#1 President Kennedy Press Conference, 13 September 1962 lays out some red
lines in Cuban Missile Crises
the audio is available at:
President John F. Kennedy
State Department Auditorium
September 13, 1962
6:00 PM EDST (Thursday)
307 In Attendance
THE PRESIDENT: I have a preliminary statement.
There has been a great deal of talk on the situation in Cuba in recent days
both in the Communist camp and in our own, and I would like to take this
opportunity to set the matter in perspective.
In the first place, it is Mr. Castro and his supporters who are in trouble.
In the last year, his regime has been increasingly isolated from this
Hemisphere. His name no longer inspires the same fear or following in other
Latin American countries. He has been condemned by the OAS, excluded from
the Inter-American Defense Board, and kept out of the Free Trade
Association. By his own monumental economic mismanagement, supplemented by
our refusal to trade with him, his economy has crumbled, and his pledges for
economic progress have been discarded, along with his pledges for political
freedom. His industries are stagnating, his harvests are declining, his own
followers are beginning to see that their revolution has been betrayed.
So it is not surprising that in a frantic effort to bolster his regime he
should try to arouse the Cuban people to charges of an imminent American
invasion, and commit himself still further to a Soviet take-over in the hope
of preventing his own collapse.
Ever since Communism moved into Cuba in 1958, Soviet technical and military
personnel have moved steadily onto the island in increasing numbers at the
invitation of the Cuban government.
Now that movement has been increased. It is under our most careful
surveillance But I will repeat the conclusion that I reported last week,
that these new shipments do not constitute a serious threat to any other
part of this hemisphere.
If the United States ever should find it necessary to take military action
against communism in Cuba, all of Castro's Communist-supplied weapons and
technicians would not change the result or significantly extend the time
required to achieve that result.
However, unilateral military intervention on the part of the United States
cannot currently be either required or justified, and it is regrettable that
loose talk about such action in this country might serve to give a thin
color of legitimacy to the Communist pretense that such a threat exists. But
let me make this clear once again: If at any time the Communist build-up in
Cuba were to endanger or interfere with our security in any way, including
our base at Guantanamo, our passage to the Panama Canal, our missile and
space activities At Cape Canaveral, or the lives of American citizens in
this country, or if Cuba should ever attempt to export its aggressive
purposes by force or the threat of force against any nation in this
hemisphere, or become an offensive military base of significant capacity for
the Soviet Union, then this country will do whatever must be done to protect
its own security and that of its allies.
We shall be alert, too, and fully capable of dealing swiftly with any such
development. As President and Commander-in-Chief I have full authority now
to take such action, and I have asked the Congress to authorize me to call
up reserve forces should this or any other crisis make it necessary.
In the meantime we intend to do everything within our power to prevent such
a threat from coming into existence. Our friends in Latin America must
realize the consequences such developments hold out for their own peace and
freedom, and we shall be making further proposals to them. Our friends in
NATO must realize the implications of their ships engaging in the Cuban
We shall continue to work with Cuban refugee leaders who are dedicated as we
are to that nation's future return to freedom. We shall continue to keep the
American people and the Congress fully informed. We shall increase our
surveillance of the whole Caribbean area. We shall neither initiate nor
permit aggression in this hemisphere.
With this in mind, while I recognize that rash talk is cheap, particularly
on the part of those who do not have the responsibility, I would hope that
the future record will show that the only people talking about a war or an
invasion at this time are the communist spokesmen in Moscow and Havana, and
that the American people defending as we do so much of the free world, will
in this nuclear age, as they have in the past, keep both their nerve and
QUESTION: Mr. President, coupling this statement with the one of last week,
at what point do you determine that the buildup in Cuba has lost its
defensive character and become offensive? Would it take an overt act?
THE PRESIDENT: I think if you read last week’s statement and the statement
today, I made it quite clear, particularly in last week's statement, when we
talked about the presence of offensive military missile capacity or
development of military bases and other indications which I gave last week,
all those would, of course, indicate a change in the nature of the threat.
