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JFK on Why You Can’t Trust the Soviets

JFK and Admiral Anderson in the Oval Office, 29 October 1962

JFK meets with Admiral George Anderson in the Oval Office on October 29, 1962.
Photo by Robert Knudsen | JFK Library

During a meeting in the Oval Office on October 18, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko had flatly denied that the Soviets were deploying offensive weapons to Cuba. What Gromyko did not know during that meeting was that Kennedy had U-2 surveillance photos in his desk drawer that proved otherwise.

In the aftermath of the crisis, when the Soviets were promising to remove their missiles from Cuba, the issue of the trustworthiness of Soviet officials became a concern of Kennedy and his advisers. The key question was whether Khrushchev’s promise to remove the missiles was genuine or whether it might be part of some trick to buy time for the missiles to be readied.

In this short segment from a brief meeting in the Oval Office at 12:30PM on October 29 with Chief of Naval Operations George Anderson and Commandant of the Marine Corps David Shoup, Kennedy complains about not being able to rely on what the Soviet Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin said. Only two days earlier, a secret meeting with Robert Kennedy and Dobrynin had brokered the deal that eased the crisis.

Tape 32, Presidential Office Files, Presidential Recordings Collection, John F. Kennedy Library. Excerpt from a transcript that will appear in David Coleman, ed., The Presidential Recordings: John F. Kennedy: volume 4: October 29 – November 7, 1962 (New York: W.W. Norton, forthcoming 2013).

Also published on Medium.