In This Review

Cuba on the Brink: Castro, the Missile Crisis, and the Soviet Collapse
Cuba on the Brink: Castro, the Missile Crisis, and the Soviet Collapse
By James G. Blight, Bruce J. Allyn and David A. Welch
Pantheon Books, 1993, 448 pp

A fascinating and extremely well annotated transcription of the discussions held in Havana in January 1992 by a distinguished group of veterans and analysts of Cuba's role in the missile crisis of 1962. In addition to Fidel Castro himself, the participants included Ray Cline, Robert McNamara, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., General William Y. Smith, General Anatoly I. Gribkov, Sergo A. Mikoyan and Sergei N. Krushchev, among others. The most startling of the many revelations this book contains is the fact that nuclear warheads had been delivered to Cuba and were intended for installation on both intermediate-range ballistic missiles and shorter-range tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a U.S. invasion, and that Castro was ready for war, even nuclear war, during the crisis, a position that appears to have frightened Krushchev as much as it did Americans.

The conference was cordial on the whole until the questions raised touched on current concerns in Cuban-American relations, and here there was more heat than light. Castro pointedly reminded his guests that, unlike most of them, he still spoke as a government official. As Jorge Dominguez reminds us in his introduction, the United States still objects to the very nature of the Cuban regime. Today as a third of a century ago, Fidel Castro and his associates still proclaim that they will defend their version of their homeland even if it means death. For what it directly tells us about one of the most dangerous confrontations of the twentieth century, and for what it indirectly tells us about the present, Cuba on the Brink is essential reading for any serious student of international affairs.