QUESTION: Well, Mr. President, in this same line, have you set for yourself
any rule or set of conditions at which you will determine the existence of
an offensive rather than a defensive force in Cuba, and in that same
connection in your reading of the Monroe Doctrine, how do you define
intervention? Will it require force to contravene the Monroe Doctrine or
does the presence of a foreign power in any force, but not using that force
in this hemisphere, amount to contravention of the Doctrine?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I have indicated that if Cuba should possess a capacity
to carry out offensive action against the United States, that the United
States would act. I have also indicated that the United States would not
permit Cuba to export its power by force in the hemisphere. The United
States will make appropriate military judgments after consultation with the
Joint Chiefs of Staff and others, after carefully analyzing whatever new
information comes in, as to whether that point has been reached where an
offensive threat does exist. At that time the country and the Congress will
be so notified.
QUESTION: Mr. President, would you state, sir, whether or not the United
States has given export licenses for the export of U-2 aircraft to other
nations, other than Nationalist China, and if so, what is our policy?
THE PRESIDENT: No, we have not. These export licenses were given, as you
know, in July of 1960, and were sold to the Nationalist Chinese Government,
and we have no plans to sell any further ones or, grant any other export
QUESTION: Mr. President, would you comment, please, on the Soviet
announcement that they apparently will shelve discussion on Berlin until
after our elections in November?
THE PRESIDENT: I thought that the leaders of both political parties in the
Congress indicated very clearly that on this matter of Berlin there was not
a political division within the United States and that our position in
Berlin, which carries over a long commitment, stretching back through many
years, several administration, would not be affected by whatever results may
be in the November election.
QUESTION: Mr. President, could you tell us why the Alliance for Progress has
not made more progress in the past year on Latin American problems, in your
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Alliance for Progress is a tremendous effort which
is to, by the united effort of the free countries of Latin America and the
United States, attempt to bring about an increase in the standard of living
and the opportunities for the peoples of Latin America.
Latin America has been neglected for many, many years. I would hope that a
good many Americans who are particularly concerned about Cuba today would
also take a very careful look at the very low standard of living of much of
Latin America, the bad housing, the unemployment, the bad health of so many
of the people there. We are engaged in a monumental task in attempting to
increase the standard of living of the people of Latin America, and we have
available for that purpose a good deal less money than we had available for
the rebuilding of Europe, which had a highly developed labor force, great
technical skills, and which required only an infusion to provide an increase
over the pre-war standard of living.
Here we do not have the technical skills, we do not have the planning staff.
We have, in a sense, neglected Latin America. So we are engaged in a
tremendous operation with insufficient resources, and I think we are moving
ahead since Punta del Este, but there is a lot of business left unfinished
and there will be for some time.
You cannot remake the face of Latin America overnight and provide better
opportunity. In addition, I am very anxious that the countries of Western
Europe, particularly the Common Market, will concern themselves with Latin
America. Latin America depends on its export markets to Europe in order to
maintain its economy.
Latin America has had a flight of capital in recent months which has been
serious. In addition, the price of its primary products has also dropped in
recent months. So that even the assistance we have given has not been enough
to keep Latin America even, particularly when its population increase
amounts to almost three per cent. So we are faced with staggering problems
in Latin America and I hope that in our concentration on the particular
problem which I discussed at the opening, we will extend our view and
realize that what is at stake here is the freedom of a good many countries
which are in very dire straits today.
QUESTION: Mr. President, what did you think, sir, of the rather harsh things
that Republican Congressman Joel Broyhill in nearby Virginia had to say
about you and your Press Secretary, because Mr. Salinger gave a party last
night for his Democratic opponent?
THE PRESIDENT: I can see why he would be quite critical of that, but I will
say that I never read as much about a Congressman who is in the papers as I
do about that Congressman and see less legislative results.
