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The Role Of Bobby Kennedy Throughout The Cuban Missile Crisis

Updated October 31, 2019

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The Role Of Bobby Kennedy Throughout The Cuban Missile Crisis essay

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.. had received and important message from Khrushchev.

Kennedy usually affected a casual, unbuttoned look with his Russian friend, but Bolshakov noticed that this day the attorney generals shirt was meticulously buttoned. There was no small talk about Bolshakovs vacation, which months before the men had considered taking together. Kennedy listened and took notes as Bolshakov conveyed a pledge from Khrushchev that the Soviet Union was sending only defensive weapons to Cuba.(Blight and Welch p.193) To be sure he had not missed any nuance, Kennedy asked him to repeat the key phrase in the message. The weapons that the USSR is sending to Cuba will only be of a defensive character, said Bolshakov.(Brugioni p.178) In a short while, Kennedy explained, I will have to report this to the president. Indeed, from what Bolshakov new of Soviet intentions, what he was instructed to tell Robert F. Kennedy was the truth? Bolshakov really believed that the Soviets had know intention of placing offensive nuclear missiles capable of targeting any region in the continental United States, at least without first informing the United States and the Kennedy administration.

Bolshakov was left in the dark. Bolshakov lived to see the end of the Cold War; but he never got over his bitterness towards the Soviet Premier at having been used to deceive the Kennedy’s. Bolshakov was not informed about operation Anadyr.(Blight & Welch p.197) The deception that the Soviets employed through Bolshakov insulted the pride of both Kennedy’s but in particular that of Bobby, who was Bolshakovs friend. Perhaps that’s why Bolshakov was not informed of the operation.

When it was brought to the attention that the American government was well aware of the Soviet missiles in Cuban territory, Bolshakov was dumbfounded and even a little confused. Bolshakov was not aware of the missiles in Cuba until John F. Kennedys administration itself had informed him that the missiles were there and even showed him photographs. When he did view the photographs he denied any expertise in rocketry. I have never seen anything like these photographs, complained Bolshakov, and cannot understand what is on them.

He even suggested that they just might be baseball diamonds. The Americans however were not pleased with these results.(Blight & Welch p.197) Bolshakov however did not prove to be totally useless to the Kennedy administration in resolving the missile crisis. On October 23, Frank Holeman revealed to Bolshakov, that the United States was willing to make a swap, Soviet nuclear ballistic missiles on the island of Cuba, in exchange for American ballistic nuclear missiles in the NATO State of Turkey on the borders of the Soviet Union. Kennedy was looking to remove the missiles in Turkey anyway for they had become obsolete upon the development of a larger quantity of higher quality missiles.(Cheney p.94) However GRU office in Washington chose to sit on the information and not reveal it to Khrushchev and the Soviet presidium just yet.

Through Kennedys Bolshakov connection, it was first revealed that the Kennedy administration was willing to make a swap of missile installation in respective Soviet and American allied states.(Brugioni p.224) Bolshakov proved valuable in the months before the missile crisis to both the White House and the Kremlin. Both used him as a source of intelligence regarding the other superpowers plans. Bolshakov was Bobby Kennedys initative in dealing with the Soviet Union. Ultimately, however, Khrushchev and the Soviet Union used the Kennedy-Bolshakov channel in a deceitful manner, deceiving the intelligence agent himself.

Bolshakov was used to cover Soviet-Cuban covert operations in the Atlantic Ocean and to reassure the Kennedy administration that the Soviets had no plans to install offensive nuclear weapons capable of wiping out the entire continental United States on the island of Cuba. To the contrary, the Soviets had planned for months to turn the small island nation of Cuba and its six million people into a Soviet Island fortress only 90 miles off the coast of Florida. This fortress would be fully equipped with not just medium range, but intercontinental nuclear missiles, as well as a submarine base capable of supporting nuclear submarines. In addition an entire Soviet garrison of 50,000 troops would be stationed on the island equipped with the weapons and the defense systems required to keep this fortress operational and eventually impregnable.(Cheney p.102) Bolshakov was left completely in the dark about this situation, and intern so was the Kennedy administration. The situation infuriated both Kennedy’s and as the missile crisis progressed, the brothers relied less on the channel as a means to reach Moscow.

