In the midst of work on the next part of his cycle "Not only about aircraft carriers ..." the author read on the VO website an article by Alexander Timokhin “The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962: Correcting Errors. Learning to use the Navy ".
Analysis of this, without a doubt, key for the domestic naval stories episode was part of my plans. This was planned to be done in the fourth article of the above cycle. However, the text of A. Timokhin forced to make some corrections in them.
In itself, the publication of an article on this topic should be welcomed. Moreover, its original messages are shared by the author of these lines. But the conclusions that Alexander comes to as a result of his reasoning, and even more so the invectives (attacks) with which he accompanies these arguments, cause the most decisive rejection.
Therefore, as it was sung in the old Soviet anthem, “our indignant mind boiled over” and wanted to put the plans aside for a while and answer this text.
So, let's begin.
What I agree with
As already mentioned, A. Timokhin's initial assumptions are in full agreement. There are two of them.
First message. The Cuban missile crisis was a defeat for the USSR. It is important to formulate this clearly, for there are many myths mixed around this issue. The most popular of them says that there were no winners or losers in this clash of the two superpowers. And the whole world benefited from it, because it was possible to avoid the start of a world conflict with the use of a nuclear weapons... And the credit for this belongs to the leaders of our countries, who, having shown courage and wisdom, found the strength to take a step back and not cross the “red line” that separated the world from the global catastrophe. I think that in its general form, this myth is familiar to the reader.
In reality, the USSR actually lost, since the United States during the crisis managed to realize its interest, that is, to stop the deployment of weapons in Cuba that could be used to strike the territory of their country: missiles and aviation... That is, the plan for the covert deployment of these weapons there was thwarted. And Moscow was forced, now openly, at the sight of the television cameras of world news agencies, to return the ships with these cargoes home. It cannot be called anything other than defeat.
Second message... If in the area of the "quarantine" declared by the Americans, in which their fleet intended to inspect Soviet transport ships, Soviet surface warships appeared, this would change the balance of forces and make it possible to count on a different outcome of the crisis.
This is what I certainly agree with A. Timokhin.
But further ...
What I disagree with
I will try to list those points from his article with which I strongly disagree. And I'll explain why.
So the first thing. Considering the reasons for the rejection of the use of surface ships in the Soviet operation in Cuba, Alexander mentions the point of view that is present in the American literature on this topic, about the inability of Soviet headquarters to plan operations in the open ocean. Then he declares it to be clearly incorrect and does not return to it again. The reasons for this categoricalness seem completely incomprehensible.
There is nothing “obviously wrong” in this hypothesis. Or, perhaps, it is refuted by the facts of actually carried out similar operations in the same historical period? But, as far as I know, there were none. Therefore, this hypothesis deserves respect and analysis, and not swept away "from the doorway."
Further, Alexander "lays out on the table" a set of, so to speak, his main proofs, which he uses further in the course of the article. These are the reasons why, according to Timokhin, the fleet could not prove itself properly during those events:
"Khrushchev's personal conviction that surface ships are outdated, the maniacal desire of the generals to crush the fleet under the ground forces (finally realized only under Serdyukov) and the natural pogrom of Russian naval thought in the 30s, accompanied by the execution of many leading military theorists."
Let's try to assess the seriousness of these arguments.
So, Khrushchev (where without him!) Did not allow the fleet to do as the current situation demanded. Say, what other surface ships are there? - Don't you dare to send them! So they didn’t send it.
Well: this version, like any other, requires a serious attitude and verification, if not documentary (hardly possible in conditions when documents capable of shedding light on the motives that guided the naval command in that situation were not introduced into the scientific turnover), then at least logical.
And here I must say that this version of A. Timokhin, alas, does not stand up to such a logical test.
For he himself wrote before that that when, in pursuance of the decision of the Central Committee of the CPSU of May 20, 1962, the General Staff began to plan an operation to transfer weapons to Cuba, it was planned to use, among other things, formations of surface ships. Consequently, Khrushchev's negative attitude towards them at this stage did not manifest itself in any way.
Then, as Alexander also correctly writes, on September 25, after the Americans opened Soviet supplies to Cuba, the Defense Council decided not to send surface ships to that area. Moreover, as emphasized in another paragraph of the text, this decision was made based on the desire to ensure the secrecy of their own actions.
Yes, this stealth already was violated - it is. But where is the manifestation of the evil (and any other) will of the leader of the party and state here? It just isn't visible. It turns out that the attempt to link the refusal to send NK with the negative attitude towards them, as such, of Khrushchev, is a maxim in the spirit of "an elder in the garden, and in Kiev there is an uncle."
