We revolutionaries never retire

September 11, 1962

Here I am, in Pitsunda, on the lovely Black Sea, with all its possibilities: mushroom hunting, badminton (I love badminton—my opponents always underestimate how quickly I can move), and just watching the waves roll into the shore. I love these little summer moments. When I am down here, it is almost as if I am retired, as they say in the capitalist world. We revolutionaries never retire. We keep our commitment to our way even into old age. At least I intend to do so.

But today I am reminded that I am, to say the least, not retired. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow has sent down by special courier a draft of a statement to be issued by the TASS news service. It’s an answer to Kennedy’s arrogant, imperialistic document of 4 September. I asked the MFA to send the draft down here. Kennedy says that if Soviet ground troops or so-called “offensive” weapons are found in Cuba, “the gravest issues would arise.” Our ambassador in Washington, Dobrynin, reports that “gravest issues” translates, in this case, to a full-scale U.S. air attack and invasion of Cuba. So I told our Foreign Minster, Gromyko, to write up something to return Kennedy’s serve, as we say in badminton.

I like the draft. It says we Soviets have no need to transfer rockets to Cuba because we already have more than enough rockets on missiles to destroy the United States in a retaliatory blow. No problem. It also says that the Cubans have a right, and even a responsibility, to seek our assistance at whatever level is acceptable to them and to us, as the donor nation. And finally, it reassures Kennedy that we are not introducing combat troops into Cuba—which is a totally ridiculous notion, as if we plan to go on the offensive and invade Florida with a few thousand troops. Is he kidding? You’d have to be out of your mind to try something like that.

The only problem is that none of this is true. I won’t say we are lying—that I am lying—not exactly. Of course, we are deploying rockets and troops in Cuba. But they are for defensive purposes. The rockets are not to be used on an attack on the U.S. Their purpose is to provide deterrence of an American attack on Cuba. So, what I need to do is develop the argument a little bit about the defensiveness of everything we are introducing. Kennedy proved at the Bay of Pigs that he would authorize an attack on Cuba; and he is under pressure from the American lunatics to mount a much bigger attack. All I need to do is make him understand that these weapons are defensive.

Now, back to badminton. Where is my next “victim?” I see my son Sergei walking by, with his butterfly net. I won’t disturb him. He loves his butterflies. And besides, he is a terrible badminton player. I wonder if Kennedy plays badminton? At our next summit, I’ll challenge him to a match.