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The Cuban Missile Crisis: Causes and Consequences

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The Cuban Missile Crisis: Causes and Consequences The Cuban Missile Crisis was considered by many to be the most dangerous part of the Cold War. In the words of the US secretary of state Dean Rusk, it brought the two superpowers "eyeball to eyeball.". This event is perhaps the closest the US and USSR have ever come to starting a nuclear war, but in a bizarre way the realization of this fact made them more conciliatory towards each other. The Cubans were happy to swap land for a missile base in exchange for the USSR's economic, military and political support due to increasing US hostility. On May 17, 1960 the CIA created Radio Swan, a radio station broadcasting U.S. propaganda to the Cuban people to rise up and overthrow their own socialist government lead by Fidel Castro. This seemed to have little real effect on the political situation in Cuba, and so more extreme measures were judged 'necessary'. Every oil company in Cuba at the time was owned by the US and on June 7 they were unilaterally ordered by the US government to refuse to process Soviet oil. At the same time all US oil sold to Cuba was terminated. This act completely paralysed the Cuban economy, the country unable to generate energy. ...read more.


By this time, the USSR were clearly recognised as a powerful and important ally to the socialist government in Cuba. After a realisation in the early 1960's that the USSR were not longer ahead of the US in terms of ballistic missiles, a group within the newly created Strategic Rocket Forces proposed the use of Cuba as a missile site in 1962. Developing and deploying more advanced systems was out of the question due to economic reasons, and such a move was also backed by the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev who believed that the future of wars would involve tactical nuclear rockets. The Soviets decided to place medium- (MRBM) and intermediate-range ballistic (IRBM) missiles in Cuba, as well as a selection of other weapons. Forty-two MRBMs (300-1200 miles) and twenty-four IRBMs (1200-3500 miles) were sent to Cuba. Some 22,000 Soviet soldiers and technicians escorted these missiles to Cuba. The Soviets started the shipments in early 1962. On October 14, 1962 the US discovered the presence of a ballistic missile on a launching site. John McCone, head of the CIA, had suspected since August that Soviets were introducing offensive missiles to Cuba. However, he had not been listened as he was seen as being ardently anti-communist and other actors in the decision-making process did not believe that Soviets would introduce offensive missiles to Cuba until they saw them with their own eyes. ...read more.


If Kennedy had invaded, the outnumbered Soviets would have used their nuclear weapons and then Kennedy would have had no choice but to retaliate with American nuclear devices. The response would likely have been an attack on Soviet soil. Possibly the most worrying part of the Cuban Missile Crisis was the lack of a reliable form of communication between Washington and Moscow. It could take up to seven hours to transmit a message from one capital to the other. As a result of the crisis, a "hotline" was established between the Kremlin and the White House so that the two world leaders could communicate directly. Neither side wanted to risk starting another nuclear war over poor communications. Nine months after the crisis ended, Kennedy and Khrushchev signed an agreement to ban nuclear testing in the atmosphere. This marked the beginning of what seemed to be a new willingness to cooperate and communicate. However, on November 22nd, 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Eleven months later, Premier Khrushchev was removed from office by communist hard liners with his dealing of the Crisis (he was seen to have 'given in') a large contributory factor. Perhaps the same two people who brought us so close to nuclear war, now changed by that experience, could have brought us far from it. This is one question that will remain forever unanswered. Stephen Reid 10G Page 1 of 3 ...read more.

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