The Cuban Missile Crisis

Revision cards for OCR GCSE Modern World History Paper 1 and the topic 'who won the cuban missile crisis?'.


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  • Created by: Lucy Carr
  • Created on: 06-06-12 13:39

How did the crisis begin?

In  1959, Fidel Castro led a Cuban revolution which resulted in the dictator Batista being overthrown. Castro was communist.

This infuriated the USA because:

  • Castro was communist, this went against the USA's containment policy. The location of Cuba was especially important, it was only 90 miles away from USA, communism was getting closer.
  • Castro took over many US businesses and their land.
  • Castro formed links with the USSR, the 'leaders' of communism and strong rivals of the USA.
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The Bay of Pigs invasion


President Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba. When Kennedy took over, this continued.

Then, Kennedy supplied weapons to 1500 Cuban exiles and transport to Cuba, with the aim of overthrowing Castro.

However, they were met by 20,000 troops with USSR weapons. It was humilating for the USA.

The results were:

  • Kennedy looked weak.
  • Castro's power was strengthened
  • The Cuban exiles were angry with Kennedy for failing to complete the mission.
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Why did Krushchev out missiles in Cuba?

  • he wanted to close the 'missile gap' between the USA and USSR.
  • to restore the missile balance-the USA had missiles in Turkey, right next door to Russia.
  • missiles would strengthen Krushchev's bargaining position against the USA.
  • he was keen to defend Castro as Cuba was the only communist country in the west.
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What should Kennedy do?

14th October 1962: A US spy plane photographed the construction of missile sites in Cuba AFTER the Soviets told Kennedy they had no intention of doing just that.

Kennedy had to do something, but what were his options?

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Option 1.

Do Nothing


  • The USA shouldn't overreact to the missiles in Cuba as it could lead to full scale nuclear war.


  • To do nothing would make the USA seem weak.
  • The USSR could take advantage of this weakness and feel they could do things elsewhere, e.g. West Berlin.
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Option 2

Surgical Air Strike


  • It would solve the problem of the missiles as they'd all be destroyed.


  • It wasn't guaranteed that they'd be destroyed.
  • It would be seen as aggressive by other countries because Cuba is such a small country.
  • A retaliation from the USSR was very likely as their soldiers would inevitably be killed, so a nuclear war could develop.
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Option 3.



  • It would remove the missiles from Cuba
  • It would remove Castro from power.


  • The Soviet's would immediately respond, West Berlin could be threatened and there could be nuclear war.
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Option 4.

Dimplomatic Pressure


  • It could force the USSR to remove the missiles from Cuba.


  • It was unlikely to work.
  • It could cause more tension between other countries and the USSR.
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Option 5



  • It would show the USA as firm but without the aggression that a invasion would bring.
  • Krushchev could consider his next move while the blockade was in place.


  • It wouldn't remove the missiles already in Cuba.
  • The blockade could be slow in producing results.
  • The USSR could take action elsewhere in the world, e.g. West Berlin.
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