Cuban Missile Crisis

Nuclear destruction, when those two devastating and frightening words are brought up one thought comes to mind, The Cuban Missile Crisis. This was the closest the world has ever come to being blown apart by the people living on it. In April 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev conceived the idea of placing intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) in Cuba. Placing IRBM in Cuba would double the Soviet strategic arsenal and provide a real deterrent to a potential U.S. attack against the Soviet Union or Cuba (Smith). In mid-July of 1962 the Soviet Union began its buildup of offensive weapons in Cuba. The fate of millions literally hinged upon the ability of two men, President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev (Archer). The near destruction of the world was brought upon by, The Cold War, faulty communications amongst Soviet and U.S. leaders, and personality conflicts amongst the two leaders. The crisis only lasted 14 days but they were the longest 14 days in October.

The Cold war, which began in 1945, was a period of Eastern-Western world competition, tension, and conflict short of full-scale war, characterized by mutual perceptions of hostile intention between military-political alliances or blocs (Jenkins). The end of World War II saw two great nations rise, the Soviet Union (the mighty communist country dominated by one of the world’s most powerful armies), and the United States (great power of the western nations and world’s economic leader). After the fall of Nazi Germany, both nations (along with Britain and France) competed for the grand prize of Central Europe: Berlin. This was only the beginning of uneasy tensions (Jenkins). The Soviet’s hunger for nuclear knowledge coupled with their thirst for world domination; this did not mix well with the democratic society of the United States. When the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb in 1949, tensions between the two countries began to reach a high point. Both super power nations now had atomic weapons, and a great hatred towards one another. This style of warfare occurred because both sides feared nuclear annihilation and both nations from two separate worlds did not trust one another (Judge). 1962, the heightening of the cold war, The Cuban Missile Crisis. For years the two nations had been fighting a silent battle. The United States had U.S. missiles in Turkey just 150 miles from the Soviet Union (Paper). This meant that the U.S. had an advantage over the Soviets. Khrushchev looked upon this as a threat, and due to the distrust between the two worlds he proceeded and placed missiles in Cuba, 90 miles off the coast of Florida. Cuba allowed this because it would ensure their safety in case of an invasion, and would double the Soviet strategic arsenal and provide a real deterrent to a potential U.S. attack against the Soviet Union. The Soviets had Soviet field commanders in Cuba that were authorized to use tactical nuclear weapons if invaded by the U.S. (McNamara). Khrushchev then had the world in the palm of his hand. Kennedy did not trust Khrushchev and pondered what this man could actually do. He could destroy the world. Fear and pandemonium were put into the lives of the world, nuclear destruction. The Cold War did indeed cause this event to occur. The Soviet Union placed IRBM in Cuba because of their distrust in the U.S. Khrushchev felt that the U.S. missiles in Turkey were a threat to the Soviet Union. The U.S. then distrusted the Soviet’s when missiles were placed in Cuba and proceeded to have all missiles removed. The American desire of removal of all missiles had the Soviets fearful of Cuban invasion and threatened with nuclear weapons. Both countries placed their missiles in fear of what the other country may execute. The competition, hostility, and distrust that resulted from the cold war almost cost us the world during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Secondly, the methods of communications used by Kennedy and Khrushchev almost ended the world. Throughout the two weeks of the crisis both leaders had communicated indirectly to try to resolve this matter. When the Americans found out about the missiles in Cuba being placed by the Soviets, John Fitzgerald Kennedy appoints high level American advisors to help deal with the crisis, these advisors are known as ExComm. John F. Kennedy met with one of Khrushchev’s top advisors, A.A. Gromyko, in the White House, where Premier Khrushchev had instructed Gromyko to tell President Kennedy that, “the only assistance being furnished to Cuba was for agricultural and land development, so the people could feed themselves, plus a small amount of defensive arms.”(Lake) JFK had already known about the missile sites in Cuba, but he listened to Gromyko and does not reveal that he knows about the missile sites. Gromyko had lied about missiles being in Cuba, and Dobrynin’s only answer was that, there were no missiles in Cuba, that this was what Khrushchev had said and so far as he knew, there were still no missiles in Cuba. He then proceeded and asked as to why President Kennedy had not told Gromyko the facts when he had seen him the previous Thursday. R. Kennedy replied by saying there was nothing the President could tell Gromyko that Gromyko did not already know (Lake). This shows the deception going on by both the United States and Soviet Union during the crisis, and also how the lack of direct communication between the leaders led to this lack of communication. If the two leaders were to discuss this issue together all facts may have been discussed, and it would not be a game of broken telephone. As well, when there was something that needed to be discussed immediately, what took place was that JFK’s brother Governor Robert Kennedy would speak with the Soviet Ambassador in Washington, Anatoliy Dobrynin. They would communicate in that manner to help get the channels of communication open rapidly. In fact, the lines of communication between Kennedy and Khrushchev were so closed that one time, “Dobrynin said he had a message from Khrushchev for the President, to be communicated only through his brother. It boiled down to a promise that the Soviet Union would create no trouble for the United States in Berlin or Southeast Asia during the election campaign.”(Hurt) This transfer of communication between JFK and Khrushchev also seemed to show that Khrushchev wanted JFK not to experience any problems, and even wanted him to get re-elected. This also shows that most of the communication done between the Americans and Soviets during the Cuban missile crisis was done usually on a second hand basis, with Dobrynin and Robert Kennedy being the two people that talked to each other the most. This was an ineffective method because, the two leaders never had the chance to speak personally and understand that they both had the same ultimate desire of ending the crisis. Another large communication gap was that the two leaders would communicate via letters. Towards the end of the crisis Khrushchev had written JFK two contradictory letters that were received at the same time. ExComm and Kennedy decided that when they had received two contradictory messages from Khrushchev, the first was favorable and the second unfavorable, that they would reply to the first and not the second (Judge). This shows how Americans had a really difficult time determining Khrushchev’s true intentions, due to the poor communications. If JFK and Khrushchev would have a direct line of communication they would both determine that the two superpowers of the time, the U.S. and the Soviet Union did not want to end the world. The world could have ended because of the poor communication used during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If Khrushchev and Kennedy would have resolved the issue with each other rather than through secondary government officials than the crisis may have never escalated to the height it had. After the crisis had ended Khrushchev stated that, “even the most pressing dispute can be solved by compromise.” (Archer) This statement shows that all the Soviets truly wanted was peace, it wasn’t apparent through the crisis because the U.S. could have never known that as a result of the miscommunication.

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Finally, when we compare Nikita S. Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy, Khrushchev is an older man, an experienced politician he felt that he could push the untested Kennedy (Hurt). JFK and Khrushchev had their first encounter with each other in 1961 at the Vienna convention. Throughout the entire convention Khrushchev bullied the young president. From this confrontation Khrushchev discovered that he could bully JFK and he would not react. So placing the missiles in Cuba was inevitable. The Soviets felt that they were able to place the missiles, bully, and threaten the U.S. and get away with it (Jenkins). This was one of the reasons the world was almost destructed. Khrushchev believed that Kennedy would not gain knowledge of the missiles, and would not test the Soviet leader. In reality Kennedy gained knowledge and found the missiles and fought for disarmament and removal of all missiles. The fact remains that Khrushchev’s seniority led him to believe that he was able to do as he pleased. The Soviets indeed did as they pleased; they placed the missiles in Cuba and almost ended the world in nuclear rage due to the preconceived notion that the young American (Kennedy) could be bullied.

The Cuban Missile Crisis frightened the world, and could have had devastating results. The Cold War played a large role in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cold War caused distrust amongst the two nations; this caused the U.S. and the Soviet Union to fear nuclear annihilation. Foreign missiles placed close to home soil, was frightening due to the mistrust brought upon by the Cold War. The Cold War brought upon the entire Cuban Missile Crisis. Faulty communications created confusion amongst the American’s. The broken indirect communication between the two leaders caused the Cuban missile crisis to occur. Both Khrushchev and Kennedy wanted the same outcome, peace. The personality conflicts caused the Khrushchev to feel as if he was able to push Kennedy around. This caused the entire crisis because Kennedy was not the man to play around with. He responded to the crisis, and both men stood there with the world in their hands. The end result of the Cuban missile crisis was, of course, a successful one, as well as one which both sides wanted to occur (Archer). Neither country could claim victory in this crisis because both sides got what they desired. The Americans got the missiles removed from Cuba, and the Soviets got the U.S. missiles taken out of Turkey, as well as an American promise never to invade Cuba again (Hurt). Victory was indeed declared by the world when it was saved from near world destruction.