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Last Nuclear Weapons Left Cuba in December 1962

Soviet Military Documents Provide Detailed Account of Cuban Missile Crisis Deployment and Withdrawal

New Evidence on Tactical Nuclear Weapons - 59 Days in Cuba

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 449

Posted December 11, 2013

Edited by Svetlana Savranskaya and Thomas Blanton
With Anna Melyakova

For more information contact:
202/994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu

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Col. Beloborodov on board the Indigirka bound for Cuba, 1962 (photo courtesy of Beloborodov family and Michael Dobbs)

Washington, DC, December 11, 2013 – The last Soviet nuclear warheads in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis did not leave the island until December 1, 1962, according to Soviet military documents published today for the first time in English by the National Security Archive at George Washington University (www.nsarchive.org).

At 9 o'clock in the morning on December 1, 1962, the large Soviet cargo ship Arkhangelsk quietly left the Cuban port of Mariel and headed east across the Atlantic to its home port of Severomorsk near Murmansk. This inconspicuous departure in fact signified the end of the most dangerous crisis of the Cold War. What was called "the Beloborodov cargo" in the Soviet top secret cables — the nuclear warheads that the Soviet armed forces had deployed in Cuba in October 1962 — was shipped back to the Soviet Union on Arkhangelsk.

According to the documents, Soviet nuclear warheads stayed on the Cuban territory for 59 days — from the arrival of the ship Indigirka on October 4 to the departure of Arkhangelsk on December 1. U.S. intelligence at the time had no idea about the nature of the Arkhangelsk cargo. Arkhangelsk carried 80 warheads for the land-based cruise missile FKR-1, 12 warheads for the dual-use Luna (Frog) launcher, and 6 nuclear bombs for IL-28 bombers — in total, 98 tactical nuclear warheads. Four other nuclear warheads, for torpedoes on the Foxtrot submarines, had already returned to the Soviet Union, as well as 24 warheads for the R-14 missiles, which arrived in Cuba on October 25 on the ship Aleksandrovsk, but were never unloaded. The available evidence suggests that the 36 warheads for the R-12 missiles that came to Cuba on the Indigirka also left on Aleksandrovsk, being loaded at Mariel between October 30 and November 3.

The question of tactical nuclear weapons — their number, their intended use, command and control procedures, and even the dates of their arrival and departure — has created many puzzles for students of the Cuban Missile Crisis for years since the planner of Operation Anadyr, General Anatoly Ivanovich Gribkov, revealed their presence in Cuba in 1962 at a critical oral history conference of American, Soviet and Cuban policymakers and scholars in Havana in January 1992, co-organized by the National Security Archive. In the last twenty years, numerous scholars have published on the issue, each introducing additional evidence and moving the debate forward step by step.[1]

Today's posting brings together the most important pieces of evidence documenting the presence of tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba during the Missile Crisis — the most authoritative story so far based on documents. Although many of the documents included here were previously published in English by the Archive and by the Cold War International History Project, this posting includes three newly translated documents, never available before in English, which provide detailed accounts of the Soviet deployment of missile forces and nuclear warheads and the exact chronology of the deployment.

One of the new documents, a contemporaneous after-action report written in December 1962 by Major General Igor Statsenko, provides details of the deployment and withdrawal of the Missile Division (the R-12 and R-14 regiments and supporting personnel) under Statsenko's command (Document 1). A second new document is the report written by Lieutenant General Nikolai Beloborodov (commander of the Soviet nuclear arsenal in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis) in the 1990s, most likely on the basis of his own contemporaneous documents, which describes the delivery, deployment and withdrawal of all nuclear warheads, which were under his command (Document 2).


Former CIA photointerpreter Dino Brugioni takes pictures of FKR and Luna missiles in Cuba, 2002 (photo by Svetlana Savranskaya)

Both reports read as understated but pointed condemnation of the Soviet General Staff's planning of the Cuban operation. Statsenko's report describes shortcomings in initial reconnaissance and camouflage and ignorance of local conditions on the part of the Operation Anadyr planners. Beloborodov's report points to difficulties with storing nuclear warheads in the tropical conditions, unanticipated transportation problems, and the camouflage issues. His report also reveals the fact that even as the Soviet Presidium was deciding to pull back the strategic missiles (ships carrying parts of Statsenko's division turned around on October 25 rather than challenge the U.S. quarantine of Cuba), the Soviet support troops in Cuba were given orders to unload the tactical warheads from Aleksandrovsk, and did that during the nights of October 26, 27 and 28-because at that moment, the Soviets were planning to leave tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba. On the basis of these two reports and all other Soviet documents available today, the following chronology outlines the Soviet decisions relating to the tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba.

