"The missile crisis is said to be -- and I've said this myself many times -- the best managed foreign policy crisis, the best managed defense crisis, of the last 50 years. And in a sense I think it was. But that's not why we avoided nuclear war. We came that close, and in the end we avoided nuclear war solely -- solely -- because we were lucky. Both sides made many, many mistakes, misjudgments, miscalculations based on misinformation. Let me give you just four illustrations.
Before the Soviets introduced the missiles into Cuba in the summer of 1962, they and Castro believed we intended to invade Cuba. I absolutely guarantee you neither President Kennedy nor I had any such intention. Your error.
Second, the US believed the Soviets would never move nuclear warheads outside the Soviet Union. You never had. You did. We were wrong.
Thirdly, you believed the missiles could be introduced secretly into Cuba and the US would not respond when their presence was disclosed. On this you were totally wrong.
And, finally, the greatest error of all was made by us. Those -- and they were the majority of the president's military and civilian advisors -- those who were advising the president to attack Cuba were already mistaken in their belief that the Soviets would not respond militarily anywhere in the world and certainly they were mistaken in their belief that there were no nuclear warheads on the island. At the time, the CIA was saying they believed there were no nuclear warheads there. That was the only basis on which the majority of Kennedy's military advisors and civilian advisors recommended the attack.
We didn't know for 30 years -- not until this man sitting next to me told us in January 1992 in Havana, Cuba, in a meeting chaired by President Castro -- that you had something on the order of 162 nuclear warheads there, roughly 90 tactical warheads which would have confronted our invasion force and something on the order of 70 warheads for the strategic missiles. We didn't know for 30 years that, had we attacked, we would have confronted that. The film is totally wrong in indicating that we knew you had tactical nuclear launchers there. We did not know that. In our force we had prohibited -- President Kennedy and I had prohibited our force from equipping itself with our counterpart tactical nuclear launchers.
So our force would have faced the nuclear warheads without any nuclear warheads. What would have happened? We would have loaded aircraft in Southeast US airfields, sent them to Cuba; nuclear war would have exploded. How would it have ended? In utter catastrophe."