For fourteen days the fate of the world lay in the hands of the two superpower leaders, namely the President of the United States, John Fitzjerald Kennedy, and the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, while they deliberated whether or not to take military action against one another. Resolution of the crisis came about as a result of both leaders coming to an agreement that said missiles would be dismantled and military action would not be taken. Having said this there was conflict, tension and complication to endure prior to this agreement.
It is important to have a background understanding of what brought about the crisis before describing the resolving factors leading up to settlement. Carroll Quighey described how the pattern of a classic diplomatic crisis has 3 stages which are confrontation, recognition and finally settlement and we shall look at the Cuban missile crisis with help from this pattern. As mentioned above, the first stage of a diplomatic crisis pattern is that of confrontation, described by Quighey as a dispute- a power struggle in an area of conflict.
In the case of the Cuban missile crisis the power struggle was between the United States and the Soviet Union and the area of conflict was Cuba. At this time, the Premier of Cuba was Fidel Castro. Relations between Cuba and the United States were poor and on April 17th, 1961, John F. Kennedy authorised an attempt to overthrow the Cuban dictator in an event known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. Kennedys anti-Castro rebellion failed but made the Cuban dictator wary of another US attempt to invade or attack.
It was then that the Soviet Union increased its support for Fidel Castros Cuban Regime and secretly installed the ballistic missiles in Cuba. Kennedy was left in the dark about the missiles until Tuesday 16th October. McGeorge Bundy, the Presidents National Security Advisor, handed Kennedy photos taken secretly from U-2 planes which conveyed nuclear-armed missiles being set up on the island of Cuba by Soviet soldiers. It was concluded that said missiles were of an offensive nature and that action needed to be taken against this nuclear threat.
John Gaddis suggested it was the largest amphibious operation the Soviet Union had ever mounted. When confronted Khrushchev claimed that it was a form of humanitarian aid and his intensions were to save Castros revolution from another American invasion. Contrary to this is the opinion that the Soviet Union leader saw personal opportunity in the missile instalment as a means of amending the strategic imbalance between the Soviet Union and the United States.
It was all part of the arms race and the presence of Russian missiles in Cuba had drastically altered the balance of world power . Having said this, Khrushchev did not want to start a war and allegedly stated of the Americans Every idiot can start a war but it is impossible to win this war¦therefore the missiles have one purpose- to scare them. Whether motive for Cuban protection or self gain, the tension between the Americans and the Soviet Union worsened and Kennedy recognised that something would have to be done.
This takes us into the next stage as described by Quighey- recognition. Kennedy was well aware that action needed to be taken to resolve the growing conflict between the two superpowers but was unsure as to whether to take the diplomatic or military route of resolution. John Gaddis claims that early critics went as far as to say that he (Kennedy) would have risked a nuclear war rather than trade even worthless missiles in Turkey yet as will be revealed they could not have been more wrong.
Choosing to declare nuclear war against the Soviets would have brought global devastation. The American Political Science Review stated that had the worst occurred, the death of 100 million Americans, over 100 million Russians, and millions of Europeans (as well) would make previous natural calamities and inhumanities appear insignificantAlternatively Kennedy could choose not to act and allow the Soviets to continue their collection of nuclear weapons yet this would mean that there would always be concern and uncertainty that the Soviet Union would attack at a later date.
There was also concern that should he not confront the Soviets and allow multiplication of arms in Cuba to continue there would be a backlash from the many countries of the Western Hemisphere whose safety would be in jeopardy. How the resolution of the crisis would come about was in the hands of the superpower leaders and Khrushchev was for a few days unaware both that the United States government knew the extent of weaponry which was kept in Cuba and that they had photographic evidence.
Allegedly Georgi Bolshakov whom was relied upon by both leaders for highly sensitive communications even lied to the President face to face on the 18th October (about the missiles) by which time John F. Kennedy knew what was happening. The fact that Khrushchev was unaware of how clued up Kennedy actually was gave the President the advantage of time to weigh up his options. In an attempt to come to a decision as to how all could be resolved, Kennedy called for a meeting with 14 of his most trusted associates and during their discussion they circled different strategies.
