CubaBrief: On this day in 1962, Castro sends letter to Khrushchev requesting nuclear first strike on USA, and orders artillery to fire on American planes.

October 26, 1962: Castro sends letter to Khrushchev requesting nuclear first strike on USA, and orders artillery to fire on American planes.

U2 plane shot down over Cuba 10/27/62 killing the pilot. Source: (Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

On this day in 1962, Fidel Castro sent a letter to Nikita Khrushchev asking the Soviet leader to launch a nuclear first strike on the United States. The Cuban dictator also ordered all of his artillery to begin firing on American reconnaissance aircraft at the dawn of “Black Saturday.” On October 27, 2022, when tensions reached their highest point during the Cuban Missile Crisis, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down and the pilot, Major Rudolf Anderson Jr., was killed.

Major Rudolf Anderson Jr. returns from a flight in a North American F-86. In October 1962, his high-altitude Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance plane was shot down over Cuba. (Source: the Anderson Family)

Black Saturday (October 27, 1963) was Castro’s Day

Fidel Castro came very close on October 27, 1963, to starting World War Three. On October 14, 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the National Archives and the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum held a forum titled “50th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” during which scholar and former CIA analyst Brian Latell outlined Castro’s attempts to spark a conflict while Kennedy and Khrushchev were seeking to avoid war.

The Castro regime and the Soviet Union had a secret alliance in 1960 to advance the aims of international communism in the Americas, despite the Castro brothers’ public claims to the contrary. Despite this close and conspiratorial relationship, Castro’s efforts to provoke WW3 unnerved Khrushchev, and the timing of his concessions to the United States may have been a result of the fear that allowing the crisis to continue would give Castro further opportunities to launch a global nuclear war. “Castro was willing to reduce Cuba to powder,” explained Latell.

“Castro’s letter calling for a first strike against the U.S. concerned the Soviet premier and spurred [Khrushchev] to try to resolve the standoff,” said Michelle Paranzino, an assistant professor of strategy and policy at the U.S. Naval War College.

President Kennedy’s letter to the widow of Major Anderson, killed in Cuba sixty years ago on October 27th. National Archives

Brian Latell observed on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis that “Nikita Khrushchev believed, I think until his death, that Fidel Castro had personally ordered the shoot-down by a Soviet ground-to-air missile site, Khrushchev believed that Castro had actually somehow been responsible for it himself.”

Fyodor Burlatsky, who was a speechwriter for Nikita Khrushchev, in 1992 wrote an OpEd published in The New York Times titled “Castro Wanted a Nuclear Strike in which he referenced Fidel Castro’s Armageddon letter and how it was received in Moscow.

For me, the culmination of the Cuban missile crisis was not Oct. 27, 1962, when John F. Kennedy awaited a reply to his ultimatum to pull the missiles off the island, but the telegram Fidel Castro sent to Nikita Khrushchev earlier: “I propose the immediate launching of a nuclear strike on the United States. The Cuban people are prepared to sacrifice themselves for the cause of the destruction of imperialism and the victory of world revolution.”

Governor Jeb Bush and Frank Calzon in a 2012 OpEd about the Cuban Missile Crisis published in The Wall Street Journal observed that the behavior of the Castro regime during this existential crisis was not an anomaly, but part of a pattern that had occurred prior to the October Crisis and would continue over the next six decades.

“The past decades have shown that the behavior of the Castro brothers in 1962 was perfectly characteristic. Fidel Castro has never shied away from a political gamble such as deploying secret Soviet missiles and then lying about them. He assured other governments that he would never do such a thing, just as the Soviet Union’s ambassador to the United States told the Kennedy administration that rumors about missiles were false. But the missiles were there, and their deployment was an effort to intimidate and blackmail America.”

The Castro regime, for example, was founded in terrorism and over 63 years this dictatorship has sponsored terrorism in the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Africa and coordinated in through the Tricontinental. Nevertheless, the Castro dictatorship and its representative’s continue to complain bitterly that Cuba is on the U.S. State Department’s state sponsors of terrorism list, and deny their role in international terrorism, while continuing to carry it out.

The Wilson Center, October 26, 1962

TELEGRAM FROM FIDEL CASTRO TO N. S. KHRUSHCHEV

 Dear Comrade KHRUSHCHEV,

In analyzing the situation that has arisen through the information at our disposal, it seems that aggression in the next 24 to 72 hours is almost inevitable.

Two variants of this aggression are possible:

1. The most likely one is an air attack on certain installations, with the aim of destroying those installations.

2. A less likely, but still possible variant is a direct invasion of the country. I believe that the realization of this variant would require large forces, and that this may hold the aggressors back; moreover such an aggression would be met with indignation by global public opinion.

You can be sure that we will offer strong and decisive resistance to whatever form this aggression may take.

The morale of the Cuban people is exceptionally high, and will face the aggression heroically.

Now I would like to express in a few words my deeply personal opinion on the events which are now occurring.

If an aggression of the second variant occurs, and the imperialists attack Cuba with the aim of occupying it, then the danger posed by such an aggressive measure will be so immense for all humanity that the Soviet Union will in circumstances be able to allow it, or to permit the creation of conditions in which the imperialists might initiate a nuclear strike against the USSR as well.