It appeared obvious that Bolshakov had no idea what kinds of weapons were being installed in Cuba. The Soviet deception through Bolshakov helped to set the tone for Bobby Kennedy at the first Ex Comm meetings in deciding exactly what to do about this devastating situation in Cuba. Bolshakov was Bobby Kennedys personal channel to Moscow and his friend. Moscows use of Bolshakov as a means of deceit and deception truly infuriated the younger Kennedy.

Kennedy was looking to get even. It was no surprise that when Kennedy entered the very first Ex Comm meeting on October 16, 1962 Kennedy sat in his chair ready to act as a hawk. (Fursenko & Naftali p.234) He was prepared to do what ever was necessary to remove those missiles from Cuba. If it meant an air strike followed by an invasion, so be it. Bobby Kennedy and the Ex Comm Meetings The beginning of the Ex Comm talks for Robert F.

Kennedy were marked by humiliation. The humiliation that he was directly lied to by the Soviet Union through one of his closest contacts and the humiliation that Castro had once again made the United States look like a bunch of fools. He struggled in the early part of these Ex Comm meetings with that humiliation on his shoulders. Robert Kennedy believed that the missiles in Cuba represented an extremely valuable bargaining chip for both the Soviets and the Cubans. His opinion was also shared by his brother the president of the United States. Kennedy wondered whether Castro might not make new threats against Cubas neighbors, saying, You move troops down into that part of Venezuela, were going to fire these missiles.(Fursenko & Naftali p.235) The attorney general in the first meeting of Ex Comm was by far the strongest advocate for invasion.

He understood his brothers sensitivity toward the political impact of a U.S. reaction that was not considered commensurate to the crime. But Robert Kennedy also expected Khrushchev simply to reload his missiles if he lost his first group of missiles to an American air strike. The odds of destroying every missile cleanly and efficiently with just one simple air strike were next to impossible.(Fursenko & Naftali p.247) Perhaps as a way of showing how an invasion could be made internationally acceptable, Robert Kennedy brought up the quick fix that he had been advocating off and on since the Bay of Pigs disaster. We should also think of .

. . whether there is some other way we can get involved in this through . .

. Guantanamo Bay, or something, . . .

or whether theres some ship that, you know, sink the Maine again or something.(Hinckle & William p. 278) Kennedy was indeed grasping for straws suggesting such farfetched and outlandish excuses for invading Cuba, under pretexts of questionable morality. However Kennedy was confused and extremely frustrated by the current situation. Much of what Kennedy suggests early on in the Ex Comm meetings were the venting of great frustration over the crisis.

None the less his brother, the president of the United States took Bobby Kennedys lamentations very seriously. Bobby was still his closest advisor and John F. Kennedy felt the same frustration and confusion that his brother felt. Initially most of the other members of Ex Comm barring the members of the actually military who were present, supported a much more peaceful way of dealing with the situation. Diplomacy was seen as an alternative means of dealing with such an explosive situation.

Llewellyn Thompson advocated a naval blockade of Cuba.(Dolan & Scariano p.105) Believing it very highly doubtful the Russians would resist a blockade against military weapons . . .(Dolan & Scariano p.105) Thompson argued that the best way to avoid peace or at least legitimatize an invasion of Cuba was a combined stern coercion of blockade with a public demand that Moscow dismantle its missile sites in Cuba. Thompson realized that odds were this would not be enough to remove the missiles already existing in Cuba and would not prevent them from becoming operational in the near future.

He suggested threatening to use force if Khrushchev ignored the U.S. demand. I think we should be under no illusions that this would probably in the end lead to the same thing, he said with some resignation. But we would do it under an entirely different posture and background, and much less danger of getting into the big war.(Fursenko & Naftali p.253) In the beginning Robert Kennedy, still very much a hawk disagreed in entirely with Thompson. He saw the blockade as a very slow death.(Thompson p.123) Robert Kennedy envisioned that a blockade would last for months. He saw a great deal of conflict involved in a naval blockade anyway.

The stopping of Russian ships by the American navy would cause chaos and possibly even retaliation by Russian ships. Russian ships would dare the American navy to stop them, and no doubt about it there would be ships that would attempt to run and break through any kind of naval blockade put into affect by the United States Navy. Russian planes that attempted to fly over the American blockade would have to me shot down which would lead to nothing more than an escalated mess.(Fursenko & Naftali p. 256-9) These at least were Kennedys arguments. On October 19, the Ex Comm divided into two groups.