Brief chronology of Soviet tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba:

  • May 24, 1962 -original plan for Operation Anadyr included deployment of 80 FKR cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.
  • June 10-Operation Anadyr approved by the Soviet Presidium.
  • September 7-the "Pitsunda decision." Khrushchev augmented the original plan by adding 6 nuclear bombs for IL-28 bombers and 12 short-range nuclear missiles for the dual-use system Luna/Frog.
  • October 4-Indigirka arrived in Mariel with 36 warheads for R-12, 36 warheads for FKR, 12 warheads for Lunas, and 6 nuclear bombs for Il-28s.
  • October 22-Presidium discussed the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons in the event of an American invasion of Cuba.
  • October 23-Aleksandrovsk arrived in La Isabella with 24 warheads for R-14 and 44 warheads for FKRs.
  • October 26-28-Aleksandrovsk "partially" unloaded-warheads for FKRs were unloaded and sent to units.
  • October 30-Aleksandrovsk ordered back to Severomorsk still carrying the 24 warheads for R-14s, after probably loading the 36 R-12 warheads at Mariel harbor and departing November 3.[2]
  • November 2-Anastas Mikoyan arrived in Cuba as Khrushchev's special envoy.
  • November 8-Mikoyan suggested transferring "all remaining weapons" to the Cubans after special training.
  • Nov 12-Khrushchev decided to remove the IL-28 bombers.
  • November 22-Mikoyan informed the Cuban leadership that all nuclear weapons would be removed from Cuba.[3]
  • December 1-all tactical nuclear warheads left Cuba on Arkhangelsk.
  • December 20-Arkhangelsk arrived in Severomorsk.

The original Soviet plan for Operation Anadyr, presented to the Presidium on May 24, 1962 and finally approved on June 10, in addition to the deployment of the R-12 and R-14 missiles, provided for the inclusion in the Soviet Group of Forces in Cuba of 80 land-based front cruise missiles (FKR) with the range of 111 miles (Document 3). In September, Khrushchev decided to strengthen the Group of Soviet forces in Cuba and augment the nuclear portion of the deployment with additional 12 tactical dual-use Luna (Frog) launchers with 12 nuclear warheads for them, and 6 nuclear bombs for specially fitted IL-28 bombers, although he rejected a Defense Ministry proposal also to add 18 nuclear-armed R-11 short-range SCUD missiles (Document 5).

The strategic missiles, R-12 and R-14, could only be used by direct orders from Moscow. To the best of our knowledge, Soviet commanders in Cuba did not have the physical capability to use them without the codes sent from the Center. However, there is considerable debate as to whether commanders of tactical weapons units had authority to launch their own nuclear warheads (Document 7). They certainly had the capability.

Initially, at the Havana conference in 1992, General Gribkov stated that such authorization was given by the central command in the event of a U.S. airborne landing in Cuba. He presented a draft order providing for such pre-authorization, but that order was not signed by Defense Minister Malinovsky. According to Gribkov and other Soviet participants of the crisis, such authorization was given by Malinovsky orally to commanders before their departure for Cuba. The cable sent later, on October 27, categorically forbidding Soviet military to use tactical nuclear weapons without an order from Moscow, shows that the Soviet Presidium was very concerned about an unauthorized use of tactical weapons (Document 11). This provides indirect support to the argument that it was the understanding of the field commanders that tactical nuclear weapons would be used to repel a U.S. attack on Cuba. Even if the official pre-authorization order was not signed by the Defense Minister, we can conclude that in all likelihood, tactical nuclear weapons would most definitely be used in a first salvo if U.S. forces had landed in Cuba. The Presidium discussion of October 22 shows that the Soviet top leadership envisioned this scenario as well.

