I could see that he was nervous

September 10, 1962

I cannot understand why my son Sergei is so nervous about our operation in Cuba. When I got home this evening, he besieged me with questions about it: do I think Kennedy will find out about it; what will happen if the Americans challenge some of our cargo ships taking their “cargoes” to Cuba; and so on and on. I could see that he was nervous, so I sat down with him for a few minutes, even though I had a lot of work to do before getting my tea and lemon and heading to bed.

I told Sergei everything was going exactly according to plan. Everything! Therefore, I told him, there is nothing to worry about. There is no way, I said, that the Americans will discover the missiles until I arrive in Havana and announce their presence and hint—maybe more than hint, if Kennedy has been making aggressive speeches—that the missiles are ready to fire at a moment’s notice (even though of course that is the last thing in the world we want to do with the missiles). So, okay, I admitted: yes, there will be a fuss, maybe even a big fuss, in November. But it won’t mean anything, because Kennedy will be like a man with handcuffs, unable to move. He doesn’t dare order a strike on Cuba, when he knows that an attack would risk disastrous consequences for the United States. As usual, Sergei then sat silent. When he is silent, I know he disagrees with me. Anyway, I did my best to make him feel more comfortable about the Cuban deployment.

I wonder if Sergei knows that attack submarines are deployed along the routes taken by the merchant ships with our very special cargo. The subs have nuclear-tipped torpedoes I was told. Maybe the Americans already know this. If they do, then they will leave our ships alone or risk the consequences. I’m glad I didn’t bring this up with Sergei.

I wish I felt as calm and confident as I tried to appear to Sergei. Thank goodness Nina Petrovna never asks me any questions about Cuba. If she did, and if I told her things were going perfectly, she would probably laugh. She would say: but Nikita Sergei’ich, we are Russians. How is it possible things are going perfectly? Then I would say, “well dear, why don’t we talk about something else? Have you found any excellent mushrooms lately, my dear?”