tonight R. Kennedy invited me to come see him. We talked
Cuban crisis, R. Kennedy began, continues to quickly worsen. We
have just received a report that an unarmed American plane was
shot down while carrying out a reconnaissance flight over Cuba.
The military is demanding that the President arm such planes and
respond to fire with fire. The USA government will have to do
interrupted R. Kennedy and asked him, what right American planes
had to fly over Cuba at all, crudely violating its sovereignty
and accepted international norms? How would the USA have reacted
if foreign planes appeared over its territory?
have a resolution of the Organization of American states that
gives us the right to such overflights," R. Kennedy quickly
told him that the Soviet Union, like all peace-loving countries,
resolutely rejects such a "right" or, to be more exact,
this kind of true lawlessness, when people who don't like the
social-political situation in a country try to impose their will
on it-a small state where the people themselves established and
maintained [their system]. "The OAS resolution is a direct
violation of the UN Charter," I added, "and you, as
the Attorney General of the USA, the highest American legal entity,
should certainly know that."
Kennedy said that he realized that we had different approaches
to these problems and it was not likely that we could convince
each other. But now the matter is not in these differences, since
time is of the essence. "I want," R. Kennedy stressed,
"to lay out the current alarming situation the way the president
sees it. He wants N.S. Khrushchev to know this. This is the thrust
of the situation now."
of the plane that was shot down, there is now strong pressure
on the president to give an order to respond with fire if fired
upon when American reconnaissance planes are flying over Cuba.
The USA can't stop these flights, because this is the only way
we can quickly get information about the state of construction
of the missile bases in Cuba, which we believe pose a very serious
threat to our national security. But if we start to fire in response-a
chain reaction will quickly start that will be very hard to stop.
The same thing in regard to the essence of the issue of the missile
bases in Cuba. The USA government is determined to get rid of
those bases-up to, in the extreme case, of bombing them, since,
I repeat,they pose a great threat to the security of the USA.
But in response to the bombing of these bases, in the course of
which Soviet specialists might suffer, the Soviet government will
undoubtedly respond with the same against us, somewhere in Europe.
A real war will begin, in which millions of Americans and Russians
will die. We want to avoid that any way we can, I'm sure that
the government of the USSR has the same wish. However, taking
time to find a way out [of the situation] is very risky (here
R. Kennedy mentioned as if in passing that there are many unreasonable
heads among the generals, and not only among the generals, who
are 'itching for a fight'). The situation might get out of control,
with irreversible consequences."
this regard," R. Kennedy said, "the president considers
that a suitable basis for regulating the entire Cuban conflict
might be the letter N.S. Khrushchev sent on October 26 and the
letter in response from the President, which was sent off today
to N.S. Khrushchev through the US Embassy in Moscow. The most
important thing for us," R. Kennedy stressed, "is to
get as soon as possible the agreement of the Soviet government
to halt further work on the construction of the missile bases
in Cuba and take measures under international control that would
make it impossible to use these weapons. In exchange the government
of the USA is ready, in addition to repealing all measures on
the "quarantine," to give the assurances that there
will not be any invasion of Cuba and that other countries of the
Western Hemisphere are ready to give the same assurances-the US
government is certain of this."
what about Turkey?" I asked R. Kennedy.
that is the only obstacle to achieving the regulation I mentioned
earlier, then the president doesn't see any unsurmountable difficulties
in resolving this issue," replied R. Kennedy. "The greatest
difficulty for the president is the public discussion of the issue
of Turkey. Formally the deployment of missile bases in Turkey
was done by a special decision of the NATO Council. To announce
now a unilateral decision by the president of the USA to withdraw
missile bases from Turkey-this would damage the entire structure
of NATO and the US position as the leader of NATO, where, as the
Soviet government knows very well, there are many arguments. In
short, if such a decision were announced now it would seriously
tear apart NATO."
President Kennedy is ready to come to agree on that
question with N.S. Khrushchev, too. I think that in order to withdraw
these bases from Turkey," R. Kennedy said, "we need
4-5 months. This is the minimal amount of time necessary for the
US government to do this, taking into account the procedures that
exist within the NATO framework. On the whole Turkey issue,"
R. Kennedy added, "if Premier N.S. Khrushchev agrees with
what I've said, we can continue to exchange opinions between him
and the president, using him, R. Kennedy and the Soviet ambassador.
"However, the president can't say anything public in this
regard about Turkey," R. Kennedy said again. R. Kennedy then
warned that his comments about Turkey are extremely confidential;
him and his brother, only 2-3 people know about it in Washington.
all that he asked me to pass on to N.S. Khrushchev," R. Kennedy
said in conclusion. "The president also asked N.S. Khrushchev
to give him an answer (through the Soviet ambassador and R. Kennedy)
if possible within the next day (Sunday) on these thoughts in
order to have a business-like, clear answer in principle. [He
asked him] not to get into a wordy discussion, which might drag
things out. The current serious situation, unfortunately, is such
that there is very little time to resolve this whole issue. Unfortunately,
events are developing too quickly. The request for a reply tomorrow,"
stressed R. Kennedy, "is just that-a request, and not an
ultimatum. The president hopes that the head of the Soviet government
will understand him correctly."
noted that it went without saying that the Soviet government would
not accept any ultimatums and it was good that the American government
realized that. I also reminded him of N.S. Khrushchev's appeal
in his last letter to the president to demonstrate state wisdom
in resolving this question. Then I told R. Kennedy that the president's
thoughts would be brought to the attention of the head of the
Soviet government. I also said that I would contact him as soon
as there was a reply. In this regard, R. Kennedy gave me a number
of a direct telephone line to the White House.
the course of the conversation, R. Kennedy noted that he knew
about the conversation that television commentator Scali had yesterday
with an Embassy adviser on possible ways to regulate the Cuban
conflict [one-and-a-half lines whited out]
should say that during our meeting R. Kennedy was very upset;
in any case, I've never seen him like this before. True, about
twice he tried to return to the topic of "deception,"
(that he talked about so persistently during our previous meeting),
but he did so in passing and without any edge to it. He didn't
even try to get into fights on various subjects, as he usually
does, and only persistently returned to one topic: time is of
the essence and we shouldn't miss the chance.
After meeting with me he immediately went to see the president,
with whom, as R. Kennedy said, he spends almost all his time now.