QUESTION: Mr. President, Martin Luther King has telegraphed you asking for
federal action against anti-Negro terrorism in the South, and at least one
Negro organization has threatened to picket you with the allegation that the
Federal Government has not done enough. Could you tell us whether you have
answered Dr. King, and give us the thought that you gave him, and whether
you can say that or now, can you give us a comment on the problem?
THE PRESIDENT: We are in contact with Dr. King and others who have
communicated to us about it. I don't know any more outrageous action which I
have seen occur in this country in a good many months or years than the
burning of a church, two churches, because of the effort made by the Negroes
to be registered to vote. The United States Constitution provides for
freedom to vote, and this country must permit every man and woman to
exercise their franchise. To shoot, as we saw in the case of Mississippi,
two young people who were involved in an effort to register people, to burn
churches as a reprisal, with all of the provisions of the United States
Constitution, at least the basic provision of the Constitution guaranteeing
freedom of worship, I consider both cowardly as well as outrageous. The
United States now has a number of FBI agents there, and as soon as we are
able to find out who did it, we will arrest them and we will bring them
before a jury, and I am sure that they will be appropriately dealt with.
But let me say that nothing, I think--and I am sure this is the view of the
people of the states, the right to vote is very basic. If we are going to
neglect that right, then all of our talk about freedom is hollow. And
therefore we shall give every protection that we can to anybody who is
seeking to vote, and I hope everybody will register in this country, and I
hope they will vote. I commend those who are making the effort to register
every citizen. They deserve the protection of the United States Government
and the protection of the state and the protection of the local communities,
and we shall do everything we possibly can to make sure that that protection
is assured and if it requires extra legislation and extra force, we shall do
QUESTION: Mr. President, sir, in connection with the Chicago Northwestern
Railway strike, how long do you believe such a major transportation tie-up
can be allowed to run on before the public interest requires Presidential
intervention or Congressional action?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as you know, we exhausted the procedures of the Railway
Labor Act in that case. The only provision which is available to us would be
the Taft-Hartley under a finding that the national interest and security was
So that we would have to make that legal judgment. It is my understanding
that representatives of both of these parties have been meeting with Mr.
Wirtz during the last few days and that some progress has been made.
I think it is very important that that the parties come to an agreement
immediately because there are great interests of nine States affected; a
good many farm crops which should be coming to harvest, which are in the
field, and public welfare suggests that these two important groups come to a
conclusion, I would hope over the weekend.
I am hopeful of it, and, as I say, the latest report I had today was that
progress had been made, so I am hopeful that both sides will make sufficient
concessions, if that is the word to permit an agreement because the public
interest suggests an agreement is due.
QUESTION: Mr. President, it was generally understood that the current test
series would be over by now and it now appears that the atmosphere tests may
continue on into November. Can you tell us why this decision was made to
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there are two reasons. One is that as you know, because
of the blow-up in the pad at Johnson Island and because of the earlier
failures of the communication system in the missile, we were not able to
carry out these tests which were among the most important, if not the most
important, of our series.
So we are going to finish those. In addition, as a result of the earlier
tests of this Dominick series, there were certain things learned which we
would like to prove out.
So we have agreed to a limited number of tests in concluding the Dominick
series, and also we have taken some steps to prevent a repetition of the
incident which caused increase in the number of electrons in the atmosphere,
by lowering the altitude and the yield so that lunar flights will not be
QUESTION: Mr. President, can you tell us whether you discussed the Cuban
situation with General Eisenhower on Monday, and, if you did, whether there
was any agreement between U.S. party leaders that it should be an issue in
this fall's campaign?
THE PRESIDENT: We discussed all problems, and, of course, that was one of
them, but I didn't request any such agreement from him.
QUESTION: In connection with your plans for next month, do you think, you
will find time to visit the National Automobile Show in Detroit?
THE PRESIDENT: I am hopeful I will. Yes, I think I will.
