The Boston Globe
October 21, 2002, page B3

Kin of Kennedy, Khrushchev discuss Cuban crisis, Iraq

 By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff

 The children of the superpower leaders who took the world to the brink of nuclear conflagration
 and back 40 years ago met for the first time yesterday at the John F. Kennedy Library to discuss
 the lessons of the Cuban missile crisis at a time when the United States is again edging toward a
 war over weapons of mass destruction, this time with Iraq.

 Before participating in a forum on the crisis, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President Kennedy,
 and Sergei Khrushchev, son of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, had a private talk and viewed a
 copy of the 1963 Soviet-American nuclear test ban treaty that was kept as a memento by
 Kennedy's mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The treaty was a byproduct of the tense 13-day
 standoff in October 1962 over the USSR's decision to station nuclear-tipped missiles 90 miles from
 the US coast.

 In her introduction, Kennedy urged both the audience and the panelists - who included
 Khrushchev, a fellow at Brown University, two of her father's former advisers, and a Cuban
 diplomat - to ''consider what together we can learn and apply to the problems that confront us

 ''When our fathers transformed the hours of danger into the beginnings of a process for peace, they
 did it for us and for all children threatened by a world at war,'' Kennedy said.

 The panelists presented three distinct views of the crisis, those of three governments.

 Khrushchev said his father believed he had no choice but to send missiles to Cuba, after the failed
 US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion and after Cuban leader Fidel Castro declared that the Caribbean
 nation ''would be a member of the socialist family.''

 ''He felt he had an obligation as the head of that family to defend all the members of the family,''
 Khrushchev said.

 Josephina Vidal, a Cuban diplomat based in Washington who was a key organizer of a recent
 conference on the missile crisis in Havana, said Castro never wanted nuclear arms but instead
 preferred a mutual defense treaty with the Soviet Union and a buildup of conventional arms.

 Theodore Sorenson, a Kennedy adviser, said that in order to take a measured approach to the
 crisis, the president had to fight pressure from hawks in the CIA and the US military, who pressed
 for a bombing campaign and a military invasion of Cuba.

 Only later, Sorenson said, did US officials learn that only the hesitation a single Soviet naval officer
 - who insisted on seeking direct permission from Moscow - prevented a Soviet submarine from
 launching a nuclear-tipped torpedo at a US destroyer on naval blockade duty, possibly triggering a
 disasterous nuclear exchange.

 ''One unknown Soviet submariner kept the world from being blown to smithereens,'' he said.

 Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who was also a Kennedy adviser,
 agreed, saying that a full examination of the crisis shows that it was ''the most dangerous moment in
 human history.''

 As for the Bush administration's hawkish approach toward ridding Iraq of weapons of mass
 destruction, the panelists agreed that the current president and his advisors hadn't learned the
 lessons of history.

 Sorenson said there are ''better options than a preemptive strike against a madman with weapons of
 mass destruction who may well decide to strike back against Israel and against us and against our
 allies,'' he said.

 Schlesinger called the Bush administration's desire to invade Iraq a ''dangerous and ominous shift''
 in US policy.

 ''There were people in favor of a preventative war during the Cold War and they were regarded as
 a bunch of loonies,'' Schlesinger said. '' Now the loonies have taken over our foreign policy.''

 Khrushchev was even more blunt. If President Bush had been in the White House in 1962, he said,
 ''we would have had no chance to discuss the Cuban missile crisis in 2002.''

 Ralph Ranalli can be reached at

 © Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.