Adlai Stevenson’s UN Security Council speech (1962)

On October 25th 1962, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, United States ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, addressed the UN Security Council. There Stevenson confronted the Soviet representative, Valerian Zorin, on whether the Soviets had been honest with regard to the presence of missiles in Cuba:

“I want to say to you, Mr Zorin, that I do not have your talent for obfuscation, for distortion, for confusing language, and for doubletalk. And I must confess to you that I am glad that I do not. But if I understood what you said, you said that my position had changed, that today I was defensive because we did not have the evidence to prove our assertions, that your Government had installed long-range missiles in Cuba.

Well, let me say something to you, Mr Ambassador: we do have the evidence. We have it, and it is clear and it is incontrovertible. And let me say something else: those weapons must be taken out of Cuba.

Next, let me say to you that, if I understood you, with a trespass on credibility that excels your best, you said that our position had changed since I spoke here the other day because of the pressures of world opinion and the majority of the United Nations. Well, let me say to you, sir, you are wrong again. We have had no pressure from anyone whatsoever. We came in here today to indicate our willingness to discuss Mr U Thant’s proposals, and that is the only change that has taken place.

But let me also say to you, sir, that there has been a change. You, the Soviet Union has sent these weapons to Cuba. You, the Soviet Union has upset the balance of power in the world. You, the Soviet Union has created this new danger, not the United States.

And you ask with a fine show of indignation why the President did not tell Mr Gromyko on last Thursday about our evidence, at the very time that Mr Gromyko was blandly denying to the President that the USSR was placing such weapons on sites in the new world.

Well, I will tell you why: because we were assembling the evidence, and perhaps it would be instructive to the world to see how far a Soviet official would go in perfidy. Perhaps we wanted to know if this country faced another example of nuclear deceit like that one a year ago when in stealth, the Soviet Union broke the nuclear test moratorium…

Finally, the other day Mr. Zorin I remind you that you did not deny the existence of these weapons. Instead, we heard that they had suddenly become defensive weapons. But today again if I heard you correctly, you now say that they do not exist, or that we haven’t proved they exist, with another fine flood of rhetorical scorn.

All right, sir, let me ask you one simple question: Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the USSR has placed and is placing medium and intermediate range missiles and sites in Cuba? Yes or no. Don’t wait for the translation, yes or no?

[Zorin] “This is not a court of law, I do not need to provide a yes or no answer…”

[Stevenson] You can answer yes or no. You have denied they exist. I want to know if I understood you correctly. I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over, if that’s your decision. And I am also prepared to present the evidence in this room.”