The next point of Alexander's reasoning (more precisely, accusations) is devoted to army commanders, driven by the desire to "crush the fleet under the ground forces." And one could partly agree with this, too. But, as they say, having said "a", one must also remember to say "b". Let's try to do it for Alexander.
What were the motives behind these commanders? In the same way as most professional military men - the instinct of winners. The feeling of victory is vital for people of this kind (as, for example, for athletes). In war, they realize this desire in the fight against the enemy, risking their lives, bringing glory to themselves, and salvation to the country they serve. But in peacetime, the situation is more complicated. The need to feel like a winner is sublimated into fierce, "on the brink of a foul" competition with representatives of other branches of the armed forces. And this is by no means characteristic of our soil. Violent skirmishes between sailors, pilots and representatives of the ground forces took place in other countries. I intend to talk about one of the most famous of them in the next article.
But here it is important to understand: thanks to what the "land" were able to realize their intention to dominate the "sea". And this happened also because they managed to put forward some arguments that would testify in favor of their right to such domination. And the main of these arguments is obvious: these are successful operations carried out under their leadership in the recently ended war with Germany. Unfortunately, our admirals did not include such operations.
It is clear that appealing to one's own victorious experience, which the other side cannot boast, is always an important argument in the competitive struggle. This, by and large, largely determined the alignment of forces in the country's top military leadership.
The lack of agreement on this subject in Alexander's article leaves room for the assumption that this happened due to some negative moral qualities of generals and marshals, which distinguish them from "pure souls", naive and inexperienced in the undercover struggle of admirals. Unfortunately, the real behavior of the naval leaders during the Cuban missile crisis leaves no room for such assumptions.
To begin with the summer exercises of the Northern Fleet "Kasatka", at which Khrushchev was shown the launch of an R-21 ballistic missile from a submerged position. At the same time, the head of state was informed that the launch was carried out from the nuclear submarine K-3, although in reality it was a diesel K-142, and the first rocket launch from under the water by the nuclear-powered K-19 was carried out only in the summer of 1964. Like this. We love to scoff at the incompetence of Nikita Sergeevich in naval affairs, but instead of dispelling this incompetence, the naval commanders allowed themselves an open lie to their Supreme Commander-in-Chief. But on the basis of this false information, he later made the most important political decisions affecting the fate of not only the country, but the entire world.
When the fleet sent its submarine forces to the shores of Cuba, none of its leadership went to sea, but preferred to stay on the coast. And then, after the inglorious return of the submariners to their home bases, these same chiefs made them "extreme", accusing them of failing to fulfill their combat missions. Whatever you look at, these actions do not really agree with the idea of decency.
This is what, probably, it would make sense to mention in an article devoted to an analysis of the mistakes made during the Cuban missile crisis.
And, speaking of the unused chance to deploy an entire grouping of our missile submarines off the coast of the United States, recall the real capabilities of the American anti-aircraft missile system during that period, which our intelligence did not even suspect: the SOSUS system, etc. After all, if the Americans discovered and forced to surface three of the four Soviet submarines actually directed across the Atlantic, then on what basis is the assumption made that their larger group would have acted more successfully?
These considerations should not be neglected when analyzing this event. And not to focus the reader's attention on the episode with A. Grechko, who, during the debriefing, smashed his glasses on the table in a rage, having learned that the submariners had obeyed the Americans' demand for surfacing. The following stroke testifies to the level of its historical reliability in the article: Andrei Antonovich is named in it as the Minister of Defense, although in fact he held the post of his first deputy during the period under review.
Finally, the time has come to analyze Alexander's argument: that the defeat of military theory (and its carriers), arranged in our country in the 30s, explains all naval problems, up to at least the period of the Cuban missile crisis. Here, in fact, a natural question arises: if our naval commanders were all incompetent after that, then, apparently, the reasons for the fleet's troubles must be fully explained by this circumstance, and not look for them in the intrigues of competitors or in the hostile attitude of the country's leadership. For if they were taught the wrong thing and the wrong way, then what, in principle, the right decisions could they make in their posts? Including all decisions during the 1962 crisis itself?
In short, this argument simply cannot be taken seriously. And its appearance cannot be explained otherwise than by the desire to "wash away" the reputation of the fleet at all costs, to protect the honor of the uniform. Such an approach is incompatible with the intention to actually learn lessons from the Cuban missile crisis, to understand exactly what and from what moment “went wrong”.
And the last thing.
In the concluding part of his article, A. Timokhin writes that the relegation of the fleet, following the results of the events under consideration, from the type of the Armed Forces, which is fundamentally intended for solving strategic tasks, to the operational-tactical level, was a gross mistake.
Our opinion is exactly the opposite. If this decision was carried out consistently and steadily, the country's interests would only benefit from this. But, unfortunately, it happened differently.
However, this is a completely separate topic, which I will definitely touch upon in the future.