Conflict between the U.S. and RussiaThe Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war. TheUnited States armed forces were at their highest state of readiness and Soviet forces in Cuba were prepared to use nuclear weapons deployed on Cuban beaches to defend the island if it was invaded. However, histories opinion of the conflict is more that of praise and commendation because of the “bravery” of two men, President John F.
Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev. However, this extreme, 14 day, tension mounting conflict was really a contest of two men’s egos. For example: during President Kennedy’s presidential campaign, he had repeatedly spoken of a missile gap between the U.S. and Soviet Union, meaning that neither nation had the capabilities of striking each other from each ones mainland.
Despite being briefed by the Pentagon that the U.S. had more missiles than the Soviets, Kennedy maintained his claim that the U.S. had less. After the 1960 election, Khrushchev began to test the new president, and in the summer of 1961 Khrushchev applied pressure to Berlin and eventually built a wall surrounding West Berlin. In response, Kennedy felt it necessary to inform Khrushchev that there was in fact no missile gap.
Undoubtedly a use of power that needed not be thrown into the equation at that time.Khrushchev claimed to have always known the U.S. had more missiles. Khrushchev also knew that Soviet missiles were only powerful enough to be launched against Europe but U.S. missiles were capable of striking the entire Soviet Union.
In reality, the conflict could have easily been averted and forgotten about had President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev communicated with each other more efficiently, been more willing to negociate, and put aside their oversized ego’s sooner for the balance of world peace.A major point not to be overlooked, is that up to the point of the Crisis, Khrushchev had been riding on a positive post-Stalin high. The ruling group had taken away it’s need to depend on it’s own population, which was very different than that during Stalin’s rule. It reduced the powers of the secret police, and allowed for more agricultural productivity.
Which in turn “allowed the Soviet population at large to enjoy many of the material benefits of industrial development… (because) the post-Stalin leadership had begun to unravel a highly autocratic system” (Christian, 373). However, the Cuban Missile Crisis tarnished all hopes of cutting back the defense budget, (an idea the Soviet government had about ten years ago when they were trying to find a cheap way of developing a nuclear defense strategy, however, much of this idea was dependent upon a bluff that the soviets had intermittent-nuclear-range missiles). The cutting of the defense budget would have insured to a degree the continuation of these positive results on the economy.When observed from today’s standpoint, the Cuban Missile Crisis was, besides being a test of egos, simply a technology-based conflict.
Similar to that of the Russian/American “Space Race,” the Crisis can be broken down and scene as a matter of technological competition. In 1962, not only did the United States have first strike missiles pointed at the Soviet Union from neighboring Turkey, but they also had intermittent-range missiles that could be launched from the mainland United States and strike the U.S.S.
R. At this point in time of Russia’s development, the Soviets had no weaponry technology capable of covering this type of distance. However, it was only a matter of a few years, maybe months, before Soviet technology would make this possible. Most of all, however, Khrushchev feared a first-strike by the U.S.
If the Soviet Union lost the arms race so badly, he worried, it would invite a first-strike nuclear attack from the U.S. Consequently, Khrushchev began looking for a way to counter the United State’s lead; and it wasn’t long until he found his answer.
Meanwhile, adding to the complications of the Crisis, 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 of Cuba.
For the United States, the crisis began on October 15, 1962 when reconnaissance photographs revealed Soviet missiles under construction in Cuba.. 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 government, Kennedy concluded to first impose a naval quarantine around Cuba, instead of attacking first. He wished to prevent the arrival of more Soviet offensive weapons on the island and used the non-war-based-word “quarantine” instead of “blockade” since the word blockade refers to a physical use of force to prevent passage during a time of war. 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. Kennedyeventually ordered low-level reconnaissance missions once every two hours. On Wednesday, October 24th, the same day that Kennedy ordered the quarantine to begin, military alert was raised to DEFCON 2,the highest level ever in U.S. history. Then on the 26th EX-COMM heard from Khrushchev in an impassioned letter in which 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. This second letter is proof of egotism halting the resolution of the conflict; in Khrushchev’s first letter, he never addressed the U.
S. missiles in Turkey, however, now he feels the missile’s a threat and adds them to his list of negotiable demands. Kennedy feared having someone go public with the Turkey proposal because it could potentially ruin his career, thus, he kept this part of Khrushchev’s proposal extremely secretive. If the U.S. buckled under pressure and removed its missiles from Turkey, where they had been long before the crisis arose, then it could be political suicide and a demonstration of Soviet influencing power.
A political enemy would have a field day holding Kennedy responsible for the Turkey proposal.Tensions finally began to ease on October 28 when Khrushchev announced that hewould 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.Nine months after the Cuban Missile Crisis ended in June of 1962, Kennedy and Khrushchev signed an agreement to ban nuclear testing in the atmosphere, a landmark step towards world peace. This marked the beginning of what seemed to be a new willingness to cooperate and communicate between the two super-nations. However, on November 22nd, 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. And two years after the Crisis, Premier Khrushchev was removed from office by communist hard liners.
Both men, President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev, in their attempts and successes of dealing with the Crisis, are regaled as heros. History complements (for the most part), the efforts made by these two men to keep world peace stable and prevent the occurrence of a nuclear war. The United States was in an economically safe state while the sixties rolled on. Meanwhile, Russia’s government were enjoying their new found post-Stalin socialism attributing great reliefs to the country. Meanwhile, the population enjoyed the material benefits that industrial development brought, and the productivity and output of the agricultural industry.
However, the Crisis presented many problems to both men, and both nations. First, both men were at a prime time in their careers and did not want to do anything to tarnish their reputations, like back down from demands or pressures applied. Second, the nations were both in an safe economic state for the time being, and a nuclear war would shot each nation right in the foot. It is for these two reasons, that the outcome of the Crisis was so beneficial and yet, surprising at the same time. Since neither men were willing to put aside their own egos and negotiate, the Cuban Missile Crisis became a fourteen day trial and the closest that the world has ever come to nuclear war, instead of a day-or-two-long negotiation to prevent nuclear weaponry technology and neighboring missile silos. It’s funny to think that the two men who brought us so close to nuclear war, are now regaled as heros.
What could be more difficult then successfully negotiating a conflict that lasted 14 days that could have only lasted one or two? Who knows what more great things these two leaders could have accomplished had fate not stepped in and changed history? Bibliography: