HIST 152 Professor X The Cuban Missile Crisis

Student 1984 Tuesday, April 17, 2007

After World-War II, only two superpowers remained on the world stage. Soviet Russia and the United States. Because of the fundamentally different doctrines shouldered by these two influential superpowers the world was divided into two camps: communism headed by Soviet Russia, and capitalism with at its head the United States. Because the United States was afraid of the menace of “international communism” the world witnessed a “cold war” for influence around the globe1. The leaders of the two countries were under the impression that the threat of nuclear retaliation was enough to thwart any attacks. This misconception was proved wrong in the fall of 1962 – from October 15 to October 28 – with the Cuban missile crisis. In the coming paragraph we will examine the roots of this crisis from all sides: Cuba, the United States, and Soviet Russia. We will then give a brief overview of the conclusion of the crisis by all the parties concerned.

Let’s first give a brief history of Cuba. Following the Spanish-American War in 1898, Cuba became independent but was dominated by the United States. The United States was a significant manager of the mining, telephone, sugar and oil resources in the country. By 1959, the U.S. also purchased seventy four percent of Cuban exports and furnished sixty-five percent of its imports.2 Cubans also had to look everyday at Guantanamo, a major symbol of American dominance of their small island. Fidel Castro Ruz, the son of a wealthy landowner and his followers toppled the Batista regime in 1959 and even though, at the time, Castro was not a

2 communist his brother Raul and Che Guevara were members of the Communist Party, Partido Socialista Popular. Castro’s goal was to free Cuba from the domination of the U.S. He quickly understood that to achieve his goal he was going to need friends, friends that were enemies of the U.S., and thus would be willing to help him. This “friend” was Soviet Russia. Their new friend comes to Cuba’s rescue several times with 100-million in trade credits to lessen Cuban economic dependence upon the U.S. Soviet Russia will even go as far as to agree to help Cuba in the case the U.S. invaded or put a blockade on the island. Castro continued to fight against what he considered to be American imperialism. On October 6, 1960, Castro nationalized private American investments worth one billion dollars without any compensation. As a result the Eisenhower administration will put an embargo on all commodities set to Cuba, except medical supplies and some foods.3 The Cuban government will overtly align itself with the Soviet Union on December 19. On January 3, 1961 the U.S. will break all diplomatic relations with Cuba after Cuba’s government demanded that the U.S. reduce its embassy staff to eleven. Nikita S. Khrushchev, the Soviet premier at the time will welcome Castro into the Soviet bloc three days later. We will now proceed to examine the United States and its role in the coming Cuban missile crisis.

John F. Kennedy was sworn in as president of the United States on January 20, 1961. he was so far the youngest U.S. President; a Harvard graduate, PT board commander during World War II, and a former congressman and senator whose political career had been bankrolled by his father, Joseph P. Kennedy.4 During the presidential campaign Kennedy convinced the population that since the Eisenhower Administration could not successfully keep Cuba from turning Communist they had failed the Cold War. Because of this, when he got into office Kennedy had

3 to prove that he could, in fact, do better than his predecessor. The new president soon after learned that he was to decide on a CIA-sponsored planned invasion of Cuba. The CIA was convinced that the Cuban population would help invaders (Cuban exiles being trained in Guatemala) overthrow the Castro regime. Even though new members of the Kennedy administration were very skeptical of the planned operation, Kennedy ended up allowing the project to go on because he did not want to look soft on communism. The operation will become known as the Bay of Pigs. Because Kennedy forbade American Forces participating in the invasion, it failed. This failure resulted in exactly the opposite of Kennedy’s goal: it made him look foolish, weak, and incompetent.5 Kennedy became so obsessed with Cuba and Castro that on November 30, 1961 he created Operation Mongoose with the goal of using American resources to help Cubans overthrow the Castro regime.6 This operation will last two years, from the spring of 1961 to the late summer and early fall of 1963. The operation had many different components and units: and air arm, fast moving boats owned or leased by the CIA, dummy corporations to cover it all and separate units for intelligence, logistics and mail.7 A special group (augmented) or SGA was created and put in charge of the project. Some operation names in the project are operation Bingo, operation Cover-up, and operation Free-Ride. By the summer of 1962 Castro’s intelligence people did not know the full scope of Operation Mongoose but the details the intelligence had made Castro certain that an invasion of his country was imminent. He, so turned to his ally, Khrushchev for help. Let’s now turn to the Soviet Union and establish why Khrushchev will accept to help Cuba and how he goes about doing so.

