Khrushchev's motivation for the Cuban Missile Crisis

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  • Created on: 02-03-14 21:39
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Aliyah Holder 10/12/13
History Cover work:
1) Khrushchev Motivation Card Report
There are various reasons for Khrushchev's deployment of nuclear weapons onto the Island of Cuba
and the resulting crisis in October 1962, the first being his genuine fear over losing Cuba as an Ally. In
his memoirs, 1968, Khrushchev wrote about his preoccupation with staying in control and how his
thoughts led to him thinking "what will happen if we lose Cuba". His fear of losing Cuba was, from a
revisionist viewpoint, because as his new ally and foothold into the Americas, Khrushchev wanted to
defend their ally against various US military aggressions, i.e. Bay of Pigs, and the overwhelming
hostility face by Cuba from the American government. In addition, it could also be argued that Cuba
was an important ally to the Soviet Union because of the degeneration of the Sino-Soviet Pact and
the wane in Russia's relationship with China as they competed to be the leaders of international
communism. This loss of relationship was particularly important in Khrushchev's deployment of
missiles on Cuba as a way of ensuring an ally through helping with their nuclear arms as Castro
became tied to a Soviet- Cuban alliance more firmly. Whilst also neutralising Chinese anti-Soviet
Alternatively, traditionalist historian, J.L Gaddis believed that "Khrushchev intended his
missile deployment chiefly as an effort to spread revolution throughout Latin America". This
highlights a smart political move made by Khrushchev to threaten the Americans overtly and
challenge them both militarily and ideologically as they had done since 1945. The position of the two
superpowers in the arms/ pace race was also crucial in explaining Khrushchev's motivation behind
placing missiles on Cuba as was a stark `missile gap' that the US were winning despite soviet
attempts in the arms race this demonstrated the dominance of the US in terms of strength of nuclear
development and testing. This spurred Khrushchev to make the unorthodox decision to deploy
missiles less than 2000 miles away from American soil, as an attempt to gain the upper hand on the
nuclear warfare. However, Revisionists argue this was instead to redress the missile imbalance
between the Soviets and Americans.
Furthermore, it has also been argued that Khrushchev wanted to give the US a taste of their
own medicine after they had placed missiles facing the Soviet Union from bases in Turkey, Italy and
so on. Thus highlighting from a revisionist interpretation that the Cuban Missile Crisis was a bargaining
tool used against US missiles in Turkey to try and defend both the spread of communism in Latin
America and reaffirm the power of the Soviet Union. The Berlin Wall Crisis of 1961 also played a key

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Aliyah Holder 10/12/13
part in the deployment of Cuban missiles as post-revisionists argue Khrushchev needed a success
after facing the humiliation of the crisis where the inexperienced Kennedy had overcome soviet
pressures much to the surprise and anger of Khrushchev. Khrushchev was also well aware of the
effect of McCarthyism in the America in the early 1950s; an alternative opinion is that Khrushchev
may have placed the missiles on Cuba to throw the US into disarray.…read more

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Aliyah Holder 10/12/13
"He failed to see that by attempting to sneak missiles to Cuba, others would conclude that
his intentions were offensive and aggressive, rather than largely defensive, or that they were
driven by a sense of need rather than a perception of opportunity.…read more


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