After the most dangerous phase of the crisis was resolved on October 28, and Khrushchev promised to withdraw "the weapons you call offensive" from Cuba, the world rejoiced. However, the Soviet leadership knew better-almost 43,000 troops and all the nuclear warheads were still in Cuba. Now they had to negotiate their own Soviet-Cuban missile crisis. Khrushchev sent his right-hand man, Deputy Prime Minister Anastas Mikoyan, to Cuba to oversee the removal of the missiles, salvage the Soviet-Cuban friendship, and negotiate the future Soviet-Cuban military agreement.


U.S. low-level reconnaissance photo of Luna/Frog short-range missiles in Cuba, November 1962 (photo from Dino Brugioni Collection, National Security Archive)"

When Anastas Mikoyan arrived in Cuba, in the course of his extensive conversations over three days, he informed the Cubans that all the weapons other than those specifically mentioned in the Khrushchev-Kennedy statements would be left in Cuba: "you know that not only in these letters but today also, we hold to the position that you will keep all the weapons with the exception of the 'offensive' weapons and associated service personnel, which were promised to be withdrawn in Khrushchev's letter."[4] The documents suggest, as of early November 1962, that the Soviet intention was to withdraw the offensive weapons (the strategic missiles), but keep a massive military base in Cuba and make no more concessions to the United States. All tactical nuclear weapons, IL-28s and the combat troops except missile support personnel would remain on the island. This position, however, evolved significantly in the dynamic days of the November crisis.

In his talks with the Cubans, Mikoyan gradually realized that this would not be an easy relationship. He was taken aback by the Cuban romanticism and their professed willingness to "die beautifully." But at the same time, his priority was to keep Cuba as a Soviet ally. He thought perhaps the best solution could be to strengthen the Cuban defenses but not to keep a large Soviet base. On November 8, he proposed to the Presidium to gradually transfer all the remaining weapons to the Cuban armed forces after a period of training by Soviet military specialists (Document 13). Because none of the these tactical weapons were mentioned in the Kennedy-Khrushchev correspondence and because the Americans were essentially oblivious to their delivery to the island, at the time it seemed to him that it would have been the most natural and logical way to resolve the Soviet-Cuban crisis. He requested permission from the Central Committee to tell Castro regarding the future military agreement that rather than maintaining a Soviet military base, "the Cuban personnel with the assistance of our specialists will gradually start to operate all Soviet weapons remaining in Cuba. […] As these personnel become prepared, gradually the Soviet people will be replaced with the Cubans. Upon completion of a certain time period necessary [to master] the military technology, all Soviet personnel will be replaced by the Cuban personnel, and those Soviet experts in special areas, without whom it would be difficult for the Cuban army [to function] will stay with you and work here as advisers in such number and for such a period of time as necessary." On November 9, Presidium member Gromyko in a cable approved Mikoyan's new line for negotiations with the Cubans.

Just as soon as Mikoyan presented the idea to his Cuban hosts, Khrushchev decided to agree to the U.S. demand to withdraw IL-28 bombers, which created a new crisis with the Cubans, who now had good grounds to expect further Soviet concessions and unleashed their fury on Mikoyan. Trying to mend relations once again, the Soviet envoy repeated to his Cuban hosts that although IL-28s would be withdrawn, all other weapons would stay, that "Cuba's fire power is very strong.[…] not a single other socialist country, if we leave out the Soviet Union, possesses such modern powerful combat weapons as you have." In his conversation with Castro on November 13, speaking about the military agreement, Mikoyan stated: "I want to reiterate that very powerful defensive weapons remain in Cuba. We will be able to transfer them to you when the Cuban military officials become familiar with them. This military equipment is incomparably more powerful than any equipment that Cuba currently has. These are the most advanced weapons comrade Pavlov [Gen. Issa Pliyev, commander of the Group of Soviet Forces in Cuba] currently has. The CC CPSU's resolution is to transfer them to you over the course of time." Mikoyan added that "even with ground inspections, it is practically impossible to find the warheads." (Document 14).