QUESTION: Mr. President, in the recent Soviet statement on Cuba, the
Russians implied that perhaps the main reason the United States is so
exercised about Cuba now is because of our election coming up. I would like
to ask you if you agree with this premise, and, more pointedly, do you think
that the Republicans are going to make political hay out of Cuba?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I would not want to comment on the extent of the Soviet
knowledge of our pre-elective process, nor would I suggest that the concern
over Cuba is due to the election.
I think that the concern is due to the fact that Cuba is close to the United
States territory; and that Cuba is obviously tying itself closer to the
Communist Bloc. The arrival of these weapons and technicians has caused
increasing alarm by not only the members of Congress but also by the
Administration and by the American people. I would think it is part of our
serious problems in which we are engaged in a sense in concentration in many
parts of the world at a dangerous time.
It is quite natural that this action would bring a good deal of concern. I
would not suggest that those who are concerned about it are motivated by
political purposes or that the Soviet judgment that they are is accurate.
QUESTION: Mr. President, in view of your intention to try to close some tax
loopholes next year, do you find either the House or the Senate version of
H.R. 10 is acceptable this year?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I want to wait until the conference. Of course, the
Senate version is much more acceptable than the House version, but even the
Senate version requires some careful analysis. And I am sure, I think it
would be more useful to wait until after the conference and then make a
judgment as to whether we should go ahead with this bill or whether we
should wait until the general reform of next year.
QUESTION: Mr. President, the same Soviet statement which was mentioned
earlier implied that the Soviet Union might intervene militarily on the side
of Cuba in the event the United States was forced to take military action.
Would this implied threat be a major factor in any decision you might be
called upon to make?
THE PRESIDENT: No, the United States will take whatever action the situation
as I described it would require. As far as the threat, the United States has
been living with threats for a good many years, and in a good many parts of
the world. But the United States will not take any action that the situation
does not require and will take whatever action the situation does require
along the grounds which I indicated in my opening statement.
QUESTION: Mr. President, in the area of peaceful uses of space, you have
said that we shall be first, but if we refrain from competing with Russia
for warlike space vehicles as Mr. Gilpatric has said, doesn't this almost
condemn us to a second place finish in the military field?
THE PRESIDENT: No, Mr. Alexander. As I said last week, in the first place we
are spending $1 billion 500 million a year on our military space program.
What is key for the success both of peaceful exploration of space as well as
the military mastery of space are large boosters, effective control of the
capsule, and the ability to rendezvous, and all the rest, so that there is
an obvious usefulness if the situation should require, military usefulness
for our efforts, peaceful efforts in space.
There is no sense-- in addition, as you know, very recently we determined to
go ahead with the TITAN-III, which gives the United States Air Force a very
strong weapon if that should become necessary. So that the work that NASA is
doing on SATURN and the work the Air Force is doing on TITAN and the work
being done on the APOLLO program and GEMINI and the others, all have a
national security factor as well as a peaceful factor.
QUESTION: Could you say a little more about what Mr. Gilpatric meant by
allowing the Russians to go first with hydrogen weapons in space?
THE PRESIDENT: I am not aware that we are intending the Russians to go first
with hydrogen weapons.
QUESTION: He said we wouldn't go until they did.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the United States is attempting, and the
Administration, as you know, is making a massive effort in space. As I said,
we are spending three times what we spent last year in space, and more in
this year's budget than the eight previous years, so that this is a
tremendous effort, $5.5 billion, as well as the money that we are spending
for the military use of space.
As I say, the size of the booster and the capsule and control all would
have, if the situation required it, a military use. We hope it does not; we
hope that space will be used for peaceful purposes. That is the policy of
the United States, but we shall be prepared if it does not. In addition, as
I said from the beginning, both the Soviet Union and the United States both
have a capacity today to send a missile to each other's country with a
nuclear warhead on it, so that we must keep some perspective as to where the
danger may lie. But the United States, in the effort it is making both in
the peaceful program and the military program, all of this will increase our
security if the Soviet Union should attempt to use space for military
QUESTION: Robert Frost, the poet, recently came back, from a trip to Russia,
and he said that he had a message from Premier Khrushchev for you. I think
the American people would like to know what that message was, and what
message he might have taken over from you to Premier Khrushchev. Would you
tell us what that was?
