Here, via Andrew Stuttaford, is an excerpt from a letter Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent to Castro after the Cuban missile crisis. Ed note (the text is furnished from PBS)

In your cable of October 27 you proposed that we be the first to carry out a nuclear strike against the enemy’s territory. Naturally you understand where that would lead us. It would not be a simple strike, but the start of a thermonuclear world war.

Dear Comrade Fidel Castro, I find your proposal to be wrong, even though I understand your reasons.

We have lived through a very grave moment, a global thermonuclear war could have broken out. Of course the United States would have suffered enormous losses, but the Soviet Union and the whole socialist bloc would have also suffered greatly. It is even difficult to say how things would have ended for the Cuban people. First of all, Cuba would have burned in the fires of war. Without a doubt the Cuban people would have fought courageously but, also without a doubt, the Cuban people would have perished heroically. We struggle against imperialism, not in order to die, but to draw on all of our potential, to lose as little as possible, and later to win more, so as to be a victor and make communism triumph.

(Emphasis added by Stuttaford)

Did Castro wish to initiate a nuclear war with the US and was he willing to destroy his country to achieve it? Are there any other source documents that refute this position?

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    A cursory search in Wikipedia explains that Fidel Castro wanted the nuclear missiles in Cuba to act as a deterrent against a USA invasion of the island. If you go to the original text (instead of the heavily doctored one that you post), it is very clear that Castro stated that he believed an American invasion was imminent and though it could be stalled by a preemptive attack, with Kruschev admonishing that would have escalated to WWIII. BTW, the original text was linked in the article you linked to...
    – SJuan76
    Nov 27, 2016 at 22:17
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    I think this question would be better suited for history.stackexchange. The main question, before anything else, should be: is this letter authentic, what is its ultimate source (PBS is just the media which reported it)? And can we find the letter from Castro that this letter from Krushchev was a response to? Questions for historians... On the other hand, Sjuan76 comment completely miss the point. Even if the context indicates that Castro was fearing an attack from the US, it was a conventional attack, and he nevertheless suggested (if the letter is authentic) to strike the US with nukes...
    – Joël
    Nov 28, 2016 at 0:17
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    @SJuan76 the quote was not doctored at all. It was merely an excerpt as stated
    – user9790
    Nov 28, 2016 at 11:55
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    @SJuan76 Please do not use loaded and inaccurate terms such as "heavily doctored" to describe the situation of excerpting part of a text and adding emphasis to it. That is not doctoring of any kind, heavy or even light. Nov 28, 2016 at 14:38
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    @DavidRicherby the excerpt removes the context that shows that Castro made that request under the belief that an USA invasion of the island was imminent (24-48 hours), making the attack a preemptive one. Yes, making an excerpt of a text is doctoring it if it leaves out parts that are important for understanding its meaning (i.e. the assumption that war was inevitable due to the enemy's aggression).
    – SJuan76
    Nov 28, 2016 at 14:57

2 Answers 2


In the greatest documentary ever made, Fog of War, Secretary of Defense (1961-1968) Robert S. McNamara talks of meeting with Castro who said he recommended to Khrushchev to use nuclear weapons to eventually retaliate against America and that he was willing to totally destroy Cuba in the process.

It wasn't until January, 1992, in a meeting chaired by Castro in Havana, Cuba, that I learned 162 nuclear warheads, including 90 tactical warheads, were on the island at the time of this critical moment of the crisis (The Cuban Missile Crisis). I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and Castro got very angry with me because I said, "Mr. President, let's stop this meeting. This is totally new to me, I'm not sure I got the translation right."

"Mr. President, I have three questions to you. Number one: did you know the nuclear warheads were there? Number two: if you did, would you have recommended to Khrushchev in the face of an U.S. attack that he use them? Number three: if he had used them, what would have happened to Cuba?"

He said, "Number one, I knew they were there. Number two, I would not have recommended to Khrushchev, I did recommend to Khrushchev that they be used. Number three, 'What would have happened to Cuba?' It would have been totally destroyed." That's how close we were.

A chilling and highly recommended watch. The excerpt referenced is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtUfBc4qQMg

  • I clarified your synopsis: the question posed to Castro clearly refers to retaliation and not attack, your synopsis could be read either way.
    – Sklivvz
    Nov 28, 2016 at 7:36

Not sure if the source is the same but this is New York Times' take on the subject (a paper that is firmly left wing so hard to accuse them of possible bias):

Details Emerge of Cold War Nuclear Threat by Cuba By WILLIAM J. BROADSEPT. 21, 2009

In the early 1980s, according to newly released documents, Fidel Castro was suggesting a Soviet nuclear strike against the United States, until Moscow dissuaded him by patiently explaining how the radioactive cloud resulting from such a strike would also devastate Cuba.


The National Security Archive, a private research group at George Washington University, recently made public documents that reveal the nuclear threat in new detail. The two-volume study, “Soviet Intentions 1965-1985,” was prepared in 1995 by a Pentagon contractor and based on extensive interviewing of former top Soviet military officials.

It took the security archive two years to get the Pentagon to release the study. Censors excised a few sections on nuclear tests and weapon effects, and the archive recently posted the redacted study on its Web site

The Pentagon study attributes the Cuba revelation to Andrian A. Danilevich, a Soviet general staff officer from 1964 to ’90 and director of the staff officers who wrote the Soviet Union’s final reference guide on strategic and nuclear planning.

In the early 1980s, the study quotes him as saying that Mr. Castro “pressed hard for a tougher Soviet line against the U.S. up to and including possible nuclear strikes.”

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    What on earth does the New York Times potential political leaning have to do with this answer? Is what Castro was thinking somehow a source of debate between parties or something?
    – Batman
    Nov 28, 2016 at 4:15
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    "...a paper that is firmly left wing so hard to accuse them of possible bias" ...uh, what? Because they're left wing they can't be biased?
    – BruceWayne
    Nov 28, 2016 at 4:31
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    @AlexanderO'Mara - A right wing source would have motivation to post anti-Castro information regardless of its accuracy (just as left-wing has motivation to post stuff smearing people on the right regardless of its accuracy). OTOH, a left wing source is less likely to post stuff negative to its own biases unless it's pretty solid and incontrovertible, because they have intrinsic motivation to do so.
    – user4012
    Nov 28, 2016 at 4:33
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    Anyhow, it's still not clear to me which parts of what you quoted from NYT might have been influenced by a political agenda. Can you clarify which parts might be in dispute? Right now it's reading as some strange ad hominem attack on NYT tacked onto the beginning of the answer.
    – Batman
    Nov 28, 2016 at 4:55
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    I'm not sure that a US newspaper is a reliable unbiased source of historical facts regarding nuclear threats against the US -- even if the threat was Communist and the paper is US-left-leaning.
    – Sklivvz
    Nov 28, 2016 at 7:38

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