in any way the political campaign in the United States. The President himself certainly would not want to have the elections influenced by Soviet moves. Of course on the 22nd of October no intimation of the build-up was made by the Soviet Union but even if a disclosure had not taken place the Soviet Union would have brought the entire build-up to the attention of the United States on November 8th or 10th, immediately after the elections.
The President said that the problem was not due to the fact that the Soviet Union did not make a statement to the United States about the arms build-up—as it obviously has the right to proceed with any such measures without announcing them to the United States—but on the contrary that the Soviet Union had made a statement according to which no offensive weapons were being sent to Cuba or were going to be sent there.
Mr. Mikoyan said that obviously the two speakers had a different interpretation of the recent events. The fact remains that the purpose of the arms build-up in Cuba was defensive and not offensive. They were sent there to defend the island against invasion and for no other purpose. There were some 40 medium and intermediate-range missiles. It is silly to believe that those missiles emplaced in Cuba could be needed for an attack against the United States. After all, there exist other missiles with a much longer range—so long a range in fact that they cannot be tested within the territory of the Soviet Union and must be shot into the sea. The United States Government knows very well how far into the sea they are falling.
On the other hand, the President had spoken in his exchange with Chairman Khrushchev of a United States pledge of non-invasion. Nothing more need to be said. Now, when the United States is making this pledge conditional on the conduct of Cuba it is departing from its previous position.
Mr. Mikoyan said he was reminded of conversations he had with President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles. He had asked Secretary Dulles [Page 549]whether the latter thought the Soviet Union wished to attack the United States. Secretary Dulles had replied that he did not think that the Government of the Soviet Union in power at that time wanted to attack. Secretary Dulles then asked Mr. Mikoyan whether the latter thought that the United States wanted to attack the Soviet Union. Mr. Mikoyan replied that he did not think so but that he had some doubts in the matter. If the United States did not want to attack the Soviet Union why did it ring the Soviet territory with bases and continue a cold-war policy? Now the United States says that the Soviet tried to establish an offensive base in Cuba. Mr. Mikoyan would like to ask once more whether the President thinks that the Soviet Union wishes to attack the United States.
The President said that he did not know what may have been the reasons of the Soviet Government to establish the base. The fact is that it was established.
Cuba was not threatened by the United States. At the end of September and throughout October the President attacked those people in the United States who spoke in favor of an aggressive policy towards Cuba. There were no indications whatsoever at the time when, in June, Mr. Mikoyan said a decision had been taken by the Soviet Union, that any aggressive moves by the United States were contemplated. Had the question been addressed to the President by Chairman Khrushchev at that time, the President would have been glad to say then as he says now that no invasion of Cuba is intended.
An invasion of Cuba is not a solution to the Cuban problem. We do not live now in the early days of the Twentieth Century. The United States has obligations extending throughout the world. It is true that there are refugees from Cuba who annoy Mr. Castro but there is no policy on the part of the United States Government to invade Cuba. Unquestionably, as able a man as the Soviet Ambassador in the United States must have been aware of that.
As for Soviet intentions, maybe war was not an aim of the Soviet Union but it seems that a policy of threat may well have been the objective. Mr. Mikoyan said that a statement about the build-up would have been made in November. At that time the missiles would have already been fully emplaced. What would have been the posture of the United States Government which had publicly affirmed its trust in the statements of Soviet leaders?
The entire episode cannot be interpreted in any other way than as a major attack against the present Administration and the Government of the United States.
The question is now how the lack of understanding between the two governments can be transformed into mutual understanding. Already in the recent past in the question of Laos and then again in that of Cuba, the two countries have come very close to the edge of the abyss. The question [Page 550]is now what about the future? How many more such near escapes or such situations of dire danger will happen during the next decade because the two governments do not understand one another?