THE PRESIDENT: He didn't take a message, except the message of his own
personality and poetry, to Russia, and to Mr. Khrushchev, and his character.
I have not received his message, although I hope to see him shortly, and if
I do, I will. I am sure I will be glad to communicate it to you and to the
QUESTION: Mr. President, you mentioned in your opening statement that the
proposals might be made to the Latin American countries. Would you give us
some idea of your philosophy of what the Latin American countries' role
should be in this Cuban situation?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think it would be more appropriate, as you know, Mr.
Rusk plans to meet with them this month at the time the General Assembly
opens, and I think it would be more appropriate for they and he to meet and
confer on the matter, and at that time we will have some suggestions.
QUESTION: Mr. President, have you received any response from the Soviet
Union to indicate that they are, in fact, considering cooperative ventures
with the United States in space, other than those negotiated earlier in
satellite weather research by the late Dr. Harry Wetzler? If not, are you
still hopeful that such cooperation is likely in the near future?
THE PRESIDENT: No. As you know, Dr. Dryden had some conversations in Geneva
with regard to the matter, and some progress was made, but it is limited in
its scope and we would hope more could be done and more, perhaps, could be
done if the atmosphere between the two countries should be improved.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you said in your opening statement that yoga now
had full authority to act in the Cuban affair. In view of this, do you think
there is any virtue in the Senate or the Congress passing the resolution
saying you have that authority?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think the members of Congress, speaking as they do,
with a particular responsibility, I think it would be useful if they desired
to do so, for them to express their view. I have seen the resolutions which
have been discussed, a resolution which I think Senator Mansfield introduced
and which Chairman Vinson introduced in the House, and I would think that I
would be very glad to have those resolutions passed, if that should be the
desire of the Congress.
QUESTION: Mr. President, will you tell us some of your thinking on your
request for special reserve mobilization powers? The international situation
has led you twice to request such special legislation. You could call a
million reservists if you declared a national emergency. Why don’t you do
THE PRESIDENT: I think there are several stages of a possible crisis. The
call of a national emergency, I would say, is near the final step of a
crisis. But there may be increased threats which would require us to call
some reservists, particularly in the air, maybe at sea, possibly on the
ground. Last year, when we called the reservists, the two divisions, the
Wisconsin and Texas Divisions, we also laid plans for making two more
divisions permanent, which came into effect this summer, in August and
September, so that those two divisions served a purpose of giving us this
reserve during the period of the crisis at that time, and at the end of it
we had two permanent divisions.
We have, as you know, of course, increased our Army strength from 11 to 16
divisions in the last year and a half. Now, if we need-- of course, if we
are in a national emergency, where the United States is threatened with very
serious military action, of course there would be no hesitancy in declaring
it. But we might be in a situation where the declaration of a national
emergency might not be the most appropriate step, and in that case we would
use the power granted to us by the Congress.
QUESTION: Mr. President, in that connection, your request for only 150,000
reservists would seem to not enforce the opinion you expressed because it
seems no stage at all.
THE PRESIDENT: I think that --
QUESTION: You said that you have strengthened the armed forces.
THE PRESIDENT: That is correct, and then we have 150,000 more that we could
call up. They could be in very critical areas. As I have said, the air and
the sea are two, and, of course, there could be Guard divisions called. If
the United States were obliged to reinforce its forces any place, the
ability to call up needed men would make an appreciable difference. As I
say, we always have the final weapon or nearly final weapon of a national
emergency, and the power to call a million men. But the Joint Chiefs of
Staff and the Secretary of Defense felt that this intermediate step could be
very useful during the period when Congress is out of session.