Over the next several days, the Cubans, from the Soviet point of view, started behaving even more erratically, making the situation more dangerous and unpredictable. Castro ordered the Cuban air defenses to shoot at low-flying U.S. aircraft and sent a message to the Cuban representative at the United Nations, Carlos Lechuga, that "we possess tactical nuclear weapons, which we should keep." What became clear to Mikoyan during numerous conversations with the Cuban leadership is that the Soviets could not really control their Cuban ally, and that if they were going to maintain Cuba as an ally, they would need to accept the fact that the Cubans would not always follow the Soviet script and that in fact they would develop quite an independent foreign policy. In these circumstances, transferring nuclear weapons to such an ally would be too risky. The Soviets had to pull them back.

Mikoyan understood that it would be his task to reconcile his hosts to the loss of all the nuclear weapons which they were promised. He suggested this course of action to the Presidium in a cable written right after midnight on November 22. In that cable, he also proposed that as an explanation, he could tell the Cubans that the Soviet Union had an "unpublished law" that prohibited the transfer of nuclear weapons to other countries (Document 16). In the morning on November 22, Mikoyan received a cable with the Presidium's approval of his proposal (Document 17). Mikoyan met with the top Cuban leadership to explain this decision during the long late night conversation on November 22. Castro tried to persuade Mikoyan to leave the tactical weapons in Cuba. The Cuban leader pointed out that the Americans were not aware of the presence of these weapons on the island, and that the Soviets did not have to keep a military base in Cuba but could train the Cuban military, as the initial agreement had stipulated. He said these weapons could be hidden in caves. He begged the Soviet representative to leave him the weapons that meant so much to the Cubans. But Mikoyan was not swayed by his arguments. The tactical warheads had to go home (Document 18).

On November 25, the Soviet support troops started pulling the warheads from the storage facilities to the port of Mariel and loading them on the Arkhangelsk. The loading was completed and the ship departed Cuba on December 1, 1962.

Previously declassified U.S. documents published by the National Security Archive show that U.S. intelligence did not detect any of the nuclear warheads in Cuba during the crisis — either for the strategic missiles or for the tactical delivery systems — and close examination of U.S. overhead photography by author Michael Dobbs established that U.S. intelligence never located the actual storage bunkers for the warheads. U.S. planners assumed the missile warheads were present in Cuba, but discounted the possibility — even after seeing the dual-capable Luna/Frog in reconnaissance photographs as early as October 25 — that tactical warheads were on the island or might ever be used. U.S. analysts completely mistook the FKR cruise missiles for the conventionally-armed Sopka coastal defense missiles, and never understood the likelihood that the U.S. base at Guantanamo would be smoking radiating ruin from an FKR nuclear warhead if the U.S. invaded. Thus the shock to former officials such as Robert McNamara when they heard from Soviet veterans during the historic 1992 Cuban Missile Crisis conference in Havana that tactical nuclear weapons had been part of the operation from the beginning.[5]

The National Security Archive has worked since 1986 to open Cuban Missile Crisis files in the U.S., the former Soviet Union, and Cuba, including the successful Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that forced release of the famous Kennedy-Khrushchev letters. The Archive's publications on the Missile Crisis include two massive indexed collections of thousands of pages of declassified U.S. documents, two editions of a one-volume documents reader, the multi-volume briefing book for the landmark 2002 Havana conference organized by the Archive on the Missile Crisis, the 50th anniversary collection from dozens of overseas archives co-published with the Cold War International History Project, and most recently the inside account from the Soviet side by Sergo Mikoyan and Svetlana Savranskaya, which published the transcripts of the contentious Soviet-Cuban talks over withdrawal of Soviet weapons after most of the world thought the missile crisis was over.


THE DOCUMENTS

Document 1: Report of Major-General Igor Demyanovich Statsenko, Commander of the 51st Missile Division, about the Actions of the Division from 07.12.62 through 12.01.1962. Circa December 1962.

This contemporaneous after-action report, published here for the first time in English, provides invaluable detailed information on the deployment of the 51st missile division as part of the Soviet Group of Forces in Cuba. While the report describes the difficulties of the deployment, it also points to shortcomings of the General Staff planning for the deployment. The report shows how even in adverse circumstances, with part of the shipment of missiles and missile support troops interrupted by the U.S. quarantine, the 51st division deployed and assumed battle readiness ahead of schedule, and as the Cuban Missile Crisis reached its peak "on October 27th, 1962, the division was able to deliver a strike from all 24 launchers."

