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Analyzing Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban missile crisis popularly referred to as the October crisis in Cuba was a two week confrontation involving Cuba and the Soviet Union on one side, and the United States and its allies on the other side. The crisis took place during the time of the Cold War in August of 1962. The genesis of the crisis was the establishment of a number of medium and intermediate ballistic nuclear missiles in Cuba. This came after the years of unsuccessful attempts by the United States to topple the Cuban regime. The establishment of these lethal arsenals in Cuba was hurriedly orchestrated by the Soviet Union to preclude any reaction from the United States. The United States considered the Soviet Union secrete build up of ballistic missiles as an eminent threat to its security and interests.

Prior to the Cuba Missile crisis, the United States and Soviet Union traded accusations and counter accusations. Each country struggled to balance power and military capability. The United States was weary of the Soviet Union’s intentions to spread communism beyond its borders. With the increase of the Soviet Union’s military presence in Cuba, a Latin American country, United States was worried that such a move would jeopardize its strategic interests in the region. There was a suspicion and heightened competition for trade and other lucrative deals for both countries. Through high-tech surveillance, the United States was able to discern Soviet Union’s missile programs in Cuba. This was a strategy for the Soviet Union to shield Cuba from the animosity that was being perpetrated by the United States. Basically, the whole conflict was founded on the struggle between communism and capitalism forces. The Cuban missile crisis was further fueled by the Cold War and the arms race between the United States, its allies and the Soviet Union. This paper focuses on the Cuban missile crisis in relation to bargaining strategies and political power. Furthermore, the paper criticizes the manner in which the United States authorities approached and managed the Cuban conflict. This paper does not intent to narrate the Cuban missile conflict. Therefore, the paper analyses the overall global context of the Cold War, the Cuban missile conflict and the decisions taken, and the aftermath of the conflict.

The overall global context of the Cold War had a great bearing to the build up of tension between the Soviet Union and the United States. Just like any other conflict, there are two diverse vintage points at the base. It is important to note from the outset that, although, most analysts have studied this conflict, only the conduct of the United States is clearly known and documented. This is due to the fact that the United States took a leading role and relentlessly pursued its agenda up till the end. America took the initiative and stuck to it until its goals were attained. Although, historian and scholars dispute this fact in strong terms, instead, they conclude that the United States lost in the Cuban dispute.

Available data indicate that President Khrushchev's idea of staging intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Cuba was a response to the United States aggression towards the Cuban regime. Russia wanted to cushion the Cubans from the United States sponsored aggression like the infamous Bay of Pigs attempt. Cuba’s de factoleader Fidel Castrol established links with the Soviet Union in an attempt to shield his administration from the US aggression. This move angered the United States for a number of reasons. The first one was that Cuba’s alignment with Russia, a US enemy and commercial competitor was a move aimed at denying the United States lucrative opportunities in the region. The United States feared the Soviet Union’s collaboration with the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro because of the conduct he displayed in the Cold War. The second reason was that the United States feared that Russia would spread its communism tentacles to other Latin countries if it captured Cuba.

As late as July 1962, the United States confirmed through its intelligence that there was a significant increase of Russia’s military presence in Cuba. Advanced air surveillance further confirmed that Russia had shipped momentous quantities in Cuba aimed at developing intermediate and mid-range nuclear missiles. This discover coupled with the suspicion and the arms race created by the Cold War fueled animosity between the United States and the Soviet Union. Due to the complexity of the crisis from the Soviet Union point of view, analysts still do not understand the objectives that drove the Soviet Union to strategically place ballistic missiles in Cuba. Most analysts believe that the move was orchestrated by substantial claims that United States had vast missile establishment in some parts of Europe. Critical analysis of the issue reveals that Russia wanted to use the Cuban issue to force the United Stated to cede the ground on the issue of Berlin. The Cuban missile build up was a wider political strategy by the Soviet Union to force the United States change its policy on Berlin.

In general, the need for establishing autonomy states and the glamour for communism among some countries led to the struggle between two major forces headed by the United States and Soviet Union. Most countries that were sidelined by the Western forces considered the Soviet Union as the major partner. The pro-communism euphoria played a remarkable role in the Cuban missile conflict. After years of torment due to the United States sponsored attacks, Cuba decided to jump into the communism band wagon by seeking the Russian protection. In plain terms, the United States policies against some countries worked in favor of communism. Prior to the Cuban missile conflict, the United States engaged in proxy. The United States planned and sponsored coups in the countries that did not favor their policies. Cuba became a victim of this policy when the US orchestrated a coup against Fidel Castro through the infamous Bay of Pigs Invasion. This aggressive approach forced many countries to seek Soviet Union’s support through military and economic collaboration.