QUESTION: This question concerns the aerospace dispute. As you know, the
auto workers and the machinists unions have accepted the Presidential
Board's recommendation, and recommendations, sir, which I believe you have
also found acceptable as a basis for settlement. The four leading aerospace
manufacturers, especially Lockheed, have rejected the basic union shop
recommendation. Now the unions feel they are being forced into a strike
posture, as a result of the company's attitude. Could you tell us something
of your opinion, of your reaction to the situation, and what the equities in
this area are?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, in the first place, most major industrial companies or
industries in the United States accepted the union shop many years ago, the
steel industry, the auto industry, the aluminum companies, other basic
industries. The union shop is part of collective bargaining. Particularly
under the terms suggested by Dr. Taylor, a two-thirds vote, people do not
have to join the union to get the job. After they come to work, if it is the
opinion of a large majority of the members, then they would join the union.
This, as I say, has been acceptable for many years to many companies which
are even larger than the ones involved. That is the first point.
The second point is that the total package it seems to me should be
considered as a package. The economic proposals made are not excessive. They
come well within the guide lines suggested by the Council of Economic
Advisors. The unions are accepting a financial settlement which is not
particularly generous in relation to certain other unions in recent years.
They feel that the total package, however, is acceptable. I would hope the
companies would accept it, because if a strike comes, in view of the fact
that the recommendation of the fact-finding board headed by Dr. Taylor, who
also was given a comparable assignment by President Eisenhower in the steel
strike case, which indicates his own high reputation and that of the panel,
I would hope that the companies would accept it, because if there is a
strike, the responsibility would be very clear, I think, to the American
people for such an action. I would hope there would not be a strike, that
business would go on, that the companies would accept the report.
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you favor the election of every Democratic
candidate for Congress? How many seats do you feel you need in the Senate
and the House to get a Congress that will put across your legislative
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I would be glad to go through the names with you. I
have said from the beginning that I would probably be supporting any
Congressman who is interested in my support. I think there are probably same
Democrats who might not be particularly anxious for any support and,
therefore, my endorsement would not be required across the board. Those
Congressmen who are interested in my supporting them are usually people who
hold the same general view of the necessity for this country making progress
that I do.
Secondly, this Congress is ending. I think it is somewhat like Lazarus. It
has revived. It is moving and we are going to see the session end, in my
opinion, with the passage of a good trade bill, with a tax bill which will
come out of the conference, I hope a higher education bill, and a good many
other bills which two months ago seemed to be in the deep freeze, so I think
that we are making progress.
What I think is important is because these votes--and we will get a farm
bill, I hope--is because these votes are so close, because the program is
opposed by the opposition party, almost across the board, and because some
Democrats join, I would hope that we could hold the number of seats we have
and perhaps pick some up, even though I recognize that it is going to be a
very intensely fought election.
QUESTION: Mr. President, sir, when you went to Houston the other day you
didn't take along Congressman Casey whose district you went to, and you also
didn't take along Senator Yarborough from Texas. I wonder why you did this
and I also wonder if you were motivated in leaving Casey at home because he
had opposed you on some issues?
THE PRESIDENT: You say I didn't take Senator Yarborough and, of course, he
and I have been in close concert, so, of course, the reason was not that
which you have suggested, Mrs. McClendon. We did not take any Congressman or
Senator along to Florida though we visited it. We didn't take any
Congressman or Senator along to Alabama because this was a program trip.
QUESTION: One was already there, wasn't he?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, and we invited all the Congressmen and Senators who were
in the districts to come with us on the trip. For example, Senator Long from
Missouri, came with us to the McDonnell plant. We would have been glad to
have anyone come. But we invited the members of the Space Committees of the
House and Senate, the ranking Democrat and Republican. We also brought
Congressman Thomas along, who is Chairman of the Appropriations Committee
for the space program. That was the total invitation because this was a
(Merriman Smith, UPI) Thank you, Mr. President.
#2 Text and Audio: President Kennedy draws red lines - 22 October 1962
Cuban Missile Crises Address
Text and Audio: President Kennedy draws red lines - 22 October 1962 Cuban
Missile Crises Address
Radio and Television Report to the American People on the Soviet Arms
Buildup in Cuba, October 22, 1962
Good evening my fellow citizens:
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.