 

Document 2: The War was Averted (Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba, 1962). Memoir of Lieutenant General Nikolai Beloborodov, head of the Soviet nuclear arsenal in Cuba. Circa early 1990s.

This memoir-report was written by Nikolai Beloborodov in the 1990s, most likely on the basis of his own contemporaneous after-action report. It provides details of transportation, deployment and removal of nuclear warheads from Cuba. His report also reveals the fact that even as the Soviet Presidium was deciding to pull back the strategic missiles (ships with missiles started turning around on October 25 so as not to challenge the U.S. quarantine line), the Soviet support troops were given orders to unload the tactical warheads from Aleksandrovsk, and did so during the nights of October 26, 27 and 28 — because at that moment, the Soviets were planning to leave tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba. It is not clear from this report whether the warheads for R-12 missiles were loaded back on Aleksandrovsk before it sailed back to Moscow on November 3 but other evidence suggests that was the case.

 

Document 3: Memorandum from Malinovsky and Zakharov on deployment of Soviet Forces to Cuba, 24 May 1962. Translated by Raymond L. Garthoff for CWHIP.[6]

This is the original General Staff plan of Operation Anadyr presented to the Soviet Presidium on May 24 and finally approved by the Soviet leadership on June 10, 1962. As part of a large-scale deployment of the Group of Soviet Forces in Cuba, this plan provided for 16 ground-based front cruise missile launchers and five "special" nuclear warheads for each launcher — 80 in total — with a range up to 180 kilometers (111 miles).

 

Document 4: Memorandum from R. Malinovsky to N.S. Khrushchev. On the Possibility of Reinforcing Cuba by Air. 6 September 1962. Translated by Raymond L. Garthoff for CWHIP.

Defense Minister Malinovsky presented these proposals on expediting the shipments of weapons to Cuba and augmenting the deployment with additional tactical nuclear weapons. His proposal included adding 12 Luna/Frog launchers with nuclear warheads, 6 nuclear bombs for IL-28 planes, and 18 nuclear-armed R-11M missiles [Scud A with a range of 150 kilometers].

 

Document 5: Memorandum from R. Malinovsky and M. Zakharov to Commander of Group of Soviet Forces in Cuba, 8 September 1962. Translated by Raymond L. Garthoff for CWHIP.

After Khrushchev's decision on September 7, Malinovsky and Zakharov sent a revised deployment plan to the Commander of the Soviet Group of Forces. The addition of Lunas and bombs for Il-28s was approved by the top leadership, but Khrushchev canceled the deployment of R-11s.

 

Document 6: Memorandum from R. Malinovsky and M. Zakharov to the Chief of the 12th Main Directorate of the Ministry of Defense.

Orders to the 12th Main Directorate-the unit of the Defense Ministry responsible for nuclear warheads-confirm the addition of 12 Luna warheads and 6 bombs for Il-28s to be shipped to Cuba.

 

Document 7: [Draft] Memorandum from R. Malinovsky and M. Zakharov to Commander of Group of Soviet Forces in Cuba on Pre-delegation of launch authority, 8 September 1962.

This memorandum, which was prepared but never signed by Defense Minister Malinovsky authorized local commanders in Cuba to make a decision to use tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a U.S. attack on Cuba if they could not establish contact with Moscow (a very similar pre-delegation policy was followed by the U.S. at the time). General Anatoly Gribkov, one of the principal planners of Operation Anadyr stated in 1992 that the memo reflected the oral instructions that commanders received in Moscow before their deployment to Cuba. The existence of this draft suggests that it was Malinovsky's preferred option but Khrushchev probably had not approved it-therefore the memo was never signed. However, it is clear that Soviet commanders in Cuba had the capability to launch tactical nuclear weapons, and many of them subsequently stated that they had received pre-delegation instructions orally.

 

Document 8: Malinovsky Report on Special Ammunition for Operation Anadyr, 5 October 1962.

The Defense Minister's report to Khrushchev about the progress of shipping of Soviet armaments to Cuba specifically states that Aleksandrovsk was fully loaded and ready to sail.

 

Document 9: Telegram from Malinovsky to Pliyev, 22 October 1962.