This group was known as the Ex Comm. At this point his focus was on military options and how to mute the crisis for a period of time until they had made a plan. Khrushchev remaining in the dark gave them an advantage. The first was to do nothing and to ignore the missiles in Cuba but this was ruled out as Kennedys concern for a Soviet surprise attack at a later date was great. The second option was negotiation. The United States would remove their nuclear missiles from Italy and Turkey in return for the Soviet Union dismantling those missiles in Cuba.
The third option was to invade Cuba in an attempt to overthrow Castro and in doing so ensure the Soviet Union could no longer use Cuba as a military base. This plan was too much a reminder of the Bay of Pigs invasion failure however and was also ruled out. In addition they discussed the option of a naval blockade whereby the United States would prevent Russian delivery of military equipment from reaching Cuba by using naval forces.
Finally considered was the bombing of missile bases via an air strike as well as simply using nuclear weapons against Cuba and/or the Soviet Union yet each of these were unappealing and seemed more likely to result in failure than not. Gaddis describes how although the general consensus was in favour of an attack rather than a more diplomatic resolution, Kennedy could not be swayed. He secretly recorded his meetings and the tapes show him repeatedly pushing for a compromise by saying we cant very well invade Cuba when we could have gotten (the Soviet missiles) ut by making a deal on the same missiles in Turkey.
Further clarifying his unwillingness to invade was a statement he made following his public statement about the Soviet missiles in Cuba where he was quoted as saying though a lot of people want to invade Cuba. I would be opposed to it today. A naval blockade was eventually decided upon. Kennedy organised a line of US navy ships 500 miles off the Cuban coast- this line was labelled a quarantine line. The purpose of the quarantine line was to inhibit the delivery of nuclear arms from the USSR to the island.
Once the decision had been made a speech was prepared by Theadore Sorensen, an associate of Kennedy, explaining to the world the reasons for why it was necessary for the quarantine line to be in place. Even although the majority of Americans were pleased with this decision, in many cities elsewhere Kennedys choice of action was unpopular. This resulted in demonstrations and protest about the possibility of nuclear war. Having said this, the U. S. S. R seemed to accept the blockade without lashing out.
The first break in the tension-filled impasse came¦when a dozen of the twenty five Russian ships en route to Cuba either altered or reversed their course Khrushchev and Kennedy contacted each other through letters. As mentioned previously Khrushchev did not want to enter a nuclear war and merely warned Kennedy against it as well. He wrote to Kennedy personally saying be careful, as we both tug at the ends of the rope in which we have tied the knot of war conveying that war was not what he had intended .
On October 26th, after the naval blockade was put in place, Khrushchev wrote to Kennedy. In his letter he requested that the naval blockade be lifted and for Kennedys word that the United States would not invade Cuba. In return, the Soviet Union would dismantle and remove the missiles as well as stop shipments of weapons to Cuba. Carol Quighey described his letter as long and confused and stated that its tone clearly showed his personal panic .
Merely a day later Khrushchev sent another letter demanding that the United States remove their nuclear bases in Turkey. Prior to replying to either, Kennedy consulted his brother, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy. Bobby is credited for showing political astuteness needed to resolve the ever more complex situation by Robin Cross. Bobby suggested that Kennedy reply only to the first letter and disregard the second. Thus therefore, Kennedy wrote to Khrushchev agreeing not to invade Cuba and to lift the naval blockade if the missile bases from Cuba were removed.
On Saturday 27th October the Soviet Foreign Officer published a very different text that suggested a deal had been made not only to take down the missile bases in Cuba but also those in Turkey. Kennedy had replied only to the first letter and ignored the second request involving Turkey. Despite the fact that said Turkey bases were to be dismantled regardless of Soviet interest, the White House rejected this publication and stated that they would remove the naval blockade in exchange for removal of Soviet missiles in Cuba and promise not to invade Cuba.
On the following Sunday, Khrushchev announced his acceptance. Work on missile sites was stopped and dismantled under careful observation of the UN. To conclude, ultimately Kennedy prevailed and resolved the deathly fear of a nuclear war from within Cuba. Walter Trohan wrote about the Cuban missile crisis in the New York Tribute in November 1962 that for the first time in twenty years the Americans can carry their head high because the President of the United States has stood up to the Premier of Russia and made him back down.