The Cuban Missile Crisis

  • Created by: Newcombey
  • Created on: 03-01-22 09:13

The Arms Race

The USA was the clear winners of the Arms Race in the 40s & 50s - it had an early lead and dropped the first atomic bombs on Hiroshima an Nagasaki in 1945. By 1949, the USSR were also producing atmoic bombs.

The Arms Race to develop and stockpile nuclear weapons became a key part of the Cold War, because if either side attacked, the government expected nuclear weapons would be used. Both sides mistrusted each other enough to fear they might used them.

Both sides produced 'statistics' of how many weapons they were producing, but probably only to scare the other side. 


  • The USA's main concern was the rate at which the USSR produced bombs and their size. The Tsar Bomba, that produced an 8km fireball, was detonated in 1961, was the most powerful bomb ever
  • The SU's concern was that US missiles were much closer to them than their were to the US. They had bases in Turkey by 1961 and has B2 bombers capable of dropping nuclear weapons on SU. Soviet missiles had to travel further so couldnt be aimed accurately 
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Sputnik 1

In 1957 the USSR launch the world's first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1. 

By 1960 they had put a robotic spacecraft on the moon.

These events demonstrated the sophistication of Soviet Technology, pushed the arms race further, and many americans believed the rockets used to launch satellites into space could be used to launch missiles at the USA.

Krushchev claimed the USSR was 'producing missiles like we are producing sausages', this however was an empty boast, the USSR weren't wealthy enough to mass produce missiles.

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Cuba Revolution

Cuba had traditionally been an American Ally, only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, and much of the land in Cuba was owned by American businesses. The previous leader, Batista, was corrupt and unpopular, but was pro-american and anti-communist, so the USA supported him.

The revolution of 1959 over threw the pro-american government an set up a new regime led by Fidel Castro. Castro was popular, he took land owned by wealthy americans and gave it to the cuban people.

In reaction to this, America banned the import of cuban sugar, their main source of money and so threatened to bankrupt the economy. So Cuba asked the USSR for help.

Krushchev was delighted to have an ally so deep in the americn sphere of influence, so agreed to give Cuba economic aid.

This lead to the Bay of Pigs incident. 

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Bay of Pigs Inncodent

By the time Kennedy came into power, the American government had tried, and failed, to assasinate Castro multiple times. 

The USA did not want a communist government with ties to the USSR on their doorstep.

So, the CIA convinced Kennedy to lauch an invasion to put Batista back in power. They suplied arms, training and equiptment to 1,400 anti-castro cuban exiles.

They invaded at the Bay of Pigs on April 17th 1961, however Cuba knew about the attack and most Cubans didnt want Batista back, and the attack failed.

Effects: The incident destroyed any chance of negotiations and castro declared himself a communist and began talks with the USSR to provide military protection.

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Missile Bases

Despite his victory, Castro felt vuneralbe and asked the USSR for help. They placed missile bases on Cuba claiming it would deter the USA from another attack. 

It solved the USSR's problems and Cubas, as it placed missiles within striking distance of the USA, which balanced out the USA's missiles in Turkey, and meant the USSR didnt have to spend loads of money developing inter-continental ballistic missiles. 

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A Time Line

A period in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis where the threat of nuclear war seemed most real. October

16th - Kennedy is informed of Krush's plan to place n m on Cuba

20th - K decides to put a naval blockade around Cuba

22nd - K officially declares the blockade and calls in Krush to recall his ships

23rd - Krush send K a letter saying he will break through the blockade

24th - Ships approach the blockade. At 10:32 they either stop or turn around

25th - Highest level of alert. Both sides prep for war. K asks Kr to remove missiles from Cuba

26th - Kr says he will remove them if the USA garantees never to invade Cuba

27th - USSR hears US plan invade. Offers remove if remove from Turkey. RK says secret

28th - Kr accepts the secret deal

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Hawks and Doves

During the crisis, Kennedy's advisors were split into two groups: Hawks and Doves.

Hawks wanted aggressive policy, for example, some american generals thought Kennedy should go to war because, as things stood, he had a good chance of winning.

Doves on the other hand, advised caution, recommending diplomatic strategies, as they thought this to be the best way of achieving peace

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Immediate Consequences

  • As the removal of missiles from Turkey remained secret, there was a reduction in Krushchev's authority, as it had appeared that he had backed down
  • The Crisis highlighted the fragilities of the relationship so the countries introduced:
    • The hotline in June 1963, to serve as a direct link between the leaders
    • Limited Test Ban Treaty - August 1963 -> which stated weapons could only be tesyted under ground
  • Kennedy's popularity increased as it appeared he stood up to Krushchev
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Long Term Consequences

  • SU were determined not to be pushed around again so they continued the Arms Race until they were equal in terms of nuclear capability in 1965. This created stability
  • Both leaders realised nuclear war would destroy both countries, so the MAD doctrine gave each a reason to aviod war
  • In 1966 France left NATO as it didnt want to bedrawn into nuclear war
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The Cold War is a title given to the period of tension between the two superpowers, the United States of America (USA) and the Soviet Union (USSR). The conflict grew initially from ideological differences due to the fact that the Soviet Union was a communist country whose government and economic system was at odds with that of capitalist democratic America.

Despite their differences, the USA and USSR were able to join together in an uneasy wartime alliance against Nazi Germany during World War Two. However, once the war was won, this wartime alliance began to fall apart and the ideological differences between the two developed into outright hostility.

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