Philip Zelikow Commentary
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H-Diplo Commentary on "'Documentary Evidence' and Llewellyn Thompson's Berlin/Cuba Assessment of Soviet Motives in the October 1962 Missile Crisis."
Essay by Philip Zelikow, University of Virgini
In a favorable review of The Kremlinologist, the fine recent biography of the great American diplomat and Soviet expert Llewellyn "Tommy" Thompson that was written by his daughters, David Foglesong added this curious cavil. "The Thompsons argue that the Cuban missile crisis stemmed from [Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev's seeing 'an irresistible opportunity to use missiles to solve all his problems'—including Chinese criticism, Soviet military complaints, and East German instability, as well as Cuban vulnerability—even though they acknowledge that there is very little documentary evidence to support that thesis."
Both Ambassador Thompson then, and his daughters in their book, developed an argument that is focused primarily on the climax of the Berlin Crisis. Throughout 1962, Thompson had been playing a central part in the Berlin Crisis diplomacy. In the months before the missiles in Cuba were discovered, Thompson (and President John F. Kennedy) had been puzzled as to why Khrushchev was launching another diplomatic offensive on Berlin, with a warning that he would settle the matter, once and for all, after the U.S. congressional elections on 6 November 1962.
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