JOHN YANG: Finally tonight: An excerpt from an interview done by our own Robert MacNeil with the late Fidel Castro.
Conducted in 1985, MacNeil asks Castro to describe how the Cuban Missile Crisis began. Castro said that after the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, Cuba and the Soviet Union feared additional U.S. invasions into Cuba.
FIDEL CASTRO, Cuban President (through translator): The Soviets had that concern, and we naturally had the same concern.
ROBERT MACNEIL: This is after the Bay of Pigs?
FIDEL CASTRO (through translator): Yes, after the Bay of Pigs.
They asked us what measures we thought could offer Cuba some guarantees. The most sure one was the fact that an aggression against Cuba mean an aggression against the Soviet Union. That was the thesis that we put forth.
The concrete idea of the missiles was theirs. I explained it, and we accepted it, but without any hesitation, because we were being harassed. An invasion had just taken place. The pirate attacks were continuing constantly. Constant mention was being made of an invasion against Cuba.
ROBERT MACNEIL: When the crisis was at its very height, did you personally think, did you believe that nuclear war was a possibility on one of those days?
FIDEL CASTRO (through translator): Yes. Yes, I believed that as a possibility.
ROBERT MACNEIL: What did you feel about your role in having brought it to that point?
FIDEL CASTRO (through translator): It wasn’t me. It was the United States, the one that led us to that point. It was the United States that initiated the blockade, that initiated, organized the invasion, the sabotage, the pirate attacks, the mercenary regiment, and those that spoke of an invasion against Cuba.
It was the United States. It wasn’t us. And I believe that we answered correctly. I have no doubt whatsoever.
ROBERT MACNEIL: After Khrushchev decided to withdraw the missiles, which you protested, what did he say to you, did Nikita Khrushchev? Did he say to you, we have made a big mistake, we shouldn’t have done this?
What did he say?
FIDEL CASTRO (through translator): Look, we wouldn’t have opposed seeking a solution.
When the war came very close, then the leaders of these two big powers became more aware about the danger. They worked. They were able to achieve detente. But, at that time, we were not in conformity. We were not pleased.
Now, then, after 15 years elapsed, it was proven that they were right, that a war, a nuclear war, was avoided and that Cuba wasn’t invaded.