Mr. Mikoyan said that he would first speak about the President's concluding remarks. After that he would reply to the President's earlier statements. In regard to the President's concluding remarks he wished to say that he fully agrees that agreement is necessary for peace and that lack of agreement between the two great Powers may well lead to disaster. As to the President's first remarks, he must emphasize that the Soviet move into Cuba had for a purpose only defense and deterrence. The Soviet Union acted in order to facilitate an agreement leading to peace. After all, it is well known that counter-revolutionary gangs were being trained in camps in the United States and on the territories of other countries of the Western Hemisphere allied with the United States. There was much war-like talk in the United States. Mr. Nixon spoke in favor of an invasion of Cuba, so did Pentagon generals. Under such circumstances, there was good reason to prepare deterrents and defense. It is quite clear that such was the purpose of the Soviet Union, which was going to inform the United States that what it intended through the build-up in Cuba was the defense of that island and not an aggression against the United States. After all, the Soviet Union has more than enough long-range missiles emplaced on its own territory to need anything else. Forty-two missiles are something insignificant for offense and therefore it is clear that they were meant for defense. Moreover, these missiles remained in the hands of the Soviet military and could not have been used without signal authorization from Moscow. Mr. Mikoyan would like to mention to the President in confidence that there exists Soviet legislation which makes it illegal to place nuclear or thermonuclear weapons under non-Soviet control. Mr. Mikoyan also feels that the threat of war is not Cuba but the relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and therefore misunderstandings and threats must be eliminated from those relations. Mr. Mikoyan remembers a conversation with that very wise man, Secretary Cordell Hull, back in 1936. At that time, Secretary Hull had said that German fascism and Japanese militarism were preparing for war. Only the United States and the Soviet Union were in a position to defend peace. The situation at that time was already what it is at the present. Both countries have terrible weapons and therefore both have an overwhelming responsibility before the entire world. An understanding and agreement between Chairman Khrushchev and President Kennedy must be obtained in order to prevent war. This means, first of all, that the Cuban affair must be brought to a final conclusion and then that the other “knots” of the international situation must be “untied”.[Page 551]
The President said that he did not know what exactly Mr. Nixon had said. In fact, Mr. Nixon had said many things throughout his career. What is clear is that during the period to which Mr. Mikoyan alluded Mr. Nixon was not in a policy making position. As for Pentagon generals, they are under the control of the Administration and there certainly had been no statements on their part calling for aggression. Once again, if the United States had wanted to invade Cuba it could have done so much earlier. There were no United States forces at the time of the hopeless attempt at landing made by Cuban patriots. There were no statements by any people in positions of responsibility in the United States which might have led to the belief that an invasion was being contemplated. The problem in fact is not Cuba, the problem is the attitude of the Soviet Government. Of course, it is clear that the United States Government has very little liking for the present Government of Cuba. This, however, does not mean an intent to invade them. After all, the Soviet Government does not like the present Government of Albania. This does not mean that the Soviet Union will invade Albania, as in such a case as well as in that of a hypothetical invasion of Cuba, international consequences could be very grave. The President stated that he is not, however, so terribly interested in Mr. Castro. What he is interested in, once again, is the attitude of the Soviet Government. How is it possible to go through the coming decade if we are, as in the past, to move from crisis to crisis. The President hopes that some day the Soviet Government will understand that its main duty should be the defense of the interests of the Soviet Union and not pushing the world from one small crisis to another one at the risk of catastrophe which would engulf everything.
Mr. Mikoyan said that Chairman Khrushchev shared the President's opinion that an understanding between the two governments is necessary for peace. Therefore, all the points of disagreement have to be taken one by one and resolved. Both countries must work for peace. The first step should be a final resolution of the Cuban affair—as the President himself said. Much was done in that direction, but unfortunately, no final situation has been yet achieved. This is because the US Government's attitude is not as helpful as it should be.
Once the Cuban crisis is resolved, the next steps might well be a non-aggression pact between the Warsaw Pact organization and NATO, the cessation of nuclear tests, disarmament, and Berlin.
As the President himself has noted, the fact that the Cuban crisis has been largely resolved proves the necessity of talks and negotiations between the two governments. As the President has communicated it to Chairman Khrushchev, negotiations should not stop short of a final solution.
The exchange of correspondence between the two heads of state provides a basis for such a solution. A good way to carry it out would be [Page 552]to place this exchange of correspondence within an agreed protocol. Such a draft protocol, which would also include the position of the Cuban Government, was drafted by the Soviets. Unfortunately, the American representatives refused to accept it.
Another procedure might consist in drafting three declarations, by the United States, Soviet and Cuban Governments, to be agreed upon in New York and then, as a second step, placed before the Security Council for its approval.
The President asked whether Mr. Mikoyan meant an approval by the Security Council or a recording of the declarations with the Secretary General. One of these procedures would require a vote by the Security Council. This, as well as the inclusion of a Cuban declaration, would make the entire procedure impossible to accept. After all, the United States representative in the Security Council cannot be expected to vote in favor of Mr. Castro's declaration. What is important may be achieved simply by declarations agreed upon by the Soviet and United States Governments, which would then be registered with the Secretary General. As for the Cubans, let them do or not do whatever they wish.
