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Cuban Missile Crisis: At the Brink of Abyss
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a major confrontation between the United States of America (U.S.A) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R). This major confrontation was in 1962 over the issue of Soviet supplied missile installations in Cuba. Regarded as the world’s closest approach to a nuclear war, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a brief encounter during the Cold War in which the United States, Cuba, and the Soviet Union were engaged in a potentially dangerous confrontation that could have led to a deadly nuclear war, however, the bravery of the leaders led to negotiations that avoided such a conflict and they took steps to avoid a possible war between the two superpowers. Even though the Cuban Missile Crisis was a brief thirteen-day period, the situation was very edgy and the leaders had to make smart and calm decisions to avoid the conflict.
The crisis was a result of the growing tension between the United States and Cuba following the Cuban Revolution of 1959. This revolution brought to power Fidel Castro who then brought in Communism. The United States was stunned by the new communist nation merely ninety miles from its borders. The Americans did not want any communist government near its borders, so they applied economic pressure on Cuba to make Cuba weak and try to topple the communist government. Knowing that the United States had significant influence in Cuba’s economic and political affairs, Castro’s government refused to be influenced by the United States. Later in 1960, the United States implemented an embargo that cut off trade. After this Castro still refused to give in to the pressure and responded by establishing closer relations with the communist government of the Soviet Union. During this time the United States was also involved in a Cold War with the Soviet Union. This was an economic, military, and diplomatic struggle between communist and capitalistic nations. The United States, however, still did not give up trying to topple Castro’s government. The United States also trained an army of anti-Castro exiles living in the United States to go and attack Cuba. This was known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. Although Castro’s army won easily, the Cubans were certain that the United States would not give up and will try to invade Cuba again. Cuba knew that if it tried to protect itself from the Americans it would loose, so they needed help from another communist nation.
In the 1960’s, when the United States and Cuba had bad relations, Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev started planning to secretly supply Cuba with missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads to most parts of the United States. While thinking about this plan Khrushchev made the mistake to think that the United States would not take any action. The Russian leader wanted to put the missiles in Cuba because they feared that the United States could attack Russia from it’s missiles placed in Turkey when the two nations got to war over West Berlin. The United States had missiles on the Russian border and the Russians feared they would use it, so Russia wanted to have missiles on the American border so that the United States thinks before attacking.
On October 15, 1962 U.S. spy planes flying over Cuba took pictures of something strange. Later those photographs revealed that Soviet missiles were under construction in Cuba. Early the next day, President John Kennedy was informed about the missiles and he called his most important advisors for a meeting on how to handle the crisis. The discussion between Kennedy and his advisors lasted several days during which more photographs revealed that there were more missiles arriving. Kennedy knew that an attack on Soviet installations in Cuba could cause a lot of trouble. His advisors pleaded with him to allow an air strike on Cuba, but Kennedy believed that the risk for nuclear war was too great.
Some years earlier the United States promised to defend the beleaguered city of West Berlin in Germany, which was already under severe pressure. The Soviet Union, who controlled the eastern part of Germany and Berlin wanted to have full control of Berlin and to stop immigrants from fleeing from East Berlin. Khrushchev was very serious about this matter and threatened to take over West Berlin and told Kennedy that he was willing to go bring the matter to a point of war. Kennedy and his advisors always believed that the American nuclear superiority would make the Soviets think twice about their moves. However, when Kennedy found out about the missiles, he and his experts agreed that the weapons might have been placed there in order to keep the United States from going to war over West Berlin. Now Kennedy faced an acute dilemma, if he did nothing, the Soviets would take advantage and do whatever they wished. If he tried to stop the Soviets by force, he could trigger a nuclear war or a war with the Soviet Union over West Berlin.
Kennedy wanted to stop more missiles and supplies coming in Cuba, so he ordered a naval blockade of Cuba. At the same time, the United States military began moving soldiers and equipment into position for a possible invasion of Cuba. Because international law defines a blockade as an act of war, Kennedy and his advisors decided to refer to the blockade as a quarantine. Later Kennedy announced about the missiles on national radio and television and demanded Khrushchev to withdraw the missiles and to remove all of their offensive weapons from Cuba. Kennedy had also made a bold statement saying that any nuclear missile fired from Cuba would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union. This statement made the Soviet Union more careful about the situation and now if something wrong happens, the blame will go on the Soviet Union and could lead to a nuclear war right away.
After the blockade the United States waited to see if the Soviet Union would respect the blockade or trigger a military confrontation at sea. Now the tension was high at both ends, however, Kennedy ordered spy plane missions over Cuba every two hours. On October 26, Khrushchev sent a coded cable to Kennedy offering to withdraw the missiles from Cuba in return for a U.S pledge not to invade Cuba. Before Kennedy and his advisors could react, Khrushchev delivered a public message in which he linked the withdrawal of the Cuban missiles to the removal of similar kinds of U.S weapons in Turkey along the southern border of the Soviet Union. Khrushchev may have been bold enough to make this added demand because the United States allowed some Soviet-bloc ships to pass through the blockade. However, none of Kennedy’s top advisors valued the missiles in Turkey and considered them as being obsolete. However, none of the advisors wanted to remove the missiles in a response
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