On the day that President Kennedy publicly announced the U.S. discovery of the missiles in Cuba and the U.S. quarantine, the Soviet Defense Minister orders the Commander of the Soviet Group of Forces to raise the level of combat readiness and prepare to repel a possible U.S. invasion with combined Soviet and Cuban forces but specifically excluding the missile forces (Statsenko) and all nuclear warheads ("Beloborodov Cargo").

 

Document 10: Telegram from Malinovsky to Pliyev, 25 October 1962.

Malinovsky orders Pliyev not to unload the warheads for R-14s from the Aleksandrovsk and get the ship ready to sail back to the USSR. The telegram does not include any instructions regarding either the FKR warheads (they were unloaded and transferred to storage) or R-12 warheads (most likely they were returned to the Soviet Union on Aleksandrovsk).

 

Document 11: Telegram from Malinovsky to Pliyev, 27 October 1962.

Moscow issues strict orders prohibiting local commanders from using tactical nuclear weapons. This concern on the part of the central leadership gives indirect support to Gribkov's argument that local commanders were instructed in the spirit of the September 8 memo-that in case of an American attack, they had the authority to use tactical nuclear weapons. Now Khrushchev wanted to make it very clear that under no condition were tactical nuclear weapons to be used.

 

Document 12: Telegram from Malinovsky to Pliyev, circa 5 November 1962.

The telegram instructs Pliyev that tactical nuclear warheads would most likely be left in Cuba under his control.

 

Document 13: Telegram from Mikoyan to CC CPSU and Gromyko's response, 8-9 November 1962.

Anastas Mikoyan, who was negotiating the resolution of the Soviet-Cuban Missile crisis with the Cuban leadership, came to the conclusion that it would be inexpedient to keep a full-scale Soviet military base in Cuba. He proposed to the Soviet Presidium to gradually transfer all the remaining weapons to the Cuban armed forces after a period of training by Soviet military specialists--"the Cuban personnel with the assistance of our specialists will gradually start to operate all Soviet weapons remaining in Cuba." He requested Presidium approval for him to present this idea to the Cubans. The proposal was approved in the telegram signed by Gromyko on the next day.

 

Document 14: Record of Conversation between A. I. Mikoyan and F. Castro, 13 November 1962.

In this conversation, the first one after Khrushchev decided to remove Il-28s from Cuba, Mikoyan was trying to assure Fidel Castro that the Soviet Union was not abandoning its Latin American ally and would make no further concessions to the United States. He informed Castro that the CC CPSU passed a resolution to leave all the remaining weapons in Cuba and to transfer them to the Cuban Army over time. The Cuban firepower would not diminish and it will retain powerful defensive weapons: "These are the most advanced weapons comrade Pavlov [Gen. Pliyev, commander of the Group of Soviet Forces in Cuba] currently has. The CC CPSU's resolution is to transfer them to you over the course of time." Mikoyan added that "even with ground inspections, it is practically impossible to find the warheads."

 

Document 15: Telegram from Malinovsky to Pliyev, 20 November 1962.

This telegram orders Pliyev to load all tactical warheads on steamship Atkarsk and send them back to the Soviet Union. This might have been a draft cable, anticipating an imminent policy change, or there might be a mistake in the date, which was transcribed from an original that is not available. We know from Beloborodov that on November 22 all tactical nuclear weapons were still in Cuba, that they only started to be pulled to the Mariel pier on November 25 and that loading lasted till November 30. Also, they were loaded and shipped back to the Soviet Union on Arkhangelsk, not Atkarsk. This telegram was probably the basis of General Gribkov's oft-cited assertion that all Soviet tactical weapons left Cuba on November 20, 1962.

 

Document 16: Telegram from Mikoyan to CC CPSU, 22 November 1962.

This telegram was sent by Mikoyan either right after midnight on November 22, or late in the evening on November 21 but put into his logbook as of November 22. Mikoyan was scheduled to have a meeting with the entire top Cuban leadership to discuss the future of the Soviet-Cuban military agreement. By this time, Mikoyan came to the conclusion that leaving tactical nuclear weapons in the hands of the Cubans was dangerous, so he requested from the Central Committee to approve his suggestion-to tell the Cubans that the Soviet Union had an "unpublished law" prohibiting transfer of nuclear weapons to third parties. Most likely, Mikoyan made up this "law" for the occasion, but it seems to have stuck as a precedent for future Soviet policy. The Presidium gave its approval next morning.