I say this because I believe that the aggressiveness of the imperialists is becoming extremely dangerous.

If they initiate an attack on Cuba — a barbaric, illegal, and amoral act– then in those circumstances the moment would be right for considering the elimination of such a danger, claiming the lawful right to self-defense. However difficult and horrifying this decision may be, there is, I believe, no other recourse. This opinion of mine has been formed by the emergence of an aggressive policy in which the imperialists ignore not only public opinion but all principles and rights as well: they blockade the sea, they violate air space, they are preparing an attack, and moreover they are destroying all possibilities for negotiations, even though they are aware of the gravity of the consequences.

You have been and remain a tireless defender of peace, and I understand how difficult these hours are for you, when the results of your superhuman efforts in the struggle for peace are so gravely threatened.

However, we will keep hoping up to the last minute that peace will be maintained, and we will do everything in our power to pursue this aim, but at the same time -we are realistically evaluating the situation, and are ready and resolved to face any ordeal.

I once again express our whole country’s endless gratitude to the Soviet people, who have shown such brotherly generosity towards us. We also express our admiration and deep thanks to you personally, and wish you success in your immense and crucial endeavor.

      With brotherly greetings,

FIDEL CASTRO. “

Sources:

CubaBrief

https://www.cubacenter.org/archives/2020/10/23/cubabrief-lessons-from-the-cuban-missile-crisis-on-the-nature-of-the-castro-regime-that-remain-relevant 

Black Saturday: Cuban Missile Crisis

https://www.history.org.uk/ha-news/news/708/black-saturday-cuban-missile-crisis

Forgotten Casualty of the Cuban Missile Crisis

https://www.historynet.com/forgotten-casualty-cuban-missile-crisis.htm

Armageddon Letter / Wilson Center

https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114501

Miami Herald, October 21, 2022

Newly revealed documents show early influence of Soviet Union on Castro’s revolution

By Nora Gámez Torres October 21, 2022 5:30 AM

In this May 1, 1963, file photo, Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro, left, and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev clasp hands at the Lenin mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square on May Day in Moscow, Russia. TASS via AP.

Long before Fidel Castro proclaimed the “socialist character” of his revolution on April 1961, the new regime was already on the path to communism and was “discreetly” placing sympathizers in key positions in government, Castro’s younger brother Raúl told Soviet leaders, according to a rare document obtained by the Washington-based National Security Archive. The recently declassified document from the State Archive of the Russian Federation, an official record of a conversation in Moscow between Cuba’s defense minister, Raúl Castro, and the Soviet premier at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, on July 18, 1960, provides previously unknown details of the crucial moment the two countries sealed an alliance that would push the world to the brink of nuclear war just two years later during the Cuban Missile crisis. The transcript of that pivotal exchange also provides critical insights into what Cuban and Soviet leaders really thought of a potential U.S. economic embargo and how Fidel Castro disregarded Soviet advice to avoid provoking the United States.

[ Full article ]

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article267467793.html

From the archives

The Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2012

Cuban Blackmail, 50 Years After the Missile Crisis

The past decades have shown that the Castro brothers’ behavior in October 1962 was perfectly characteristic.

By Jeb Bush and Frank Calzon

Oct. 23, 2012 7:16 p.m. ET

With this week marking the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, Americans are recalling the 13 days in October 1962 when the Soviet Union and Cuba’s Fidel Castro brought the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon.

But in assessing the crisis, and President John F. Kennedy’s decisions over those 13 days, it is equally important to consider what has happened since. Using what the late U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick called the “politics of deception,” Cuba’s Castro brothers have maintained power through international deceit, blackmail and hostage-taking.

The past decades have shown that the behavior of the Castro brothers in 1962 was perfectly characteristic. Fidel Castro has never shied away from a political gamble such as deploying secret Soviet missiles and then lying about them. He assured other governments that he would never do such a thing, just as the Soviet Union’s ambassador to the United States told the Kennedy administration that rumors about missiles were false. But the missiles were there, and their deployment was an effort to intimidate and blackmail America.

Today, Havana’s intimidation and blackmail are of a different magnitude, but there are plenty of examples.

Days ago, a Cuban court sentenced young Spanish politician Angel Carromero to four years in prison for committing manslaughter in the death of Oswaldo Payá, one of Cuba’s most prominent human rights leaders. Payá died while a passenger in a car Mr. Carromero was driving, when it veered off the road and hit a tree under suspicious circumstances. Payá’s family says that Mr. Carromero has sent text messages saying that a vehicle (presumably driven by Cuba’s state security police) was attempting to force him off the road. The family was prevented from attending the trial and is calling for an international investigation.

For years, state security had tried to intimidate Payá and his foreign visitors, part of a larger effort to discourage democracy advocates from visiting or contacting Cuban dissidents. Havana similarly tries to intimidate other countries—such as Spain, whose nationals have business interests in Cuba—into accepting its routine violations of human rights, including the beatings of dissidents.

Joining Mr. Carromero as a hostage in Cuba is Alan Gross, an American development worker held since December 2009. His supposed crime: giving a laptop computer and satellite telephone to a group of Cuban Jews.

