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United Nations: Cuban Missile Crisis Debate, 1962


Between Adlai Stevenson and V. A. Zorin in the United Nations Security Council, October 23, 1962

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Mr. STEVENSON (United States of America): I have asked for an emergency meeting of the Security Council to bring to your attention a grave threat to the Western Hemisphere and to the peace of the world.

Last night, the President of the United States reported the recent alarming military developments in Cuba. . . .

In view of this transformation of Cuba into a base for offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction, the President announced the initiation of a strict quarantine on all offensive military weapons under shipment to Cuba. He did so because, in the view of my Government, the recent developments in Cuba - the importation of the cold war into the heart of the Americas - constitute a threat to the peace of this hemisphere, and, indeed, to the peace of the world.

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The time has come for this Council to decide whether to make a serious attempt to bring peace to the world-or to let the United Nations stand idly by while the vast plan of piecemeal aggression unfolds, conducted in the hope that no single issue will seem consequential enough to mobilize the resistance of the free peoples. For my own Government, this question is not in doubt. We remain committed to the principles of the United Nations, and we intend to defend them. . . .

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Let me make it absolutely clear what the issue of Cuba is. It is not an issue of revolution. This hemisphere has seen many revolutions, including the one which gave my own nation its independence.

It is not an issue of reform. My nation has lived happily with other countries which have had thorough-going and fundamental social transformations, like Mexico and Bolivia. The whole point of the Alliance for Progress is to bring about an economic and social revolution in the Americas.

It is not an issue of socialism. As Secretary of State Rusk said in February, "our hemisphere has room for a diversity of economic systems."

It is not an issue of dictatorship. The American Republics have lived with dictators before. If this were his only fault, they could live with Mr. Castro.

The foremost objection of the States of the Americas to the Castro régime is not because it is revolutionary, not because it is socialistic, not because it is dictatorial, not even because Mr. Castro perverted a noble revolution in the interests of a squalid totalitarianism. It is because be has aided and abetted an invasion of this hemisphere - an invasion just at the time when the hemisphere is making a new and unprecedented effort for economic progress and social reform.

The crucial fact is that Cuba has given the Soviet Union a bridgehead and staging area in this hemisphere; that it has invited an extra-continental, antidemocratic and expansionist Power into the bosom of the American family; that it has made itself an accomplice in the communist enterprise of world dominion.

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In our passion for peace we have forborne greatly. There must, however, be limits to forbearance if forbearance is not to become the diagram for the destruction of this Organization. Mr. Castro transformed Cuba into a totalitarian dictatorship with impunity; lie extinguished the rights of political freedom with impunity; he aligned himself with the Soviet bloc with impunity; lie accepted defensive weapons from the Soviet Union with impunity; be welcomed thousands of Communists into Cuba with impunity: but when, with cold deliberation, he turns his country over to the Soviet Union for a long-range missile launching base, and thus carries the Soviet programme for aggression into the heart of the Americas, the day of forbearance is past.

If the United States and the other nations of the Western Hemisphere should accept this new phase of aggression, we would be delinquent in our obligations to world peace. If the United States and the other nations of the Western Hemisphere should accept this basic disturbance of the world's structure of power we would invite a new surge of aggression at every point along the frontier. If we do not stand firm here our adversaries may think that we will stand firm nowhere - and w guarantee a heightening of the world civil war to new levels of intensity and peril. . . .

The issue which confronts the Security Council is grave. Were it not, I should not have detained you so long. Since the end of the Second World War, there has been no threat to the vision of peace so profound-no challenge to the world of the Charter so fateful. The hopes of mankind are concentrated in this room. The action we take may determine the future of civilization. I know that this Council will approach the issue with a full sense of our responsibility and a solemn understanding of the import of our deliberations.

There is a road to peace. The beginning of that road is marked out in the draft resolution I have submitted for your consideration. If we act promptly, we will have another chance to take up again the dreadful questions of nuclear arms and military bases and the means and causes of aggression and of war-to take them up and do something about them.

