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Since the morning of October 16, 1962, it has been clear that Robert F. Kennedy’s involvement in the Cuban missile crisis was the definitive factor in the prevention of war. In the months precluding October, U.S owned U-2 spy planes discovered that the Soviet Union were building surface-to-air missile launch sites. Suspicion was also raised from reports that there was an increase in the number of Soviet ships arriving in Cuba, which the United States government feared were carrying weapons. President John F. Kennedy and his own Intelligence Department watched on with great alarm, and seemed to tolerate the arms being supplied to Cuba, as long as the Soviet’s did not begin to place nuclear missiles there. On September 11th, 1962, J. Kennedy warned the U.S.S.R that he would prevent ‘by whatever means might be necessary’ Cuba’s becoming of an offensive military base. Robert F. Kennedy became involved when on October 16th, 1962, President John F. Kennedy revealed to him that a U-2 had just finished a photographic mission two days earlier, and had produced evidence that Russia was placing missiles and atomic weapons in Cuba, thus confirming the countries first suspicions. For the next thirteen days, the Cuban missile crisis became R. Kennedy’s life  , as he joined the President’s Executive Committee of the National Security Council, or EXCOMM, to discuss a reasonable but efficient strategy. The members of the EXCOMM discussed, with the help of Robert F. Kennedy, 5 possible courses of action  :
Use diplomatic pressure to get the Soviet Union to remove the missiles.
An air attack on the missiles.
A full military invasion
The naval blockade of Cuba, which was redefined as a more selective quarantine.
For each strategy, pros and cons were discussed between the members, and it was mutually agreed upon that a plan that would avoid conflict, while still showing the U.S.A to be strong and serious about the situation, had to be conceived. The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, General Maxwell. D. Taylor, whom was the military adviser for EXCOMM, disagreed and believed that the full-scale attack and invasion was the only probable solution. However, R. Kennedy was extremely sceptical of this, and it was he who helped develop the strategy to blockade Cuba, as it was, in his own mind, the only option that would avoid nuclear war. It was also important for the United States to redefine the blockade as a selective quarantine, as a blockade is a direct act of war. In reference to the other options available, and especially the air strike, R. Kennedy said:
You’re going to kill an awful lot of people and we are going to take a lot of heat for it â€¦ you’re going to announce the reason that you’re doing it is because they’re sending this kind of missiles, well, I think it’s almost incumbent upon the Russians then to say, ‘Well, we’re going to send them in again, and if you do it again â€¦ we’re going to do the same thing to Turkey or Iran.’
He also believed that attacking Cuba by air would gesture the Soviets to presume a clear line to blockade Berlin, which they had done previously in 1948 after the conclusion of World War II. If the U.S. was to lose Berlin, R. Kennedy believed her allies would lose faith. He feared that doubt would be casted on the superpower, and that many would believe the only reason they lost Berlin was because they could not peacefully resolve the Cuban situation  . On the 24th October, the blockade began, and the first 20 missile-carrying ships that were closest to the 800km blockade zone at the time stopped or turned around, in order to avoid their ships being searched  . It is clear that without the ideas R. Kennedy put forth, an uncivil military strike would have been initiated, and it is for this reason that he is credited with playing the most pivotal role in precluding nuclear war.
With R. Kennedy’s help and support, the U.S.A. had only successfully stopped one problem of the crisis, for they still had to deal with the missiles already in Cuba. After many negotiations, requests, and exit strategies were discussed between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R, a plan of action became apparent to the Soviets. They would agree to dismantle their Cuban missiles in exchange for the U.S. never invading Cuba, and the removal of the U.S. owned Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Italy. R. Kennedy was, at first, against this and was only willing to agree upon the no invasion policy. He believed that this would show a sign of weakness, something that the United States was strongly trying to avoid. However, as no other options became apparent, R. Kennedy suggested their removal after a period of 6 months, as there were already plans to disassemble them. John F. Kennedy suggested his brother be the man to speak with Soviet Ambassador for the United States Anatoly Dobrynin about the crisis, and it was his negations with the Ambassador that played the most essential role in the final circumstances of the predicament.
R. Kennedy’s contact with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin was his second biggest contribution to the Cuban missile crisis. Three times R. Kennedy met with Dobrynin, with each meeting being held in secret so that both sides, the U.S and U.S.S.R, could talk freely. Together, they discussed ideas to work out a solution. This allowed R. Kennedy to successfully convey his brother’s wishes to Dobrynin, which, as stated before, called for the secret removal of all Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Italy. R. Kennedy had to make it clear that if the Soviets were to go public with their agreement, the U.S. would strongly deny it. He stated to Dobrynin that the missiles would be removed ‘within a short time after the crisis was over’, to avoid suspicion from the U.S. citizens. After each meeting, Dobrynin would cable a report through to the Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev, telling his superior of new developments in the crisis, who evidently valued these reports greatly. R. Kennedy, being an influential American official, was capable of accurately informing Dobrynin and the Soviets how urgent the situation was. This direct contact with the Soviets was the key feature in the outcome of the Cuban missile crisis, and portrays how important R. Kennedy’s role was in the crisis.
On October 29th Russian Premier Nikitia Khrushchev wrote a letter to John F. Kennedy stating that:
The Soviet government, in addition to previously issued instructions on the cessation of further work at the building sites for the weapons, has issued a new order on the dismantling of the weapons which you describe as ‘offensive’ and their crating and return to the Soviet Union.
The quarantine continued to watch over Cuba to ensure that all offensive weapons were shipped out, and on November 20th, 1962 at 6:45pm the blockade was formally ended, although it was not till December 5th and 6th that the final Soviet missiles were shipped off. True to his word and the informal agreement, R. Kennedy made sure that all U.S. missiles were disassembled, and by April 24, 1963 the last of the missiles had been defected and were flown out of Turkey shortly after. These final actions show that the work R. Kennedy contributed to the United States throughout the Cuban missile crisis was extremely fundamental in the avoidance of nuclear war.
It can be argued that Robert F. Kennedy’s role was mediocre and that the successful outcome of the Cuban missile crisis should be more broadly shared. He famously passed a note on to the president, which read:
I now know how Tojo felt when he was planning Pearl Harbor.
The argument arises because it is unclear if R. Kennedy was making an ironic comment, ridiculing the members of EXCOMM calling for an air strike, or if he in fact meant it literally. It could have been that in the early stages of the crisis, R. Kennedy was for an invasion of Cuba, and he genuinely felt the same way the Japanese would have. Despite this, further evidence shows that R. Kennedy clearly supported the blockade, and even by simply comparing a U.S. attack on Cuba with the Japanese’s bombing of Pearl Harbor, R. Kennedy was able to discredit the pro-invasion members of EXCOMM.
It would seem that the evidence taken from the secret meetings and initial strategies of the Cuban missile crisis shows how crucial Robert F. Kennedy’s role was in precluding nuclear war. The 1930’s taught a clear lesson for the world; that aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war. The evidence suggests that the Soviets antagonism would have led to nuclear war, and it is therefore accurate in stating that Robert F. Kennedy played the most pivotal role in averting nuclear war, as he was indeed the key voice against the U.S.S.R during the Cuban missile crisis.
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