The major reasons for the Cuban missile crisis can be analyzed in a number of ways. The first issue was that the Soviet Union felt insecure and feared that it could lose Cuba, a strategic ally in an invasion. The Soviet fear was fueled by the Unites States presidential campaigns, pledges to boost the American military might through missile establishments. Presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy, reiterated in his campaigns that the United States needed to build more missiles to match the level of Russia. The other reason was that Cuba feared that the United States may invade it. Since coming to power through a coup, the Cuban leader Fidel Castro was aware of the United States planning to oust him. Prior to his coming to power, the United States had orchestrated several attempts aimed at invading Cuba. The first one was the Bay of Pigs incursion sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Through the Bay of Pigs invasion, the CIA backed exiled Cubans in 1961 to overthrow Fidel Castro. The second attempt occurred when the US military conducted a mock operation on the Caribbean island aimed at dismantling a fictitious dictator by the name of Ortsac, Castro spelled in reverse. This was a ploy by the United States’ administration to keep Castro nervous and slow down his militia activities. The United States was also engaged in a spirited campaign throughout Cuba aimed at maligning Castro’s administration. These events convinced Castro that indeed the United States was planning to invade his country. Castro had to align himself with the Soviet Union in order to cushion his government from the United States actions.

With both sides extremely polarized, the stage was set for a major show down between the Soviet Union on one side and the United States on the other side. For some unknown reasons, the actions taken by the Soviet regime and Cuban prior to the crisis are still shrouded in secrecy. Most analysts who have endeavored to analyze this matter only approach it from the United States’ point of view. In mid July 1962, it became apparent to the United States that the Soviet Union military assistance to Cuba surpassed ordinary assistance. America discovered that Russia’s military presence in Cuba had more than obvious figures. Photographic images obtained by the United States corroborated the fact that Russia was building air defense missiles in Cuba.  As if that is not enough, the United States stumbled on evidence showing that Russia had shipped voluminous quantities of cargo to Cuba. The cargo contained equipments used in the construction of medium-range bombers. By October of the same year, the United States was completely sure that Cuba had nuclear missiles with immense capabilities developed with the help of Russia.

America was pretty sure that Cuba was building nuclear missiles with the help of Russia and the only thing remaining was how to approach the issue. Observers were keenly watching how the United States was going to handle this thorny issue. Given that Russia’s intentions were clear in the crisis, a number of analysts believed that the United States will go on a negotiating table with the aim of resolving the crisis amicably. Already, the Soviet Union had reached out to the American authorities through its diplomats with the aim of drawing America to the negotiating table. However, America under the leadership of President Kennedy opted for a military show down. In a televised interview, President Kennedy made it clear that any nuclear attack from Cuba would be considered as an attack from the Soviet Union. He further confirmed that such an attack will be responded to with a magnitude of equal measure. The President went ahead and ordered a freeze on all shipment activities in Cuba with the aim of preventing further shipment of weaponry to Cuba. There was a strict quarantine on all offensive military shipment to Cuba. The President ordered reinforcement at its military bases in Guantanamo Bay.

In my opinion, America lost the chance to resolve the conflict amicably by opting for a military approach. Given the fact that the Soviet Union’s intentions were known, analysts expected pragmatic President Kennedy to act swiftly and avert a major crisis. The Soviet Union wanted to use the Cuban issue to gain leverage over the United States in regard to the Berlin case. The Soviet Union expects the United States to cede the ground on the Berlin case and lift sanctions against East Germany. The United States administration failed to communicate its intentions and strategize against the Soviet Union. If President Kennedy had used clear communication strategies in time, the crisis could not have reached the level it achieved. The Soviet Union had hinted earlier through its Premier Khrushchev that it wanted to negotiate with the United States over certain issues that were hurting its strategic interests.

America did not listen to any overtures from the Soviet Union; instead, President Kennedy ceased any communication with the Soviet Union and any bargaining. At this point, the Soviet Union had no other alternative, but to rush its missile installation program in Cuba. Both sides were preoccupied with enhancing their leverage for the ultimate bargain. The Soviet Union hinted that it was in the process of gaining substantial strategic superiority. Analysts reckon that the United States was aware of the Soviet Union’s intentions in the missile crisis, but opted to act in a military way to send a strong message to its allies that it was in charge. America used the Cuban missile crisis as a psychological tactic to assure its allies that it had the capacity to deal with the Soviet Union in any way. Since this was the most blatant Russian provocation in the Cold War error, the United States response was quite crucial in this case.  A weak response could have significantly altered its position on the global scene. The Soviet Union could have used this opportunity as a pretext to force the United States to alter its policy in a manner that could have given it more leverage.

