Skip to main content

tv   The Presidency JFK Khrushchev  CSPAN  March 26, 2018 6:51pm-8:03pm EDT

6:51 pm
don't compete with the ones going on in the world. i think that's a narrow way of looking at it. i think it's a very backwards looking lawsuit opposed to where we see the market going and the changes that are happening in the marketplace. >> watch "the communicators" tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span2. coming up next, a conference on the complicated history between u.s. and russian leaders over the last century. scholars assess the relationship between john f kennedy and soviet premiere nikita khrushchev in the early 1960s. the university of virginia is the host of this event. >> ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to our second panel. assessing u.s. soviet relations in the 1960s and '70s. i am not going to chair the panel but i will turn the duties to my colleague here at the
6:52 pm
miller center, professor barbara perry, who will anchor the panel. barbara is herself a noted scholar of the '60s and kennedy era and kennedy clan. she's also the director of presidential studies here at the miller center. she is a very seasoned expert oral historian as well as a written historian. for many years she helped lead the history program here at the miller center, one of the significants that we do interviewing the leading members of presidential administrations from the four years on up until the present. or at least i should say the recent past. we have completed oral histories under her leadership and russell riley's leadership and through the george w. bush
6:53 pm
administration and planning to lay siege to the obama administration and will find out what the trump administration, what their attitude is towards being interviewed for oral history when we get to that place. barbara will take us forward and i will turn things over to her see. thanks so much, will, to mel and stephanie, for conceptualizing and organizing and executing such a timely yet history-based battle conference this year. of course, this is the very essence of miller center scholarship and programming. i am delighted to moderate this 11:00 panel. we will go to about 1:00 and do this in two halves. the first half will feature my miller center colleague to my left, mark silver stone, a professor at the miller center and chairs the presidential recordings program which analyses, transcribe, edits and
6:54 pm
ano-tates the secret white house tapes particularly from the kennedy, johnson and nixon administrations. if you watched the ken burns series, you will have seen mark's name and our colleague, ken hughes' name in the across of each episode because they were crucial providing the clips from the nixon and johnson years and kennedy tapes as well. mark is a foreign policy historian of the first order, focusing on the cold war and especially one element of the hot war, vietnam, in that era, and particularly the kennedy and johnson policies towards it. my favorite of his many publication, his book, a companion to john f. kennedy, which sounds like it might be about some girlfriends of the president, but it meant itself to be a companion. and some of that story is covered in that volume. very slureriously, this is a ma
6:55 pm
work mark edited, every topic of jfk's life and career and presidency and i rely on it almost exclusively as i am preparing to speak about president kennedy. i think of him as my colleague even though he preceded me at the miller center several years where he served as director of the director of the kremlin project. and tim serving in the nixon library has become a clinical associate professor of history and public service at nyu. he's the co-author of many books, one particularly pertinent for today's topic called khrushchev's cold war. if like me you are a fan of cnn documentary, you will readily recognize tim as the star of
6:56 pm
many of them. i highly recommend to all of you, if you haven't read them already the four essays for this panel. they are all informative, tai are very accessible and compelling. i want to begin with mark. and actually begin with the end of his essay, which is a set of conclusion that he draws on jfk's role and behavior of the missile crisis to draw out the lessons of jfk's role and behavior of the cuban missile crisis and issues. after mark does that we'll turn to tim and he will offer lessons from the crutch chef side, russian side. with that, let me turn to mark.
6:57 pm
khrushchev side. >> good morning. thanks for the opportunity to participate in this. looking at the audience there are any number of people who have written copious amounts on the cuban missile crisis and i have not and i appreciate the opportunity to distill a little of what i have learned and offer lessons on how that may bear on contemporary matters. john f kennedy had already learned important lessons by the time he had to confront moscow's deployment of missiles to cuba. several of these missiles involved matters related to personnel and process and immensely useful during the cuban missile crisis in 1962. many grew outside of kennedy's earlier crisis of cuba, failed operation at the bay of pigs. and they were hard earned. they were not without
6:58 pm
qualification and ended up serving him and the world pretty well. before highlighting these lessons that may or may not be applicable to the u.s. relations i want to touch on those of the presidency which he did not contribute to insight. the first of these lessons involve not the more constructive ones related to pers personnel and process but policy and policy pronouncement to be excessively ill litterrat ive, i suppose. castro gathered a full head of steam during the eisenhower's time, kennedy's election came pretty close to operationlizing it. his provocative language in 1960 called for more aggressive action to undermine the cuban regime might have helped him win
6:59 pm
votes three weeks later, he certainly needed it but raise the political cost of canceling what would become the bay of pigs operation were he to have done so when he became president. here's the first case in the trajectory of october 1962, when i think words really mattered. while this pronouncement of cuba when he became president, more creative policy measures stem from an absence of searching conversation about the relative sta conversations cuba posed. and was it what bill fulbright suggested. that conversation really never took place. while kennedy did all the series of meetings large and small of planning the bay of pigs operation with military officials they evolved largely around matters of tactics and
7:00 pm
operational details opposed to broader strategic implications of the operation or even underlying assumptions fulbright alluded to. both pronouncement and policy, statements about necessity moving against castro as well as the policy to affect it made it more likely kennedy would mount some aggressive operation to undermine the castro regime once he became president. the persistence of that policy and even intensification of it after the bay of pigs would later contribute to the often set off the missile crisis itself. as i mention in the paper and tim and others at the conference have documented so well it was hardly the only reason information the miss israeile deployment and crisis it sparked. in the fall of 1961, castro was demanding more attention from the kennedy administration and requiring more resources to the cuban regime.
