United States-Soviet Confrontation in Cuba
Easing of Crisis; Lifting of Arms Quarantine
A greement of Prime Minister Fidel Castro to with drawal of Soviet jet bombers from Cuba, and agreement of Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev that the planes may be “observed and counted” by the United States as they leave, has brought the month-old Cuban crisis to at least a tentative conclusion. Khrushchev promised President Kennedy at the end of October that removal of offensive weapons from Cuba would be carried out under United Nations inspection. Castro objected to inspection on Cuban soil, but the United States continued to insist on independent verification that Soviet missile bases in Cuba had been dismantled and all offensive arms shipped back to Russia.
Soviet First Deputy Premier Anastas I Mikoyan, in Havana since Nov. 2, presumably tried to persuade Castro to agree. But in a letter to Acting U.N. Secretary General U Thant, Nov. 20, the Cuban leader repeated his determination “not to accept the unilateral inspection of our land.” He did reverse earlier objections to removal of the bombers. President Kennedy, having been assured by Khrushchev in the meantime that all the bombers would be out within 30 days, announced at a news conference late in the afternoon of the same day (Nov. 20) that the United States had lifted its quarantine on shipments of arms to Cuba. The President noted that the understanding on inspection had not been carried out in full, but he said the danger had been sufficiently reduced to permit termination of the quarantine. In the absence of Cuban consent to inspection, the United States would have to “pursue its own means of checking on military activities in Cuba.”
Under the circumstances, Kennedy withheld the outright pledge, sought by Khrushchev, that there would be no U.S. invasion of Cuba. While saying that “We will not & … abandon & … efforts & … to halt subversion from Cuba, nor our purpose and hope that the Cuban people shall some day be truly free,” the President pointed out that “these policies are very different from any intent to launch a military invasion of the island.”