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(a) Describe relations between Cuba and the USA in the period 1959-1961.


From 1959-1961, relations between Cuba and the United States of America were pretty tense. Up to 1959, the U.S. government used their influence to advance the interests of and increase the profits of the private American companies, which "dominated Cubas economy. But when Fidel Castro overthrew American backed Batista, the relations between the two countries turned bitter. Castro took over American owned businesses in Cuba. From the summer of 1960, Fidel Castro began to collect arms from the Soviet Union and the USA broke off diplomatic relations when they learned about this. By October 1960, USA ended all trade relations with Cuba. The USA continued to support exiled Cubans and supplied them with arms and ammunition to carry out the Bay of Pigs invasion and overthrow Castro. Kennedy could not allow Soviet influence so close to USA, and felt that other countries might fall under Soviet influence. But the Bay of Pigs invasion failed and Kennedy was humiliated.

(b) Why did Khrushchev send missiles to Cuba? [7]

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev persuaded in May 1962 the idea of countering the United States' growing lead in developing and deploying strategic missiles by placing Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Cuba. One of Khrushchevs main motive was to place the missiles to obtain bargaining power. Khrushchev could use his missiles to convince Kennedy to take USAs missiles from Turkey in return for the removal of the Cuban missiles. This is exactly what Khrushchev said in his second letter to Kennedy on 27th October 1962. This would put USA in a tough situation and they would have to reach to some consensus which would be agreed by both governments which would be a success for Khrushchev.

In the strained atmosphere of Cold War politics the missiles were designed to see how strong willed and strict the Americans would behave and whether they would face

Khrushchev by launching an attack on Cuba or do nothing at all in fear of the situation getting out of hand. The task was a very challenging one, and the motive was to test the new President Kennedy. Khrushchev was very concerned about the missile gap (term used in the United States for the perceived disparity between the number and power of the weapons in the U.S.S.R. and U.S.ballistic missile arsenals during the Cold War) that kept growing between the USSR and the USA. In 1961, the Soviets had only four intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). By October 1962, they may have had about 20, but in comparison by that time, USA had 170 ICBMs. With missiles on Cuba, and in good range through most of USA, it was very less likely that the USA would ever attack against the USSR. In the meantime Khrushchev could continue trying to get the upper hand in the arms race. c) Khrushchev handled the Cuban Crisis better than Kennedy. How far do you agree with this statement? Explain your answer. [8]

On one hand, Khrushchev seemed to be dictating the course of action and dominating the diplomacy between the two nations. He knew that Kennedy could not use his air force or military against USSR, as the Intercontinental ballistic missiles were in range of more than 65% of the United States of America.

Khrushchev effectively challenged the United States of America by presenting it with a very difficult test of whether they would risk war even after a nuclear threat. His plans were correctly timed and almost led Kennedy to take a very wrong decision which could be the decider in the Cold War as a whole. On 27th October, Kennedys advisors and defence strategists recommended him to launch an immediate reprisal attack on Cuba which could have backfired very badly against USA.

The Cuban missile crisis caught USA so much by surprise that Kennedy had very little time to decide on their policy. The European allies of USA were shocked at how little they were consulted by Kennedy during the emergency which could have easily escalated in a war involving many other nations. The French government of de Gaulle felt this very strongly and as a result de Gaulle eventually pulled France out of NATO and encouraged Western Europe to follow an independent line.

Thirdly, the Cuba remained a useful ally for the Soviet Union in very close distance to the USA, which would always be a rising fear. After all having a communist state in such close proximity to USA was itself very difficult to believe. This was moreover a personal triumph for Khrushchev, and that he had to negotiate and back down against USA was forgotten, he was better remembered as a responsible peacemaker and negotiator.

On the other hand, as put forward by modern historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr, Kennedy was a great planner and handled the crisis much better than Khrushchev. He came out of the crisis with a greatly improved reputation in his own country. He had stood up to Khrushchev and had made him back down. Khrushchevs method of declaringquarantine was commendable and he was able to stop and search all ships bound for Cuba. USSR was put in a very difficult situation as Kennedy had enough evidence to show the international media and the rest of the world that Khrushchev was lying. This resulted in lot of ships carrying warheads returning back to where they came from.

Two diplomatic letters were sent to the White House from Kremlin. Ignoring the second letter and replying to the first one made a huge deal of difference, which accepted the Soviet proposal of withdrawing the missiles from Cuba in return for an American commitment not to invade Cuba. This letter was very well written and sent at a correct time that prevented both sides from using military tactics, thus preventing a war and helping in solving the conflict.

Khrushchev on the other hand did not impress China who felt that Khrushchev had mishandled the situation and looked cowardly when he removed the missiles. This further encouraged the Chinese to follow an independent line of their own in world politics. This was a very big victory for Kennedy, as their main motive was to weaken communist strongholds across the world.

The end of the crisis was seen as a victory for Kennedy and a defeat for Khrushchev. The deal over the missiles in Turkey was kept secret so it seemed to the world as if the Soviets had simply backed down. This was good for Kennedys reputation but damaging for Khrushchev. In conclusion, it can be pointed that Kennedy handled the crisis better and initiated the right plans at the right time to surprise the USSR. If at all there were any losses, Khrushchev had suffered more due to the fact that he couldnt keep up the relations with China, and that the USSR seemed to be climbing down which led to his immediate downfall. Although, it can be said that Khrushchev was successful in setting up a difficult crisis for USA, although Kennedy chose the correct paths and handled the crisis the best.