The United States regarded the option of persuading the Soviet Union to abandon the Cuban missile plan as a weak approach that the Soviet Union had been anticipating. Therefore, the United States opted to use its strategic power to rain on the Soviet Union. President Kennedy orders a military setup to weaken the significance of the Cuban missiles. Furthermore, the United States considered the capability of the Cuban missiles to be insignificant, even though, the proximity of the arsenal was a challenge.  The decision to freeze shipping activities acted in favor of the United States. The Soviet blockade was blocked from shipping missile equipments to Cuba. America had to make a quick decision amid many available options. President Kennedy decided to inform the world of the Soviet Union’s intentions in Cuba and urged its allies in the West to support its efforts in thwarting the Soviet Union’s efforts. The strategies might have worked in favor of the United States as the anticipated threat did not occur and the Soviet Union halted its plans to increase nuclear missile build up in Cuba. However, analysts argue that the whole confrontation worked in the Soviet Union’s favor. It is believed that the United States made many concessions in favor of the Soviet Union, and that the missile crisis was not a crisis in itself but a strategy by the Soviet Union to force the United States to cede ground in a number of issues.

It is obvious that the end of a crisis as big as the Cuban one could have far reaching political and economic implications in many parts of the world. Even though, many analysts downplay the gains made by the Soviet Union, evidence indicate that the United States did actually lose to the Soviet Union in many aspects. The arguments in favor of the former notion base on the fact that the Cuban crisis triggered the Sino-Soviet split, the fall of the Soviet’s premier Khrushchev and the subsequent split between Cuba and the Soviet Union. Furthermore, analysts reckon that Khrushchev’s intentions were misled as it was preposterous for the Soviet Union to attack the United States from Cuba. The United States and its allies had all the logistical advantages needed to attack the Soviet Union from the Cuban soil. In other words, the Soviet Union underestimated the United States’ response.  Khrushchev expected the United States administration to lift sanctions on the Berlin issue. Instead, the United States consolidate its military mighty through its allies and surmounted massive pressure on Moscow.  

In regard to the outcomes of the crisis, both the United States and the Soviet Union lost and gained at one point. As pointed out earlier in this paper, every conflict has two sides. However, in this conflict, the Soviet Union tactfully gained more than its rival, the United States. Firstly, the United States was forced on the negotiating table with the Soviet Union. It should be emphasized at this point that the Soviet Union had hinted to the United States earlier that it wanted to negotiate over the Cuban issues.  The Soviet Union agreed to withdraw its missile programs in Cuba after securing a deal with the United States. The provisions of the deal stipulated that the United States shall not at any one point invade Cuba for whatever reasons. The United States was prohibited from organizing and sponsoring any militia activity that would in anyway threaten the leadership in Havana. The United States halted many installation programs in countries like Turkey and Italy, although, most of this military cancellations remained in secrecy thanks to the good relationship between President Kennedy’s government and the mainstream media.

According to analysts who followed this crisis keenly, the United States decision to halt its plans of invading Cuba was a major setback. Prior to this agreement, the United States was committed to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime at all costs. Castro was considered unfriendly by United States and his administration was a blow to America’s huge commercial interests in the region. Therefore, a decision to back off from the plan to overthrow Castro was a real show that the United States was cornered by the Soviet Union’s involvement in the Cuban missile conflict.

Another major setback to the United States mission was a decision to stop installation of a ballistic missile in Turkey. America was forced to dismantle its Jupiter missiles in Turkey in return for the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from the Cuban missile program. The Soviet Union managed to secure a save heaven for Fidel Castro and his administration. Furthermore, this conflict cemented the relationship between Moscow and Havana. Six months after ceasing fire, the Cuban leader took a historic forty day trip to Russia. A wider analysis reveals that, even though, the United States was humiliated, the Soviet Union lost significant ground in the melee. The popularity of Khrushchev dwindled across most of his allies. Relationship between the Soviet Union and China subsided immediately after the conflict, and later Moscow severed links with Beijing in unfamiliar circumstances. As if that is not enough, the Soviet Union was forced to step in and supplement the United States economic assistance to Cuba. America’s non invasion pledge was costly to the Soviet Union, but it was a worthy cause in relation to Cuba.  


The Cuban missile crisis has stood out as the most significant provocation in the 20th century. This scenario almost resulted in a nuclear explosion between the two superpowers. The actual confrontation was kick started in the United States back yard when President John F. Kennedy and his government confirmed that Cuba had developed nuclear missiles with the capacity to attack most parts in the Southern America. Both Kennedy and Khrushchev had a role in the escalation of the Cuban missile crisis. Even though, there is little information concerning the Soviet Union’s participation in the crisis. Available information reveals that it was a strategy developed by the Soviet Union to get Washington to change its grandstanding policy on the most issues in Europe and Asia. A critical analysis reveals that the United States considered Cuba’s military build as a real threat to its security and ceded substantial grounds in the negotiations that ended the missile crisis.

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