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The Cuban Missile Crisis

Powerful Essays
The Cuban Missile Crisis

John F. Kennedy's greatest triumph as President of the United States came in 1962, as the world's two largest superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States, edged closer and closer to nuclear war. The Soviet premier of Russia was caught arming Fidel Castro with nuclear weapons. The confrontation left the world in fear for thirteen long days, with the life of the world on the line. In 1962, Nikita Khrushchev, Premier of the Soviet Union, employed a daring gambit. He secretly ordered the placement of Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba. Earlier the Soviet premier had promised Soviet protection to Cuba ("Cuban" 774). This was the first time any such weapons had been placed outside of Eurasia (Hersh 345). Several explanations for his actions have been offered by historians. One factor in Khrushchev’s decision was a strategic one (Hersh 346). A year earlier, the United States had placed several medium-range nuclear missiles in Turkey ("Cuban 774). The missiles were just across the Black Sea from the Soviet Union, within sight of Khrushchev's summer home (Hersh 346). President Kennedy had earlier ignored his advisors and placed nuclear missiles in Turkey. Another factor was a threat by the US to one of the Soviet Union's satellite countries, Cuba (Hersh 346). The United States had, in the past, attempted to kill Fidel Castro, dictator of Cuba (Brinkley 1047). In July of 1962, the United States found out that nuclear missile shipments were being made to Cuba. United States U-2 spy planes flew over the island, bringing back reports of construction and ballistic missiles ("Cuban" 744). The CIA found that five thousand Russian military technicians were in Cuba, and various military weapons were being unloaded onto the island. When U-2 activity was increased, reports showed the presence of SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) and torpedo boats with ship-to-ship rockets (Mills 233). On September 4, Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin met with Robert Kennedy to discuss a message from Khrushchev. According to the message, the military buildup was defensive in nature and not militarily threatening. Robert F. Kennedy informed the ambassador that the United States would closely watch all military activity in Cuba and warned of severe consequences should the Soviets place offensive weapons (Mills 233). President Kennedy apparently did not believe the ...

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Khrushchev soon announced that he would concentrate on Russia's economic problems instead of international military matters. He asked for solutions from the West in solving the Berlin dilemma. He thought that "in the next war, the survivors will envy the dead" (Mills 246). On Christmas Eve, 1962, over $50 million of baby food and medical supplies were sent, and the Bay of Pigs prisoners were released. In April 1963, Kennedy had the Jupiter missiles removed from Turkey, and four months later, Russia signed the nuclear test ban treaty. A "hot line" teletype link now enabled instant communication between Moscow and Washington, and the US sold extra wheat and flour to the Soviet Union. The tide of the Cold War turned--for a little while (Mills 247). The crisis was the closest the world had ever come to global nuclear war and could possibly be the reason for Khrushchev's fall in 1964 ("Cuban" 774). Those thirteen days left the world in awe of the determination and responsibility of the United States and its young president (Hersh 342). John Kennedy summarized his dealings with Khrushchev in just five words: "I cut his balls off" (Hersh 341).
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