Sample on The Cuban Missile Crisis: almost a date with annihilation

I. Title Page

II. Introduction: The Soviets in Cuba …………………………………………………3

➢     A date with Soviets: to tell or not to tell.…………………………………..4

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➢     A history of adversity.…………………………………………………………….6

➢     Why the decision to deploy?……………………………………………………7

III. The Waiting Game……………………………………………………………………..10

IV. Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………11

V. Bibliography

The Cuban Missile Crisis: A date with destiny

II. Introduction: The Soviets in Cuba

In the work of R. Conrad Stein, Cuban Missile Crisis: In the Shadow of Nuclear War (2008), the author describes the initial discovery of the one event that almost bought the world to the brink of possibly a third, and probably the most devastating, global war in the history of mankind. On the 14th of October, 1962, an American U2 spy plane flew over the island nation of Cuba, then a staunch ally of the Soviet Union. At approximately 7:10 in the morning, Major Richard Heyser, an experienced pilot in the United States Air Force, flew the spy plane over Cuban shores.

Heyser was ordered by then United States President John F. Kennedy to fly his plane over Cuba , with the mission of confirming reports of Russian agents coming in droves to the island nation as well as dozens of Russian ships coming in and out of the ports.  Kennedy hoped that the photographs taken by the plane would confirm or give him clarification regarding the status and purpose of the Russians in the state.

Two days later, President Kennedy woke up to news that he was hoping not to hear. His national adviser, McGeorge Bundy, told Kennedy that the United States had in its possession of pictures taken the day before by the American spy plane he ordered to fly over Cuba. The photos taken by the plane showed that the Russians were clandestinely deploying nuclear ballistic missiles in the island, a mere 90 miles off Florida’s coast.

The photos, according to Fidgen (2012), showed indisputable evidence that America’s Cold War rival, and the other recognized superpower then, the Soviet Union was equipping Cuba with an arsenal of nuclear ballistic missiles capable of hitting the United States, particularly Washington and other American cities. As a result of the disclosure, US bomber planes were immediately put on alert, ready for an attack, and the military establishment were told to map out plans for a possible invasion of Cuba.

A date with Soviets: to tell or not to tell…

            After a series of difficult and tense meetings with his advisers, Kennedy ordered the Navy to set up a naval blockade to prevent any ships from entering or leaving Cuba. The objective of the American military action was to prevent the Soviets from being able to land additional materials and supplies into the country.

There was no certainty on how Premier Khrushchev would respond to the challenge of the American Navy regarding the “quarantine”, as President Kennedy would term it, placed on Cuba as well as to the demands of the United States that called for the removal of the missiles deployed in the country as well as the destruction of the locations and facilities constructed for the deployment and eventual launch.

Hilsman (1996) also noted the unique position that posed great difficulty to the American side. Over the course of several weeks, the Americans were in a quandary whether to tell the Soviets what they knew. Everyone involved in the process knew that a deliberate disclosure of what they knew regarding the deployment carried with it significant risks. The Americans were presented with two possibilities should they proceed and divulge their information to the Soviets.

If the Soviets knew the level of deployment, then the logical step for them is to accelerate their ballistic missile program. In all likelihood, the Soviets will inevitably fast-track their programs, but with the knowledge that the United States knew exactly the degree of progress in their programs, the acceleration of the program will be sooner and possibly larger than what the US military experts had predicted.

Khrushchev argued, in his explanation to the Supreme Soviet after the event, that the main reason why the Soviets deployed the missiles in Cuba was to deter a possible invasion on Cuba by the United States. However, there was another reason that Khrushchev had in deploying the missiles-that of equalizing what the West had termed as the “balance of power”. In his argument, Khrushchev argued that the United States had encircled the Soviet Union with military installations and had posed the possibility of launching a nuclear attack against them.

In delivering the crucial point, Khrushchev wanted the Americans to feel the same way that the Soviets felt of having nuclear weapons pointed at them the same way that the American missile batteries were pointing at them. For the part of the Cuban leader, Castro made opposing statements on whether the deployment of the missile facilities came from the initiatives of the Soviets or from the Cubans themselves. In justifying the Cuban position on allowing the Soviets to deploy their missile batteries in their country, Castro argued that since his country had received so much financial aid from the Soviets, he allowed them to deploy and station the missiles, in what calls as an “act of gratitude”.

Roberts (2012) states that the relationship of the United States with Cuba was never always one of hostility with one another. American foreign policy, in the aftermath of the Second World War, was dominated by its competition with the Soviet Union. Not only was the “conflict” between the two nations regarding trade, but also about the indoctrination and spread of each other’s ideologies. The United States, the flag bearer of the democratic, liberal and most of all, capitalist world, was going head to head with the Soviet Union, at the time the largest Communist nation in the world.

A history of adversity

            According to Byrne (2006), Cuba was not the main trigger that bought two former allies on the brink of war. During the time of former Soviet Premier Khrushchev and then President Eisenhower, the crux of the conflict between the two superpowers was the city of Berlin, Germany. In the divided city, Soviet and American military forces stood face to face.

The Allied Power had divided Germany into West Germany, allied with the United States and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and East Germany, dominated by the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies. Within a few months after Kennedy and Khrushchev met in Vienna, the Soviets began to erect one of the more enduring symbols of separation for Communism and democracy-the Berlin Wall.

Many believed that if ever there was something or an event that will lead to an all-out war between the superpowers, the erection of the wall would have been it. But the crisis in Cuba bought a whole new set of problems for the Americans and the Soviets.

Why the decision to deploy?

            By 1962, the Soviet Union was desperately lagging behind the amount of firepower that the United States had accumulated. The missiles that the Soviet Union had in its arsenal then had the power to devastate the European continent, American missiles, on the other hand, were capable of destroying the entire Soviet nation.

As the Soviets began completing their initial tests and experiments using rockets and moved on  to the next phase of crafting longer-range projects and programs, they (Soviets) chose to accelerate their programs. In this instance, the next reasonable step would be to test their technology on rockets or projectiles with approximately 350,000 pounds of thrust, akin to the United States Atlas rockets and  then move on to rockets with about 800,000 pounds of thrust.

Both the American and British intelligence services believes that the Soviets were ready to move their program fast-forward from the research phase to a tangible deployment scheme. The Allies was able to gather rumors that the intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were being deployed at Plesetsk in the Arctic region. On May 1st, 1960, Gary Powers was shot down in his U-2 spy plane. After much political wrangling, former President Dwight Eisenhower promised the Soviets that no more U-2 flights will be done over the Soviet Union.

The giant rocket that the Soviets had deployed in Plesetsk, that both sides believed would hand the Soviet Union a commanding advantage in the missile race and close the so-called missile gap in favor of the USSR, would turn out to be a huge failure for the Soviets. To the dismay of the Soviets, the behemoth of a missile proved to be just that-an unwieldy machine that was too big to be able to be of any serious or significant use.

In the annals of the Soviet Union, the conduct of the American led “Caribbean crisis” as they called it, showed that the Americans, after the disaster that was the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April of 1961, the Soviets believed that the United States leadership was still trying to come up with means to try and oust the Cuban leader Fidel Castro and weaken Communism in Cuba.

However, many of the accounts here, though in some instances correctly or shadowing a host of political, economic and even covert military operations spanning from 1961-1962, led the Cubans to falsely conclude from the evidence that they had gathered at the time that there was indeed a firm and actual government policy that laid out an invasion of Cuba by the United States armed forces.

Prior to the Soviet deployment in Cuba, the United States armed forces did conduct some large-scale military exercises in 1962 in the Caribbean region. It is noteworthy to consider this fact as the time frame for the conduct of the military exercises of the USAF interestingly coincided with the time that the  Soviet leadership was also contemplating expanded military support for their Caribbean ally, including a possible option to deploy Soviet missiles.

The United States, for its part, had extended the “war” it had wage against Cuba. America’s political leadership pursued a wide range of destructive political and economic machinations against the Castro administration. At a conclave in Punta del Este in Uruguay, the United States triumphed in gaining enough support from the members of the Organization of American States to deny the application of Havana to the group.

The Cuban missile crisis is considered by historians as one of the most dangerous and darkest event of the Cold War. However, the most dangerous single time of the crisis came on the 27th of October, 1962, when the resolution of the event-whether there would be another global war-hanged in the balance. Though the Soviets had not attempted to break the naval blockade imposed by the American navy in Havana, the Soviet missile batteries were still deployed in Cuba, and were rapidly approaching operational status.