Mr. Mikoyan said that after all, the Cuban question is on the agenda of the United Nations and, therefore, must be discussed there. What would be important is that an agreement be obtained between the two Governments before a discussion in the Security Council. The latter, however, cannot be avoided, and the lack of an agreement would amount to keeping alive an international dispute. The two countries, therefore, should come forward with an agreed position. As for such points which are not agreed, they might be the object of separate statements.
The President said that the Cuban Government must be left out of the negotiations. The problem now may be whether there would be agreement on one or two separate declarations.
Mr. Mikoyan said that there should be two declarations, one by each Government, however, that the texts should be agreed upon by the two Governments. The Security Council could then approve those two declarations and could call on the two Governments to resolve the remaining points of difference. What is necessary is a preliminary agreement by the two Governments on the texts of two declarations.
The President said that he understood that Soviet representatives did not like the American draft.
Mr. Mikoyan said that the President guessed correctly the opinion of the Soviet Government.
The President said that Soviet missiles have been removed from Cuba and that he expects that the Soviet bombers will likewise be taken out. He also hopes that the same thing will apply to the other military [Page 553]units and weapons covered by his correspondence with Chairman Khrushchev.
Mr. Mikoyan said that what Mr. Khrushchev has promised to do has either been done or is being done. No other weapons, however, beyond those covered by the correspondence, will be removed.
[An unclarity in translation seems to have led to a temporary misunderstanding. The President was apparently referring to “units servicing or guarding the missile force”. Mr. Mikoyan seems to have believed that the President's remarks applied also to military materiel beyond those specifically “service or guard” units.]
The President said that the Agreement covered missiles, bombers, and in due course, other units destined to service or guard the strategic offensive weapons. There is, of course, in Cuba, other military materiel about which, however, the President was not speaking.
Mr. Mikoyan said that the correspondence between the two heads of State is clear on that point. Unfortunately the United States draft declaration also contains a condition which applies to its non-invasion pledge. The condition in question is that the pledge applies only if Cuba abstains from any action which may be considered subversive or of a nature to undermine the governments of others of the Western Hemisphere. Otherwise the non-invasion guarantee is withdrawn. This conditional clause gives to the United States the right to judge the actions of another government and in fact to invade Cuba as it pleases. Mr. Castro has rightly asked “Who has given to the United States the right to invade or not invade Cuba, depending on its own wishes and furthermore to demand guarantees from the Cuban Government?”
The President said that it is Mr. Castro who is asking for guarantees and not the United States.
Mr. Mikoyan said that Mr. Castro was right in saying that no one gave the United States the right to invade or abstain from invasion according to its own interpretation of Cuban actions. Mr. Castro's declaration of the 28th is quite reasonable.2 What he wants is a bilateral guarantee. According to the United States, Cuba must not undertake subversive action, but the United States and its Allies are free to undertake such actions. Castro's demand that the agreement cut both ways is reasonable and in agreement with international law. Likewise, his demands for the liquidation of an economic blockade, the abstention from piratical acts, especially by ships belonging to Cuban counter-revolutionaries but based in United States ports and in particular Miami, are reasonable. So is his wish for a normalization of relations between the [Page 554]two countries. The only controversial point is that of the Guantanamo Base. Even there, however, Mr. Castro does not ask for the immediate elimination of the Base but only for the opening of negotiations to determine the time when it would be surrendered.
The President agreed that the actions of Cuban students shooting at Cuba from small boats are against United States legislation. Such actions are unimportant and only the sporadic exploits of publicity seekers. The United States Government is against such actions. The United States Government is not training any Cuban forces for action against Cuba and neither are such forces trained on the territories of the other nations of the Western Hemisphere. The important point is that of a non-invasion policy by the United States. The President said that he is repeating here and now that it is not the intention of the United States Government to invade Cuba.
It is, however, much more difficult to put such a statement in an official document without surrounding it with the necessary guarantees. After all, Mr. Mikoyan himself had stated to the press that the actions of the Soviet Government had “tied the hands of the Imperialists”. Regardless of how the word “imperialists” might apply, the President cannot expect to tie the hands of the United States regardless of any situation which might arise. The declaration does not apply only to the present. It applies also to the future, at least to the next two or six years depending on the wishes of the American electorate. In the meantime, many things may happen. What will the Chinese Communists do? What if three years from now the Soviet Union decided to reintroduce offensive weapons into Cuba?
The President is stating once again that the United States does not intend to invade Cuba. Any official written document, however, must be so drafted as to recognize the international responsibilities of the United States.
After all, we can neither forget or disregard the fact that Castro is not a friend of this country.
Yet the most important thing has been achieved: the Soviet Union knows that the United States does not intend to invade Cuba and the United States knows that the Soviets have removed missiles from Cuba. This is the gist of the agreement between the two Heads of State.
The problem now is that of formal statements. Here difficulties arise. After all, no control has been allowed, as requested by the United States and agreed upon in the exchange of correspondence. In consequence the United States is forced to carry on the overflights against which the Soviet Union and Castro are protesting.
Another solution might perhaps be suggested to these two points: if no international control is possible, the United States must, as it said, find out about the situation through its own facilities. The only thing that can [Page 555]be done is to make United States surveillance as unobtrusive as possible. After all, the lack of international control places the United States Government in an exceedingly difficult position, as it makes it almost impossible for it to reply to charges which are being made that there are still Soviet missiles in Cuba.
The President showed Mr. Mikoyan a press clipping containing a statement that there are Soviet missiles hidden in Cuban caves.
Mr. Mikoyan reiterated that the agreement between the two Chiefs of State in regard to weapons has been reached and is being carried out accordingly. However, articles in the United States press and the attitude of United States military constitute an obstacle to the final resolution of the crisis. Now the United States is stating that it intends to continue its overflights of Cuban territory. This is a source of a legitimate irritation on the part of the Cubans. After all, the United States has aerial cameras which make it possible to photograph Cuba from outside Cuban airspace. In spite of that the United States insists on violating Cuban airspace. This is not acceptable.
The President said that there are no such cameras; the angle at which photographs can be taken from outside the three-mile limit makes the photographs untrustworthy. The United States, however, endeavors to keep its overflights inconspicuous by carrying them out at high altitude and avoiding low altitude flights.
Mr. Mikoyan said that low altitude overflights are blatant hooliganism. High altitude overflights are also hooliganism but less blatant. Castro is right when he says that he will have to deal with such overflights by his own means.
The President said that this is not a question of great concern to the United States.
Mr. Mikoyan stated that such overflights violate the principles of the United Nations and Cuban sovereignty. Any country would protest against a state of affairs which hurts the legitimate pride and self-esteem of the Cubans. Castro has agreed to control. He only insists that such a control apply to all the parties concerned and not be strictly onesided. What makes the situation more difficult is the insistence of the United States to place a statement on this matter in the declaration. Trying to find out about facts by using one's own facilities is against international law but might be ignored; however, statement to that effect in a declaration does violate international law and cannot be accepted. Furthermore, the statement in the declaration that a non-invasion pledge is conditional on Cuba's abstention from subversive activities cannot be reconciled with international law as it in fact gives to the United States the right to determine by itself whether an invasion should take place. If there are any measures to be taken for the control of the subversion, they should apply equally to Cuba, to the other Caribbean nations and to the United States.[Page 556]
The President quoted the text of the proposed draft stating that “provided no nuclear weapons or weapons systems capable of offensive use are present in or reintroduced into Cuba, and the United States is in position to be satisfied on these points, and provided Cuba does not involve or support an invasion of any other country, the United States declares that it will not invade Cuba or support an invasion of Cuba.”3
Mr. Mikoyan said that it might not be impossible to express the fact that no nuclear weapons should be emplaced in Cuba, though not in the language of the present United States draft. In this draft it is said that Cuba might “support” the invasion of other countries. What is the precise meaning of the word “to support”?
The President said that he understands Mr. Mikoyan's concern on the latter point. His own concern should also be understood: the guarantee in question ties the hands of the United States for a period of years. If nothing were said beyond the point of the exclusion of offensive missiles and nuclear weapons from Cuba, that would mean that Castro would be free to do anything else he chose to do, and that the United States would be prevented from reacting against it. The President does not intend to give such a license to Castro. He is ready to state that the United States does not intend to invade Cuba; the problem is, however, that of avoiding giving Castro a blank check for a number of actions against which retaliation would be prevented by the declaration. This is why the clause in question was included. It is not because we want to invade Cuba. If Castro wants peace, that is fine, because that is what the United States wants and what the United States is saying. If he keeps peace we shall not invade Cuba, regardless of what Mr. Castro does within the borders of his country. This is their business.
Mr. Mikoyan said that the United States declaration means that the United States intends to control the actions of the Government of Cuba. What Castro wants is simply that if there is to be control it should be multilateral. His position is fully in agreement with the spirit of the exchange of letters between the two Chiefs of State. On the contrary the President said that Castro is an enemy of the United States and that the United States is going to terminate its blockade only under certain conditions. This means that the United States is moving back from the position agreed upon in the exchange of correspondence. It means that the United States is to be free to continue its anti-Cuban policies but that Castro would be prevented from doing anything without the permission of the United States.
Multilateral control can be accepted, but a situation according to which one government would be in a position to judge the actions of another government is not acceptable.[Page 557]
Furthermore, the fact that the United States has responsibilities under the Rio Treaty does not need to be included, as this is of no concern to the Soviet Union and, furthermore, as the United States and its Allies have pushed Cuba out of the Rio Treaty organization.
The President said that Mr. Mikoyan had accused the United States of retreating from the position expressed in the exchange of correspond-ence. This is not so. It is on the contrary, the Soviet Union which is moving back from its position, as the correspondence specified inspection by the United Nations and that no such inspection was allowed. Mr. Mikoyan had said that the declaration should not contain any suggestion that one government might judge the actions of another. However, some safeguards are necessary since otherwise the hands of the United States would be tied even while the policy of the Soviet Union would be free to change.
Nothing was said in the exchange of correspondence about any control of American territory. Now, however, Mr. Mikoyan suggests that the United States as well as Cuba submit to control, while no control would be exercised over the territory of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union proposes that the declaration be placed before the Security Council by a simple expression of Soviet will, and describes a state of affairs depending entirely on Soviet intentions. This cannot be accepted by the United States. The United States Government was misled once and it intends to make certain that it will not be misled again.
The United States does not intend to invade Cuba and is ready to make that known. It must, however, insist on (1) a minimum of control, and (2) the expression of its obligations under the Rio Treaty. The Rio Treaty has been ratified by the United States Senate and is a part of United States legislation to which the President himself is subject. It cannot be ignored in a binding document.
If the Soviet Union prefers it, however, it may be possible to make the United States intent known in a way which would be quite clear though not imply the same legal complications, for example, through a statement by the President, let us say, a press conference. In fact, the President has already made a statement of this kind at his last press conference. If, however, an official declaration is called for it must include references to all the aspects of the problem.
Thus there is a choice between either an official declaration, the precise language of which could be worked out between Messrs. McCloy, Stevenson and Kuznetsov, or a simply verbal statement by the President at a press conference.
If the first alternate is chosen it would have to contain references to the Rio Treaty, of which the United States continues to be a member, and a clause referring to the possibility of the United States satisfying itself that Cuba and the Soviet Union are respecting their side of the bargain; a lack [Page 558]of such a clause would cause an uncontrollable uproar in the United States and throughout the Western Hemisphere.
The other solution might be a simple statement by the President that the United States does not intend to invade Cuba, with the hope that Castro will not undertake any provocative action and that the Soviet Union does not reintroduce a military threat into the Western Hemisphere. If Mr. Castro wishes to carry on the activities described by Mr. Mikoyan such as the education of Cuban children and the mechanization of Cuban agriculture, well and fine. All we ask is that he does not cause any trouble outside of his own borders.
If there is to be an official declaration its language can be worked out in New York by the representatives of the two countries but it will have to contain clear references to the absence of offensive weapons from Cuba, to the control of such absence, and to some guarantees to the defense. The only other possibility is an informal statement.
Mr. Mikoyan asked if the President's statement at a press conference would be instead of or in addition to the formal declarations.
The President said that if no agreement can be reached on formal declarations, then it might be possible for him to clarify the position of the United States by means of a statement at a press conference express-ing the spirit of the exchange of correspondence between the two Heads of State. As a matter of fact, already at his last press conference the President had said that the United States does not intend to invade Cuba and that the same applied to the other nations of the Western Hemisphere. The President also expressed part of what he thinks about Mr. Castro, but this is not the same thing as an invasion. Thus a lot of progress was accomplished on the most difficult and important elements of the crisis. Let us hope that progress will be possible also on its remaining formal aspect through agreed declarations registered with the United Nations. If not, the President is ready to make an adequate statement at a press conference. Thus again there are two possibilities. Either agreed statements registered with the United Nations or a unilateral statement by the President at his press conference. Mr. Khrushchev, of course, can also wish to make a statement in either case. A statement by the United States or a statement agreeing with the United States will have to contain references to control and to the Rio Treaty.
There are, in fact, three possibilities: either agreement within the United Nations or disagreement and debate within the United Nations, if the Soviet Government so wishes; or again something which may or may not be satisfactory, that is to say a simple statement at a press conference. At that the two Governments could perhaps pass on to the other problems such as that of disarmament. In the meantime, the Cuban affair might be permitted to cool off and the President hopes that it will remain cool for a long time.[Page 559]
Mr. Mikoyan said that, in fact, what the President wants is merely to cool off a burning situation, while keeping the fire alive, whereas the Soviet Government wants to put the fire out for good before passing on to other questions.
The President said that the interpretations of the two participants in the conversation obviously differ.
Mr. Mikoyan suggested that if agreement could be obtained on a part of the items to be included in the declarations, such declarations could be registered officially with the United Nations. Any points on which there would be no agreement would then be the object of the statements outside of the United Nations. What should be included in the declarations is what was included in the exchange of correspondence. Other items, such as the Rio Treaty, could be left outside.
The President said that he wished to make it quite clear for the record that the United States is not moving back from any position agreed to in the correspondence.
The President quoted from the exchange of correspondence to the effect that the removal of missiles and other strategic weapons and military units would proceed under the control of the United Nations. This was not done. If the Soviet Union can manage to abide by the exchange of correspondence to the letter, then the United States will abide by that exchange to the letter. If not, the President can only act in the best way the situation permits.
Mr. Mikoyan stated that the Soviet Union fully abides by the exchange of correspondence. It had allowed inspection as the owner of the missiles and other weapons. The permission of the government on the soil of which the missiles were placed still remained necessary, and this is something over which the Soviet Union has no control. This is what was said in Chairman Khrushchev's letters of October 27 and 28. The only differences between the two letters being that all mention of Turkey was deleted from the October 28 letter. Thus the Soviets did everything which was incumbent upon them. Secretary General U Thant was kept informed of what the Soviets were doing. On the other hand the Soviet Government appreciates that the United States Government has agreed to verify the removal of missiles by means other than those specified in the exchange of letters. These means are, however, fully satisfactory, since American newspapers published photographs of missiles being removed and American officers made sure that the removal of missiles was taking place.
At the point where the entire deal is about to be finalized, the United States refuses to move forward but takes a step backwards. The aim of the United States Government is obviously to avoid guaranteeing the non-invasion of Cuba and this aim is being pursued through the imposition of a new condition. Perhaps the Soviet Union would also like to [Page 560]bring in some new conditions; but it realizes that it cannot be done without agreement on both sides, and thus it feels that it must, and the United States Government must likewise, simply abide by the exchange of correspondence. As for the obligations arising from the Rio Treaty, the United States may take care of them as it wishes, either through a statement at a press conference or by some other means. This is not a matter of concern for the Soviet Union.
The President said that nothing was said in the correspondence about any formal declarations. The only thing mentioned was an affirmation of United States intent in regard to the question of a hypothetical invasion of Cuba. This is something which the United States continues to be ready to do, and as a matter of fact, which it has done and is doing again. As for the draft declaration, it seems that the United States draft is not to the liking of the Soviet Government. So far, however, we have not seen any Soviet draft proposal.
The point of fact remains that it is not the intention of the United States Government to invade Cuba.
Mr. Mikoyan said that Castro has stated that his intentions are peaceful.
The President said that in such a case he does not have anything that should worry him.
Mr. Mikoyan said that the United States draft is insulting to Castro.
The President asked in what way could it be so interpreted.
Mr. Mikoyan said that the United States draft proposes that the actions of one sovereign government be subject to the control of another government. This is unusual in international relations.
The President said that the United States affirms its intent not to invade Cuba, such affirmations are not usual either.
Mr. Mikoyan said that this pledge of non-invasion is made subject to a condition placed unilaterally on Cuba and to be enforced unilaterally by the United States.
The President said that we cannot be expected to let this assurance stand if someday missiles or other similar weapons are introduced by Communist China, or once more by the Soviet Union or by somebody else, or if other similarly aggressive steps are taken by Castro. Can the United States be expected to extend a guarantee without any limitations?
