This book rewrites the conventional history of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis by drawing on secret transcripts of top-level diplomacy undertaken by Anastas Mikoyan, the number-two Soviet leader under Nikita Khrushchev. The crisis of the “missiles of October” actually stretched beyond the “13 days” and into November, as the Soviets secretly planned to leave more than a hundred tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba—until Fidel Castro’s obstreperous behavior made them reverse their decision.
Author Sergo Mikoyan accompanied his father Anastas as a personal secretary during a 1960 visit establishing Soviet-Cuban relations and during the 1962 crisis wrap-up negotiations in Washington and New York. This account draws on Sergo’s personal experiences, his father’s reminiscences, and Soviet documentation such as his father’s cables from Havana; memoranda of conversations with Castro, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and UN Secretary-General U Thant; and notes on internal Kremlin deliberations.
Sergo A. Mikoyan (1929–2010) was a historian specializing in Latin America and Soviet–Latin American relations, editor of Latinskaya Amerika, and chief researcher at the Center of Peace Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. He taught at Georgetown University. Svetlana Savranskaya is director of Russia programs at The George Washington University’s National Security Archive.
Introduction: The Overlooked Crisis between Moscow and Havana
Chapter 1: Why Mikoyan?
From a Mountain Village to the Kremlin
The War and the Postwar Issues
Avoiding Stalin’s Traps
De-Stalinization and Khrushchev’s Reforms
Personality and Character
Chapter 2: The Journey across the Ocean: The Soviet Discovery of Cuba
The Cuban Revolution and the Beginning of U.S.-Cuban Confrontation
Contours of the New Cuba
Was the Conflict with the United States Inevitable?
The Early Reforms
Castro Invites Mikoyan
Chapter 3: Ten Days That Changed the Face of the Hemisphere
Havana, My Love
Flying over the Island of Cuba
The Die Is Cast
Meeting with Hemingwa
Castro’s and Mikoyan’s Impressions of Our Visit
Chapter 4: The Leap Over the Ocean
How It All Started
So Why the Missiles?
The Nuclear Balance
Secrecy and Deception
Persuading the Cubans
What If the Agreement Was Public?
The Secret Is Revealed
The Outcome That Should Have Been Predicted
Chapter 5: Operation Anadyr: Military Success, Political Trap
Origins of the Idea
The Transportation of Troops to Cuba
The Deployment and Cooperation with the Cuban Armed Forces
The Submarine Mission
The Moment of Truth
Chapter 6: When the World Was Hanging by a Thread
The Potential Cost of a Misunderstanding
Mikoyan Flies to Havana
Deciding in the Kremlin
Chapter 7: Storm Clouds Over Havana
Havana’s Military Aesthetic
War or Peace?
The Path to Compromise
An Unacceptable Risk
The Tragic Start of the Dialogue in Havana
Chapter 8: Mikoyan Face to Face with Fidel
The Kremlin’s Gifts to the White House
Mikoyan’s First Conversations in Havana
The Crisis within the Crisis
The Il-28 Crisis
Castro Fights for the Nuclear Warheads
The Breaking Point
Farewell to Havana
Chapter 9: Drawing Conclusions in the United States
Meetings in New York
The White House: Anastas Mikoyan and John Kennedy
Meetings with Rusk, Udall, and Robert Kennedy
Postscript, by Svetlana Savranskaya
“What’s left to say about the Cuban missile crisis fifty years after it occurred? Plenty, it turns out, in this remarkably revealing book by the son of Nikita Khrushchev’s main Kremlin ally and chief negotiator with Washington and Havana. Not only about why Khrushchev put the missiles in and then took them out, but especially about Fidel Castro’s fierce resistance to the deal that may have averted nuclear war.”
—William C. Taubman, Amherst College, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era
“This marvelous volume by Mikoyan’s late son, appearing only now in English, recounts the tough negotiations that followed between his father, the Cuban leadership, and the Kennedy administration…. The book’s appendix features 50 documents carefully selected from Mikoyan’s personal papers and Soviet archives that offer many fascinating glimpses of some leading personalities of the Cold War era.” —Richard Feinberg, Foreign Affairs
“Expertly edited by Svetlana Savranskaya, the director of Russian programs at the National Security Archive, the book is an invaluable and essential resource for understanding the Cuban Missile Crisis. Summing Up: Essential.”—D. J. Dunn, Choice