7:01 pm
as the sabotage came to look more menacing to havana and moscow they helped push khrushchev towards action that might help protect one of those actions being the deployment of missiles to the island. in the course of that deployment kennedy's overrhetoric as well as continued action would again complicate his presidency and again raise the stakes of not following through on his stated intentions. in an effort to once more derive political benefit from a policy statement on cuba, kennedy declared in september 1962, two months before the midterm elections, the introduction of offensive weapons systems to the island would result in the gravest of circumstances, effectively establishing a public red line for all to see. so both administration policy and pronouncements about it continued to heighten the drama surrounding cuba which helped to
7:02 pm
shape khrushchev's and then kennedy's responses to the island. if kennedy failed to recognize or consider how these statements and activities might box himself into situations that created real risks for his presidency as well as for the nation and the world he nonetheless took positive steps to insure the way he managed national security policy gave him a better shot at good advice and wiser judgments. it was personnel in the process and both those in resolving the october missile crisis. for one the aides he trusted most, particularly his brother, bobby, he would serve as chief conduit for private conversations with moscow. those back channel conversations were not all to the good but helped convey key bits of information at key moments of the crisis. kennedy would systemtize
7:03 pm
national security policy making more effectively, helping improve the flow of information to the white house. in an effort to really scrub the options for addressing the soviet missile deployment, kennedy encouraged extended conversations among his senior civilian and military aides shielded from public view before settling on an approach that gave himself and his adversary time to reflect on the magnitude what lay before them and figure out how they might untie the knot of war. but perhaps of importance was the sheer judgment of the president himself who after initially lurching toward a military response, considered its less than ideal chances for success, its potential impact on allies and adversaries and the zell loutry of those around him, particularly in the military who supported it as virtually the only acceptable option. if there's to be a heroic
7:04 pm
narrative harking back to yesterday of leaders who took chances facing down the hawks calling for war and ultimately preferred his kids be red rather than dead, kennedy should take at least one turn in that starring role i say he continued to earn through this is subsequent efforts at arms control and attempts to modulate the cold war at least rhetorically through his american university address. could elements of this heroic narrative spawn another one? how can this history provide useful lessons for contemporary u.s.-russia relations. on the matter of rhetoric as i mentioned in my written piece this morning, red lines can be trouble. they were for kennedy who felt constrained by the politics associated with them. perhaps president trump's wholly different posture toward russia means he's less likely to make them in regards to ukraine or baltics. he certainly hasn't thrown down any such marker with
7:05 pm
interference with u.s. domestic politics. it's easier to see him doing so with regard to north korea or iran. with syria he essentially acknowledged obama's red line and acted upon it. given his lack of rhetorical discipline and disdain for intervention and free wheeling use of new media it's probably more likely than not he will deliver this kind of ultimatim before long although he may calculate the political costs of doing so very differently than kennedy did. playing for time and keeping the conversation going, these lessons from the missile crisis are particularly relevant for crisis situations although suggestive of value of maintaining contact and cultivating relationships more bradley. jaw jaw is better than wah-wah as churchill is alleged to have said. as u.s.-russian relations have reverted to the more historically natural condition of conflict pre and post dates
7:06 pm
the cold war, i would hope the virtues of diplomacy of enhancing one's capacity for empathy, another quality we associate with kennedy and the missile crisis would commend themselves to leaders on both sides. finally on the matter of combining that diplomacy with force, it certainly complicates the heroic narrative, if you will, we've heard for a while. to acknowledge that khrushchev agreed to pack up the missiles and ship them home before hearing jfk was willing to make the missile trade khrushchev called for on the 12th day of the missile crisis. that shouldn't negate the value of turkey missile swap for khrushchev's own purposes to reverse course on his exceedingly risky maneuver but does suggest the prospect of a military engagement both prompted khrushchev's offer to remove the missiles in return for a non-engagement pledge and
7:07 pm
forego his public call for a missile swap when it seemed war really was imminent. that said this kind of brurnink manship could have resulted in arms conflict as many here as well as mike dobbs have written. so while kennedy's mobilization of force really does seem to have made his diplomacy more effective, we'll need to be much more granular in outlining in what form, in what strategic context and what implications should be similarly mobilized if it's to play a role in a more contemporary scenario in which americans and russians find themselves eyeball to eyeball. thanks. >> tim's essay has an especially evocative title.
