The Cuban Missile Crisis (known as The October Crisis in Cuba and Caribbean Crisis in Russia) was a confrontation between the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States in October 1962, during the Cold War. The documents given are a map showing the location of Cuba and the range of the Cuban missiles, a photograph of Cuban missiles sites taken in October 1962,an extract of Robert Kennedy’s book, 13 Days describing events on Thursday 18th October, and a cartoon published in 1962 showing Khrushchev and Kennedy facing in an arm wrestling. We are in a context of a revolution. Fidel Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara and their “freedom fighters“sweep away the corrupted dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and take over the capital Havana. After they tried toconclude an agreement with the USA in vain, they turn to the USSR and China. Cuban-American relationship become aggravated, the Castro regime officially becomes a communist one. The presence of a communist island within fifty miles south of the United States is an unexpected windfall for the USSR. This is indeed under the direct threat of American nuclear missiles and bombers stationed in Europethrough NATO and SEATO in Asia. The very territory of the USA is protected by its location. They are too far to be reached by missiles or Russian planes. All those documents show that the USA stays the world leaders in spite of the danger of a 3rd World War weighing above them. Why the USA are in this predicament and what are the reasons of this conflict? In the first part we aregoing to study the causes of the Cuban missile crisis and in the second part we are going to describe the crisis.
I] The causes
A] The arms race
The arms race developed into propaganda and intelligence war as well as a forum for technological rivalry. Both sides were keen to find out what the other side was up to. Thus the need for intelligence. The USSR tended to use human spies. The USA,from 1956 on, preferred hi-tech spying using equipment like the U2. These were spy planes that flew so high that they could not be shot-down by Soviet fighters or by any aircraft missiles. They carried sophisticated listening devices and such powerful cameras that it could read a newspaper on the ground from 23,000 meters.
In May 1960 a Soviet missile shot a U2 piloted by Gary Powers. The USSRaccused the USA of spying and the incident caused a dramatic downturn in US-Soviet relations. Gary Powers was sentenced to ten years in a Soviet prison, but was exchanged in 1962 for a captured Soviet spy (Rudolph Abel).
By 1961, both the superpowers had hundreds of missiles pointed at each other. The USA had more than the USSR, but the advantage did not really matter because both sides had enough todestroy each other many times over. Having nuclear weapons prevented the other from attacking first. This policy was also known as MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).
B] The Bay of Pigs fiasco
It was against the background of the arms race that Cuba became a major flash point of the Cold War. Cuba, a large island just 160 km from Florida had long been an American ally. But in 1959, after athree-year guerrilla campaign, Fidel Castro, a pro-Communist leader, overthrew the American-backed dictator Batista.
In January 1961, the USA broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba. Castro thought that the USA was preparing to invade. It did not, but it was clear that the USA was no longer prepared to tolerate a Soviet satellite in the heart of its own 'sphere of influence'.
In April 1961,President Kennedy supplied arms, equipment and transport for 1400 anti-Castro exiles [exiles] to invade Cuba to overthrow him. The exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs. They were met by 20,000 Cuban troops armed with tanks and modem weapons. The invasion failed disastrously. To Cuba and the Soviet Union, the failed invasion suggested that the USA was unwilling to get directly involved in Cuba.