Cuban Missile Crisis

Explain why relations changed between the USA and the USSR as a result of events in Cuba between 1959 and 1962 and how the Cuban missile Crisis affected relations between the USA and the USSR. The USA and the USSR never really got on after WW2 ended, it was always a competition to see who the greatest superpower was. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the nearest that both sides came to an actual nuclear war. The tensions were intense for both sides, for both USA and USSR could have started a war if they wanted to because of their opponents.

And in this essay I am going to explain why their relations changed and how the Cuban Missile Crisis affected relations between 1959 and 1962. One of the first reasons why relations between the USA and the USSR changed is because of Cuba, Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and it is situated only 90 miles from Florida, in Southern USA. Also the Americans owned most of the businesses, banks, sugar and tobacco plantations, as well as a large naval base. The Monroe Doctrine was a key part of USA’s foreign policy.

This said that further efforts by European governments to colonise land or interfere with sates in the USA would be viewed by the USA as an act of aggression, requiring US intervention. The USA regarded the American continent as its sphere of influence and would not tolerate a communist government in power inside their sphere of influence. The overthrowing of the pro-American dictator, General Batista in 1959 also led to deterioration in US revelations with Cuba. The new leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro, nationalised industries and banks, and introduced land reforms.

This hurt US banking interests, as it was their land and their businesses that were being taken over. In 1960 ended an argument to buy Cuba’s sugar exports, in 1961 the USA broke off diplomatic relations and cut off all trade links with Cuba. This caused relations to change because a lot of their trade was with USA and they would have lost a good sum of money. Also Cuba was economically dependent on the USA, so Castro turned to the USSR. By 1962 over 80% of Cuba’s trade was with the USSR.

Cuba exported sugar, fruit and tobacco and they also exported oil and machinery. And in 1961 Castro announced that Cuba was a communist country. Of course this sent alarm bells going in USA. President Kennedy wasn’t prepared for a Russian satellite that was so close. And in April 1961 the CIA and 1400 Cuban exiles organised an invasion to overthrow Cuba’s communist leader. USA provided transport, weapons, military advisors. The Bay of Pigs invasion was a huge failure, and made Americans and especially Kennedy look foolish.

Some of the Americans landing craft were wrecked by coral reefs which were mistaken for seaweed in photographs, and few people joined the uprising which was quickly crushed. So this is how Cuba’s relations changed with the USA between 1959 – October 1962. Cuba’s relation with the USSR is another reason for the relation changes between USA and the USSR. Well after USA cut diplomatic relations with Cuba, Castro edged closer to the USSR. In May 1962 the USSR agreed to supply Castro weapons to protect Cuba from future US invasions.

Not only did they supply them with thousands of guns but also, patrol boats, tanks and jet fighters, all this made the Cuban army better equipped. There were also 42,000 USSR soldiers that were sent to Cuba, the Americans thought

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there were only 16,000 at most. In 1962, USSR was increasingly concerned at the ‘missile gap’ resulting from USA’s superiority in long – range nuclear weapons. Khrushchev was also concerned about American/NATO missiles which were in Turkey, close to the USSR. Russian influence in Cuba offered Khrushchev an opportunity to balance the threat.

USSR sent technicians to secretly build silos, missile erectors and install 43 short and medium range missiles, which meant that USA were now in range of the missiles. The 13 day crisis was most likely the closest event that both sides have been to a nuclear war. On October 14th, a U2 plane got photographs of the missile sites. These photographs proved that the Russian missiles were well advanced and that most of the USA was in short and medium range of the missiles in Cuba. On October 16th President Kennedy sets up EXCOMM to deal with the crisis.

On October 17th Khrushchev assures Kennedy that he will not put missiles in Cuba. On October 20th Kennedy decides that he is going to put a naval blockade around Cuba. On October 22nd President Kennedy goes on television to tell the American people about the crisis. The news shocks the world as everyone knows a nuclear war would be fatal. On October 23rd the US navy set up the blockade around Cuba. On October 24th 18 Russian ships, many carrying parts for nuclear missiles, turned back, but there were still missiles in Cuba.

On October 26th Khrushchev sent the first letter to Kennedy, in it he promised to remove the missiles from Cuba if Kennedy promised not to invade Cuba. On October 27th Khrushchev sent a second letter which demanded that the US remove the missiles from Turkey as well. News had come in that a U2 plane had been shot down over Cuba and the pilot killed. The tensions were high at this point, Kennedy could have declared war on them, military chiefs advised an air strike followed by an invasion. Kennedy replied to the first letter and ignored the second letter accepting Khrushchev’s offer.

He also promised to remove he missiles in Turkey but insisted this promise was to be kept a secret. And finally on October 28th Khrushchev accepted the offer and the crisis is over. The 13 day crisis was one of the biggest reasons why relations between USA and the USSR changed. The effects of the Cuban missile crisis were; Kennedy’s reputation was enhanced as he stood up to Khrushchev and held his ground. Kennedy played down any show of triumph and praised Khrushchev for compromising, as Kennedy knew if he started boasting, that it could have the potential to get Khrushchev angry and maybe even start a war.

Khrushchev was criticised by the Chinese for taking the missiles out of Cuba. However, Khrushchev viewed his actions as a success as he got the missiles removed from Turkey. USA agreed that Castro could remain a communist leader. Both leaders realised how close they had actually come to a nuclear war, so a ‘hot line’ to both The White House and The Kremlin was set up in 1963. The Cuban missile crisis also showed how the need for nuclear arms control, so they brought in the ‘Test Treaty Ban’ which banned all nuclear tests except underground tests.

In 1969 both signed a treaty on ‘Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons’ which paved the way for a period of detente between the superpowers in the 1970’s. These are the effects of the Cuban Missile Crisis on the superpower relations. The relations changed for sure between the USA and the USSR. The events in Cuba changed their relation between them especially when Cuba turned to the USSR for help when USA cut off all trades. But the Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest they were to a nuclear war and that would have been devastating. This was the biggest part of their change of relations.

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