Brinkmanship Close

Before appearing on television, JFK had informed America's main allies: the UK, France, West Germany and Canada; CIA experts were despatched, the heads of state were briefed and shown top-secret photographic evidence. Though mostly a Soviet-US confrontation, the Cuban crisis impacted on Europe, because of possible aftershocks in Berlin and within the Atlantic Alliance, and because of the presence of Jupiter missiles in Italy and Turkey.

On Monday, 22 October, at 12:00, the US Ambassador David Bruce met with Harold Macmillan (1894-1986). The premier assured him of British solidarity, though he expressed his concern about a war.

In the afternoon, President Truman's former Secretary of State Dean Acheson was in Paris and informed General de Gaulle who immediately confirmed his support and began a close scrutiny of the photos. De Gaulle approved Kennedy's firm stand, all the more so as he was of the opinion that there would be no war.

The crisis comforted his reservations towards the Alliance and his determination to equip France with a national deterrent. In the evening, Walter Dowling, the US Ambassador to Bonn, handed Chancellor Adenauer (1876-1967) a letter written by JFK and showed him the photos. In Ottawa, Livingston Merchant did the same with the Canadian premier, John G. Diefenbaker.

Whereas the media were directly influencing public opinion, building up fear or asking people to remain calm, the governments were trying, one way or another, to manipulate the journalists. Thus Dean Rusk instructed the US press to avoid printing the words "Soviet capitulation", so as not to play into the hands of the Kremlin hawks. The CIA briefed the representatives of the most important media in London and Paris.

John Scali (1918-1995), the Washington correspondent of the ABC network, was used as go-between. Scali was invited to lunch by Alexander Formin. The head of the local branch of the KGB asked him if the USA would trade. The missiles were to be withdrawn if there was no invasion of Cuba. Scali informed his contact in the Department of State: the latter instructed him to see Formin again and let him know that the USA was prepared both to trade and to strike.

Walter Lippmann, the influential editor of the New York Herald Tribune, who had privileged access to administration top brass, played scout. He was the one who, on 25 October, voiced the possibility of a working agreement based on scrapping the missiles both in Cuba and in Turkey.

Brinkmanship Close

Homepage