INTERVIEW WITH OLEG TROYANOVSKI
INTERVIEWER: First of all, sir, can I ask you: in the early part of the Sixties, how did the Soviet Union perceive Castro and Cuba?
OLEG TROYANOVSKI: Well, we had very close relations with Cuba throughout that period. They became somewhat sour later on, in the Eighties, I would say, when even Gorbachev visited Cuba, but later on they became rather sour. But now I think they're picking up again.
INT: When Castro took power in 1959, did the Soviet Union look upon that as a socialist possibility?
OT: Well, I don't think there was a clear picture in our mind as to what Castro represented. And it took some time, a year or more perhaps, before it became more or less clear that he was seeking the support of the Soviet Union. Perhaps the Americans are to blame: perhaps he might have taken a different line had they been more mild (Laughs) towards them than they actually were. Perhaps.
INT: Very interesting reply. When the Americans, of course, as you say, took a very aggressive stance towards Cuba, was Khrushchev pleased when Castro started to ask for help?
OT: Yes, I think he was. You see, the Cold War was in its full bloom, if I may say so, so whatever was unpleasant to the Americans was welcomed in this country, and vice versa, I would say.
INT: Now, in 1961 Kennedy gave permission for a very abortive attempt to invade Cuba by the XR(?) brigade. What was the reaction here when you heard about that?
OT: Well, the reaction first of all was a feeling of welcome that the whole thing failed so utterly. But the other point that arose was that there was a feeling that the Americans were bound to repeat it in one way or another that they wouldn't reconcile themselves to what happened. So there was an expectancy that they would continue their pressure in one form or some other form, and perhaps another more serious invasion might take place. That was a very strong feeling, I think.
INT: Do you think that abortive attempt influenced Khrushchev's opinion of Kennedy? And also, did it influence Khrushchev's actions that happened in the next few years?
OT: Yes, I think it certainly influenced his opinion...
INT: Perhaps if you could say "The Bay of Pigs influenced..." for me?
OT: Yes. The Bay of Pigs certainly influenced Khrushchev's opinion of Kennedy, because his first reaction was... when Kennedy was elected, was a feeling of welcome, if I may say so, that it was he and not Nixon. but then, after the Bay of Pigs, that opinion began to change, and it changed particularly when they met in Vienna. My feeling was that Kennedy was not at his best at that meeting, and Khrushchev certainly thought that they would be doing something in regard to Cuba.
INT: And... did Khrushchev then make the decision, do you think, at that point, that the Soviet Union would protect Cuba?
OT: No, I think it was a little later. As far as I know, the first time the idea of the missiles came up [was] when they were returning from a visit to Bulgaria, and as far as I know, in the plane he first talked to Gromyko about that idea of his. ... and I'd say that there were two reasons for that: one was to protect Cuba; the other was to try to close the gap as far as the missiles were concerned, because the Americans were so far ahead of the Soviet Union in the number of missiles they had, and also because they had missiles all around the Soviet Union - Turkey and Italy and Britain.
INT: That's an interesting point. Was Khrushchev concerned about the Western missiles, particularly Turkey which was to become such a strong point? I read a story once where Khrushchev felt that the missiles were pointing all directly to his dacha - I mean, this was his story. Do you remember him feeling threatened by those missiles?
OT: Yes, I think he was. He had that feeling, certainly. And when I talked to him after I had learned about the decision to emplace the missiles, what he said was that, "Well, we aren't doing anything which they are not doing. They have their missiles in Turkey and Italy and Britain, and therefore we are just trying to catch up."
INT: What was your reaction when you heard there were going to be missiles in Cuba?
OT: Well, I can say I was shocked, I was shocked. I recall that my colleague, another of Khrushchev's assistants, called me up and said that, "Look, if you're standing, you'd better sit down, because what (Laughs) I'm going to tell you will shock you," and he told me about this decision, which I had not heard about up to then. And certainly it was a shocking decision, because perhaps I understood better than Khrushchev did what Cuba meant to the United States, and the fact that their reaction would be very, very strong, that they would not be able to reconcile themselves to those missiles being right next to their underbelly. (Laughs)
INT: Was it purely Khrushchev's decision to put the missiles into Cuba?
OT: Well, it was his idea, but certainly he went through all the stages of talking with the other people, and I think there were two meetings of the Politburo about that, and he asked everyone to sign their names to the decision, so he wanted to have full support.
INT: Did you and your colleagues try to tell him how dangerous you thought that position might become?
OT: Well, I don't know about my colleagues or whether Gromyko or Mikoyan talked to him about that, but I did once, and I told him about the dangers of this decision. But what he said was, as I said a few minutes ago, was that, "Well, we aren't doing anything they are not doing, so why should they react more strongly than we have been reacting?"
INT: How was the proposition put to Cuba?
OT: It was put through a mission that was sent to Cuba, I think, which included one marshal, I think - I forget his name now - and then our new ambassador, Alekseyev, and someone else, I thi... oh, yes, Rashidov, who was Party boss in Uzbekistan. The three of them went there, and they talked to Fidel and the others. And Fidel's idea was that it should be done in the open, that it would be more difficult for the United States to create a big row about it if it were done in the open. But Khrushchev's idea was that it should be done secretly.
INT: Why was that, why did Khrushchev want to do it secretly?
OT: Well, I think his feeling was that it didn't make much difference: the Americans would have reacted strongly even if they knew about it beforehand, that it didn't make much difference, and that they might start doing something even before the whole process started of sending the missiles there.