Cuba Section B

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  • Created on: 03-06-15 19:56

Castro in Power and Cuba’s relations with the USA

  • Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean was situated only 90 miles from Florida in southern USA. Americans owned most of the businesses, banks, sugar and tobacco plantations, as well as a large naval base. The USA regarded the American continent as its sphere of influence and would not tolerate outside influence. In the context of the Cold War the USA would not tolerate a communist government in power
  • The overthrow of the pro-American dictator General Batista in 1959 led to a deterioration in US relations with Cuba. The new leader, Fidel Castro, nationalised industries and banks and introduced land reforms. This hurt US banking and business interests.
  • In 1960 the USA ended an agreement to buy Cuba’s sugar exports, and in 1961 the USA broke off diplomatic relations and cut off all trade links with Cuba. Cuba was economically dependent on the USA so Castro turned to the USSR for trade. Cuba signed trade agreements with the USSR and most countries in the Soviet Bloc. By 1962 over 80% of Cuba’s trade was with the USSR. Cuba exported sugar, fruit and tobacco and imported oil and machinery
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Castro in Power and Cuba’s relations with the USA

Castro announced that he had become a communist. In January 1961, John F Kennedy became US President. Shortly after he took over, the CIA informed him that they were planning an invasion of Cuba. Kennedy approved the invasion, but it went totally wrong. The invaders had hugely overestimated the amount of support that they would receive from Cubans. The invasion – known as the Bay of Pigs disaster after the bay in Cuba on which the invaders landed – made Kennedy look inexperienced and turned Castro into a hero.

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Castro in power and Cuba’s relations with the USSR

  • After the USA cut diplomatic relations with Cuba, Castro moved closer to the USSR. In May 1962 the USSR agreed to supply Castro with weapons to protect Cuba from future US invasion. Thousands of guns, patrol boats, tanks and jet fighters made the Cuban army the best equipped in Latin America.
  • 42,000 Russian soldiers were also sent to Cuba by 1962 the USSR was increasingly concerned at the “missile gap” resulting from the USA’s superiority in long-range nuclear missiles. Khrushchev, the Russian leader, was also concerned about American/NATO missiles in Turkey close to the USSR. Russian influence in Cuba offered Khrushchev an opportunity to balance this threat. The USSR sent technicians to secretly build silos, missile erectors and install 43 short and medium range nuclear weapons by September 1962. The USA was unaware of these developments. Now most of the USA was in range of Russian nuclear missiles. The USSR believed that this would restore balance in the nuclear arms race
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The Thirteen Days, October 1962

On 22 October, Kennedy decided on a naval blockade of Cuba. On the same day, he revealed the unfolding crisis in a television broadcast. The remainder of the crisis played out as follows:

24 October Beginning of the US naval blockade. US planes began to fly missions over Cuba. Upon reaching the naval blockade, the Russian ships were either stopped or turned away. Evidence from U2 spy planes suggested that the missile sites were nearing completion.

26 October On the same day that tensions were increased with the shooting down of a U2 spy plane, Kennedy received a telegram from Khrushchev, which stated that Russia would remove the missiles if America agreed to end the blockade and undertook not to invade Cuba.

27 October A second telegram arrived from Khrushchev. This stated that Russia would only remove its missiles from Cuba if America removed its missiles from Turkey. Against a background of advisers recommending an air strike, Kennedy decided to ignore Khrushchev’s second letter and send a reply to the first one. In this, he agreed to remove the blockade and not invade the island in return for the removal of Russian missiles. He added that if he did not receive a reply by 29 October, an invasion of Cuba would begin.

28 October Khrushchev agreed to Kennedy’s offer and the removal of the missiles began.

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Effects of the Cuban Missile Crisis

  • Kennedy’s reputation was enhanced as he had shown firmness in standing up to Khrushchev. The Russian ships returned home and the Russian missiles in Cuba were removed. Kennedy played down any show of triumph and praised Khrushchev’s willingness to compromise.
  • Khrushchev was criticised in the USSR for losing face in this game of brinkmanship. He was removed from office in 1964. Khrushchev, however, viewed his actions during the Cuban Missile Crisis as a success. The USA agreed that Castro remain communist leader of Cuba and the security of Cuba was recognised. The removal of US missiles from Turkey in April 1963 was viewed by Khrushchev as a victory
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Effects of the Cuban Missile Crisis

  • The USA and the USSR realised how close they had come to a nuclear war and the Cuban Missile Crisis helped promote peaceful coexistence. A direct phone link or “hot line” between the two leaders of the USA and the USSR was set up in 1963
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis showed the need for nuclear arms control and led to the first attempt to slow the nuclear arms race. In 1963 the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty stopped atmospheric and underground testing of nuclear weapons. In 1969 the USA and the USSR signed the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons which paved the way for a period of détente between the superpowers in the 1970s.
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