How My Father and President Kennedy Saved the World: The Cuban Missile Crisis as Seen from the Kremlin

By Khrushchev, Sergei | American Heritage, October 2002 | Go to article overview

How My Father and President Kennedy Saved the World: The Cuban Missile Crisis as Seen from the Kremlin


Khrushchev, Sergei, American Heritage


THE WORLD CAME CLOSE TO A NUCLEAR CLASH THREE times during the half-century of the Cold War. The first was in Korea when China's intervention snatched imminent victory from General MacArthur. Only a nuclear strike could save the situation, but President Harry Truman firmly rejected it. The second time came in 1962, at the moment of greatest tension around Cuba, 40 years ago this October. And the last was in Vietnam when many American military and political leaders believed that atomic weapons alone could redress the failure of the war's progress.

On the first and last occasions, American political leaders had a choice. But during the 13-day crisis of October 1962, events almost spun beyond control of either the White House or the Kremlin. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Cuban Missile Crisis is the fact that its causes were not solely what had become the familiar competition between two superpowers, America and Russia, but something more dangerous, the cultural differences--I would say differences in civilization--between them. Because of those differences, the leaders were unable to judge with any accuracy what effect their decisions would have on the other side.

However detailed the information the White House got from its intelligence sources and diplomats, the President based his final decision on his idea of conduct in the Kremlin. That is the crux of the matter. People invariably think in terms of their own traditions, their own culture, which may have nothing in common with the other party's way of thinking. Furthermore, a leader will trust his own intuition more than all the intelligence agencies in the world. Otherwise he would not be a leader.

Differences in civilization affect a country's vision not only of the future but of the past. Every country has its own historical mythology. The American mythology of the Cuban missile crisis is familiar: An aggressive Soviet Union, with the cooperation of a local dictator, Fidel Castro, placed offensive nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, in Cuba, with the intention of cowing the United States. When President John F. Kennedy learned of this, he quite properly threatened the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, who "blinked" first and pulled his men and his missiles out of the island. The United States rightly won, and Khrushchev was soon swept from power.

But how did Cuba look from the windows of the Kremlin during the Cold War? At the beginning of 1959 the Soviet leaders could hardly imagine any fate that might link Moscow and Havana. No specialists in the Central Committee, much less Father, even knew much about Latin America. The Soviet embassy in Cuba had been shut down as unnecessary back in 1952.

The arrival in Havana of the partisan fighter Fidel Castro on January 1, 1959, and Fulgencio Batista's flight, attracted little attention in Moscow. When Father asked for information about Cuba, it turned out there was none to give him. Neither the Communist Party Central Committee's International Department, KGB intelligence, nor military intelligence had any idea who Castro was or what he was fighting for. Father advised them to consult Cuba's Communists; they reported that the newcomer was a representative of the haute bourgeoisie and working for the CIA.

In 1960 Father decided to send his deputy Anastas Mikoyan to Cuba to discover what motivated Castro. Mikoyan was an intelligent man and an outstanding negotiator and diplomat. He visited Father at the dacha on the eve of his departure, and I remember one small episode. A group of us went for a walk, and one of Father's aides reported on Castro's recent trip to Washington to meet President Eisenhower. No one had any reliable information. The aide tried to persuade the group that Castro was an American agent, or at least ready to dance to the White House's tune. You couldn't trust him: That was the Kremlin's view of Castro at the time.

Mikoyan returned from Cuba elated. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How My Father and President Kennedy Saved the World: The Cuban Missile Crisis as Seen from the Kremlin
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.