7:08 pm
it's called "grab god by the beard, khrushchev and the kennedys." >> thanks, barbara and thanks, mel, for inviting me back. nice to be home. we heard a lot about the long dur ray and i'm a short duray historian in part because i drink a lot of expresso. in part because i will play on a word my former colleague and friend, present friend, former colleague, marc, mentioned, which is granular. what we have for the '60s is a granular understanding of this period, both because of the american side, the tapes which i spent some time with here and on the soviet side. so we have the capacity of understanding the international politics and domestic politics of that period in a way tat is not true of every period in
7:09 pm
international politics. as you just benefitted from that listening to marc, will try to do the same on the soviet side. to lay the basis for this period i want to mention or remind you of a few things. because of the structure of this conference we sort of jumped over korea. i believe that the korean war is fundamental to understanding the militarization of the cold war. that absent korea, you want to talk, as jeremy mentioned, you want to talk about possibilities. you don't have the korean war and i think there's a change in the nature of the competition between the soviets and the united states. perhaps in the q&a, we can talk about korea. korea is extremely important. there are two other things extraordinarily important happening in the world that are going to shape the environment kennedy and khrushchev are
7:10 pm
seeking to manage. one is decolonization of what first called the developing world. that's a very important event. that is an independent variable from the u.s.-soviet relationship. but it opens up the possibility for the soviets and khrushchev to -- khrushchev sees it as a source of opportunity. the other is a soviet achievement. that changes the nature of the strategic relationship between the united states and the soviet union. as frank mentioned, once the american homeland gets threatened, that raises questions about the extent to which extended deterrence is real. real americans, as frank said, real americans actually put new
7:11 pm
york at risk for the sake of paris. that happens because of spudnick. you have these two destabilizing events that are happening in the '50s. it's that world that khrushchev and kennedy are seeking to manage. now, khrushchev's approach to that world is not what americans anticipated. the sense kennedy has coming into office is that there is so much nuclear danger about, that wise statesmanship involves reducing the threat of nuclear war. as we see with khrushchev, khrushchev is all about disruption. he is a disruptor. he is interested in crisis. it's why he's interested in crisis that i think is the essence of understanding his
7:12 pm
behavior, not simply in 1961, but in 1962. so let me talk to you about a summit conference in 1961, that people don't talk about. the one everybody talks about is vienna. i'm working on a book about kennedy. i want to add the 5,300th book on kennedy. why not? for me, the more interesting summit conference is the degaul kennedy conference. they are very explicit about their understanding of the world. they share a lot. degaul's argument, an argument that has a relevance today. his argument is when you deal with a disruptor, you should
7:13 pm
ignore them. he says, let khrushchev hyperventilate about berlin. he will do nothing. he doesn't have the power to do anything. the only thing you can do is actually increase his desire to disrupt by engaging him. engagement is a mistake with a disruptor. kennedy's argument is, i can't take that chance. he's already threatened us in '58. if he does it again it means he's seeking something or it means there is something internal in the soviet system that is forcing him or the soviet empire, that is forcing him to do that, and i have to take that seriously, because he could risk nuclear war out of his -- out of the urgency to change the status quo in central europe. degaul said, no, i disagree with you completely.
7:14 pm
let the soviets sign a peace treaty with east germany. it doesn't matter, just a piece of paper between two communists. kennedy say, i don't agree with that at all. that would shift a sense of opportunity, burden and power to east berlin, which might lead to even more risk taking in europe. it's that over and over again debate you see in different countries and different leaders, do you leave him alone or engage? is the engagement somehow threatening to your own standing whether at home or abroad. it turns out de gaulle was wrong. we really only knew how wrong de gaulle was when we saw the soviet materials about 15 years
7:15 pm
ago, when oddly enough, a putin government declassified the resolutions and transcripts of the meetings in the 1950s through 1964. it turns out that khrushchev was committed to revising the cold war, the world war ii settlement in europe. he was a revisionist. he was not seeking more security through reducing nuclear danger. he was prepared to take advantage of the existence of nuclear danger to achieve a revision of the world war ii settlement, particularly in berlin. as we learned from presidential records, khrushchev told his colleagues he was even willing to use force to achieve what was required in berlin. de gaulle had not assumed that.
