The Cuban Missile Crisis

How did the USA react to the Cuban Revolution

Why did khrushchev put missiles on Cuba?

Why did Kennedy react as he did?

Who won the Cuban missile crisis?

Background to the Cuban Missile Crisis

    • 1960
    • Cuba was a large island 160km of the coast of Florida.
    • America owned must of the industry in Cuba and had a huge naval base there.
    • In 1959 Fidel CASTRO over through a corrupt dictator called BATISTA in a communist revolution.
    • Castro took over the American run industries and did not provide compensation for their owners.
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The Bay of Pigs

  • The Eisenhower government(which preceded Kennedy) had come up with a plan to over throw Castro. Kennedy decided to go ahead with it.
  • America had trained a force of 1400 anti-Castro Cubans for an invasion of the Island.
  • April 17 1961the Americans landed at the Bay of Pigs. The invasion was poorly planned and carried out. The expected uprising failed to happen. They were met by 20000 Cuban troopsarmed with tanks and modern weapons - which were supplied by Russia.
  • The USA was humiliated and Castro sought closer co-operation with Russia.
  • Th Bay of Pigs taught Kennedy to be cautious of simply accepting advice of military experts.
  • It convinced Khrushchev that he was dealing with a weak and indecisiveleader in Kennedy. Russia began to adapt a more aggressive attitude towards America.
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The Missiles

June 1962 shipments of "defensive" weapons were shipped into Cuba from the soviet union. However U2 spy planes photographed medium range offensive missiles capable of reaching most of the major US cities on 14 October 1962.

Kennedy was faced with 5 options of what to do about these missiles:

  • Do nothing - Against: sign of USA weakness to USSR. For: USA had greater nuclear power than the USSR and could destroy it, therefore the USSR would never use the missiles.
  • Surgical air attack- Against: 1)destruction of all sites was not guaranteed 2) attack would kill Soviet soldiers 3) an attack without advanced warning would seem immoral. For: destroy missiles before they were ready to use.
  • Invasion of Cuba by air and sea- Against: guarantee an equivalent Soviet response either to protect  Cuba or within the Soviet sphere of influence (e.g take over of Berlin). For: would get rid of missiles and Castro and American forces were trained and ready to do it.
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The Missiles continued . . .

  • Blockade (a ban of Soviet Union bringing in any further military supplies to Cuba enforced by US navy to stop and search ships and would call for what is already there to be removed)Against: not solve the main problem as the missiles were still on Cuba and could be used within a week. The Soviet Union could retaliate by blocking Berlin as they did in 1948. For: would show that USA was serious but not a direct act of war. It would put burden on Khrushchev on what to do next. USA had a strong navy and could still take on other options if this did not work.
  • Diplomatic Pressures (to get UN or other body to intervene) - Against: force USA to back down and sign of weakness. For: it would avoid conflict

Saturday 20 October - Kennedy decided to go with the blockade 

Monday 22 October - he made a televised statement declaring that a 500 mile naval blockade was to be put around Cuba and calls on the Soviet Union to withdraw its Missiles.

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What Happended Next?

  • Tuesday 23 October- Kennedy receives a letter from Khrushchev saying that the Soviet Ships will not observe the blockade. Khrushchev does not admit the presence of Nuclear weapons on Cuba.
  • Wednesday 24 October - Blockade Begins. At 10:32am the 20 closest  Soviet ships to the zone turn around or stop.
  • Thursday 25 October- Despite this intensive Ariel footage show that work on the missile bases is still proceeding rapidly.
  • Friday 26 October- Kennedy receives a long personal letter from Khrushchev claiming that the missiles are purely defensive. Khrushchev said he would also remove the missiles if Kennedy promised not to invade Cuba and called off the naval blockade.
  • Saturday 27 October- Khrushchev send a second letter saying He would only remove the Cuban missiles if Kennedy removed his from Turkey. Kennedy cannot accept this.
    • An American U2 plan is shot down over Cuba. The Pilot is killed. The President is advised to send an immediate attack on Cuba but Kennedy delays the attack. He also ignours the second letter and agrees to the term of the first letter and says that if the Soviet Union does not withdraw an attack will follow.
  • Sunday 28 October -  Khrushchev agreed to Kennedy and started removing missiles on the 3rd November from Cuba.
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Why did the Soviet Union place Nuclear Missiles on

The USSR made no attempt to camofloug the sites and even allowed missiles to travel on open deck. This caused a lot of debt about what Khrushchev was really doing. Historians have suggested 5 possible explanations:

  • To Bargin with the USA - If Khrushchev had the missiles on Cuba he could agree to moving them in return for some consessions from the USA.
  • To test the USA - In the strained atmosphere of the Cold War politics the missiles were deisnged to see how strong the USA really was - whether they would face off or back off. It would also test Kennedy.
  • To get the Upper hand in the Arms race - khrushchev was so concerned about the missile gap between te USA and USSR that he siezed the opportunity. With missiles on Cuba it was less likely that the USA would launch a 'first strike' against the USSR.
  • To defend Cuba - the missiles were genuinely meant the defend Cuba.
  • To trap the USA - Khrushchev wanted the USA to find the missiles and be drawn into a nuclear war. He did not even try to hide them.
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Consequences of the Cuban Missile Crisis

  • Cuba stayed communist and highly armed. However the nuclear missiles were with drawn under the UN supervision.
  • Kennedy came out of the crisis with a greatly improved reputation in his own country and throughout the west. He had stood up to Khrushchev and made him back down.
  • Khrushchev was also able to claimpersonal triumph. Cuba remained a useful ally in 'Uncle Sam's backyard'. The fact that he was backed down quickly by Kennedy was quickly forgotten in the USSR. Instead his role of a responsible peacemaker, willing to take the first role towards peace, was highlighted.
  • Historians argue that the Cold War helped to thaw the relations between the leaders of the USSR and USA. Both leader saw how close they came to nuclear war and were more willing to take steps to prevent the outbreak of nuclear war.  A permanent 'hot line' phone link was set up directly between the White House and Kremlin.
  • The following year in 1963 the Nuclear Test Band Treaty was signed. It didn't stop the development of nuclear weapons but  limited tests.
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