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Causes of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Info: 2755 words (11 pages) Essay
Published: 19th Dec 2017 in History

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Cuban Missile Crises


Considered to be one of the most serious conflicts between the U.S and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the Cuban missile crises brought the World a clash of democracy V.S communism with a deadly nuclear outcome. Known to the World as the Cuban Missile crises, to the Russians as the Caribbean Crises and to the Cubans and the October Crises it lasted sixteen days in October. The main characters involved were U.S President John F. Kennedy, Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban President Fidel Castro.

The sixteen days in October 1962 was the closest time that a full out nuclear war was about to take place




Free election

No elections or fixed elections


Autocratic / Dictatorship



‘Survival of the fittest’

Everybody helps everybody

Richest world power

Poor economic base

Personal freedom

Society controlled by the NKVD (secret police)

Freedom of the media

Total censorship

The Cuban missile crises’ origins began at the end of the World War 2. After the war about to end the United States and the USSR started to disagree on the main ideas of how a post war Europe should look like. The American’s main aim of the war was to spread democracy and to spread their company’s economic opportunities into Europe. This was very different to what the USSR wanted, the USSR suffered a lot during the war, and they lost a lot of people and suffered a lot of economic and social problem directly resulting from the war, because of this the USSR main post war thoughts were to protect themselves from other wars that may happen and to spread communism across the globe.  These differences between the two countries were obviously great and were bound to cause tension and problems.

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Origins of Russian-American Tension


The United States and the Soviet Union represented two completely different forms of government. In the United States, the government is chosen by free elections. The people have the right to form political parties so that they can voice their political opinions. They also have the right of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In the Soviet Union, the government is chosen by the Communist Party. The people do not have the right to form their own political parties; they do not enjoy the right freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. Since these two systems of government are completely different to one another, this is bound to cause friction between the United States and the Soviet Union.


The United States wanted to encourage free trade throughout the world. The Soviet Union wanted to close off her itself from international trade. Russia was afraid that trade with the West would open up Russia to western influences which would have ruined the strength of the one-party communist regime. These differences led to much bad feeling between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Power rivalry:

After the Second World War, with the decline of Europe, power was shared between the Soviet Union and the United States. As one superpower wanted to dominate the other, conflicts were to be expected.

Immediate Causes Leading to the Cold War

Early conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States began at the peace-time conferences. Their conflict was intensified after President Truman declared the Truman Doctrine and launched the Marshall Plan in 1947.

Extension of Russian influence in Europe:

Even before the end of the war, the Soviet Union had gradually extended its’ influence in Europe. By the fall of 1944, the Red Army had liberated and controlled a large part of Eastern Europe. By 1945, at the Yalta Conference, the Soviet Union obtained the Curzon Line as its’ new boundary line with Poland and also the control of the eastern zone of Germany.

As the war was ending in May 1945, the Soviet Union quickly consolidated its’ control of Eastern Europe. The Red Army began by influencing the post-war elections. They intimidated the voters and changed the voting lists as they desired.

Although the non-communists could still manage to get some votes, most of the votes went to the communists. As a consequence the coalition governments formed immediately after the war were largely dominated by the communists. Two of the key ministries – Defense and Military (Police) – were always under communist control.

Stalin was not satisfied with communist control of Eastern Europe. In the meantime, he encouraged the communists to take an active part in the immediate post-war elections in Western Europe. In late 1946, the French and Italian Communists were becoming the most powerful parties in France and Italy.

The reactions of the United States:

Despite the increasing Russian influence in eastern and central Europe, many politicians in the United States were optimistic about the chances of co-operation with the Soviet Union after the war and did not support strong resistance against the Russian expansion. But from May 1945 onwards, the situation was changed. The U.S. government preferred a policy of strong resistance against Russia.

Poor relations between the United States and the Soviet Union:

The growing problem and deteriorating relations between the Soviet Union and the United States were reflected in two minor incidents in the year. Land-Lease was abruptly terminated by the United States and the Russian request for American economic aid for the purposes of post-war reconstruction was ignored by the government of the United States.

NATO vs. the Warsaw Pact

April 4th 1949 NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was formed by the United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and the United Kingdom. NATO was set up to counter the military power of the USSR. In direct response to this, the USSR set up the Warsaw Pact consisting of Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Germany, and the USSR.

Dark Blue: Founding members of the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO)

Light Blue: Countries that joined NATO after 1949

Dark Red: Founding members of the Warsaw Pact

Light Red: Countries that joined the Warsaw Pact after 1955

Bay of Pigs

The Bay of Pigs was an unsuccessful attempt by US-aided Cuban exiles to launch an attack on Cuba to overthrow Fidel Castro. The invading forces were defeated in just two days. 2506 Cuban exile invaders were killed and most of the rest captured (later traded for 58millions dollars in food and medicine aid) and approximately 4000 Cuban military men and civilians died. This deepened Cuban and American tensions, which was made worse by the Cuban Missile Crises, whose aftermath is still seen to present day.

Cuban Missile Crises

By 1960 the United States had a considerable nuclear advantage over the USSR, both in terms of nuclear arsenal and proximity to the USSR. The United States had 27,297 nuclear missiles compared to 3,332 for the USSR. In 1961 the United States, as a means of deterrence, placed long range ballistic nuclear missiles in Turkey, meaning that Moscow was 16 minutes away from a strike. This deeply angered the Soviet regime and they responded by placing Missiles in Cuba who had recently become an ally under President Fidel Castro.