7:16 pm
de gaulle was convinced when push came to shove khrushchev would not use force. khrushchev in vienna tells his colleague, once we sign a peace treaty with east germany we will not make the mistake stalin made in 1948 and '49. we will not let the west use the air corridors to supply west berlin. we will shoot down a british or american plane to send a signal the air corridors are closed. de gaulle did not predict that. kennedy did. and kennedy's thinking was we must engage to give the russians a sense that if they choose diplomacy over militarized conflict, that something good will come out of it. in 1961, without having access to the internal discussions of
7:17 pm
the bureau, because the cia never penetrated it, kennedy's deep sense of politics led him to make a different call from de gaulle. i will give you a sort of aside on kennedy, and then we'll move to khrushchev. if you want to understand the way in which kennedy thought about foreign leaders or domestic leaders you should read "profiles encourage" even though kennedy -- profiles in courage, even though kennedy didn't write the last draft. it was all about khrushchev's power and kennedy was all about understanding the interests and incentives that shaped politics' decision-making. what he did, he projected that on the soviet leadership and projected it on france and
7:18 pm
projected it on every single leader he ever dealt with. he assumed they had interests. if you could change the incentive structure, you might alter the way they acted on their interests. when he tries this initially on khrushchev in 1961 it doesn't work. it doesn't work because cru khrushchev is not interested engaging the united states. he wants the revised settlement in berlin and willing to take risks to achieve it and willing to have a bad summit conference in vienna. one of the old arguments about vienna, conference between kennedy and crukhrushchev was kennedy screwed up, he was immature and didn't understand what he was doing. soviet records later rest that
7:19 pm
argument. khrushchev went to vienna spoiling for a fight. there was nothing kennedy could have done save conceding the nato presence is west berlin, there was nothing kennedy could have done to have a good conference in vienna. vienna was a setup, ambush and khrushchev set it up. khrushchev wanted to put pressure on kennedy in the hope kennedy would give him something eisenhower had not been willing to give im, the removal of the nato presence in west berlin. kennedy stood up to him, didn't give in, went home. rattled some sabres, called up some reserves and khrushchev backs down. the essential thing to you understand about khrushchev, i believe, in foreign policy at the time. he believed the soviet union was strategically inferior.
7:20 pm
american viewers assumed countries that believed themselves to be strategically inferior are not risk-takers. it's a basic misunderstanding you can see throughout the u.s. foreign policy elite. goes back to japan, before world war ii. american observers of the international system, because they project the united states on the world, tend to think that foreign leaders who know that they are strategically inferior will not take risks. in facty many of america's adversaries do the op. i they are strategically inferior and that makes them decide to take a risk. that's why the imperial japanese attacked pearl harbor. that's why the soviets, in 1961 and '62, khrushchev, will undertake a series of crisis that were not predictable if you knew that they knew they were
7:21 pm
behind. so why did khrushchev do this? the materials we have, i think, argue, or make a very strong argument for the way in which he thought about the world. i use the metaphor of a puffer fish. khrushchev was a puffer fish. a puffer fish does not want to be eaten by a bigger fish so they puff themselves up. khrushchev understood fundamentally that the soviet union was strategically inferior. he saw the united states as an existential threat to the world system he hoped for. as was so brilliantly argued, khrushchev was a romantic and thought over time history would serve the soviet exempt very well. in the meantime they were
7:22 pm
vulnerable. you puff up the fish to a war you know you will lose. it's the puffing up of the fish had an unintended consequence in the united states. american public opinion doesn't handle puffer fishes very well. americans get scared. that's exactly what the soviets hoped for, except that americans then spend money on nuclear weapons when they get scared and soviets couldn't compete. in 1961, khrushchev believes, because he's very well aware of the missile gab crisis, he believes this will have a restraining effect on the use of american power and perhaps will lead to an agreement in central europe. kennedy, because he believes that he's always dealing with a rational actor, wants to change the incentive structure for khrushchev. what he does, once the
7:23 pm
satellites provide americans with absolute certainty soviets are way behind in the missile he decides to share it not by giving him a corona statement, but by giving it through the undersecretary of defense, kirkpatrick. he thinks if the soviets know they're behind they will stop risk taking and realize they shouldn't be doing this. it has the opposite effect. because this takes from khrushchev his basic approach to the international system. he can't be a puffer fish anymore. everybody knows he's small. that leads, i believe, to the cuban missile crisis. the more research i do, the less important i think cuba is. in 1962, khrushchev attempts two
7:24 pm
different strategies for dealing with american power. the first is the meniscus strategy, where he decides to increase the amount of -- he says the international system is a goblet. what you do is you fill water right to the brim. you don't -- you bring it to the point where you have a meniscus. the next drop of water will spill. the only way to restrain american power is to create crisis along the periphery of the american empire. no american advisor and no criminologist at the time would ever assume that was the soviet approach. khrushchev made that the soviet approach. it lasted four months, until he saw the americans were so powerful they could deal with these crisis along their border, crisis in southeast asia and so khrushchev needed another approach. that's when he puts missiles in
7:25 pm
cuba. he puts missiles in cuba to scare the americans so he can contain american power. one of the lessons of studying khrushchev relevant today or a cowl of them, is that americans tend to not understand their country is and existential threat to other people. americans believe -- what am i doing generalizing, put it this way. more often than not, american policymakers will believe specific american actions will define how other countries view this country when it's the very fact of american power, the hugeness of the economy, the size of the american military, which is a daily threat to many countries, which either will bandwagon with you, or are going to try to oppose you. it's our very existence that poses a threat.
