Cuban Missile Crisis Coursework Assignment Essay

1. Describe how relations between the superpowers worsened between 1959 and the summer of 1962.

The relationship between America and Russia worsened considerably between 1959 and 1962. It started in 1959 when Fidel Castro took over in Cuba by overthrowing the previous dictator, Fulgencio Bastista. For this Castro was hailed as a hero by both Cubans and Americans.

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One year later he began to nationalize companies, including American ones. This was all part of his revolution. The Americans were not too happy with this so they stopped all trading with Cuba. This is where Russia stepped in; they befriended the island of Cuba both economically and politically.

The American public and government were greatly concerned about the new communist state only a short distance from its southern shores, (see source B). This became a major focus of the newly appointed President John F. Kennedy.

In 1961 the Americans further damaged relations between the U.S and Russia. The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) planned the invasion of Cuba. About 1300 exiled Cubans were trained by the CIA and equipped with US weapons. They were to land at the Bay of Pigs. They were then to head towards Havana in order to overthrow Castro. The CIA thought that many Cubans and some of the Cuban army would join them.

John F. Kennedy, the successor of Dwight D. Eisenhower, allowed the plan to go ahead.

On the 17th of April the ex-Cubans landed on Cuba. After fighting for two days, 100 were dead and the rest arrested by Cuban armed forces.

After the failed invasion the American government and CIA were denounced all over the world. The Russians were especially shocked.

2. Why did a crisis develop in 1962 about Cuba?

In the summer of 1962 the Russians placed some rockets on Cuba to protect it from more attacks and to gain an advantage over the US in the arms race between the US and the USSR. On Tuesday the 16th of October, American scout planes discovered the military bases (see source A). In the evening of the 22nd of October 1962, President Kennedy addressed the American people (see source D). He told them that naval blockade around Cuba would stop all ships heading for Cuba, search for offensive weapons and if they were found the ships would be turned around. At the same time, American forces all around the world were on alert (see source C).

Troops were mobilized, 180 ships were sent to the Caribbean and planes with atomic weapons were ordered into the air, waiting for the call from Washington to bomb Moscow.

Chairman Khrushchev replied in a statement issued by the Soviet government on the 23rd of October 1962 (see source E). In it, he said that Cuba belonged to the Cuban people. He also told the Americans they were playing with fire and the fate of the world. This could have been perceived as a threat by some.

3. Why were the Superpowers able to resolve this crisis without fgoing to war?

On the 26th of October 1962 Khrushchev wrote a letter to President Kennedy (see source F). It stated that the Russians were willing to dismantle all their military bases on Cuba and remove their atomic weapons and in exchange the Americans would end their blockade of the island and agree not to invade again.

This was the turning point in the Cuban missile crisis. When the Americans replied in the positive (source G) it was the end of the crisis, it had been resolved without a single shot being fired.

The two superpowers had managed this through a mix of intense negotiating (sources F-H) and luck. Neither of the leaders were war-mongers and both wanted peace; they saw Cuba as a chance to end the cold war for once and for all.

4. Was the Cuban Missile Crisis a turning point in relations between the Superpowers? Explain your answer.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a massive turning point in the relations of the US and USSR. They had negotiated successfully with each other and had managed to maintain peace. It was this diplomacy that created a basis for future compromise.

Before 1962 the cold war was a series of crises over Berlin, Turkey, Greece, Iran and other hotspot throughout the 1950s. Many of them were only resolved after some saber rattling by one side or the other. After the Cuban crises both the US and the USSR tended to shy away from direct military confrontation.

Another way in which the Cuban missile crises aided in US/USSR relations was in the way it brought about arms control. Before the crises other arm control programs were failures, (The Baruch Plan 1946, Open Skies 1955). In 1963, the US and USSR signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty which banned testing in the “three environments” of water, air and space, this meant the only testing place left was underground. This agreement led to continuing efforts by both sides to limit the arms race

Although both the US and the USSR claimed it was a mighty victory for themselves neither of them lost. In fact, the only loser was Fidel Castro. Although the deal gave him safeguards against any American invasion, Castro was kept in the dark till the end of the negotiations, this made him very angry and he lost a great deal of political leverage.


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