This is, I believe, a solemn and significant day for the life of the United Nations and the hope of the world community. Let it be remembered not as the day when the world came to the edge of nuclear war, but as the day when men resolved to let nothing thereafter stop them in their quest for peace.

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The PRESIDENT [Mr. V. A. ZORIN] (translated from Russian): I should now like to make a statement in my capacity as the representative of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. . . .

I must say that even a cursory examination of Mr. Stevenson's statement reveals the totally untenable nature of the position taken by the United States Government on the question which it has thought necessary to place before the Council, arid its complete inability to defend this position in the Council and before world public opinion.

Mr. Stevenson touched on many subjects. . . . He spoke about the history of the Cuban revolution-although it is difficult to understand what the United States has to do with the internal affairs of the sovereign State of Cuba-and be drew an idyllic picture of the history of the Western Hemisphere for the past 150 years, seeming to forget about the policy of the "big stick" followed by the United States President McKinlev, the Olnev Doctrine, the actions taken by Theodore Roosevelt in connexion with the Panama Canal, the boastful statement made by the American General Butler to the effect that with his marines he could hold elections in any Latin American country.

He made no mention of all this. The United States is even now attempting to apply this policy of the "big stick." But Mr. Stevenson apparently forgot that times have changed. . .

Yesterday, the United States Government placed the Republic of Cuba under a virtual naval blockade. Insolently flouting the rules of international conduct and the principles of the Charter, the United States has arrogated to itself-and has so stated-the right to attack the ships of other States on the high seas, which is nothing less than undisguised piracy. At the same time, the landing of additional United States troops has begun at the United States Guantanamo base in Cuban territory, and the United States armed forces are being placed in a state of combat readiness.

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The present aggressive actions of the United States of America against Cuba represent a logical stage in that aggressive policy, fraught with the most serious international consequences, which the United States began to pursue towards Cuba in the days of the Eisenhower Administration and which has been continued and intensified by the present United States Government, in the era of the "new frontier" that it proclaimed at the outset of its activities.

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Everyone will remember Mr. Stevenson's statement on 15 April that the United States was not planning any aggression against Cuba, while on 17 April United States mercenaries landed at Playa Girón. What credence are we to attach to the statements of the representative of a great Power who dared to mislead world public opinion and the official organs of the United Nations in order to conceal the activities of the United States intelligence agency which was preparing for aggression and bad ordered Mr. Stevenson to say nothing about it?

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The falsity of the charges now levelled by the United States against the Soviet Union, which consist in the allegation that the Soviet Union has set Lip offensive weapons in Cuba, is perfectly clear from the start. First of all, the Soviet delegation hereby officially confirms the statements already made by the Soviet Union in this connexion, to the effect that the Soviet Government has never sent and is not now sending offensive weapons of any kind to Cuba. The Soviet delegation would recall, in particular, the statement issued bv Tass on 11 September of this year on the instructions of the Soviet Government, in which the following passage occurs:

The Government of the Soviet Union has authorized Tass to state, further, that the Soviet Union does not need to transfer to any other country, such as Cuba, its existing means for. the repelling of aggression arid the delivering of a retaliatory blow. The explosive force of our nuclear resources is so great, and the Soviet Union has such powerful rockets for the delivery of these nuclear charges, that there is no need to seek places for their installation anywhere outside the borders of the Soviet Union.

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The United States delegation is now trying to use its own fabrications in the Security Council for absolutely monstrous purposes-in order to try to obtain the retroactive approval of the Security Council of the illegal acts of aggression already undertaken by the United States against Cuba, acts which the United States is undertaking unilaterally and in manifest violation of the United Nations Charter and of the elementary rules arid principles of international law.

The peoples of the world must clearly realize, however, that in openly embarking on this venture the United States of America is taking a step along the road which leads to a thermo-nuclear world war. Such is the heavy price which the world may have to pay for the present reckless and irresponsible actions of the United States,

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Peace-loving nations have long been afraid that the reckless aggressive policy of the United States with regard to Cuba may push the world to the brink of disaster. The alarm of the peace-loving elements and their efforts to induce the United States Government to listen to the voice of reason and accept a peaceful settlement of its differences with Cuba have been manifested in the course of the general debate during the seventeenth session of the General Assembly, which ended only a few days ago.