7:26 pm
khrushchev never lost track of the fact the united states was more powerful, was richer. he believed in the future if the competition were kept to ideology and economic interaction soviets would ultimately bury us. not that they killed us, we die and they continue to live. we die and they will be at your funeral, what that means. if you understand we are an existential threat, is makes you understand. if you accept the proposition strategically inferior countries will try to defer us by scaring us, that would also, i think, allow you to understand certain foreign countries. i think this is much less useful understanding putin than understanding north korea. or if we could go back in time, understanding saddam hussein in
7:27 pm
2001 and 2002. we have a hard time in this country understanding dictators because we assume that they play the game the way we do. one of the outcomes of studying the kennedy-khrushchev relationship, khrushchev was rationalal, just his inputs and incentives were different. the united states didn't understand them. what kennedy understood, when push came to shove, khrushchev was not suicidal. he was reckless but he wasn't a madman. it's that basic understanding you have to constantly engage and be empathetic that laid the basis for kennedy's masterful handling of the second week of the cuban missile crisis. i would argue the first week was much messier than people think. this understanding of khrushchev basically being someone who was
7:28 pm
not a madman, that made possible the peaceful resolution. the lessons, i believe, to sum up, your adversary can be irrational in your eyes and actually be rational. the irrationality that you have, in your assessment is part -- is a function of your assumptions. if you assume them to do one thing and they do something else that makes them ir rational to you, in fact, their thinking is perfectly logical. the other thing to keep in mind, other countries are afraid of us. that fear can lead them to take risks. we should be more introspective about the nature of their fear. this is not a judgment about moral -- this is not moral equivalency. i'm simply arguing the very nature of the american success of the united states in developing its power also leads
7:29 pm
to challenges. in the early '60s, i think, is a time where the united states tried to engage the soviets and they were dealing with a leader who didn't want engagement, he wanted revision. it's when he changes his mind that the system becomes much more stable. so this is an argument for the importance of individuals. there are some structural issues involved but in the end it's khrushchev who decides in 1963, enough with this approach, i will let kennedy have his test ban. thank you. [ applause ] >> i'll throw out one question that relates to both of your essays and comments and we'll open up the floor momentarily. could you delve a little more into the back channeling from,
7:30 pm
marc, what you know from the kennedy side and particularly robert kennedy back channeling and, tim, from what you know, having delved into all the archives on the other side of the ocean, and lessons for today particularly in light of issues related to back channeling with the russians. >> right. tim has particularly done great work on the back channel and its lack of use, in fact, in several key moments and in fact its misuse or the misinterpretation of its value. when kennedy came to use it to try to figure out what was going on in the caribbean in the summer of 1962, as it became clear there were more and more soviet shipments being sent to the island. it appeared there were weapons
7:31 pm
systems being delivered to the island, chaets going owhat's goy khrushchev, had been helpful with the resolution of october tank crisis in 1961, to have a chance to talk out of the public eye and such, i do think that at key points it helped to keep the conversation going, and with regard to its use during the missile crisis, some of that conversation from bobby kennedy to -- with another as phillip indicated was a front channel, a case where kennedy was actually delivering a specific message to bobby to speak to the persons you want to convey a message to, the ambassador to the soviet union. i think it's a creative use, a
7:32 pm
recognition that the standard channels you might use through the state department will not always be effective. kennedy wasn't particularly thrilled with the performance of his state department with dean rusk or nature of the system itself. it provided him other options to try to hear from people whose voices aren't heard as frequently, and as we've heard in bits and pieces, it seems as though those channels are being used today with regard to north korea, sounds like it's an encouraging sign. it's another way to keep the conversation going privately when publicly, doing so would create real political risks. >> i think the kennedy -- the robert kennedy bollshov back channel is more interesting of
7:33 pm
politics than reflection how the soviets were thinking. khrushchev was baffled by this back channel, if you look at the way they managed it. they thought the front door was good enough. kennedy thought he had to author it because he wanted to author things to the soviets he couldn't talk about publicly and wanted it deniable and didn't trust the state department, he thought there would be a leak so he uses his brother. i think back channel was john kennedy thought about the cold war. the speech of 1963 reflected ideas kennedy had in 1961. there's a basic narrative for the kennedy administration and arthur schlessinger was a great
7:34 pm
man and i don't share it, while kennedy is learning. if he thought the same way as the cold war in '61 and '63, he couldn't say it publicly and didn't have the chops. it's the cuban missile crisis that frees him. he's sharing it with the soviets and they're not listening because khrushchev wants to revise the world war i settlement and the heart of europe. he keeps saying berlin berlin and when kennedy is not saying berlin via bobby, he goes to him directly at a skating rink and says, berlin. he's getting back channel stuff. doesn't want to hear about a test ban or joint project to the moon. something often lost. john kennedy proposed a joint project to the moon before he told the world we will go to the moon by the end of the decade, he told the soviets, let's do it
7:35 pm
together. soviets weren't interested. then he tells the world. before, he's offering it to the soviets first. it is more what kennedy is using than soviets. khrushchev does use it and one of the mistakes, this back channel is very dangerous in this regard. he didn't share, bobby kennedy rarely wrote up notes about the meeting, there are a few, just told his brother orally. his brother not om didn't share this not only with dean rusk, less important but the head of the cia. the cia analysts didn't know anything what the soviets were saying to the kennedys in the back channel. i assure you, because i looked
7:36 pm
at this, if the soviet analyst had heard in august of 1962 that the soviets were asking -- khrushchev was asking the president not to undertake surveillance of their shipping, some pieces that hasn't been coming together would have come together. i'll be very precise about this. there was a debate between the pentagon and cia over the importance of these shipments. max taylor, maxwell taylor in the pentagon said, it doesn't matter. even though the shipments were accelerating in the summer, the u.s. military didn't -- wasn't that worried about them. the cia said there's something weird here. they're breaking precedent. if maxwell taylor and the pentagon had heard khrushchev, in one of the few things, khrushchev rarely asks for anything in the back channel, had asked the united states to stop surveillance, i think that
7:37 pm
would have solved this debate in favor of saying this is a big deal. kennedy didn't share that with anybody, just he and his brother. the real dangers of back channels if you actually don't share the material with your foreign policy team. that's my -- it's -- it's fascinating about kennedy and i think it changes one's view of kennedy. it also shows the dangers of those kinds of operations. in the end, i think it enured khrushchev believing what bobby kennedy said and had a good outcome, it made the end of the cuban missile crisis possible because when bobby went to speak to due brennen and offers to remove the missiles from turkey, they're accustomed to the brothers saying the same thing as everybody else and believing them.