Upon receiving the first preliminary hard information of this nature last
Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., I directed that our surveillance be stepped up.
And having now confirmed and completed our evaluation of the evidence and
our decision on a course of action, this Government feels obliged to report
this new crisis to you in fullest detail.
The characteristics of these new missile sites indicate two distinct types
of installations. Several of them include medium range ballistic missiles
capable of carrying a nuclear warhead for a distance of more than 1,000
nautical miles. 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.
Additional sites not yet completed appear to be designed for intermediate
range ballistic missiles--capable of traveling more than twice as far--and
thus capable of striking most of the major cities in the Western Hemisphere,
ranging as far north as Hudson Bay, Canada, and as far south as Lima, Peru.
In addition, jet bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, are now being
uncrated and assembled in Cuba, while the necessary air bases are being
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, in flagrant and deliberate defiance of the Rio Pact of
1947, the traditions of this Nation and hemisphere, the joint resolution of
the 87th Congress, the Charter of the United Nations, and my own public
warnings to the Soviets on September 4 and 13. 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.
The size of this undertaking makes clear that it has been planned for some
months. Yet only last month, after I had made clear the distinction between
any introduction of ground-to-ground missiles and the existence of defensive
antiaircraft missiles, the Soviet Government publicly stated on September
11, and I quote, "the armaments and military equipment sent to Cuba are
designed exclusively for defensive purposes," that, and I quote the Soviet
Government, "there is no need for the Soviet Government to shift its weapons
. . . for a retaliatory blow to any other country, for instance Cuba," and
that, and I quote their government, "the Soviet Union has so powerful
rockets to carry these nuclear warheads that there is no need to search for
sites for them beyond the boundaries of the Soviet Union." That statement
Only last Thursday, as evidence of this rapid offensive buildup was already
in my hand, Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko told me in my office that he was
instructed to make it clear once again, as he said his government had
already done, that Soviet assistance to Cuba, and I quote, "pursued solely
the purpose of contributing to the the defense capabilities of Cuba," that,
and I quote him, "training by Soviet specialists of Cuban nationals in
handling defensive armaments was by no means offensive, and if it were
otherwise," Mr. Gromyko went on, "the Soviet Government would never become
involved in rendering such assistance." That statement also was false.
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. Nuclear weapons are so destructive and
ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially increased
possibility of their use or any sudden change in their deployment may well
be regarded as a definite threat to peace.
For many years both the Soviet Union and the United States, recognizing this
fact, have deployed strategic nuclear weapons with great care, never
upsetting the precarious status quo which insured that these weapons would
not be used in the absence of some vital challenge. Our own strategic
missiles have never been transferred to the territory of any other nation
under a cloak of secrecy and deception; and our history--unlike that of the
Soviets since the end of World War II--demonstrates that we have no desire
to dominate or conquer any other nation or impose our system upon its
people. Nevertheless, American citizens have become adjusted to living daily
on the Bull's-eye of Soviet missiles located inside the U.S.S.R. or in
In that sense, missiles in Cuba add to an already clear and present
danger--although it should be noted the nations of Latin America have never
previously been subjected to a potential nuclear threat.
But this secret, swift, and extraordinary buildup of Communist missiles--in
an area well known to have a special and historical relationship to the
United States and the nations of the Western Hemisphere, in violation of
Soviet assurances, and in defiance of American and hemispheric policy--this
sudden, clandestine decision to station strategic weapons for the first time
outside of Soviet soil--is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change
in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country, if our courage
and our commitments are ever to be trusted again by either friend or foe.
The 1930's taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go
unchecked and unchallenged ultimately leads to war. This nation is opposed
to war. We are also true to our word. Our unswerving objective, therefore,
must be to prevent the use of these missiles against this or any other
country, and to secure their withdrawal or elimination from the Western
Our policy has been one of patience and restraint, as befits a peaceful and
powerful nation, which leads a worldwide alliance. We have been determined
not to be diverted from our central concerns by mere irritants and fanatics.