There was the air strike team, which included Treasury Secretary Dillon, Bundy, CIA director John McCone, and the former secretary of state Dean Acheson who had now joined in on the Ex Comm meetings. Robert Kennedy chose to join this group. Favoring the blockade were Secretary of Defense John McNamara, Dean Rusk, Thompson, George Ball.(Blight & Welch p.235) The responsibility of the two groups was to generate by the end of the day position papers that made the strongest case possible for their preference. Over the next thirty-six hours, Robert Kennedy played a key role in bringing these two groups together.

He considered himself apart of the air strike team, but his position on so drastic a measure was wavering. While he still saw the naval blockade as full of headaches and weaknesses, he saw the air strike position as even more dangerous.(Fursenko & Naftali p.263-4) The reason he was wavering was not that agreed with Thompson or the others, rather he began to fully recognize the consequence of the alternative air strike. An air strike left little room for the Soviet Union and communist Cuba to manuver. In a situation such as the one placed upon them in an air strike, the two communist nations would seemingly have no choice but to fight back and defend themselves.(Blight & Welch p.229) In the morning Bobby Kennedy argued that the U.S. airforce should simply go and make the attack without warning.

Only after a full air strike was made against the Soviet Cuban positions on the island should the United States go to the Organization of American States. This was Kennedys view. By the evening of the same day, he was firmly against striking without warning. Kennedy realized the cowardlyness in such an attack.

A similar surprise attack was made on the day of December 7th, 1945, a day that would live in infamy. There was no way Kennedy decided, that he would allow his brother to be compared with Tojo of Japan, in reference to the Japanese sneak on the American navy stationed in Pearl Harbor that eventually lead to American involvement in World War II. The United States was not in the tradition of cowardlyness.(Blight & Welch p.230) While he still was leaning towards an air strike or at least an eventual air strike over a naval blockade, he realized that the Soviet response to such a strike would be far more prepared if they were warned previously. None the less Bobby Kennedy had become dead set against a preemptive without warning strike on the island of Cuba.

As a result, he had changed his mind about resorting to a blockade as a first step.(Thompson p.145) By the time John F. Kennedy had arrived back at the White House after a scheduled cross country trip across the United States early Saturday morning, Bobby Kennedy was firmly locked into the blockade camp of Ex Comm. If a vote were to take place in Ex Comm, the air strike camp would lose. Robert F. Kennedy upon weighing the options of an air strike over taking the first step as an announced military blockade realized that the consequences of the air strike made the blockade far more appealing.(Fursenko & Naftali p.267) At least the blockade could buy time and allow the Soviets to retreat without a single shot being fired. It was President Kennedy who in fact needed convincing of the impracticality of an air strike as opposed to a naval blockade.

Kennedy would indeed take some convincing that the blockade would be a safer alternative to an outright surgical air strike on Soviet missile positions in Cuba. However in light of new CIA intelligence that intelligence agency understood that the operational status of the missiles and the possibility of hitherto undiscovered missile sites were the issues closest to the presidents heart and potentially most relevant to his final decision.(Hinckle & William p.287) Thus with the help Bobby Kennedy bringing the Ex Comm group together and the shining of light onto newly found intelligence, the blockade camp carried the day. On Monday morning Kennedy would give a nationally televised address, followed by the imposition of a limited blockade a day later. Kennedy realized that the pentagon barring McNamara was against the decision, but was affirmed by General Taylor that the U.S. armed services would back the presidents decision completely.(Hinckle & William p. 293) Robert Kennedy also argued that the pretext behind a naval blockade of the island of Cuba should be of a moral pretext.

He argued that the pretext of a naval blockade should involve the deception of the Soviets in there placing of nuclear weapons on the island of Cuba despite American warnings of what would be the consequences of such an action. President Kennedy however rejected this moral pretext. Kennedy stated flatly why there was not an acceptable military option at this stage in the crisis. The Soviet Unions mobile MRBM (medium range ballistic missile) bases can be set up quite quickly, and for this reason and this reason alone he was sure there were more on the island had previously been detected.(Cohen p.175) Kennedy no longer believed the Soviets would act prudently in the event of war. After all it was not very prudent of the Soviet Union to seriously believe it could place nuclear missiles right under the nose of America and easily get away with it. Kennedy thought that maybe even the Soviets were itching for the fight.

Right up till Kennedys address, the Soviets were unaware that the Americans had idea that the United States knew of the ballistic missiles in Cuba. Howe.

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