7:38 pm
>> intriguing, presidential sons in law. bob in the back there. >> observation and -- two questions. observation, the more i listen to the excellent presentations, the more i find my mind relating the experience not to relations with russia today, other challenges, including north korea. to the conference organizers and those wrapping up i urge you to expand the universe in which we apply this. two questions, first, an old historical one. i've always been curious why the soviets didn't make more of the fact of the removal of the jupiter missiles from turkey after they were removed. its would strike me in a public diplomacy or khrushchev sense of ego, this would have given him an opportunity to say, look, i got a better deal than everybody expected and the united states cap pit lated. the more current question to
7:39 pm
tim's point about disruptors. how would you apply your insights to a situation with korea today we have two disruptor, we have kim jong-un, we've got president trump and president trump is not only disrupting on the korean peninsula, but i would argue he's disrupting the traditional american security economic order. so you have a third player, which is the revise sores in china. they might like the revisionist of the orders with two disruptors. tell me what insight you have from that. >> that's great. i will share an argument. i had the good fortune to give a lecture about the cuban missile crisis at the air war university. i got a chance to try out my little approach to north korea there. they don't want to hear about the cuban missile crisis, they want to hear about north korea, for obvious reasons. for my since, i'm a student of ernest mays, i know to be very
7:40 pm
careful of analogy, because most of them are fraudulent and incomplete. for my sins, i see the north koreans as puffer fish. now, of course, if i had clearances and maybe we know that they're suicidal, but if you accept the proposition that they're not suicidal, you have to accept that proposition, khrushchev is not suicidal, if you accept that proposition, and if you accept the proposition they know longer believe it possible to invade south korea, and i'm positiving those two things. i don't know them for sure. if you accept those propositions, then what we have here is the north koreans reacting to the existential threat of the united states and the very fact i'm not engaging in moral equivalence here, the united states has viewed them publicly and said publicly they're a threat to the international system. they're also an unstable
7:41 pm
dictatorship and it is useful for them to have an enemy. if you accept that, then you manage them differential. y -- them differently. you see they're not really a military threat to us. i think it's unlikely they would attack guam. i don't think they can actually target. i don't think they know for sure if they launched a missile it wouldn't hit japan and they don't want to hit japan. you have to accept these propositions, then this is an issue of deterrence, you accept the fact they have nuclear weapons, because they do. we all know this. historically nonproliferation hasn't worked with regard to countries that want nuclear weapons. the united states didn't want israel to have nuclear weapons. there's a fantastic story. and it failed. israelis did what they felt they needed to and used denial and
7:42 pm
deception and achieved what they wanted. the united states didn't want india to have one and they did what they wanted. we didn't want pakistan to have one. it goes on and on. the real achievement in politics is when you candle acquisition of nuclear weapons and you delay it long enough until the world is ready to deal. delaying iran is a great achievement. if you accept the proposition north korea has nuclear weapons and treat them like a nuclear state and deter them, the issue is how deter them, i would like south korea to deter them. i think extended is a mistake there. it pulls us into a fight we don't need. north korea doesn't matter to us. let south korea deter them. and then it's over and then we can pull away and deal with the south china sea which is our problem. that's my lesson. >> you talk about the north
7:43 pm
koreans. it might work if you didn't have a disruptor in the u.s. you have two disruptors? >> the american disruptor, this is a different kind of containment. in the cold war we dealt with containing another power, here, we're talking about containing the president. one hopes that mattis and others will. but, yes, his rhetoric is only inflaming -- if you accept my view why the north koreans act the way they do there couldn't be anything worse than the approach our current president is taking with him. >> so, tim, i always like to say, i love when sessions are provocative. i will say you provoked me. so i agree with what i think was your basic conclusion that adversaries are more rational
7:44 pm
than we think and other nations are afraid of us. but i don't think that you frame this entire issue appropriately. i really don't. and i think it is illuminated by the fact that you keep saying khrushchev said berlin berlin berlin. actually, when khrushchev wrote to kennedy and talked to kennedy at vienna, he did not say berlin berlin berlin, he said germany germany germany, let me talk to you about germany. let me tell you why we believe germany is such a threat. let me explain to you what it was like during world war ii. let me tell you what it was like to be in ukraine and to experience german occupation.