There was immense political and public pressure on President Kennedy to order an immediate air offensive against the Soviet missile batteries in Cuba, especially after an American spy plane was shot down over Cuba, killing its pilot.

III. The Waiting Game

After a meeting with his Executive Committee, President Kennedy decided on a twin-pronged approach at resolving the crisis- an official letter to Premier Khrushchev reiterating the implicit contents of the letter sent on October 26, specifically the pledge of the United States not to invade Cuba in exchange for confirmable removal of the Soviet missile batteries, in conjunction with the personal assurances to Premier Khrushchev that the United States will act with all possible speed to remove the missile batteries that were deployed to Turkey.

The agreement, forged in the Oval Office and transmitted by Kennedy’s brother, United States Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to Soviet Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin at the Justice Department office of the younger Kennedy.  The meeting has been considered as the turning point of the crisis, but though the meeting is comprehended as such, much of the contents of the meeting are still shrouded in mystery.

What is known is that in the morning of the 28th of October 1962, Khrushchev met with his advisers, and was greeted by news from one of his generals. The statement given was that Kennedy was about to go on air to address the American public at 5:00 later that afternoon. At that point, Premier Khrushchev feared for the worst.

Khrushchev believed that Kennedy was going on air to announce that an invasion was underway. Khrushchev, and the Soviet Union for that matter, was not ready to counter a full scale invasion by the United States military, and was rushed immediately to the television and radio stations in the hope that they will reach Kennedy in time. In effect, the letter recognized the “sense of proportion and understanding” that the United States had in the matter and “in order to complete with greater speed the liquidation of the conflict…issued an order on the dismantling of the weapons you (Kennedy) describe as offensive and their crating”.

IV. Conclusion

Alexander George (1991, pp.31-37) states that with regard to the success of the initial plan of Kennedy in avoiding an escalation in the tension between the two, there are three factors involved in the process. One, Kennedy narrowed down his demands to the removal of the Soviet missiles in Cuba. Any further requisites would have generated additional animosities between the two superpowers.

            Two, Kennedy also limited the incipient coercive method to the ordering of a naval blockade. The use of  blockade did not involve the use of force right away, and this method allowed Kennedy to gain more time in trying to resolve the problem. Lastly, both President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev both conducted the talks within the operational parameters of crisis management. Kennedy, in this matter, is noted for having sent the Soviets clear and incontrovertible signals, acting to reduce the tensions and was unwavering in his desire to see a peaceful resolution to the prevailing crisis.

Bibliography

Paul J. Byrne. The Cuban Missile Crisis: To the Brink of War. (Minnesota: Capstone, 2006) p. 8

Jo Fidgen. “Cuba Missile Crisis: when nuclear war seemed inevitable”. BBC News Magazine October      24, 2012, accessed February 20, 2013 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20068265

Raymond Garthoff. Reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis (Massachusetts: Brookings Institution            Press, 1989) p. 11

Alexander George, “The Cuban Missile Crisis,” chap. in Forceful Persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy as        an Alternative to War, (Washington, D.C.: United         States Institute of Peace Press, 1991), pp.      31-37.

Jim Hershberg, “The Cuban Missile crisis, 1962, the 40th Anniversary” [on line] Available at             http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/moment.htm [Accessed 21 February 2013]

Roger Hilsman. The Cuban Missile Crisis: The struggle over policy. (Connecticut: Greenwood      Publishing, 1996). p. 7

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. “Cuban Missile Crisis”[on line] Available at http://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/Cuban- Missile-Crisis.aspx [Accessed 21 February 2013].

Priscilla Roberts. Cuban Missile Crisis (California: ABC-CLIO, 2012)

R. Conrad Stein,  Cuban Missile Crisis: In the Shadow of Nuclear War (New Jersey: Enslow                     Publishers, Inc., (2008) pp. 5-7.

Thinkquest Education Foundation. “The Cuban Missile Crisis: Fourteen days in October” [on line]           Available at: http://library.thinkquest.org/11046/days/index.html [Accessed 20 February 2013]

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