Mr. Mikoyan said that the pledge of non-invasion should be stated in the terms in which it appears in the correspondence.
The President said that he is ready to make a simple statement. If, however, the Soviet Union insists on binding declarations, it must accept the complexities which unavoidably accompany the drafting of legal documents. The President would like to suggest to leave questions of precise drafting to Messrs. McCloy, Stevenson and Kuznetsov, with the [Page 561]repeated understanding that the declaration must include references to the obligations of the United States under the Rio Treaty and, in the absence of United Nations inspection, to some alternate system of guarantee and control. Thirdly, it must be specified that United States guarantees apply only as long as Castro abides by his peaceful statements. The United States is preparing to consider any draft which the Soviet Union might submit and which would satisfy those points.
Mr. Mikoyan said that the Soviet draft protocol contained all the necessary points but was not accepted by the United States.
The President suggested that matters of drafting be left to the delegations meeting in New York. The United States does not intend to invade Cuba and never intended to invade Cuba. The only threatening situation was the one created through the introduction of Soviet missiles into Cuba. If the Soviet Union does not repeat such an action, there may be no problem to worry about in the future. In any case it is clear that the United States does not intend to invade Cuba. That is the most important, and suitable language may be found by the New York delegations. In fact, the most difficult problem has been resolved, and what remains is only a secondary one.
Mr. Mikoyan said that it is true that much progress has been made and that is why he is so surprised at the President's position in regard to the final step of the declaration.
The President said that the difficulty is due to the failure of carrying out control. The Soviet Union objects to United States overflights of Cuba. The United States must insist on some means of control. It is possible that negotiations will lead to common ground. If so, fine. If not, a statement on the part of the President may be a step along the way.
Mr. Mikoyan said that he fully agreed with the spirit of the President's statement. He realizes that it will be impossible to discuss the declaration paragraph for paragraph in the present conversation. He is concerned, however, with the proposal to replace action within the United Nations by a simple statement at a press conference. The Cuba affair is on the agenda of the United Nations and failure to agree in that forum would keep the question alive. In fact, there is no reason to keep it alive as the carrying out of its obligations by the Soviet Union has been verified. Agreement has been obtained on the difficult question, the points of disagreement deal with something which should be easier to resolve. Mr. Mikoyan understands the President's concern, but he does not see why this concern should justify the inclusion of new conditions to the fulfillment of pledges. It is not possible to accept overflights. As for the Rio Treaty considerations, they belong in another forum. As for the question of preventing subversion, it should apply to all parties alike and not on a unilateral basis.[Page 562]
These are questions, however, which the delegations in New York might be able to resolve, if they are given correct instructions. Let them continue working at it. Nevertheless, Mr. Mikoyan has not fully understood what he must report to Chairman Khrushchev. Is it still the intention of the United States not to invade Cuba or is the United States backing away from that position?
The President said that he already has answered that question and said that the United States does not intend to invade Cuba. If the Soviet Union abides by the exchange of correspondence so will the United States.
Mr. Mikoyan said that he was happy to hear that.
The President said that he had made a statement to that effect already at the preceding week's press conference. At the present moment the only question that remains is that of formal documents. The Soviet Government has now come up with a proposal of a formal protocol to be signed with Cuba.
The President does not intend to sign any documents with Castro. A statement at a press conference would be a simple manner of resolving the question. An official document signed by all the parties induces legal complexities. This is, however, what the Soviet Union insists upon.
Mr. Mikoyan said that he liked what the President said at his last press conference and so did Chairman Khrushchev.
The President said that much progress has been accomplished, perhaps more will be accomplished in the next few weeks. In any case when Mr. Mikoyan returns to Moscow he will be able to report to Chairman Khrushchev the precise understanding that the United States has of this matter.
Mr. Mikoyan said that he would be able to remain longer if this could help to discuss these questions more fully and obtain a greater degree of agreement on them.
- Source: Department of State, S/S Presidential Memoranda of Conversations: Lot 66 D 149. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Edmund S. Glenn of Language Services and approved by the White House on December 13. The time of the meeting is from the President's Appointment Book. (Kennedy Library) The Department of State prepared a briefing paper with seven attachments for the President in anticipation of this conversation. (Department of State, S/S Presidential Memoranda of Conversation Files: Lot 66 D 149)↩
- All brackets are in the source text.↩
- Reference is to the September 27 message from Castro to U Thant; for an extract of the text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 439-440.↩
- The quote is from Document 208.↩