Friday, 28 October 2022 — National Security Archive
Documents Record how Kennedy Administration Buried Quid Pro Quo that Resolved Missile Crisis
Letters Implicate President Kennedy as Author of Political Attack on U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson
Washington, D.C, October 28, 2022 – Sixty years ago today, the most dangerous days of the Cuban Missile Crisis came to an end—and the cover-up of the deal that would end the crisis began. President John F. Kennedy rejected Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s proposal to formalize a secret missile trade on paper. Kennedy then secretly orchestrated a political attack on U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, who had advised Kennedy to make the missile deal, in a controversial article published by the Saturday Evening Post, according to private letters published for the first time today by the National Security Archive. The correspondence between a co-author of the article, Stewart Alsop, and the magazine’s executive editor, Clay Blair Jr., indicates that President Kennedy himself was the “unadmiring official” quoted in the story as stating, “Adlai wanted a Munich. He wanted to trade U.S. bases for Cuban bases.”
The accusation about Stevenson, which Kennedy’s own White House aides called “false and malicious,” created a political furor in Washington when the article, “In Time of Crisis,” was published in early December 1962. But the article helped Kennedy cover up the fact that he had implemented Stevenson’s private advice during the missile crisis and secretly traded the removal of U.S. missiles in Turkey for the withdrawal of the Soviet missiles in Cuba.
On the 60th anniversary of the day the missile crisis abated, and the dire threat of nuclear war subsided, the National Security Archive is posting a selection of key U.S. and Soviet documents that record how the White House effort to cover up the real resolution of the crisis evolved. The documents include the translated texts of Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin’s cables to Moscow, reporting on his meetings with Attorney General Robert Kennedy; the private correspondence sent by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to the president on October 28, 1962, seeking to affirm in writing the verbal deal that Robert Kennedy had made with Dobrynin to trade the U.S. missiles in Turkey for the Soviet missiles in Cuba; the tape recordings of President Kennedy’s phone conversations with former presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover, during which Kennedy denied any quid pro quo deal had been made to end the missile crisis; and the unpublished letters between Alsop and Blair, which reveal that the president played a significant role in crafting the article.
“The true resolution of the missile crisis was for years kept secret in one of the most consequential cover-ups in the history of U.S. foreign policy,” observed Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project. “A generation of scholars, analysts, foreign policy makers and even presidents were deprived of a full understanding and appreciation of how the leaders of the superpowers avoided nuclear catastrophe.”
THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.