Three channels of communication were used during the crisis. One was the public airways. Kennedy used his broadcasts to lock himself into the position that the Soviet missiles must be promptly removed. There were also private diplomatic meetings and communiqués between envoys from each country, though little progress was made through these exchanges until the very end.

Later it was learned that important steps were also taken outside of these channels. Several days after Kennedy’s first announcement, Pope John XXIII sent a message to the Soviets stating, “We beg all governments not to remain deaf to this cry of humanity,” and asking that they do “all in their power to save peace.” With permission of both Khrushchev and Kennedy, the Pope’s plea was made public. The very act of the two governments agreeing to the release of the statement was a tentative but important step towards a constructive dialogue.

Shortly after that, on October 26, television newsman John Scali had a secret lunch with Aleksandr Fomin (who was actually KGB spy Alexander Feklisov). Perhaps on instruction from the Politburo, Fomin said that war seemed imminent. He asked Scali to contact high-level friends in the US State Department to see if there might be interest in a diplomatic settlement. Specifically, he asked whether, if the missiles were removed, and if Fidel Castro publicly announced that he would not accept such weapons in the future, would the United States publicly announce that it would not invade Cuba.

Early that same evening the State Department received a long letter by cable that appeared to be written by Khrushchev himself. It proposed a resolution much like the one that Fomin had floated earlier in the day. Further study was required, yet it appeared as if the stalemate had been broken and that only the details needed to be ironed out. But that didn’t prove to be the case.