How Nikita Khrushchev Exposed the Hypocrisy of US Interventions

For American interventionists living today, all that one needs to know is that Russia invaded Ukraine. End of story. Black and white. Russia bad. Ukraine good. Support Ukraine with U.S. taxpayer-funded cash and armaments. America good.

If we go back to the Cuban Missile Crisis, we find that things are not so simple, especially for American interventionists, even if they don’t realize it. 

The Soviets had installed nuclear missiles in Cuba that had the capability of hitting U.S. cities along the Eastern seaboard, including Washington, D.C., and New York City. The crisis lasted from October 16 through October 29, 1962.

President Kennedy demanded that the Soviets remove their nuclear missiles from Cuba and take them back to the Soviet Union. The Pentagon was exerting enormous pressure on Kennedy to immediately initiate a surprise bombing attack on the suspected missile sites, followed by a full-scale regime-change military invasion of the island. In other words, they were pressuring Kennedy to do to Cuba what Russia has done to Ukraine. In fact, the pressure they placed on Kennedy was so intense that Robert Kennedy, the president’s brother, secretly told Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin “If the situation continues much longer, the President is not sure that the military will not overthrow him and seize power.”

On October 27 — two days before the crisis was resolved — Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev wrote a letter to Kennedy stating the following:

But how are we, the Soviet Union, our Government, to assess your actions, which are expressed in the fact that you have surrounded the Soviet Union with military bases; surrounded our allies with military bases; placed military bases literally around our country; and stationed your missile armaments there? This is no secret. Responsible American personages openly declare that it is so. Your missiles are located in Britain, are located in Italy, and are aimed against us. Your missiles are located in Turkey. 

You are disturbed over Cuba. You say that this disturbs you because it is 90 miles by sea from the coast of the United States of America. But Turkey adjoins us; our sentries patrol back and forth and see each other. Do you consider, then, that you have the right to demand security for your own country and the removal of the weapons you call offensive, but do not accord the same right to us? You have placed destructive missile weapons, which you call offensive, in Turkey, literally next to us. How then can recognition of our equal military capacities be reconciled with such unequal relations between our great states? This is irreconcilable.

Do you see the problem? Khrushchev was pointing out the hypocrisy of the U.S. position, a position that American interventionists today simply cannot recognize, owing to their blind allegiance to the U.S. national-security establishment. 

The fact is that the Soviets had the legal authority to place their nuclear missiles in Cuba, just as Ukraine has the legal authority to join NATO. Cuba, like Ukraine, is a sovereign, independent country and, therefore, had the legal authority to permit the Soviets to install their missiles in Cuba, just as Ukraine has the legal authority to permit the U.S. and NATO to install their nuclear missiles in Ukraine.

But even though such legal authority exists, no one, including both Russians and Americans, likes to have nuclear missiles pointed at himself, especially from just a few miles away. This is the point that Kennedy was making when he stood fast during the Cuban Missile Crisis. With the full support of the Pentagon and the CIA, he was willing to risk all-out nuclear war to force the Soviets to remove those missiles, even though he knew that the Soviets had the legal authority to install them in Cuba. He, the Pentagon, and the CIA simply did not like the fact that those missiles were so close to the United States.

But that’s precisely how the Soviets felt as well, which is what Khrushchev was expressing in his letter to Kennedy. He was essentially saying, “Hey, you don’t like our missiles in Cuba because they are so close to your country. That’s exactly how we feel as well, not only about your missiles over here that are painted at us but also about all your military bases with which you have surrounded us. How come you can’t understand that?”

Well, Kennedy did come to understand that. That’s how he and Khrushchev were able to strike a deal, one that infuriated the U.S. national-security establishment as well as American interventionists.

The deal consisted of two major parts: First, Kennedy vowed that he would not permit the Pentagon and the CIA to again invade Cuba and, second, Kennedy agreed to withdraw U.S. nuclear missiles in Turkey that were pointed at Russia.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff were livid. They considered Kennedy’s resolution of the crisis to be the worst defeat in U.S history. They compared his actions during the crisis to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler at Munich.

For their part, American interventionists were also furious over Kennedy’s resolution of the crisis. As far as they were concerned, the Pentagon and the CIA had the “right” to install their nuclear missiles wherever they want and the Soviets did not have the “right” to do the same. It’s a position that American interventionists still hold today.

Can you see why American interventionists hated Kennedy so much and why the Pentagon and the CIA ultimately concluded that he constituted a grave threat to “national security”?

This originally appeared on Jacob Hornberger’s Expand Freedom blog.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.