Cuban Missile Crisis, Document 36

An inside look back at President Kennedy dealing with Cuban Missile Crisis

2 November 1962 / Enciphered cable from Alekseyev on Fidel Castro’s letter


Reproduction prohibited

Copy No. 12

5962    23/X/62

Enciphered Cable

[Translator’s note: Distribution for this cable is as follows: Brezhnev, Voronov, Kirilenko, Kozlov, Kosygin, Kuusinen, Mikoyan, Podgornyy, Polyanskiy, Suslov, Khrushchev, Khrushchev, Shvernik, Grishin, Rashidov, Mazurov, Mzhavanadze, Shcherbitskiy, Demichev, Ilyevich, Ponomarev, Shelepin, Gromyko, Malinovskiy, Kuznetsov, Sobolev]

From: Havana             No. 50389                   Time: 15:45                Date: 3/XI/1962                      50390 50396 50397 50474 50424               

Spets. No. 1717-1722

Top Priority


            In reference to your No. 1710.

            When Fidel Castro wrote the letter, he was clearly irritable and was experiencing the influence of attitudes, revolutionary in form, but backwards in terms of content, from a certain part of his circle and the electrified masses for whom, until very recently, the Cuban policy makers have not spelled out the significance of the decisions we made and effectively have added to the peoples’ confusion and even anti-Soviet attitudes.

            The press’s suppression of the world’s responses to the decision of the Soviet government, the fanning of violent anti-American attitudes, and specifically the broad mobilization of public opinion in support of the 5 points in Fidel Castro’s declaration have been providing the people with the footing to pass judgment on the major differences between the governments of Cuba and the USSR.

            As expected, the Chinese did not fail to make use of our temporarily unpalatable situation.

            The PRC government and media marched out with pseudo-revolutionary declarations aimed at sweet talking the already agitated Cubans; these declarations are already appearing in Cuban newspapers.

            PRC Embassy employees have “turned out in masses” and began to call for resisting the aggressor using their own resources.

            Attempting to influence the sentimental feelings of the Cubans, many of them have begun showing up in groups at donor sites to give their blood, to thereby “seal the Chinese-Cuban friendship with blood.” However, these petty propaganda techniques enjoyed no great success, although they did serve to strengthen the Cubans’ confusion even further.

            It is worth noting that this confusion didn’t just involve the common people, but also a number of Cuban leaders as well.

            According to our information, at a recent meeting of ORO [Integrated Revolutionary Organizations] leadership, members of the national leadership Guillermo Garcia, Abel Santamaria, and to an extent, Kuroelo [sic] and R. Valdez, expressed their criticism of our decisions.

            Dorticos also voiced his dissatisfaction at our methods of resolving this issue.

            J. Ordoqui and C. R. Rodriguez spoke out in defense of the decision.

            Guevara and Aragones did not speak, and R. Castro was not present at the meeting.

            Fidel Castro reportedly arrived at no conclusions, and gave free rein to those who wanted tp speak out, but did not take any specific position himself.

            It was supposedly agreed to consider that the decisions we had made were the personal matter of the Soviet government.

            It was agreed that there would be no interference in our subsequent decisions about the remaining troops and military hardware, and no questions about their being left behind would be asked.

            It was also recommended that in his speech, Fidel Castro would not analyze our decision, but instead simply speak in defense of the 5 points from his declaration and his dialogues with U Thant, and suppress any anti-Soviet sentiments arising among the people, stressing that friendship with the USSR is inviolable and lasting.

            If Fidel Castro himself could embrace the conviction outright that the Cuban revolution has benefited greatly, and is strengthened, by such a bold decision made by the Soviet government, then one could safely say that the entire country would support him, and all of the misconceptions would be dissipated and all of the rebuke directed at us would cease.  But until recently, Castro was prisoner to these misconceptions, and only after meeting with U Thant and receiving the latest letter from Comrade N. S. Khrushchev, he seems to be taking the appropriate realistic positions.

