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Radio and Television Report to the American People on the Soviet Arms Buildup in Cuba, October 22, 1962.

Radio and Television Report to the American People on the Soviet Arms Buildup in Cuba, October 22, 1962.

Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
1962 October 22
Transcript (audio)

Radio and television report on the Soviet arms buildup in Cuba, President John F. Kennedy, October 22, 1962, The White House, Washington, DC. Transcript: https://www.jfklibrary.org/archives/other-resources/john-f-kennedy-speeches/cuba-radio-and-television-report-19621022 Audio: https://www.jfklibrary.org/asset-viewer/archives/JFKWHA/1962/JFKWHA-142-001/JFKWHA-142-001

After seeing the photographs taken by the spy plane, President Kennedy and his advisers secretly discussed possible responses for a week. Kennedy decided to make the information public and publicly ordered the Soviet Union to remove the missiles. “Quarantine” is a euphemism [a vague or mild word that is substituted for a harsher word] for a naval blockade. A ring of American naval ships was placed around the island in order to prevent the Soviets from shipping any other military supplies or additional missiles. A naval blockade is an act of war, while a quarantine isolates things that are health hazards. What methods did Kennedy use to try to force the Soviet Union to remove the missiles? What were the dangers of the methods he chose?

At 7 p.m. on October 22, 1962,  President Kennedy addressed the nation in a televised speech, revealing the evidence of the Soviet missiles in Cuba and emphasizing the nuclear threat to the United States and Latin America. Kennedy made a clear demand to Khrushchev to dismantle the missile sites immediately. Kennedy threatened the Soviet Union with a naval blockade around Cuba and full nuclear retaliation if the missiles in Cuba hit the United States or any Latin American nation. This quarantine was aimed to prevent the delivery of more Soviet military supplies. The content of the speech was delivered to the Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin shortly before the televised address. The danger of a public threat is that leaders find it difficult to back down from public threats. The danger of the quarantine was that it might cause a military confrontation that would lead to nuclear war.

This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet Military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere. …
The characteristics of these new missile sites indicate two distinct types of installations. … Each of these missiles, in short, is capable of striking Washington, D.C., the Panama Canal, Cape Canaveral, Mexico City, or any other city in the southeastern part of the United States, in Central America, or in the Caribbean area. …
This urgent transformation of Cuba into an important strategic base — by the presence of these large, long range, and clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction — constitutes an explicit threat to the peace and security of all the Americas. … This action also contradicts the repeated assurances of Soviet spokesmen, both publicly and privately delivered, that the arms buildup in Cuba would retain its original defensive character, and that the Soviet Union had no need or desire to station strategic missiles on the territory of any other nation. …
Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril. …
Acting, therefore, in the defense of our own security and of the entire Western Hemisphere, and under the authority entrusted to me by the Constitution as endorsed by the resolution of the Congress, I have directed that the following initial steps be taken immediately:
First: To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back. …
Second: I have directed the continued and increased close surveillance of Cuba and its military buildup.… Should these offensive military preparations continue, thus increasing the threat to the hemisphere, further action will be justified. …
Third: It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union. …
Sixth: Under the Charter of the United Nations, we are asking tonight that an emergency meeting of the Security Council be convoked without delay to take action against this latest Soviet threat to world peace.
Seventh and finally: I call upon Chairman Khrushchev to halt and eliminate this clandestine, reckless and provocative threat to world peace and to stable relations between our two nations. … He has an opportunity now to move the world back from the abyss of destruction — by returning to his government's own words that it had no need to station missiles outside its own territory, and withdrawing these weapons from Cuba — by refraining from any action which will widen or deepen the present crisis — and then by participating in a search for peaceful and permanent solutions. …
Finally, I want to say a few words to the captive people of Cuba, to whom this speech is being directly carried by special radio facilities. I speak to you as a friend, as one who knows of your deep attachment to your fatherland, as one who shares your aspirations for liberty and justice for all. … Now your leaders are no longer Cuban leaders inspired by Cuban ideals. They are puppets and agents of an international conspiracy which has turned Cuba against your friends and neighbors in the Americas — and turned it into the first Latin American country to become a target for nuclear war — the first Latin American country to have these weapons on its soil.