7:45 pm
let me tell you about the way we perceive the evolution of west german power. i won't tell you, but i'm really afraid of the fact that west germany is a magnet to east germany. i'm really afraid of the prospect that west germany may acquire nuclear weapons. these were all fundamental issues that undergirded. that undergirded khrushchev's motives. when you say khrushchev is a disruptor and use that as the way to characterize him, you simplify and you trivialize, and what's even more important is that it raises the whole question about, did kennedy really understand adversary's interests? maybe he did. maybe he did, but he wasn't
7:46 pm
willing to accommodate them. i'm not saying he should have. there is a real confrontation here of vital interests. the notion, moreover, that you say americans did not think adversaries, weaker adversaries would be risk-takers, i think the major issue you said at the beginning, we really need to talk about korea. so the overriding lesson of korea was that we americans must build up military capabilities so that no competitor in the world in the future will take risks, we will have a preponderance of power, to use a famous phrase, we will have a preponderance of power to deter
7:47 pm
future risk taking. and so much of american policy, all through the 1950s, was about how much power do we really need to have to deter risk taking? if risk taking should take place, how much power do we need to have and what sorts of military capabilities do we need to have to dominate an escalatory crisis. i would like you to respond to those issues and to reflect on whether that should help us reunderstand this context and its implications. >> well, it's fun to provoke. i think, mel, i think i see we have a fundamentally different approach to this because i give
7:48 pm
khrushchev more agency in this story. maybe because of my generation or the fact that all this detail came out and i got lost in it and enjoyed it. i see the soviets as making choices. khrushchev making choices. and i found that the analyses that made the united states more significant in these outcomes were skewed by the fact that u.s. documents had existed when people were writing these books. that may be unfair, but i don't see this as this russians dealing with an american world. i see the russians making their own choices. and to go to the details, to answer you with detail, the penpal letters, these were these
7:49 pm
letters that were sent between the soviets and americans, between khrushchev and kennedy starting in 1961. they're really boring. but they're interesting for us because it's all about trying to seek, on the american side, some kind of agreement that would make the soviets feel secure. it's all about berlin, the details of what it is the soviets are ultimately seeking in berlin. the americans draw a line. one thing kennedy cannot agree with is the removal of nato. for khrushchev, that is an sinequon none for agreement. kennedy didn't need to be
7:50 pm
lectured about world war ii and kennedy is about understanding the soviets and go into detail. this drive the french mad, by the way. the french do not want to participate in these discussions. there's discussions. there's all this back and forth between paris and washington whether to get into detail about berlin. so if the united states was blind to khrushchev's needs and interests i don't think you would see these detailed negotiations. now, they failed in the end because there was -- the mae americans couldn't go to where the soviets wanted to go. now i respect you enormously and there's an element you raised one other point that is also important to soviets and that is west german acquisition of nuclear weapons. and there i believe the americans did screw up. because the americans came up
7:51 pm
with the multinational force in an effort to try to calm -- actually, to find a way to make the french happy because the french wanted nuclear weapons. the united states didn't want nuclear weapons. and to somehow tamp down, really a bavaria of german desire or strauss's desire for nuclear weapons. this had intended consequences with moskow. there i agree, it's an unintended consequence. but in the pen pal of the letters, which i think set the stage for khrushchev's decision making and risk taking in '62, they're talking about the details of berlin. so i think berlin is really important. but you know what, historians disagree. it's part of the fun of our business. >> a somewhat more narrower
7:52 pm
point, it sounds, tim, as if you're saying degall's advice would apply to north korea, and sort of connected to that i'm wondering in retrospect to what extent eisenhower came close to khrushchev to taking degal's advice, compared to kennedy. to be sure he was pressured to the visit and the summit in april of 1960 because he was worried. but i don't think eisenhower produced the same impression on khrushchev as the bay of pigs and kennedy's behavior at the summit in viena, which you didn't take all that seriously. i think kennedy did strike khrushchev as an immature young man in ways that eisenhower with
7:53 pm
all his seniority, maturity and background might not. >> i don't think you should ever debate with a pulitzer prizewinning biographer. [ laughter ] bill, all i'll say is that in the transcripts of the paula bura segs khrushchev describes kennedy as being the same as eisenhower. we could have this discussion off-line about why people are convinced khrushchev had this view. but in the materials that were released in 2002 and 2003 i didn't see evidence of him saying that kennedy is this immature guy we can't take seriously. i think khrushchev had this bizarre view of the american system where he saw structures more important as individuals and the issue for him was who
7:54 pm