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When it announced the introduction of its blockade against Cuba, the United States took a step which is unprecedented in relations between States not formally at war. By its arbitrary and piratical action, the United States menaced the shipping of many countries-including its allies-which do not agree with its reckless and dangerous policy in respect of Cuba. By this aggressive action, which put the whole world under the threat of war, the United States issued a direct challenge to the United Nations and to the Security Council as the principal organ of the United Nations responsible for maintaining international peace and security.

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The Security, Council would not be carrying out its bounden duty, as the principal organ responsible for maintaining world and international security, if it ignored the aggressive actions of the United States, which mean nothing less than that the United States has set out to destroy the United Nations and to unleash a world war.

What, then, are the actual facts now facing the Security- Council? These facts may be summarized as follows:

(a) The United States Government has stated that it will take action against the ships of other countries, sailing on the high seas, of a type for which there can be no other name but piracy. The decision of the United States to stop and search Cuba-bound ships of other countries will lead to an extreme heightening of international tension, and is a step towards provoking a thermonuclear world war, because no self-respecting State will permit its ships to be interfered with.

(b) In order to cover up its actions, the United States is putting forward pretexts which arc made up out of whole cloth. It is trying to misrepresent the measures taken by the Cuban Government to ensure the defence of Cuba. Like any State which values its sovereignty and independence, Cuba can hardly fail to display serious anxiety for its security in the face of aggression.

(c) From the very first days of its existence, post-revolutionary Cuba has been subjected to continuous threats and provocation by the United States, which has stopped at nothing, including armed intervention in Cuba in April 1961.

(d) The United States imperialists have openly declared that they intend to impose their policies on other countries, and they are brazenly demanding that armaments intended for national defence should be removed from Cuban soil.

(e) The Soviet Government has consistently advocated that all foreign armed forces and armaments should be withdrawn from the territory of other countries to within their own national boundaries. This Soviet proposal is intended to clear the international atmosphere and set up conditions of mutual trust and understanding among nations. However, the United States Government, which has stationed its troops and military equipment all over the world, stubbornly refuses to accept this proposal of the Soviet Union. . . .

The United States has no right whatever, either from the point of views. of the accepted rules of international law relating to freedom of shipping, or from that of the provisions of the United Nations Charter, to put forward the demands contained in the statements of President Kennedy. No State, no matter how powerful it may be, has any right to rule on the quantities or types of arms which another State considers necessary for its defence. According to the United Nations Charter, each State has the right to defend itself and to possess weapons to ensure its security. . . .

(g) The attitude of the United States, as set forth in President Kennedy's statement, is a complete contradiction of the principles of the United Nations Charter and other generally accepted rules of international law. . . . The road which the United States is taking with regard to Cuba and the Soviet Union leads to the destruction of the United Nations and to the unleashing of war.

(h) The Soviet Government calls on all the peoples of the world to raise their voices in defence of the United Nations, to refuse to permit the break-up of this Organization, and to oppose the policy of piracy and thermonuclear warmongering followed by. the United States. . . .

We call on all the members of the Security Council and-so serious is this question-even on the allies of the United Sates to weigh carefully, all the possible consequences of the present aggressive actions of the United States and to realize to what a disastrous course of action the United States is trying to commit the Security Council and the world as a whole. . . .

The realization by delegations of their responsibility for the outcome of the train of events set in motion by the aggressive actions of the United States against Cuba is, in the present situation, of direct significance not only for the settling of the present difficulties in the Caribbean, but also for the fate of peace throughout the world.

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Source:

from United Nations, Security Council, Official records, XVIIth year, 1022nd Meeting, October 23, 1962 s/PV.1022, pp 1-39


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© Paul Halsall, July 1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu