Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

Castro and Khrushchev "BFF"
Castro and Khrushchev "BFF"
Until the late 1950s Cuba was dominated by the United States. The US had a major Naval base in Guantanamo. The Americans owned the major industries of sugar and tobacco in Cuba. At this time there was great poverty among the Cuban people and they were ruled by an America backed dictator known as Batista. In 1958, with great support from the Cuban people, Batista was defeated by Castro who, after taking power, resisted every attempt by the CIA and took over the American owned industries. The most notable and humiliating defeat of the CIA was the Bay of Pigs, which was a American backed Cuban assault against Castor's power. Khrushchev figured an enemy of the US is an ally to the USSR. At this time there was great tension between the East and the West due to the U-2 incident in 1960, the Berlin Wall in 1961 and the disagreements among the leaders concerning disarmament. Khrushchev really liked the idea of having an ally in America's "back yard" just like how the West has forces in western Berlin. Soon the USSR gave Cuba economic, technical and military aid to help resist American attempts on Castro. In October 1962 an American U2 spy plane reveled the presence of missile bases and launchers on Cuba and that Soviet ships are also are on their way to deliver more nuclear missiles to Cuba. US president Kennedy set up a special committee called Excomm to advise him on what to do, some say attack (they were referred to as Hawks) some want to reach a diplomatic conclusion (they were referred to as Doves). Kennedy set-upped a US naval blockade around Cuba which was meant to stop the Soviet shipments, this almost led to a clash between navies which would have surly lead to a Third World War (This was risky, but better then bombing the silos in Cuba and it allowed Kennedy to show he is in charge of the crisis). In the end Khrushchev sent two letters to Kennedy suggesting a compromise. Khrushchev promise to remove Cuba's missiles while Kennedy promised to end the naval blockade around Cuba and not to attack Cuba (this means US must accept a communist presence near the United States. Khrushchev asked that the US remove their missiles from Turkey but this was ignored. This event led to a greater effort to improve relations between the superpowers and the "hot-line" between Washington and Moscow was created to help prevent misunderstanding.
Map Created by Infomation from U-2 Spy Planes Detailing the Range of the Missiles in Cuba
Portion of the Map depicting the Range of Cuban Missiles

Map of Cuba Based on Infomation from U-2 Spy Planes #3

Map of Cuba Based on Infomation from U-2 Spy Planes #1
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Map of Cuba Based on Infomation from U-2 Spy Planes #2

All these images are based on information from American U-2 spy planes which have been compiled to determine locations of Cuban nuclear missile bases and the possible attack range of Cuba on America. MRBMs stand for Medium Range Ballistic Missiles and LRBMs are Long Range Ballistic Missiles.

In 1962 the British Foreign Secretary made a speech National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce (who were mostly made up of Business people). The Secretary believes that Communism is both "opportunist and two faced" due to placing missiles in Cuba (even though it is on the Geneva convention's agenda to not allow countries who don't process nuclear weapons to have them (So only US, Britain and the USSR and maybe more will have missiles no one else)) and the creation of the Berlin Wall that caused an unnecessary crisis (we can also note that the USSR ended a test ban treaty by testing a massive H-bomb). He believes that all these events were made to spread Communist domination. The Secretary believes that the missiles in Cuba were designed to achieve three things:
  1. To threaten the United States
  2. To threaten the Caribbean
  3. To threaten South America
The Secretary also mentions that the West intends to negotiate while the USSR only wants to spread its sphere of influence (is this really the true or is all this just BS?)
President John. F. Kennedy
President John. F. Kennedy

Throughout the Cold War there was East vs West but has the Western alliance falter (or at least disagree). During the Cuban Missile Crisis intelligence services did differ in opinions when it came to interpreting photographs from U-2 spy planes, for example surface to surface bases can fire LRBM which can fire a distance of 2200nm (about 4070km, capable of hitting most America) but these sites can also be mistaken for anti-air bases.

On October 22nd 1962 US President Kennedy broadcast his speech live on American television. In his speech he tells the American people that the Soviets have placed "offensive" missile sites (Is this what Khrushchev intended or did he want to place these missiles as deterrence?) in Cuba. Along with nuclear missiles the Soviets had brought in nuclear jet bombers into Cuba. Kennedy listed several points that he wanted to take when dealing with this problem:

  1. Naval quarantine will be set-up to stop supplying the Cubans with offensive weapons, all ships comming to Cuba (no matter the nationality) will be searched and turned back
  2. Continuation of spy based operations in Cuba and the US military is prepare for anything
  3. If any missile is launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union
  4. The Guantanamo base has been reinforced and placed on stand-by
  5. Call for an emergency meeting of the Security Council of the UN to counter the Soviet threat, calling for a resolution that will prompt the dismantling and removal of offensive weapons from Cuba
  6. To ask/tell Khrushchev to stop with this breach of peace and security
  7. And to ask Khrushchev to abandon his goal of World domination (Is this what the USSR really wanted?) and to come to discus the end of this arms race and to finally have peace
"Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right" (what is right and how will it be achieved? Is right what the Americans view as right? Is the USSR solely wrong then?)
"not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved." (How?)
"Thank you and good night."

Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
In December 1962 (after the Cuban crisis) Khrushchev made a speech to the Supreme Soviet (USSR's version of Congress). In his speech Khrushchev stated that after Cuba became independent of the United States relations between the USSR and Cuba is "based on equality, respect for sovereignty and economic co-operation". After Castro took over, the US done everything to regain their dominance of Cuba (he is quite (if not completely) right), even the Americans claimed that Cuba caused the crisis, in an attempt to regain control of it, and since the Soviet Union supplied Cuba with "defensive" weapons (US says offensive while the USSR says defensive/deterrent, which is it?) it will also carry blame. Khrushchev refutes this saying that it only sent Cuba the weapons so it can protect itself from American invasion (like the Bay of Pigs. Could the USSR been using this as an excuse to place missiles in Cuba and does this appear to be an example of the USSR's version of the Truman Doctrine?). He continued to refute the American term "offensive weapons" by stating that there is no point to place offensive missiles in Cuba, if the USSR wanted to attack the US then it could just launch the ones in Europe (he has a point but then again it can be argued that he placed the missiles Cuba just like how the US has ones in Turkey). Khrushchev denounced the US naval quarantine by calling it a full blown blockade a "piracy on the high seas" (isn't this what Russia did to Berlin though (Twice!!)?). Khrushchev claimed that the Americans helped to escalate the crisis with the blockade and the presence of armed and ready military personnel and because of this the Soviet armies have been alerted and missiles (in Europe) are primed. If no agreement has been made the World would have probably ended (as we can see both Kennedy and Khrushchev wanted peace but accused the other of causing the need of it, so who really caused the crisis and developed the need to achieve peace?).

This poem was created by Scottish poet Liz Lochead. This poem allows us to feel the environment surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis
"The first time I fell in love with poetry - Mr Valentine was reading Keats 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' out loud to us. We were in our third year, none of us 15 yet, and we were 'walking in the valley of the shadow of death'; I remember thinking just that , in just those words out of the psalm on the way to the school that morning. It was the time of the Cuba crisis and everybody was scared, even the grown-ups. No-one on the bus talked much, but those who did talked about nothing else and everyone's face was grim. On a placard outside the newsagents, black block capitals spelled WAR INEVITABLE. Even the newsreaders on television looked scared when they talked about 'the grave international situation'. As Mr Valentine read to us about ... the lake where no birds sang - out of the flat normal November sky behind his head we really expected that death. And the bombs might come falling. The poem hurt us. Everyone in the class felt it, even the science boys and the maths geniuses who hated English, and the sporty class captain and Mr Valentine himself. You could feel it in the silence and the shared held breath when the voice stopped."

In October 1962 the British Cabinet reflected on the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is the opinion of the British Cabinet that US president Kennedy is the one who ended the crisis with great determination and skill. The Cabinet also believes that this event was the one that almost led to a nuclear World War. The biggest problem with the solution of the Cuban Missile Crisis is the possible demand for the quick elimination of nuclear weapons, but this cannot occur because the weapons act as a deterrence for the Warsaw pact's larger conventional forces (at this time the East had larger non-nuclear military forces then the West or NATO), placing the West in a bad position (or at least in the opinion of the West). Another problem is that the West is not exactly trusting (the Cabinet believes that the West has the right to be) of the USSR meaning that international relations are hampered and agreements on major issues will be very difficult to make.

There has been much tension between the Eastern and Western Blocs because of this crisis and even though the Superpowers wish to improve relations so to prevent a nuclear war, we can see that the West prefers to still maintain its deterrence and is highly weary of the Eastern Bloc (you can't exactly blame them).

Learning Curve: Cuban Missile Crisis
Learning Curve: Cuban Missile Crisis: Historical Source One: Official US maps showing the alleged nuclear missile sites in Cuba, October 1962
Learning Curve: Cuban Missile Crisis: Historical Source Two: Part of a speech by the British Foreign Secretary on the reasons for the crisis in Cuba, October 23rd 1962
Learning Curve: Cuban Missile Crisis: Historical Source Three: A report by the British Joint Intelligence Committee on Soviet missiles in Cuba, October 26th 1962
Learning Curve: Cuban Missile Crisis: Historical Source Four: Extract from President Kennedy's TV broadcast announcing the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba (National Archives and Records Administration)
Learning Curve: Cuban Missile Crisis: Historical Source Five: Extracts from a speech by Soviet leader Khrushchev in December 1962 covering the causes and consequences of the Cuban Crisis
Learning Curve: Cuban Missile Crisis: Historical Source Six: One person's memories of the Cuban Crisis in October 1962 (Liz Lochead)
Learning Curve: Cuban Missile Crisis: Historical Source Seven: Notes from a meeting of the British Cabinet looking back at the Cuban Crisis October 1962