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Letters: Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis

October 21, 2012

Re "13 days in October," Opinion, Oct. 14

Jon Wiener makes a surprising oversimplification. He argues that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and his Cuban counterpart Fidel Castro put the missiles in Cuba because they "wanted a bargaining chip to trade for a U.S. agreement not to invade." Khrushchev offers this explanation in his memoirs. But there are many reasons to take this as spin control by the beleaguered Soviet leader.

I know of no one who closely followed Soviet domestic politics or military affairs who accepted this explanation. As more members of President Kennedy's Executive Committee seemed to believe, better answers were found in Khrushchev's need for a quick fix to Soviet strategic vulnerability, in his need to improve relations with his military leadership and in other Soviet geopolitical objectives.

In these larger purposes, Khrushchev was certainly not a "winner," and Castro was a bit player.

Larry Caldwell

Beaumont

The writer, a political science professor at Occidental College, served in the CIA's Office of Soviet Analysis.

Russia had never risked the existence of the state with calamitous military adventures, but after Hitler, Soviet leaders felt threatened by an expanding NATO, missiles in Turkey and increasing U.S. defense budgets.

Deploying missiles in Cuba was more for gaining negotiating leverage. Not versed in history and ignorant of the Russian mentality, Washington panicked and gave Khrushchev what he wanted.

Politicians have not learned the lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Encouraging countries that surround Russia to join NATO and placing weapons all over the world will sooner or later cause another crisis. Russia is still smarting from more than 70 years of communism and World War II, and our ill-advised foreign policy may provoke another paranoid reaction.

Andrew Tyszkiewicz

Rancho Palos Verdes

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