 

Document 17: CC CPSU additional instructions to Mikoyan, 22 November 1962.

This cable signed by Gromyko approves Mikoyan's suggestion from the previous night and categorically states that he was to tell Castro and the top Cuban leadership that all tactical nuclear weapons would be removed from Cuba.

 

Document 18: Record of Conversation between A.I. Mikoyan and F. Castro, 22 November 1962.

This crucial conversation, which lasted over four hours in the evening of November 22 settled all the main remaining issues of the Cuban Missile Crisis-most importantly the fate of the remaining tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba. Mikoyan admitted that they were still in Cuba and that the Americans indeed had no idea that they were deployed, but that the Soviet Union decided to pull them back due to the "unpublished law" prohibiting the transfer. This memcon provides an extraordinary glimpse into the microcosm of the Soviet-Cuban relations and helps one understand the depth of Castro's humiliation at the Soviet hands during the Cuban missile crisis. For him, the resolution of the crisis meant that he was abandoned by his Soviet ally and left to the mercy of the American imperialists-because the Cuban security now depended not on the powerful Soviet weapons but on the U.S. non-invasion assurances, which the Cubans were not inclined to trust.


NOTES

[1] See especially Raymond L. Garthoff, "New Evidence on the Cuban Missile Crisis: Khrushchev, Nuclear Weapons, and the Cuban Missile Crisis," CWIHP Bulletin 11, pp. 251-262; Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali , "The Pitsunda Decision," CWIHP Bulletin 10, pp. 223-227; and Svetlana Savranskaya, "Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Cuba: New Evidence," CWIHP Bulletin 14/15, pp. 385-398. The question of tactical nuclear weapons also gets detailed treatment in Sergei Khrushchev, Nikita Khrushchev: Rozhdenie Superderzhavy (Moscow: Vremya, 2010).

[2] There is a Malinovsky cable dated October 30 ordering the commander of the Group of Soviet Forces in Cuba to load the R-12 warheads on the Aleksandrovsk and send to Severomorsk; and the CIA retrospective in January 1963 of overhead photography of the Aleksandrovsk's movements placed the ship at Mariel on November 3, at sea on November 10, and back at Severomorsk on November 23 with "missile nose cone vans" on deck. (See Dwayne Anderson, "On the Trail of the Alexandrovsk," Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 10, Winter 1966, declassified 1995, available at www.foia.cia.gov). Beloborodov's account has Aleksandrovsk leaving Havana on October 30, but it is likely that he is referring to the order from Malinovsky.  Less likely is the possibility that the R-12 warheads may have remained for the Arkhangelsk to carry.

[3] In the Defense Ministry cables that were transcribed by Russian veterans for publication in 1998, one dated November 20 orders the commander of the Group of Soviet Forces to load all tactical warheads on "steamship Atkarsk"; but Beloborodov's account specifically cites the Arkangelsk, not the Atkarsk, and the cables between Mikoyan and Moscow place the decision to withdraw the tacticals only on November 21 and 22. The Defense Ministry transcription may be misdated, or if the date is correct, perhaps the Ministry was already anticipating the political decision.

[4] Telegram from Mikoyan to CC CPSU, November 6, 1962 in Sergo Mikoyan, edited by Svetlana Savranskaya, The Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis: Castro, Mikoyan, Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Missiles of November (Washington and Stanford: Wilson Center Press and Stanford University Press, 2012), p. 344.

[5] See Raymond L. Garthoff, "The Havana Conference on the Cuban Missile Crisis: Tactical Weapons Disclosure Stuns Gathering," CWIHP Bulletin 1, Spring 1992, pp. 2-4.

[6] In this document, the number of the missile division is given as the 43rd missile division, but in the military documents from the fall of 1962, the number of the division is consistently the 51st missile division.  Most likely, the number was changed when the division was reorganized in the summer, according to the General Staff directive of June 13.  Statsenko describes the radical reorganization of the division, which resulted in the situation where he only knew one regiment commander out of five, and 500 officers and 1000 sergeants and soldiers were replaced.

 

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