The fear that Cuba had the America might try to invade again led to negotiations between Khrushchev and Castro. In April 1962 Castro agreed to the supply surface to air missiles and surface to surface missiles to Cuba for defensive purposes. By May 1962 under Soviet control and supervision nuclear missiles were beginning to be installed in Cuba. These were transported by more than 60 Soviet ships. As named by the Soviet Union, operation Anadyr was kept tightly guarded. The USSR sent bomber plans, troops to aid in the construction and to provide expertise in the installation and use of the weapons.

In all were planned to deploy 60,000 troops, three R-12 missile regiments and two R-14 missile regiments. Troops were transferred by 86 ships, Between June 17 and October 22 there were transferred 24 launching pads, 42 R-12 rockets, including six training ones, some 45 nuclear warheads, 42 Il-28 bombers, a fighter aircraft regiment (40 Mig-21 aircraft), two Anti-Air Defense divisions, three mechanized infantry regiments, and other military units – some 47,000 troops in total.

During this period after various leaks of information, the Soviets denied any missiles being placed in Cuba and told the Americans’ that they did not want to enter into any confrontation and raise tensions. American distrust of the Russians was soon confirmed. In late August an American reconnaissance plane photographed a number of installations on Cuban soil. Even with the proof President Kennedy was still convinced that these were built for defensive purposes on the part of the Cubans’ fearing an invasion of Cuba again by the Americans. After meeting the Soviet Ambassador, President Kennedy voiced his concerns over the installations and was constantly told not to worry, that there was no offensive missiles in Cuba and that the military buildup was insignificant.

After more reconnaissance flights, using U2 manned planes, the United States was able to confirm the location and amount of nuclear missiles, this lead to confusion in the United States Government.

After President Kennedy saw the photographs he brought together most of his key advisors to come up with a plan on how to deal with the threat. America intelligence stood by its convictions that the USSR would not install nuclear missiles in Cuba. The advisors quickly came up with a five different courses of action to be taken as a response to the threat.

  1. Do nothing
  2. Use diplomatic pressure to get the Soviet Union to remove the missiles
  3. An air attack on the missiles
  4. A full military invasion
  5. Naval blockade of Cuba

After much careful discussions and the fear of Russian revenge if Cuba was attacked, the decisions was made to blockage the Cuban sea and stop all shipments coming into the area. The main aim was to check all ships coming into Cuba to see their cargo and examine any missiles or offensive weapons that were coming into the country. Most South American countries assisted in this blockade.

At 7 p.m. October 22, President Kennedy delivered a televised radio address announcing the discovery of the missiles.

Premier Khrushchev sent a message to President Kennedy saying that he considered the blockade and ‘pirate action’ against the ships as a provocative move that would eventually lead to war, he ordered the ships to ignore the American blockade.

To this President Kennedy responded by saying that the United States was forced into this action after being repeatedly assured that there was no offensive missiles which provided to be a lie

The next morning, Kennedy informed the executive committee that he believed only an invasion would remove the missiles from Cuba. However, he was persuaded to give the matter time and continue with both military and diplomatic pressure. He agreed and ordered the low-level flights over the island to be increased from two per day to once every two hours. He also ordered a crash program to institute a new civil government in Cuba if an invasion went ahead.

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At this point the crisis was apparently at a stalemate. The USSR had shown no indication that they would back down and had made several comments to the contrary. The U.S. had no reason to believe otherwise and was in the early stages of preparing for an invasion, along with a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union in case they responded militarily, which is what they assumed.

As the crises continued secret negotiations were taking place constantly between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Soviets wanted the United States to remove its Jupiter missiles from its bases in Turkey as it claimed they pose as much of a threat as their missiles in Cuba. On the other hand the Americans wanted to Russians to remove all missiles and installation that they had placed in Cuba and America would guarantee that it will not invade or offer assistance to anyone who wanted to invade Cuba; it would lift the sea blockage and consider removing the missiles from Turkey.

On October 27th 1962, a Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance plane that was flown by Major Rudolf Anderson left Florida to Cuba to take surveillance pictures of the military buildup, and at approximately 12pm, Major Andersons’ plane was shot down by Russian anti-aircraft missiles, he was instantly killed and was the only casualty from enemy fire during the conflict.

This infuriated the Americans, who demanded that the Russians cease all their operations in Cuba and halt any fire; they viewed this as a start of war and took the gesture as an escalation in the violence. Although the commander, who fired, did so by himself, the Soviets were afraid that the Americans would view this as an escalation of war. All Soviet troops were quickly ordered to cease firing on American plane.

After the Americans saw no change in the Soviet stance, and the Americans started to prepare for war, they came up with targets to be attacked by air, troops were readied, and plans were made for Cuba including a post-war government, the plans also involved a nuclear strike on Russia in case it got involved. America informed its NATO allies to be ready for an American response and to ready themselves in case the USSR responds in Europe.

Ending the Crisis

After much consideration between the Soviet Union and Kennedy’s cabinet, Kennedy agreed to remove all missiles set in Turkey on the border of the Soviet Union in exchange for Khrushchev removing all missiles in Cuba.

Premier Khrushchev announced that they were dismantling the missiles in Cuba, while the Americans declared that they would not support or invade Cuba, however they did not mention removal of their Jupiter missiles from Turkey. Because the withdrawals from Turkey were not made public at the time, Khrushchev appeared to have lost the conflict and become weakened. The view was that Kennedy had won the contest between the superpowers and Khrushchev had been humiliated.















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