In the Land
of the Giants
NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV'S BETRAYAL HAD a profound impact on Fidel Castro. Those who met him in early December 1962 noted a significant physical decline. His once well-padded frame had become gaunt and thin. His tailored uniforms hung limp, like the clothes of a scarecrow. To escape from the pressures of public life, he retired to his hideaway in the Sierra Maestra, where he nursed his grievances against the Soviets. His mood was somber and apocalyptic. He suggested to intimates that he might resign and leave Cuba. In his conversations with students at the university he had given the impression that the Soviet Union might soon abandon Cuba. The country might run out of petroleum and have no electricity, might be forced to give up all modern industry and revert to a primitive agricultural economy. Better that, he said, than accept the indignity of losing its sovereignty. Havana buzzed with reports of disaffection in the ranks of the revolutionary leadership. A sizable minority, said to be pro-Chinese, were pressing him to break with the Kremlin. "Fidel's head is with Moscow," people said, "but his heart is with Peking."
Chinese attacks on the Soviets grew more frequent, more open, and more vituperative. In a rash of editorials and broadcasts Beijing denounced the decision to return the missiles. The People's Daily spelled out China's policies on the basic issues that affected peace and war in the world. At every point they opposed those of the Kremlin. Coexistence between East and West was "inconceivable" without an armed conflict. Nuclear war would lead to the extinction of imperialism, but definitely not of mankind.