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The purpose of this investigation is to answer the question to what extent was Fidel Castros role in Cuba more significant than Khrushchevs role in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The main body of evidence will investigate how Fidel Castro and Nikita S. Khrushchev were involved with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Evidence will include scholarly journals, articles, books, and documentaries. Documents will be analyzed in regards to their origins, purpose, value, and limitations in order to properly evaluate evidence. The book, Khrushchev Remembers written by Nikita Khrushchev and Lessons’ of the Cuban Missile Crisis for Warsaw Pact Nuclear Operations written by Mark Kramer have been evaluated and will be used for the evidence to formulate an analysis. An analysis of these documents, as well as the summary of evidence will be used to determine Fidel Castro’s significance in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
B. Summary of Evidence
In early 1962, an American invasion was planned to overthrow Castro’s dictatorship in Cuba. It was beneath these conditions when Cubans learned that the Soviet Union was very much concerned about a direct assault of Cuba by the United States and that they tried to figure out how to increase their country’s capability to defend against an assault (Zubok 9). Soviet Leader Khrushchev imagined a plan of protecting Cuban independence by installing missiles with nuclear weapons in Cuba without the United States noticing or able to discover until it was too late to do anything about it. Castro accepted Khrushchev’s proposal. After hearing that Castro approved the Soviet Leader’s proposal the Soviet Union began installing nuclear weapons (Allyn 3). Before the Cuban Missile Crisis between the United States and Cuba, Castro and American relationships were tense because of the Bay of Pigs in 1961 (Khrushchev 29).
The President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, called for a naval line of defense from Cuba and used diplomatic negotiations with the Soviet Leader Khrushchev to come to a settlement in the removal of the weapons. Numerous events took place during the negotiations that influenced the increased tensions and appeared to bring the world even closer to a nuclear catastrophe (Brenner 6). One of the numerous incidents was that the United States believed that Castro was the one who ordered Cuban artillery to fire at the U.S. planes on the morning of 27 October, 1962 (Hershberg 7). Even though Castro may have ordered Cuban artillery to fire, there was no evidence that he prepared Soviet artillery to fire (Fursenko 42). In addition, an incident that took place and influenced the increased tension between the countries was Castro’s letter to Soviet Leader Khrushchev which suggested that the Soviet Union should launch a first-strike nuclear attack on the United States (Kramer 126). Castro was pushed into an alliance with communist Soviet Union which left Castro suspicious of American designs in Cuba (Burr 7). The Cuban Missile Crisis came to an end on 28 October 1962 when both the President of the United States and the Soviet Leader came to a settlement which was the Soviet Union removing their weapons from Cuba while being watched by the United States and the United States removing their naval line of defense and promising that they would not overrun Cuba. Soviet Leader Khrushchev’s announced a new order on the radio which was to take apart the weapons that they created (Welch 234). Castro would not contribute in the negotiations which left the situation to be resolved between the United States and the Soviet Union. Soviet Leader Khrushchev’s announcement on the radio to take apart the weapons not stunned and humiliated Castro for not taking part in the negotiations (Garthoff 51). Although Soviet Leader Khrushchev was in charge during the time period of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Castro was still very much involved with the deployment of nuclear weapons and the shooting of the renaissance plane. Castro’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis was pretty significant in the Cuban Missile Crisis; however, because he did not participate in the negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union his role in the Cuban Missile Crisis was not as important as mine (Khrushchev 101-102).
C. Evaluation of Sources
Lessons’ of the Cuban Missile Crisis for Warsaw Pact Nuclear Operations by Mark Kramer, a researcher from the Davis Center for Russian Studies, also known as The Russian Research Center at Harvard University, presents a detailed and comprehensive account of the origins of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The book goes into detail about how Fidel Castro visualizes Cuba’s troubles and what he hopes to do about it derived from this account of a unique conference held in Havana in 1992. The purpose of this source is to convey what Cuba was going through during the Cuban Missile Crisis and what Cuba has learned from this situation that took place. The value of this source is that this helps answer the question to what extent was the significance of Fidel Castro’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 because this sources helps aid the comprehension on Castro’s influence on Cuba. This source is also valuable because it is written by a researcher that has studied the Cuban Missile Crisis for several years and a multitude of information on the topic. A limitation of this source is that it does not address why Castro allowed the Soviet to install missiles. Another limitation is because this source is written in the Soviet Leader’s perspective, the role of Fidel Castro in the Cuban Missile Crisis not emphasized.
Khrushchev Remembers written by Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Leader during the time period of the Cuban Missile Crisis provides an elaborate and inclusive description of the origins of Soviet Leader Khrushchev’s experiences during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It goes into elaborate detail about his memories on the Cuban Missile Crisis and his recollections strengthen the impression of gratitude for small things won or not lost. The purpose of this source is to depict what the Soviet Leader of Cuba remembered during the Cuban Missile Crisis period. The value of this source is that this helps answer the question to what extent was Fidel Castro’s role in Cuba significant in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 because of the source going into detail about Castro presence during the Cuban Missile Crisis. This source is also valuable because this is told in the point of view of the man who was in charge of the Soviet Union during the crisis. A limitation of this source is that it does not help address why Castro made the trade agreement with Russia. Another limitation is that due to the recently discovered facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis, all facts pertaining to the Cuban Missile Crisis may not be given.
