Cuba is situated only ninety miles from the American mainland, and therefore the USA government always regarded to be in their ‘backyard’ Cuba had inhabited American companies such as Shell Oil and Texaco. The Cubans had relied on America to buy their sugar, as sugar had been Cuba’s greatest exports. The two countries had been very close, both geologically and politically, the Cuban leaders were very friendly towards the American Government.
Before 1959 General Batista had governed Cuba as a military dictatorship. The American government had been very close to Batista as he had supported American ideas and had let American companies do their business in Cuba.
Many Cubans were unhappy with the way Batista had governed the country so in 1959, Fidel Castro led a rebellion and overthrown Batista. So Castro now controlled Cuba. He is still the leader of Cuba now, after 44 years. Castro was friendly with America to begin with, but before long, Castro introduced communist changes in Cuba such as taking over the American businesses. The American government did not like this. The gap between the USA and Cuba was beginning to grow.
Sugar, being one of Cuba’s greatest exports was the first place the USA hit. They enforced a trade embargo and no more sugar was bought by the USA. Cuba needed the money from the sugar trade.
This is where the USSR comes into the equation. They stepped forward and offered to trade with Cuba. They also gave Castro financial support. One of Castro’s promises was that Cuba would have a better standard of living once he was in power.
Castro was not communist, but he was fast introducing communist ideas into the country of Cuba. The new president of America, President Kennedy, was not pleased with the fast growing communist Cuba. But what could he do?
There was a plan to get rid of Castro that Kennedy had inherited when he took over the role of president. It involved an invasion of Cuba. It was t be known as ‘The Bay of Pigs’ invasion and it was a complete failure. There were heavy US casualties and Kennedy and the US government were made to look fools. Meanwhile, Castro and the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev were becoming even friendlier.
These bonds between Castro and the USSR were arousing major suspicion over in America. So much so that Kennedy ordered U2 spy planes to fly over the island of Cuba and take photographs of the area.
Kennedy was told that the Soviets were building nuclear missile bases on Cuba. This would be a very dangerous situation as Cuba is so close to the USA. Kennedy needed proof before he could make any further decisions. It was all becoming clear that the reason the Soviets were so keen to step forward in becoming friends with Cuba was so they could build a missile base there in retaliation to the missile bases that America had in Turkey.
On October 16th 1962, the photographs taken by the U2 spy planes returned to Kennedy, they clearly showed that the Soviets were actually building missile bases on Cuba. Kennedy needed to make some serious decisions. He formed a committee of executives, called the Ex. Com. They had meeting 2 to 3 times a day to come up with a plan to stop these missile bases.
There were numerous options that Kennedy could choose:
- Do nothing. Kennedy would look weak
- Air strike on Sites could be destroyed, but Soviet
Cuba with workers might be killed.
non-nuclear Danger of escalation to world war.
- Invade Cuba. Heavy US casualties.
Danger of escalation to world war.
- Blockade Cuba Confrontation with USSR but no
so the missiles Loss of life.
cannot be put
- Nuclear attack Strong danger of nuclear war.
After six days of meetings with Ex. Com., on the October 22nd, Kennedy made a televised speech to the nation and declared that there would be a total blockade of the island of Cuba. The whole situation was now becoming very tense as there were Soviet ships bound for Cuba. Kennedy had stated that all ships bound for Cuba would be stopped and searched to see if they contained any weapons. Ships that were carrying necessities would be allowed through the blockade. (Ships carrying food and clothes etc.)
It was now Khrushchev’s turn to make a decision. He also had many decisions like Kennedy, his were:
- Order his ships to turn round.
- Order his ships to go on.
- Order his ships to stop.
- Negotiate a deal with Kennedy.
- Cause a distraction – and invade West Berlin.
- Send Soviet warships to support his cargo ships.
The world was on the edge of their seats. The decision by Khrushchev could mean a third world war, or it could mean the end of the Cuban missile crisis. It was all down to one man to decide what would happen next.
To begin with, Soviet warships supported the cargo ships bound for Cuba, in case any major confrontation occurred. But after four days of the blockade of Cuba, on October 26th Kennedy and his associates received a letter from Khrushchev. It said, ‘If assurances were given that the United States would not attack Cuba, and the blockade was lifted, the question of the missile sites in Cuba would be entirely different.’
Kennedy and the Ex. Com. Didn’t know what to do, and before they had time to reply to the letter, a second came the next day, on October 27th. This one said, ‘You are worried about Cuba…because it is 90 miles from America, but Turkey is next to us. I therefore make this proposal. We agree to remove from Cuba those means, which you regard as offensive. The United States will for its part remove its means from Turkey.’
What would Kennedy do now? It was actually Kennedy’s brother, Robert, who came up with the idea of replying to the first letter and to pretend that they had not received the second letter. It had seemed that Khrushchev had written the first letter by himself, without the advice of his associates. His associates must have seen his letter after he had sent it, and had said that he could have got more out of this bargain, and that he had come away with nothing. So another letter had been produced.
Kennedy written a letter saying that if the Soviet bases were removed from Cuba then the US blockade of the island would be lifted and no invasion of Cuba would occur. He also said that if there were no reply by October 29th there would be a war.
The reply to that letter came on the 28th. Khrushchev had accepted the American offer and removed the missile bases from Cuba. The Cuban missile crisis was now over.