THE CUBAN(MISSILE)CRISIS The Cuban Missile Crisis (also known as The October Crisis in Cuba ) was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war. The United States armed forces were at their highest state of readiness ever and Soviet field commanders in Cuba were prepared to use battlefield nuclear weapons to defend the island if it was invaded. Luckily, thanks to the bravery of two men, President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev, war was averted. In 1962, the Soviet Union was desperately behind the United States in the arms race. Soviet missiles were only powerful enough to be launched against Europe but U.S. missiles were capable of striking the entire Soviet Union. In May 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev conceived the idea of placing intermediate-range missiles in Cuba. A deployment in Cuba would double the Soviet strategic arsenal and provide a real deterrent to a potential U.S. attack against the Soviet Union. John F. Kennedy Nikita Khrushchev
THE CUBAN(MISSILE)CRISIS Fidel Castro Meanwhile, Fidel Castro was looking for a way to defend his island nation from an attack by the U.S. Ever since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, Castro felt a second attack was inevitable. Consequently, he approved of Khrushchev’s plan to place missiles on the island. In the summer of 1962 the Soviet Union worked quickly and secretly to build its missile installations in Cuba. For the United States, the crisis began on October 15, 1962 when reconnaissance photographs revealed Soviet missiles under construction in Cuba. Early the next day, President John Kennedy was informed of the missile installations. Kennedy immediately organized the EX-COMM, a group of his twelve most important advisors to handle the crisis. After seven days of guarded and intense debate within the upper echelons of government, Kennedy concluded to impose a naval quarantine around Cuba. He wished to prevent the arrival of more Soviet offensive weapons on the island.
THE CUBAN(MISSILE)CRISIS On October 22, Kennedy announced the discovery of the missile installations to the public and his decision to quarantine the island. He also proclaimed that any nuclear missile launched from Cuba would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union and demanded that the Soviets remove all of their offensive weapons from Cuba. During the public phase of the Crisis, tensions began to build on both sides. Kennedy eventually ordered low-level reconnaissance missions once every two hours. On the 25th Kennedy pulled the quarantine line back and raised military readiness to DEFCON 2. Then on the 26th EX-COMM heard from Khrushchev in an impassioned letter. He proposed removing Soviet missiles and personnel if the U.S. would guarantee not to invade Cuba. October 27 was the worst day of the crisis. A U-2 was shot down over Cuba and EX-COMM received a second letter from Khrushchev demanding the removal of U.S. missiles in Turkey in exchange for Soviet missiles in Cuba. Attorney General Robert Kennedy suggested ignoring the second letter and contacted Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin to tell him of the U.S. agreement with the first.
THE CUBAN(MISSILE)CRISIS Tensions finally began to ease on October 28 when Khrushchev announced that he would dismantle the installations and return the missiles to the Soviet Union, expressing his trust that the United States would not invade Cuba. Further negotiations were held to implement the October 28 agreement, including a United States demand that Soviet light bombers be removed from Cuba, and specifying the exact form and conditions of United States assurances not to invade Cuba.
THE CUBAN(MISSILE)CRISIS Events 14 Oct: U2 spy-plane takes pictures of Missile bases in Cuba - experts tell Kennedy he has 10 days before they are operational. 16 Oct: Kennedy set up a Committee of the National Security Council to advise him. 22 Oct: Kennedy announced that he was mounting a naval blockade of Cuba. B52 nuclear bombers were deployed, so that one-eighth of them were airborne all the time .That night, Oleg Penkovsky – a Western spy working in Russia – was arrested. His last message read; ‘Soviet attack imminent’. 23 Oct: Khrushchev explained that the missile sites were ‘solely to defend Cuba against the attack of an aggressor’. 20 Russian ships were heading for Cuba. 24Oct:Khrushchev accused America of piracy. He warned that Russia would get ready ‘a fitting reply to the aggressor’. 25 Oct: The first Russian ship reached the navalblockade. It was an oil ship and was allowed through. All the other Russian ships (carrying missiles) turned back. Secretly, the US government offered to remove US missiles in Turkey in exchange for those in Cuba.
THE CUBAN(MISSILE)CRISIS 26 Oct: Russia was still building the missile bases, and Kennedy started planning a military attack on Cuba - until, at 6pm, Khrushchev sent a telegram to Kennedy, offering to dismantle the sites if Kennedy would lift the blockade and agree not to invade Cuba - the Americans comment: ‘the other fellow just blinked’. The Kennedy brothers saw the Russian ambassador, and again mentioned removing the missiles in Turkey. 27 Oct: Before Kennedy could reply, Khrushchev sent another letter, demanding that Kennedy also dismantle American missile bases in Turkey. On the same day, a U2 plane was shot down over Cuba .It looked as if war was about to happen. Kennedy ignored the plane incident. He also ignored Khrushchev’s second letter – he wrote simply that would lift the blockade and agree not to invade Cuba if Khrushchev would dismantle the missile bases. He also offered secretly to dismantle the Turkish missile bases. 28 Oct: Khrushchev agreed. The crisis finished. 20 Nov: Russian bombers left Cuba, and Kennedy lifted the naval blockade.
THE CUBAN(MISSILE)CRISIS Causes 1. Superpower Tension All the tensions that had grown up between Russia’s assertive ‘peaceful competition’ and Kennedy’s promise to be tough on Russia – including the space race, the arms race and nuclear testing, American funding of anti-Communists in Vietnam and Laos, the failed Vienna summit (1961) and the Berlin Wall. 2. Fidel Castro’s Cuba In 1959, Fidel Castro took power in Cuba. This was very threatening to the USA because it was right next to America. In 1960, Castro made a trade agreement with Russia, whereby Cuba sent sugar to Russia, in return for oil, machines and money. This frightened the Americans more, and in 1960 they stopped trading with Cuba. In retaliation, Cuba nationalized all American-owned companies. 3. The Bay of Pigs In April 1961 the CIA encouraged, funded and transported an attempt by anti-Castro Cuban exiles to invade Cuba. It failed miserably, greatly embarrassing Kennedy. In September 1961, therefore, Castro asked for – and Russia publicly promised – weapons to defend Cuba against America.
THE CUBAN(MISSILE)CRISIS Results 1. Khrushchev lost prestige – he had failed. Particularly, China broke from Russia. 2. Kennedy gained prestige. He was seen as the men who faced down the Russians. 3. Both sides had had a fright. They were more careful in future. The two leaders set up a telephone ‘hotline’ to talk directly in a crisis. 4. In 1963, they agreed a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Cuba was the start of the end of the Cold War. 5. Cuba remained a Communist dictatorship, but America left it alone. This British cartoon of 29 October 1962 shows Kennedy and Khrushchev arm-wrestling for power, sitting on nuclear weapons. The caption read: 'OK Mr president, let's talk‘