was strong enough to deal with issues from bentgon. so it's again, it's a fools game, to debate with such a brilliant biographer. but i saw data that led me in a different direction. with regard to north korea, yeah, i think given that north korea's not the soviet union and the soviet 1 was a threat to us militarily, and therefore i think that behooved the engagement. i mean that was the argument for engagement north korea is not that important, that i think letting the south koreans engage in finding a way to make south korea the source of deterrence is a better idea. but as, you know, mr. zellic pointed out we have two disrupters simultaneously and our first objective is to somehow contain or persuade the american disrupters so he doesn't keep ratcheting up the volume. >> frank, if you could come
7:55 pm
forward, this will be our last question because we want to leave equal time for the second half of our panel. and while we're getting ready for that question, on the eisenhower point i did make eye contact with my colleague will hitchcock who waved me off, but i am recommending a work, a definitive work on the 34th president. >> i want to briefly follow up mel's question to crow, tim, about khrushchev's disregard to berlin. they were losing that crown jewel as the immigration of particularly those talented educated people leaving east germany through berlin and to the west. and we know that. and the berlin saw inelegantly,
7:56 pm
brutally solved that problem and the building crisis dissipated shortly after that. i mean in terms of being a disrupter it seems oo me khrushchev was trying to defend his position rather than disrupting it. >> i'm sorry i didn't mention will's book because will is the one who will tell us what eisenhower is actually thinking and whether he liked degal enough to take his advice. i don't agree with you about berlin. the soviet materials make clear for khrushchev it didn't end. and you have to keep in mind that he wants a change in the nature of the settlement in central europe, and he wants it in '62. and he makes it clear to the e
7:57 pm
presidium he wants it in '62, and in the summer of '62, the soviet decision making system was first among equals. khrushchev was clearly more powerful than anybody else. but the others were not all ciphers. he calmed khrushchev down. the soviet leadership was surprised by khrushchev's suggestion of putting missiles in cua which he came up with himself when he was in bulgaria, and they wanted to slow him down. so the presidium, took two days to make this decision and said we will do this if the cubans want it. well, the cubans were surprised. the cubans were surprised, and
7:58 pm
when the cubans say yes khrushchev gets very excited because he sees the opportunity to actually put pressure on the united states and maybe achieve those changes in central europe that maybe he was seeking. and you see the materials in the foreign ministry in 1962 the preparation, if you remember the old mousetrap game, this leads to that, this leads to that -- the soviets were setting up for phenomenal moment at the united nations with khrushchev would make a speech and he would threaten war with the united states if there wasn't a new settlement in berlin. and he was doing that on the basis that his knowledge he would have nuclear weapons in cuba at that time to pose a real threat to the american homeland. so if berlin had been solved in his mind in '61 i don't see how these events would have occurred as they did in '62. this is not to say the united states was involved in provoking
7:59 pm
the soviets, but i think we don't give enough agency to khrushchev. he is making decisions not always in response to an american action. i think he's making a response to the existence of the united states. >> regarding berlin versus cuba and the rationale for deployment of the missiles. khrushchev is saying different things to hierarchy to. the second tier officials it doesn't necessarily mean it's the secondary reason, but it's probably gravitating in that direction. those are the people who are hearing more about the cuba rationale for the missiles themselves. >> i think it's thin. i think the cuba rationale is thin that comes out later because he trying to figure out why he did this. and the other thing why he
8:00 pm
doesn't take credit, that's a great question. i know he doesn't take credit initially is because the americans say to him if you say anything about the turkish deal it doesn't happen. and '64 he's out. why he doesn't take credit in his memoirs i don't understand. those memoirs -- but at length? because the chinese and the cubans were vicious in attacking him for the outcome of the cuban missile crisis. and you'd think because he's quite repetitive in his memoirs, that you would have really gone to town against them. say, you know, i just couldn't tell them what i achieve. and he doesn't do that and i can't explain why. but maybe strobe has an explanation. >> we could spend the next half going over this material, but please join me in thanking tim
8:01 pm
and mark, and we'll move on. >> for nearly 20 years in-depth on book tv has featured the nation's best known nonfiction writers for live conversations about their books. well, this year as a special project we're featuring best selling fiction writers for a monthly program in-depth fiction edition. join us live sunday at noon eastern with walter mosely. his other books include "devil in a blue dress," which was made into a major motion picture, "gone fishing" and "fearless jones." our special series in-depth fiction edition on c-span 2. up next on reel america, a
8:02 pm
city decides. a 1956 film documenting the response of st. louis to the cou court's decision of integration. sponsored by the fund for the republic an early think tank supported by the ford foundation the film was drirected by charls gug g gugenhiem and was nominated for an academy award. this is 30 minutes.


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on