            Castro’s misconceptions were brought about by the following circumstances:

            He is certain that, after the first capitulation to imperialism, others may follow (this is how he interpreted the decision of the Soviet government);

            There is no doubt in Castro’s mind that the imperialists will lay down charges and will look for an opportunity for provocations.

            In a number of his comments among his circle of close associates, he presented the idea that the Cuban question had passed from an international to a local dispute, and that they must be ready for local warfare, that is, relying solely on their own resources. He feels that during the period of the greatest upswing in revolutionary transformations, they must not discourage the Cuban people and instill in them illusions of reconciliation with imperialism.  However, the main problem with Castro’s misconceptions I see is not so much the insufficiently ideological training and lack of Party conditioning, as it is his peculiar, overly complex susceptible and thin-skinned nature.  The slightest misguided ambiguous expression or attempts to pressure him are perceived by him quite angrily.  This was the case with the response to Comrade Khrushchev’s letter that was sent to you.  He “seized upon” the trivialities and cooked up his response in the heat of the moment.  The story of F. Castro’s 27 October letter is as follows:

            On 27 October, at 2:00 in the morning, Dorticos called me at the apartment and said that Castro was coming to me for an important discussion. Castro stayed with me until 7:00 in the morning, explaining the criticality of the moment, dictating and reworking dozens of times the letter that was sent to you. Castro would dictate, then he would draw up talking points, all the while never arriving at a final text. At first, I couldn’t understand for a long time what Castro had wanted to convey using his labyrinthine phrases, so in order to feel him out, I asked him directly, “You want to tell us to be first in launching a nuclear strike against the enemies.” No, Castro said, I don’t want to come right out and say that, but under certain conditions, without waiting to be on the receiving end of the cunningness of the imperialists, you have to preempt them with the first strike, and in the case of aggression against Cuba, wipe them off the face of the Earth.” Castro was certain that an attack was inevitable, stating that there are only five chances out of a hundred that it would not happen. When reading Comrade Khrushchev’s letter, he had two points of criticism, which I already wrote about to you (reference our No. 1701).

            Castro was especially frustrated by one phrase from the letter: “In the telegram of 27 October, you recommended that we be first in conducting a nuclear weapon strike against the enemy territory.” Castro had thought that seemingly Moscow had decided that he was encouraging us to conduct a strike not after an attack on Cuba, but during the crisis. He had an inkling that we had conveyed his thoughts improperly, and asked to be provided with a translation of the telegram we sent and his rough drafts, which we of course produced, and he was satisfied with the accuracy with which his ideas were conveyed.

            From the letter we sent, Castro’s misconceptions are obvious.

            In your good faith efforts, you can always rely on us.  We [unreadable] vocal against imperialism than some, but by our deeds and actions, we inflict far more tangible blows against it.  Only so that Castro did not take the last sentiment personally, but realized that it was directed at the Chinese.

            It’s a good idea to emphasize the bravery of the Cuban people and Castro’s personal courage and his concern for the future of his people and the pursuit of socialism.

            It is better to not enter into debate on the other minor issues, and perhaps it should be admitted that the complexity of the circumstances did not let us hold consultations, which we always do in normal conditions.

            I am certain that Castro will happily receive a response offered in this spirit, until he is able to take on all of the qualities of the Marxist-Leninist party discipline. But for now, he is the main force in Cuba, and a living program of the people, so we must stand up for him, cultivate him, and sometimes overlook some of his faults.

            In my opinion, the potential hazard isn’t in Castro’s misguided ideologies, but instead in the qualities of his character.

            If I am mistaken, please correct me.

                                                            2.XI.62   ALEKSEYEV

REFERENCE: No. 1710 (Ref. 50273) dated 1.XI.62                                                            Comrade Alekseyev provided the translation of Castro’s letter to Comrade Khrushchev in response to his letter from 30 October.

No. 1701 (Ref. 49971) dated 31.X.62                                                              Comrade Alekseyev reported on his meeting with Fidel                                Castro and the delivery to him of Comrade Khrushchev’s letter.

Published by misterestes

Professional RU-EN translator with a love for books and movies, old and new, and a passion for translating declassified documents. Call me Doc. Nobody else does.

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