But now further action is required--and it is under way; and these actions
may only be the beginning. We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the
costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be
ashes in our mouth--but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it
must be faced.
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. This quarantine will
be extended, if needed, to other types of cargo and carriers. We are not at
this time, however, denying the necessities of life as the Soviets attempted
to do in their Berlin blockade of 1948.
Second: I have directed the continued and increased close surveillance of
Cuba and its military buildup. The foreign ministers of the OAS, in their
communique of October 6, rejected secrecy in such matters in this
hemisphere. Should these offensive military preparations continue, thus
increasing the threat to the hemisphere, further action will be justified. I
have directed the Armed Forces to prepare for any eventualities; and I trust
that in the interest of both the Cuban people and the Soviet technicians at
the sites, the hazards to all concerned in continuing this threat will be
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.
Fourth: As a necessary military precaution, I have reinforced our base at
Guantanamo, evacuated today the dependents of our personnel there, and
ordered additional military units to be on a standby alert basis.
Fifth: We are calling tonight for an immediate meeting of the Organ of
Consultation under the Organization of American States, to consider this
threat to hemispheric security and to invoke articles 6 and 8 of the Rio
Treaty in support of all necessary action. The United Nations Charter allows
for regional security arrangements--and the nations of this hemisphere
decided long ago against the military presence of outside powers. Our other
allies around the world have also been alerted.
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. Our resolution
will call for the prompt dismantling and withdrawal of all offensive weapons
in Cuba, under the supervision of U.N. observers, before the quarantine can
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. I call upon him further to abandon
this course of world domination, and to join in an historic effort to end
the perilous arms race and to transform the history of man. 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
This Nation is prepared to present its case against the Soviet threat to
peace, and our own proposals for a peaceful world, at any time and in any
forum--in the OAS, in the United Nations, or in any other meeting that could
be useful--without limiting our freedom of action. We have in the past made
strenuous efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. We have proposed
the elimination of all arms and military bases in a fair and effective
disarmament treaty. We are prepared to discuss new proposals for the removal
of tensions on both sides--including the possibility of a genuinely
independent Cuba, free to determine its own destiny. We have no wish to war
with the Soviet Union--for we are a peaceful people who desire to live in
peace with all other peoples.
But it is difficult to settle or even discuss these problems in an
atmosphere of intimidation. That is why this latest Soviet threat--or any
other threat which is made either independently or in response to our
actions this week--must and will be met with determination. Any hostile move
anywhere in the world against the safety and freedom of peoples to whom we
are committed--including in particular the brave people of West Berlin--will
be met by whatever action is needed.
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. And I have watched and the American people have watched with deep
sorrow how your nationalist revolution was betrayed-- and how your
fatherland fell under foreign domination. 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.
These new weapons are not in your interest. They contribute nothing to your
peace and well-being. They can only undermine it. But this country has no
wish to cause you to suffer or to impose any system upon you. We know that
your lives and land are being used as pawns by those who deny your freedom.
Many times in the past, the Cuban people have risen to throw out tyrants who
destroyed their liberty. And I have no doubt that most Cubans today look
forward to the time when they will be truly free--free from foreign
domination, free to choose their own leaders, free to select their own
system, free to own their own land, free to speak and write and worship
without fear or degradation. And then shall Cuba be welcomed back to the
society of free nations and to the associations of this hemisphere.
My fellow citizens: let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous
effort on which we have set out. No one can see precisely what course it
will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred. Many months of
sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead--months in which our patience and
our will will be tested--months in which many threats and denunciations will
keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest danger of all would be to do
The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths
are--but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a
nation and our commitments around the world. The cost of freedom is always
high--and Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose,
and that is the path of surrender or submission.
Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right- -not
peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this
hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be
Thank you and good night.