Becoming JFK: A Profile in Communication

By Vito N. Silvestri | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15
Words of Peace Change the Cold War
Dialogue to Win a Nuclear
Test Ban Treaty

I speak of peace because of the new face of war.

John F. Kennedy, June 10, 1963

There is a linear progression between the Cuban Missile crisis, in October, 1962, Kennedy's Commencement Address at American University, in June 1963, and the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in July, 1963. After the threat of a nuclear holocaust in Cuba was resolved, the two protagonists certainly realized that nuclear war could not be an option. Khrushchev's decision to withdraw missiles was severely criticized by the Chinese Communists, who had strong ideological disputes with the Soviet Union over communism in general. There was also some criticism in Moscow. Khrushchev turned to the pressing needs of his own people and initiated overtures to Kennedy about exploring ways of gaining mutual accommodations with the West.Clearly the haunting lessons of potential nuclear catastrophe in Cuba informed both Khrushchev's overtures and Kennedy's responses. The deadly induction caused these bold truths to emerge for both:
1. If escalatory action leading to nuclear confrontation is an action that is irrational, and if the Cuban Missile confrontation was an escalatory action leading to nuclear confrontation, Then: the Cuban Missile confrontation was an irrational action.
2. If mutual confrontation, like the Cuban Missile crisis, is an action that leads to mutual self-destruction, and if an action that leads to mutual self-destruction is an irrational act. Then: Mutual confrontation like the Cuban Missile crisis is an irrational act.

Disarmament negotiations in Geneva during the winter of 1963 had reached an impasse over the question of on-site inspections of nuclear arsenals. No new proposals had been advanced, and in early spring 1963, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan proposed to Kennedy that they try high-level talks for a test ban treaty once again with the Soviets. He argued that this attempt would be evidence of new earnestness to the

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