Fidel Castro’s importance in the Cuban Missile Crisis was to damage the reputation of Americans and its inference with internal issues because Cuba was concerned about the failed Bay of Pigs humiliation that they faced (Zubok 9). There was a planned invasion that to overthrow Castro’s dictatorship in Cuba and the United States was willing to help (Allyn 3). In addition, Soviet Leader Khrushchev installed missiles with nuclear warhead without the consent of the United States. Castro allowed the Soviets to install missiles so close to the United States which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war because the United States found out and retaliated (Khrushchev 29). Castro was able to install such weapons because Castro made a trade agreement with Russia where Cuba sent sugar to Russia in return for oil, machines and money (Brenner 6).
Castro’s role was significant because he allowed Soviet Leader Khrushchev to follow through with the plans he created and because he made a trade agreement with Russia to be able to produce weapons of mass destruction. However, sources have stated that Cuba sent missiles out because of the strategic inequality between the United States and the Soviet Union. Cuba wanted to balance power; therefore, they felt they needed to build nuclear weapons (Hershberg 7).
Castro ordered the anti-aircraft officers to gun down the United States reconnaissance plane (Fursenko 42). This demonstrates Castro’s significance in the Cuban Missile Crisis because he ordered that the plane was shot down and it was which conveys his significance because it was Castro’s decision that got the plane shot down (Kramer 126). In addition, Castro recommended that the Soviets launched a nuclear attack on the United States. This was Castro’s greatest significance in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Castro’s willingness to use violent behavior persuaded Soviet Leader Khrushchev the importance of preserving world peace (Burr 7). The United States stopped trading with Cuba due to the renaissance being shot down and Cuba nationalized all American-owned companies.
Moreover, Castro’s lack of participation in negotiations was another big impact. Because Castro did not participate in the negotiation he was unaware of what was being compromised (Welch 234). For instance, when Soviet Leader Khrushchev removed all the weapons from Cuba, Castro was unaware of the Soviet Leader making that decision (Garthoff 51). Because the Cuban Missile Crisis was between the United States and the Soviet Union, it should have been classified as the Cuban American relation. Soviet Leader Khrushchev states that Castro was solely responsible for the shooting of the renaissance plane (Khrushchev 101). Also, he stated that Castro encouraged the Soviet Union to launch a preemptive strike against the United States. This demonstrates that Castro was a massive impact on the Cuban Missile Crisis because Soviet Leader Khrushchev confessed and states that Castro was fully responsible for the shooting of the plane and launching the strike against the United States. This also depicts that Castro ignited the Cuban Missile Crisis because when the plane was shot down the United States wanted to retaliate immediately and now knowing that Castro was responsible for the plane being shot down we know that he ignited the flame under the United States.
It is possible to say that Fidel Castro had a huge impact on the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Because Castro was responsible for the shooting of the renaissance plane, his role in the Cuban Missile Crisis was greatly significant. This is because when Castro shot down the plane, the United States wanted to strike back immediately; therefore, the tensions between the two countries rose after Castro’s decision. Also Castro encouraged the Soviet Union to launch a preemptive strike against the United States. This was another huge impact because Cuba alarmed the United States and made the United States become fully equipped for a nuclear war. Furthermore, because Castro allowed the Soviets to install missiles so close to the United States people say that he is responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis. Because of Fidel Castro’s actions and decisions, the world was brought to the brink of the nuclear war which demonstrates that Castro did have a significant role in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. However, Castro cannot receive full credit for the Cuban Missile Crisis because the major role belonged to Soviet Leader Khrushchev, who caused the entire occurrence of the crisis and resolved the crisis. Nevertheless, one can say that Castro had a huge impact on the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Although there are many conclusions that could be made about if Fidel Castro had a significant role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, I believe that Fidel Castro had just as much of a significant role as Soviet Leader Khrushchev did because Castro helped make the decisions that were made; therefore, Castro’s role was significant role in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
F. List of Sources
Alexander Fursenko, “Tactical Nuclear Weapons, Soviet Command Authority, and the Cuban Missile Crisis” Cold War International History Project Electronic Bulletin 3
Bruce J. Allyn, “Using KGB Documents: the Scali-Feklisov Channel in the Cuban Missile
Crisis.” Print., 1995
David A. Welch, “The Sino-Indian Conflict, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Sino-Soviet Split,
October 1962: New Evidence from the Russian Archives” Print., 1996
James G. Blight, “Kramer vs. Kramer: Or, How Can You Have Revisionism in the Absence of
Orthodoxy?” Cold War International History Project Electronic Bulletin 3 Print., 1993
James G. Hershberg, “More on Bobby and the Cuban Missile Crisis” Print., 1997
Khrushchev, Nikita S. “Khrushchev Remembers” Ed. and trans. Strobe Talbott. Boston: Little
Kramer, Mark “The ‘Lessons’ of the Cuban Missile Crisis for Warsaw Pact Nuclear Operations”
Philip Brenner, “The Crisis and Cuban-Soviet Relations: Fidel Castro’s
Secret 1968 Speech” Print., 1995
Raymond L. Garthoff, “New Evidence on the Cuban Missile Crisis: Khrushchev, Nuclear
Weapons and the Cuban Missile Crisis” Print., 1998.
Vladislav M. Zubok, “Dismayed by the Actions of the Soviet Union’: Mikoyan’s talks with Fidel
Castro and the Cuban leadership, November 1962,” Print., 1995
William Burr, “Soviet Cold War Military Strategy: Using Declassified History” Print., 1957.
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