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Rusk V, Interview with Dean Rusk, circa 1985

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:00 - Discovery of missiles in Cuba

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Partial Transcript: You have seen--printed an essay in September 1982 on the tenth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, coauthored by six of the participants of that crisis. Did that article summarize your views on the lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses the discovery of the nuclear missiles in Cuba via U.S. espionage.

Keywords: Cuban Missile Crisis; Cuban missile sites; EXCOMM; John F. Kennedy; Kenneth Keating; McGeorge Bundy; National Security Council; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; Robert F. Kennedy; Roger Hilsman, Jr.; SAM missiles; U.S.-Cuba relations; nuclear missiles; nuclear war; surface-to-air missiles

00:08:30 - Intentions of USSR

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Partial Transcript: Did you confer with Kennedy or talk to Kennedy that same night?

Segment Synopsis: Rusk describes the events of the night before the Cuban Missile Crisis, and imagines the intentions of Nikita Khrushchev and other Russian leaders regarding the missiles placed in Cuba.

Keywords: Bay of Pigs; C. Douglas Dillon; Cuban Missile Crisis; Dwight D. Eisenhower; Fidel Castro; George Ball; George C. McGhee; Harlan Cleveland; John F. Kennedy; Llewellyn Thompson; McGeorge Bundy; Nikita Khrushchev; Robert F. Kennedy; Soviet spies; Ted Sorensen; The Missiles of October; The Thirteen Days; U.S. Bureau of European Affairs; U.S. invasion of Cuba; U.S.-Cuba relations; USSR; USSR spies; nuclear power; nuclear war; political rhetoric

00:19:47 - EXCOMM Committee

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Partial Transcript: At the Monday meeting, was it discussed and decided to form the EXCOMM committee? Was that the main product of the Monday meeting?

Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses the formation of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOMM) and the roles assigned within.

Keywords: Cold War; Cuban Missile Crisis; Cuban missile sites; International Law and the Cuban Missile Crisis; John F. Kennedy; Soviet Union; U.S. invasion of Cuba; USSR; international law; naval blockade of Cuba

00:22:44 - Quarantine

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Partial Transcript: How did the Quarantine idea first come up as even an alternative? Did it come out at the Monday meeting? Did somebody raise that?

Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses the establishment of the possible "quarantine" reaction to the USSR during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Keywords: Abram Chayes; Antonio Carillo Flores; Bay of Pigs; Charles de Gaulle; Cold War; Cuban Missile Crisis; Cuban air strike; Dean Acheson; EXCOMM; Fidel Castro; George Ball; International Law and the Cuban Missile Crisis; John F. Kennedy; Leninism; Llewellyn Thompson; Marxism; Monroe Doctrine; NATO; Nelson Rockefeller; Nikita Khrushchev; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; Organization of American States; Rio Treaty; Robert F. Kennedy; Robert McNamara; Soviet Union; U.N. Security Council; U.S. relations in Cuba; U.S.-Cuba relations; USSR; World War II; collective security; containment; doctrine of self defense; international law; invasion of Cuba; nuclear warfare; quarantine; self defense

00:33:46 - Organization of American States

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Partial Transcript: To what extent was the unanimous vote of the OAS attributable to the fact that you stayed in close touch with those people prior to that? You seem to have established good personal relationships with a lot of these foreign ministers.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses the unanimous vote of the Organization of American States during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the subsequent acts of diplomacy.

Keywords: Charles de Gaulle; Cold War; Cuban Missile Crisis; Cuban missile sites; Dean Acheson; EXCOMM; Fidel Castro; John F. Kennedy; Nikita Khrushchev; Soviet Union; Strait of Gibraltar; U. Alexis Johnson; USSR; nuclear power; nuclear war; nuclear warheads

00:38:29 - Cold War relationships

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Partial Transcript: Pop, I guess the real point of this crisis is not so much the implementation of the blockade, and the arrival of the first Soviet ships, although that is a critical point, but really afterwards when the Soviet buildup continued. You became aware that these things could become operational very shortly and they had not yet agreed to pull these things out. How close did we come to an air strike at that point? Were we within a day?

Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses the relationships between the United States and both France and the Soviet Union following the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Keywords: Anatoly Dobrynin; Charles de Gaulle; Cuban Missile Crisis; Cuban quarantine; Dwight D. Eisenhower; John F. Kennedy; Lyndon B. Johnson; Missiles of October; Nikita Khrushchev; Robert F. Kennedy; Robert McNamara; Soviet Russia; Soviet Union; USSR

00:46:35 - International law / Politics of "quarantine" vs. "blockade" label

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Partial Transcript: The formal memo was written before the meeting, obviously. Was that circulated to everyone?

Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses the impact of the American government's use of the word "quarantine" as opposed to "blockade" during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Keywords: Adlai E. Stevenson; Adlai Stevenson; Cold War; Cuban Missile Crisis; Cuban missile sitings; Cuban quarantine; George Whelan Anderson, Jr.; John F. Kennedy; John J. McCloy; Llewellyn Thompson; Nikita Khrushchev; Robert McNamara; Soviet Union; U.N. Security Council; USSR; blockade; missile sites; nuclear quarantine; nuclear war; quarantine

00:54:49 - Westminster Shorter catechism

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Partial Transcript: There is a story you told once about some incident when you were in a car going to a White House meeting, and you looked out and saw somebody with a sign out in the street. Do you remember that? It was something about some old catechism.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk describes his own internal experiences during the Cuban Missile Crisis, relating the experience to a religious catechism he learned as a child. He further discusses his and his family's experiences during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Keywords: Presbyterian Church; religion and international law; theology

00:58:45 - "Eyeball to eyeball" remark

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell us about your widely quoted remark about, "We were eyeball to eyeball and the other fellow blinked"?

Segment Synopsis: Rusk speaks on his famous remark regarding the Soviet Union's return of ships carrying nuclear missiles back to Russia, relating it to a "childhood game" he used to play in Cherokee County, GA.

Keywords: Cold War; Cuban Missile Crisis; Soviet Russia; Soviet Union; USSR; nuclear fears; nuclear war

01:00:15 - One-on-one meetings during Cuban Missile Crisis / Effect of crisis on individuals

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell us more about these one-on-one conversations during that week? Do remember some specifics of your one-on-ones with Kennedy? Did you have some meetings alone with Kennedy?

Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses his observations of individuals during the crisis, and an over-arching fear that people could not manage both a crisis like the Cuban Missile Crisis and their own functional needs of health and well-being.

Keywords: Cuban Missile Crisis; George Ball; John F. Kennedy; Llewellyn Thompson; Nikita Khrushchev; Robert F. Kennedy; Robert McNamara; Soviet Russia; Soviet Union; USSR; nuclear fears; nuclear war

01:03:54 - Bay of Pigs, reflections on the Crisis

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Partial Transcript: To follow up Tom's question about what specifically you did, who you met with: Cohen called your performance a "virtuoso" performance and far superior to your role in the Bay of Pigs, (laughter) would you agree with this assessment? Can you recall what specifically you were able to bring your influence to bear upon? A related question would be, is there anything you could have done to either improve on it or--

Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses certain events of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in relation to reflections on the Bay of Pigs.

Keywords: Anatoly Dobrynin; Andrei Gromyko; Bay of Pigs Release; Cuban Missile Crisis; John F. Kennedy; John Scali; KGB; Khrushchev's letter; Komitet Gosudarstvennoye Bezopastnosti; Llewellyn Thompson; Maxwell D. Taylor; Nikita Khrushchev; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; Robert F. Kennedy; Robert McNamara; Soviet State Security Committee; Soviet Union; USSR; West Berlin; nuclear fear; nuclear war

01:17:50 - U.S. Missiles in Turkey

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Partial Transcript: Pop, apparently John Kennedy became quite upset over the fact that we still had missiles in Turkey, and actually he had made his decision on those missiles to remove them two months prior to the missile crisis.

Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses the events leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis, including the placement of U.S. nuclear missiles in Turkey. He also responds to analyses of the Kennedy administration's role in the Crisis.

Keywords: Anastas Mikoyan; Bolsheviks; Communism; Congressional Joint Atomic Energy Committee; Cuban Missile Crisis; Fidel Castro; John F. Kennedy; John J. McCloy; Jupiter missiles; Limited Test Ban Treaty; NATO; Nikita Khrushchev; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; Polaris submarines; Robert McNamara; Russian American relations; Russian-American relationship; Soviet Russia; The Missiles of October; USSR

01:36:50 - Role of the press and Congress

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Partial Transcript: Pop, I want to get one or two things left on my list straight. What about the reaction and the role of the press during this crisis? It took Scotty [James B. ] Reston five days to latch onto it. Wien he did, he held onto the story to some extent. You personally dealt with the press on a number of occasions. How would you assess their performance?

Segment Synopsis: Rusk speaks to the importance of the American press in the Cuban Missile Crisis. He further discusses the role of Congress in the decisions of President John F. Kennedy during the Crisis.

Keywords: Charles de Gaulle; Cold War; Congressional power; Cuban Missile Crisis; Dean Acheson; D├ętente; EXCOMM; Fidel Castro; George Ball; Harold Macmillan; Hideki Tojo; James B. Reston; John F. Kennedy; Konstantin Chernenko; McGeorge Bundy; Nikita Khrushchev; President Eisenhower; Quarantine; Richard Russell, Jr.; Robert F. Kennedy; Robert McNamara; Ronald Reagan; Soviet Russia; Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty; Surface to Air Missile; Ted Sorensen; Ted Sorenson; The Missiles of October; Thirteen Days; U Thant; U.N. Security Council; USSR; United Nations; William Fulbright; executive power; nuclear war