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Letter from Prime Minister Fidel Castro to Chairman Nikita Khrushchev, October 26, 1962

Letter from Fidel Castro to Nikita Khrushchev, in which Castro expresses his confidence that an American attack of Cuba was imminent and urges Khrushchev to initiate a first nuclear strike against the United States in case of invasion.

Castro, Fidel, 1926-2016
1962 October 26
Manuscript

Letter from Prime Minister Fidel Castro to Chairman Nikita Khrushchev, October 26, 1962, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, https://microsites.jfklibrary.org/cmc/oct26/doc2.html

This letter from Fidel Castro to Nikita Khrushchev was written during the crisis. As you read in Source 3, Castro was very concerned about past US imperialist actions in Cuba, including political domination, military threats, and economic control. In the recent past, the United States had encouraged and supported an invasion by Cuban anti-Communists, tried to assassinate Castro himself, and ruined Cuba’s economy with an embargo. What do you think is Castro’s biggest fear in regards to potential American actions? What does Castro refer to when he talks about “the moment to eliminate this danger forever,” and what does he urge Khrushchev to do? What loaded words did he use in connection with the United States? What loaded words did he use in connection with Cuba and the Soviet Union? Loaded words are words that convey emotion, either positive or negative, toward one side or the other.

In his private letter to Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro expressed his confidence that an American attack of Cuba was imminent and urged Khrushchev to initiate a first nuclear strike against the United States in case of invasion. Students could answer with either an air attack to destroy the missile sites, which Castro wrote he thought most likely, or an invasion and nuclear war. The threat of full-scale invasion of Cuba was definitely real, as some members of the president’s advisers including the president’s brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy pushed for such an invasion. The loaded words Castro used for the United States were aggression, imperialists, aggressiveness, brutal, blockaded, and violated. The key term is imperialists. It indicates that Castro thought the United States was threatening Cuba’s independence. The loaded words he used for Cuba and the Soviet Union, including those about Khrushchev himself, were resist with determination, heroically, tireless defender of peace, superhuman efforts, serene, confront, infinite gratitude, generous, fraternal, profound gratitude, and admiration.

Dear Comrade Khrushchev:

Given the analysis of the situation and the reports which have reached us, [I] consider an attack to be almost imminent — within the next 24 to 72 hours. There are two possible variants: the first and most probable one is an air attack against certain objectives with the limited aim of destroying them; the second, and though less probable, still possible, is a full invasion. This would require a large force and is the most repugnant form of aggression, which might restrain them.

You can be sure that we will resist with determination, whatever the case. The Cuban people's morale is extremely high and the people will confront aggression heroically.

I would like to briefly express my own personal opinion.

If the second variant takes place and the imperialists invade Cuba with the aim of occupying it, the dangers of their aggressive policy are so great that after such an invasion the Soviet Union must never allow circumstances in which the imperialists could carry out a nuclear first strike against it.

I tell you this because I believe that the imperialists' aggressiveness makes them extremely dangerous, and that if they manage to carry out an invasion of Cuba — a brutal act in violation of universal and moral law — then that would be the moment to eliminate this danger forever, in an act of the most legitimate self-defense. However harsh and terrible the solution, there would be no other.

This opinion is shaped by observing the development of their aggressive policy. The imperialists, without regard for world opinion and against laws and principles, have blockaded the seas, violated our air-space, and are preparing to invade, while at the same time blocking any possibility of negotiation, even though they understand the gravity of the problem.

You have been, and are, a tireless defender of peace, and I understand that these moments, when the results of your superhuman efforts are so seriously threatened, must be bitter for you. We will maintain our hopes for saving the peace until the last moment, and we are ready to contribute to this in any way we can. But, at the same time, we are serene and ready to confront a situation which we see as very real and imminent.

I convey to you the infinite gratitude and recognition of the Cuban people to the Soviet people, who have been so generous and fraternal, along with our profound gratitude and admiration to you personally. We wish you success with the enormous task and great responsibilities which are in your hands.

Fraternally,
Fidel Castro