The Cuban dictator explains to the Soviet prime minister why defending Cuban airspace is necessary.

Letter from Fidel Castro to Nikita Khrushchev
October 28, 1962

Mr. Nikita Khrushchev
Prime Minister of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics
U.S.S.R.

Dear Comrade Khrushchev:

I have just received your letter.

The position of our Government regarding your statement can be found in the text of the declaration announced today, with which you are surely familiar.

I must clarify a point relating to the anti-aircraft measures which we adopted. You said: "Yesterday you shot down one of them, yet previously you did not when they flew over your territory."

Previously, there were isolated violations with no particular military purpose, and they did not result in real danger.

This is no longer the case. There was the danger of a surprise attack on certain military sites. We decided that we could not remain idle because of the danger of a surprise attack. With our warning radars turned off, the potential attackers could fly with impunity over the sites and totally destroy them. We did not believe that we should allow this, given the cost and effort which we have expended, and because an attack would have gravely weakened our morale and military capability. Because of this, Cuban forces mobilized fifty anti-aircraft batteries, our entire reserves, on October 24 in order to support the positions of the Soviet forces. If we wanted to prevent the risk of a surprise attack, the crews had to have orders to shoot. The Soviet Forces Command can give you further details on what happened with the plane that was shot down.

In the past, violations of our airspace were de facto and were conducted furtively. Yesterday the American Government tried to make official the privilege of violating our air space at any time, day and night. This we could not accept because it would mean renouncing our sovereign prerogative. Nevertheless, we agree to avoid an incident at this moment that could gravely harm the negotiations. We will instruct the Cuban batteries to hold their fire while the negotiations last, without reversing the decision we announced yesterday to defend our air space. We must consider the dangers of possible incidents in the present conditions of high tension.

I also wish to inform you that we are opposed, by principle, to inspections on our territory.

I appreciate the enormous efforts which you have made to maintain the peace, and we totally agree with the necessity to fight for this aim. If we achieve it in a just, solid, and permanent way it will be an enormous service to humanity.

Fraternally,

Fidel Castro

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