Letters and Messages

From Nikita Khrushchev to Fidel Castro (October 30, 1962)

October 30, 1962

Esteemed Comrade Fidel Castro:

We received your letter of the 28th of October along with reports of the conversations you and President Dorticós held with our ambassador.  
We comprehend your situation and take into account  your difficulties during this first stage following the elimination of maximum tension that resulted from the threat of an attack by the American imperialists, one you were anticipating would come at any second.  

We comprehend that certain difficulties could have come up for you as a result of the promises we made to the United States to withdraw the missile bases from Cuba in exchange for their promise to abandon their plans to invade Cuba and to prevent their allies in the Western Hemisphere from doing so, to end their so-called “quarantine” – their blockade of Cuba.  This committment led to the end of the conflict in the Caribbean, a conflict involving, as you can well understand, a confrontation between superpowers and its becoming transformed into a world war where missiles and thermonuclear weapons would have been used.  According to our ambassador, some Cubans feel that the Cuban people would  prefer a different kind of statement, one that didn’t deal with withdrawing the missiles. It could be that these feelings exist among the people.  But we, politicians and heads of state, are the leaders of the people and the people do not know everything.  For that reason, we must march at the fore of the people.  Thus the people will follow and respect us.   

If, succumbing to popular feelings, we would have allowed ourselves to be swept along by the most aroused sectors of the populace and it we would have not schieved a reasonable agreement with the US government, war would have broken out, and it would have reulted in millions of dead.  The survivors would have blamed the leaders for not having taken measures to prevent this war of extermination.  

Preventing war and an attack on Cuba did not just depend on the measures taken by our governments but on analysis and examination of the enemy’s actions close to your territory.  To put it briefly, one had to consider the situation as a whole.

Some are saying that we did not consult each other sufficiently before making the decision of which you are aware.  

In reality, we consider that consultation took place, my dear Commander Fidel Castro, given that we received your wires, each one more alarming than the last, and finally your wire on October 27th where you said that you were almost certain that an attack on Cuba was imminent.  According to you, it was only a matter of time: 24 or 72 hours.  

When we received this very alarming wire of yours, an being aware of your courage, we believed that the warning was totally justified.  
Was that not consultation with you?  We interpreted that wire as a signal of maximum alarm. But had we carried out our consultations under such conditions, knowing that the warmongering and unbridled US miltarists wanted to seize the occasion to attack Cuba, we would have been wasting our time and the attack would have taken place.   

We believe that the presence of our strategic missiles in Cuba polarized the imperialists’ attention.  They were afraid that they would be used, which is why they risked wanting to eliminate them, by bombíng their sites or by invading Cuba.  And we have to recognize that they had the capacity to act.  For that reason, I repeat, your sense of alarm was totally justified.

In your October 27th wire, you proposed that we should be the first to carry out a nuclear attack on enemy territory.  Naturally, you can understand where that would have led.  It wouldn’t have been a simple strike but the start of a termonuclear world war.

Dear Comrade Fidel Castro; I find your proposal to be mistaken even though I understand your reasons.  

We have lived through some very serious moments, a global thermonuclear war could have broken out.  Of course, the United States would have suffred enormous losses, bu the Soviet Union and the entire socialist bloc would hae also suffered greatly.  It is difficult to say how it would have turned out for the Cuban people. First of all, Cuba would have been burned in the bonfires of war.  Without a doubt the Cuban people would have fought bravely but, also without a doubt, the Cuban people would have heroically perished.  We are fighting against imperialism, not to die, but to use all our potential, to lose as little as possible and to win more later on, to overcome and to see communism triumph.   

The measures we have adopted have allowed us to attain the objective we established when we decided to send missiles to Cuba.  We have gotten the United States to promise to not invade Cuba and to not allow its Latin American allies to do so.  We have achieved all this without a nuclear war.   

We believe we should take advantage of all possibilities to defend Cuba, to strengthen its Independence and sovreignty, to prevent military aggresion and to avoid a thermonuclear war in this era.  

And we have triumphed.

Of course, we have made concessions, we have made some compromises.  We have acted under the principle of reciprocal concessions.  The United States has also made concessions; it has publically promised, before the entire world, that it will not attack Cuba.

Therefore, should we compare an attack by the US and a thermonuclear war on the one hand with the compromises made on the other hand: mutual concessions, the guarantee of the inviolability of the Republic of Cuba, avoiding a world war, then I believe the conclusions are clear.  
Naturally, in the defence of Cuba and other socialist countries, we cannot trust the US promise (of not invading Cuba).  We have taken, and we continue taking, all necessary measures to strengthen our defences and to accumulate the forces needed to carry out a response. At this moment, with the weapons we have given Cuba, it is capable of defending itself on its own more than ever before.  Even after the dismantling of the missile bases, you possess sufficient powerful armament to drive back the ememy by land, sea and in the air close to your territory.   

Furthermore, as you will remember, we stated in our message to the president of the United States on October 28th that “at the same time, we wish to assure the Cuban people that we are on their side and that we shall not abandon our responsibility to help the Cuban people”. It is clear to the entire world that this is a very serious warning that we have sent to the enemy.  

In meetings you stated that the US cannot be trusted.  Of course you are right.  Our statements on the negotiation conditions with the United States are also correct.  To down a US plane over Cuban territory was a futile act, when all is said and done, because it ended without any complications.  It is a lesson for the imperialists.  Notwithstanding, our enemies shall interpret the events their own way.  The Cuban counter-revolution will also attempt to raise its head.  But we believe that you are in absolute control of the internal enemy without needing our help.  The most important thing we have managed to achieve is to stop, for the time being, an attack from the external enemy.   

We think that the aggressor has suffered a defeat.  It was preparing an attack on Cuba but we stopped it and we have forced them to promise to the world that they shall not do it at this time.  We believe this is a great victory.  Of course, we also have our plans, and we shall make our decisions.  This process of struggle shall go on while two socio-political systems exist on this Earth, until one of the systems, and we know it shall be our communist system, triumphs throughout the world.  

Comrade Fidel Castro; we decided to send you this answer as quickly as posible.  We shall make a more detailed analysis of what has occurred in a letter that we shall send you soon.  In that leter we shall make a deeper analysis of the situation and give our opinion on the results of how the crisis was settled.     

At this moment, negotiations for a settlement are starting and we ask you to communicate your position to us.  As for us, we shall be keeping you informed on the progress of the negotiations and we shall be making all the necessary consultations.

Comrade Fidel Castro; we wish you all possible success and I am sure that you shall achieve it.  There are still plots existing against you.   But our intention with you is to take all the necessary steps to eliminate them and to contribute to the strengthening and development of the Cuban Revolution.   

Nikita Khrushchev