October 1962 and The Cuban Missile Crisis

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October 1962 marks the duration of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a result of the clear and serious rivalry between two of the superpowers, the crisis was (United States and Soviet Union). It was during the Cold War when the incident took place. The two countries almost involved themselves in a nuclear war during this incident. During the crisis, both the Soviet Union and the U.S remembered how they had come to near-nuclear war (Theme 1). To all nations, this crisis served like a wake-up call. While Khrushchev was humiliated by the Soviet Union’s exit from the conflict, Kennedy’s advisors were frustrated by the U.S. settlement (Theme 2). However, both superpowers recognized the higher need to increase communication between the White House and the Kremlin (Theme 3). Prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States embraced its policy of containment. The relationship between the two countries was one in which each of these countries maintained a distance with the other one. However, the Cuban Missile Crisis triggered a closer engagement between the two countries (Theme 4). The Cuban Missile Crisis brought respect, trust, and diplomatic and compromising ways of solving crisis thus improving the relationship between the two countries.

Theme 1: Both countries realized how they had come to near to engaging in nuclear war.

Khrushchev was the premier of the Soviet Union (1958-1964) at the height of the Cold War. His focus was on the pursuit of a policy of peaceful coexistence with other countries, especially from the West. Despite this peaceful policy, Khrushchev initiated the Cuban Missile Crisis when he placed nuclear weapons approximately 90 miles from Florida. At home, the Soviet people became less repressive under the process of de-Stalinization which he had initiated. However, in his own right, Khrushchev was an authoritarian as he crushed Hungary’s revolt and approved the construction of the Berlin Wall. The relationship between Khrushchev and the West was rather complicated. Despite his belief for communism, Khrushchev maintained peaceful coexistence with the United States. However, this relationship reached deterioration levels after the Soviet Union brought down an American spy plane in 1960. Tension significantly rose and reached peak in October 1962 when the U.S. realized that Khrushchev had stationed his nuclear weapons in Cuba thus bringing the world on the brink of nuclear conflict. A standoff took 13 days after which Khrushchev removed his nuclear weapons. In response, Kennedy entered into a private agreement after which he withdrew his nuclear weapons from Turkey. The realization by both countries that they were about to engage themselves in a nuclear war led both countries and the U.K negotiated a partial nuclear test ban. After this negotiation, there was an improvement in relationship between the two superpowers. However, the crisis was never resolved, making the relationship only temporary because no treaty was ever concluded to govern the settlement neither was the formalization of the terms between Kennedy and Khrushchev made public.

Theme 2: Both sides were embarrassed or disappointed by the withdrawal and compromise

While Khrushchev was embarrassed by the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from the crisis, the advisors of Kennedy were disappointed by the compromise reached by the U.S. According to Royal Air Force Museum, no one was satisfied with the compromise. First, the Khrushchev and the Soviet Union were seen to retreat from something they had started. However, on the other side, this served to prevent the bad blood that was developing between the two countries. Also, the military commanders in the U.S were not happy with how the conflict ended. To General LeMay, based on his address to the president, this crisis was their greatest loss their war history. Cuban people were not left out too in the disappointments as they felt that the Soviet Union had betrayed them in whom they had put trust. In addition, they felt left out because they had been left out in the decision as it was conducted secretly between Khrushchev and Kennedy. Nevertheless, the crisis paved way for the establishment of a hotline for direct communication between Washington and Moscow. The establishment of this hotline created a way in which the two leaders could communicate and avert any future crisis.

Theme 3: Cuban Missile Crisis led to the recognition of need for increased communication

After the crisis and after the realization for the need for increased communication between the two countries, Khrushchev and Kennedy made an agreement to have a direct telegraph communication link between them. A hotline was established after the two countries came close to engaging in all-out nuclear war. What followed after the realization that the Soviet Union had set missile weapons in Cuba were highly tense diplomatic exchanges between officials from the two countries. However, the attempts to conduct these communications were very challenging because of slow and tedious communication systems. The only method that seemed effective at the time was the telegraph through which communications were conducted between the Pentagon and the Kremlin. Despite the private resolution that was reached between the two leaders, the fear of future misunderstanding. As a result, there was need to install an improved communication system. A statement was released by the White House on 30th August, 1963 that the new hotline was intended to help eliminate the risk of future crisis due to miscalculation or misunderstanding. It enabled the two major players in the two countries to be connected throughout. However, the line would only be used in case of emergencies but not for usual government exchanges. As was described by the New York Times, Kennedy would call the Pentagon via phone, and the message would immediately be typed into a teletype machine, encrypted, and fed into a transmitter. Within minutes, the message would reach Kremlin. However, the system was not used until 1967 when President Lyndon Johnson used it during the Six Day War in the Middle East to notify Alexei Kosygin of his intention to send Air Force planes into the Mediterranean.

Theme 4: The Cuban Missile Crisis triggered a closer engagement between the two countries

As indicated in the opening part of this paper, the United States embraced its policy of containment which made the relationship between the two countries one in which each of these countries maintained a certain distance with the other one. One of the lessons that the U.S learned that containment can be terrifying for the country being contained. Since the end of the Second World War, the U.S had maintained its global military superpower. Nevertheless, it had never faced such a threat closer to its borders. On the other side, the U.S. had also placed its nuclear missiles within the range of Soviet Union’s cities. Never had the United States contemplated that there would be a response similar to its own. This made the use to loosen its policy of containment and consider entering into a compromise with the Soviet Union. The two countries had to come together to trade their nuclear weapons in both Turkey and Cuba. The loosening of the policy of containment seemed to have established a new relationship based on respect. Also, the loosening of the policy of containment made the two countries trust each other, use diplomacy and compromise in resolving crisis. This is evidenced by the fact that the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw its nuclear weapons from Cuba.

Conclusion

The Cuban Missile Crisis led to respect, trust, and diplomatic and compromising ways of solving crisis thus improving the relationship between the two countries. The Cuban Missile Crisis represents the crisis that involved the two countries. The Soviet Union brought its nuclear weapons within close range of the United States being a response to the act of the U.S. taking its nuclear weapons in Turkey and within close proximity of the Soviet Union. The evidence provided in the body paragraphs shows that there was improvement in the way the two countries related with each other.

References

Ball, Desmond. Improving Communications Links between Moscow and Washington. Journal of Peace Research 28, no. 2 (1991): 135-159.

Blight, James G. The Shattered Crystal Ball: Fear and Learning in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Rowman & Littlefield, 1992.

Gibson, David R. Talk at the Brink: Deliberation and Decision during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Princeton University Press, 2012.

Krieger, Joel, and Margaret E. Crahan. The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, 187.

Magnúsdóttir, Rósa. Be Careful in America, Premier Khrushchev! Cahiers du monde russe 47, no. 1 (2006): 109-130.

Marfleet, B. Gregory. TheOperational Code of John F. Kennedy During the Cuban Missile Crisis: A Comparison of Public and Private Rhetoric. Political Psychology 21, no. 3 (2000): 545-558.

Reid, Susan E. Cold War in the Kitchen: Gender and the De-Stalinization of Consumer Taste in the Soviet Union under Khrushchev. Slavic Review (2002): 211-252.

Royal Air Force Museum. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, 2017.

Stern, Sheldon M. Averting’the final failure: John F. Kennedy and the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Meetings. Stanford University Press, 2003.

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