cuban missile crisis

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Cuban missile crisis- Causes

  • During his presidential campaign, Kennedy had repeatedly spoken of a missile gap between the U.S. and Soviet Union. Despite being briefed by the Pentagon that the U.S. had more missiles than the Soviets, Kennedy maintained his claim that the U.S. had less. 
  • After the 1960 election, Khruschev began to test the new president. In the summer of 1961 Khrushchev applied pressure to Berlin and eventually built a wall surrounding West Berlin. In response, the Kennedy Administration felt it necessary to reveal to Khrushchev that there was in fact no missile gap.
  •  Khrushchev had always known the U.S. had more missiles but now he knew that the Americans knew. Khrushchev also knew that Soviet missiles were only powerful enough to be launched against Europe but U.S. missiles were capable of striking the entire Soviet Union.
  •  Khrushchev felt like a man boxed in by enemies. He cited the U.S. missiles in Turkey just 150 miles from the U.S.S.R. Cuba was only 90 miles off the coast of Florida. 
  • Khrushchev feared a first-strike by the U.S. If the Soviet Union lost the arms race so badly, he worried, it would invite a first-strike nuclear attack from the U.S. Consequently, Khrushchev began looking for a way to counter the United State's lead.
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Cuban missile crisis- Causes (2)

  • The second of the two major causes was Cuba's fear of invasion from the U.S. Since he had come to power in 1959, Fidel Castro was aware of several U.S. attempts to oust him.
  • The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful attempt by United States-backed Cuban exiles to overthrow the government of the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Increasing friction between the U.S. government and Castro's leftist regime led President Dwight D. Eisenhower to break off diplomatic relations with Cuba in January 1961. Even before that, however, the Central Intelligence Agency had been training anti-revolutionary Cuban exiles for a possible invasion of the island. The invasion plan was approved by Eisenhower's successor, John F.Kennedy.
  • On April 17, 1961 about 1300 exiles, armed with U.S. weapons, landed at the Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) on the southern coast of Cuba. Hoping to find support from the local population, they intended to cross the island to Havana. It was evident from the first hours of fighting, however, that the exiles were likely to lose. President Kennedy had the option of using the U.S. Air Force against the Cubans but decided against it. Consequently, the invasion was stopped by Castro's army. By the time the fighting ended on April 19,   90 exiles had been killed and the rest had been taken as prisoners.
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Cuban missile crisis- Causes (3)

  • The failure of the invasion seriously embarrassed the young Kennedy administration. Some critics blamed Kennedy for not giving it adequate support and others for allowing it to take place at all. The captured exiles were later ransomed by private groups in the U.S.
  • Additionally, the invasion made Castro wary of the U.S. He was convinced that the Americans would try to take over the island again. From the Bay of Pigs on, Castro had an increased fear of a U.S. incursion on Cuban soil.
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Cuban missile crisis - Events

  • U2 spy-plane takes pictures of Missile bases in Cuba - experts tell Kennedy he has 10 days before they are operational.  
  • 16 Oct: Kennedy set up a Committee of the National Security Council to advise him.
  • 22 Oct:      Kennedy announced that he was mounting a naval blockade of Cuba.  B52 nuclear bombers were deployed, so that one-eighth of them were airborne all the time.   That night, Oleg Penkovsky – a Western spy working in Russia – was arrested.   His last message read; ‘Soviet attack imminent’.
  • 23 Oct:      Khrushchev explained that the missile sites were ‘solely to defend Cuba against the attack of an aggressor’.   20 Russian ships were heading for Cuba.
  • 24 Oct:     Khrushchev accused America of piracy.   He warned that Russia would get ready ‘a fitting reply to the aggressor’.  
  • 25 Oct:     The first Russian ship reached the naval blockade.   It was an oil ship and was allowed through.   All the other Russian ships (carrying missiles) turned back.   Secretly, the US government offered to remove US missiles in Turkey in exchange for those in Cuba.
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Cuban missile crisis - Events (2)

  • 26 Oct: Russia was still building the missile bases, and Kennedy started planning a military attack on Cuba - until, at 6pm, Khrushchev sent a telegram to Kennedy, offering to dismantle the sites if Kennedy would lift the blockade and agree not to invade Cuba -the Americans comment: ‘the other fellow just blinked’.   The Kennedy brothers saw the Russian ambassador, and again mentioned removing the missiles in Turkey.
  • 27 Oct:     Before Kennedy could reply, Khrushchev sent another letter demanding that Kennedy also dismantle American missile bases in Turkey.   On the same day, a U2 plane was shot down over Cuba.  
  • It looked as if war was about to happen.
  • Kennedy ignored the plane incident.   He also ignored Khrushchev’s second letter – he wrote simply that would lift the blockade and agree not to invade Cuba if Khrushchev would dismantle the missile bases.    He also offered secretly to dismantle the Turkish missile bases.
  • 28 Oct: Khrushchev agreed.   The crisis finished.
  • 20 Nov: Russian bombers left Cuba, and Kennedy lifted the naval blockade.
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