4 Nikita Khrushchev was an uneducated coal miner who joined the Communist party in 1918 and will go on to become premier in 1958 and head of the Presidium of the Communist party, which governed the Soviet Union. He was obsessed with the poser of the new intercontinental Ballistic missiles (ICBM) and was certain that they would force the U.S. to treat his country with respect. He was under the impression that this threat would allow him to reduce conventional military expenditures and given more resources to the civilian economy. This, however changed because there was undeniable proof by 1961 that there was a massive missile gap between the Soviet Union and the United States in major favor of the United States. And to add more insult to injury, Khrushchev learns in 1962 that American Jupiter missiles were operational just across the border in Turkey, aimed at Soviet targets. He began thinking of a way to change the balance of power and to do it quickly. Thus came Castro’s call for help in the summer of 1962. With several other arms, Khrushchev decided to deploy his missiles in Cuba, ninety miles from Florida. He was also confident that the presence of the missiles would remain a secret until he wished to reveal their presence ; he was convinced that at that time the Americans would accept them as a fait accompli to make the U.S. think twice about destroying Soviet installations.8 This tactic of Khrushchev was also a perfect way from his point of view to obtain recognition of the power of the Soviet union by other nations, in particular, the United States.9 This decision was part of Operation Anadyr, which also included to send Soviet troops of about 40,000 soldiers, two antiaircraft divisions armed with surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) fighter-interceptors, two cruise missiles regiments with nuclear warheads and helicopters.

All these different yet connected activities led to the Cuban missile crisis. From the summer and through the fall of 1962 U.S. intelligence witnessed heavily loaded Soviet cargo

5 ships heading for Cuba; Reports emerged of large-scale Soviet missile deployments, as well as the presence of thousands of Russian technicians to man the missiles.10 On October 16, 1962, a U-2 returned with proof that the Soviets had covertly sent long-range missiles to Cuba capable of hitting the United States.11 The 13 days that followed witnessed a blockade by the U.S. around Cuba. The U.S. menaced to sink Soviet ships that would dire cross the quarantine line and brought thousands of troops into Florida for a possible invasion. The crisis ended with diplomatic decisions of Premier Khrushchev agreeing to remove the missiles in exchange for a secret pledge by the United States to remove its outdated Jupiter missiles in Turkey. The peaceful ending of the crisis also helped the ending of Operation Mongoose. Succeeding the crisis JFK decided to reduce tensions with the Soviet Union; consequently, in June 1963 the United State and Soviets concluded a nuclear test ban treaty.12

In conclusion, as the whole world feared in the fall of 1962, the world did not come to a nuclear destruction. This was a very close call and it will lead to the dismantling of a significant amount of nuclear weapons by the United States and the Soviet Union. The causes of the Cuban missile crisis, as we have just gone through can be found in all sides concerned: the United States eager to prove that they can contain Communism; Cuba trying to maintain its independence; and the Soviet Union desperate to maintain its declining influence in the world.

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1

Max Frankel, High Noon in the Cold War: Kennedy Khrushchev, and the Cuban Missile crisis. (New York, United States: Presidio Press Book, Published by The Random House Publishing Group, 2004), p. 46.

2

Keith Eubank, The Missile Crisis in Cuba. (Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 2000), p.3

3

Keith Eubank, The Missile Crisis in Cuba. (Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 2000), p.5.

4

Keith Eubank, The Missile Crisis in Cuba. (Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 2000), p.5.

5

Keith Eubank, The Missile Crisis in Cuba. (Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 2000), p.6

6

Keith Eubank, The Missile Crisis in Cuba. (Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 2000), p.6.

7

Peter Kross, Inside the Cuban Missile Crisis.( Academic Search Premier. Military History; Nov. 2006, Vol. 23, Issue 8, p 3036, 6p.), p.3. Keith Eubank, The Missile Crisis in Cuba. (Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 2000), p.18.

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9

Keith Eubank, The Missile Crisis in Cuba. (Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 2000), p.19.

10

Peter Kross, Inside the Cuban Missile Crisis.( Academic Search Premier. Military History; Nov. 2006, Vol. 23, Issue 8, p 3036, 6p.), p.5. Peter Kross, Inside the Cuban Missile Crisis.( Academic Search Premier. Military History; Nov. 2006, Vol. 23, Issue 8, p 3036, 6p.), p. 5.

11

12

Peter Kross, Inside the Cuban Missile Crisis.( Academic Search Premier. Military History; Nov. 2006, Vol. 23, Issue 8, p 30-36, 6p.), p.6.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Chang Laurence, ed., Kornbluh, Peter, ed. Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962. New York, United States: The New Press, 1992, 1998. Eubank, Keith. The Missile Crisis in Cuba. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 2000. Frankel, Max. High Noon in the Cold War: Kennedy Khrushchev, and the Cuban Missile crisis. New York, United States: Presidio Press Book, Published by The Random House Publishing Group, 2004 Kross, Peter. Inside the Cuban Missile Crisis. Academic Search Premier. Military History; Nov. 2006, Vol. 23, Issue 8, p 30-36, 6p.