Mr. Gross has lost some 100 pounds in prison, according to his wife, who also reports that he has a growth on his shoulder that may be cancerous. The Castro regime intends to keep him in prison until the U.S. government releases five Cuban spies from prison in the U.S.

There is a long history here. In 1962, Fidel Castro wrung $53 million from Washington in exchange for releasing the prisoners he had taken after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Before that, during the guerrilla war against the Batista dictatorship, Raúl Castro extorted thousands of dollars from owners of sugar mills, threatening to burn down their homes and mills unless they aided the guerrillas. In June 1958, he tried to force negotiations with Washington by kidnapping 29 American sailors and marines; when word got out that Washington might send U.S. Marines to rescue the hostages, the Castros freed them.

In dealing with Cuba’s regime, the Obama administration has too often sent contradictory signals of U.S. resolve. Though Raúl Castro (who now heads the Cuban government) has refused to allow Mr. Gross to return to the U.S. to visit his seriously ill mother, the Obama administration allowed a Cuban spy to leave an American halfway house to visit his sick mother. While Mr. Gross remains in prison, the Obama administration last year issued visas to Raúl Castro’s daughter and her retinue so they could visit America and attack its Cuba policy.

The lessons of October 1962 must not be forgotten. President Kennedy showed fortitude and resolve in forcing the Soviet Union to stand down. Whoever wins the Nov. 6 election ought to deal similarly with today’s intimidation and deception from the Castro regime.

Mr. Bush is a former governor of Florida. Mr. Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba in Washington, D.C.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203406404578070462956566472

The New York Times, October 23, 1992

Castro Wanted a Nuclear Strike

By Fedor Burlatsky

Oct. 23, 1992

For me, the culmination of the Cuban missile crisis was not Oct. 27, 1962, when John F. Kennedy awaited a reply to his ultimatum to pull the missiles off the island, but the telegram Fidel Castro sent to Nikita Khrushchev earlier: “I propose the immediate launching of a nuclear strike on the United States. The Cuban people are prepared to sacrifice themselves for the cause of the destruction of imperialism and the victory of world revolution.”

Two large question marks and exclamation points stood out in the margin of the telegram. They were written by Leonid Brezhnev’s successor, Yuri Andropov, who was then in charge of an international division of the party’s Central Committee. I found him pacing in his office, repeating over and over: “Adventurists. Such adventurists.” I asked, “Do you just mean the Cubans or someone in this building as well?” He looked at me sharply but said nothing. Later, as if returning to my question, Mr. Andropov told me what Khrushchev had told his advisers about the telegram: “You see how far things can go. We’ve got to get those missiles out of there before a real fire starts.”

This was a switch in positions. Khrushchev had initiated the scheme, and Mr. Castro had serious doubts about it. After the crisis was resolved, Khrushchev asked me to edit his personal message to Mr. Castro in which he tried to explain to his greatly angered partner how and why the idea of creating a missile base on Cuba had been born.

“[Defense Minister Rodion] Malinovsky and I happened to be walking along the Black Sea one day. Malinovsky said, pointing toward the sea: ‘Over on the other shore, in Turkey, there is an American nuclear missile base. In a few minutes, rockets launched from that base can destroy Kiev, Odessa, Kharkov and could even reach Moscow.’ So I said to Malinovsky: ‘Why is it that the Americans are allowed to have a base right under our noses? What if we set up a base on Cuba, right in America’s back pocket. Let them see how they like it. What do you think? Will Fidel agree to it?’ “

Then Anastas Mikoyan and a team of experts went to Cuba to convince Mr. Castro. After that, a plan for the secret deployment of the missiles and nuclear warheads was worked out. Although Mr. Castro more than once raised the issue of an open treaty in order to please Khrushchev, our experts maintained that there was a chance to do it secretly and then spring it on the Americans, after which we could enter into negotiations from a position of strength.

This was the scheme’s stupidest part — the hope that U.S. intelligence wouldn’t notice the movement of a hundred ships, and 42 bomber spy planes, nor the installation of 42 ICBM’s and 144 anti-aircraft weapons, nor even the deployment of 40,000 Soviet soldiers. But such is the logic of an authoritarian regime.

A security crisis could again occur, this time involving Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, where nuclear missiles are based. The U.S. should offer these states its services as a mediator and guarantor of a nuclear weapons agreement among them. If Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan agreed to nuclear disarmament, the U.S. should protect them from pressure from Russia.

A package of new documents, drafted with U.S. participation, could incorporate existing obligations between the former Soviet Union and the U.S. and add guarantees on nonproliferation, non-use and reduction of nuclear weapons.

But the most immediate problem is controlling missiles. It cannot be ruled out that separatists and extremists might seize them for blackmail. Observation points manned by American officers in the four nuclear states, with the approval of those states, could provide a barrier against such adventurism and a future missile crisis.

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 23, 1992, Section A, Page 33 of the National edition with the headline: Castro Wanted a Nuclear Strike.

https://www.nytimes.com/1992/10/23/opinion/castro-wanted-a-nuclear-strike.html