The year is 1959 and the place is Cuba. It is January 1st and Batista, the president of Cuba has just fled the country fearing Fidel Castro, a Cuban revolutionary who mounted a rebel force called the 26th of July Movement against Batista. Castro assumes power on the 16th of February and establishes a dictatorship.
The Communist Rule Of Cuba
So far, the Soviet leader, Khrushchev is in question of what political track Castro is deciding to take. Russia themselves have only one connection with Fidel which is his brother Raul who is no doubt a full communist. The Communist Party of Cuba at this time has no contacts with Castro quite yet. Unfortunately, Raul never showed his true feelings for communism to his brother, Fidel. This causes quite a predicament for the Soviet Union to make them seen and heard by Cuba. Smartly, Russia sends Anastas Ivanovich Mikoyan, who held business contacts in the US, to the states as a guest of the Russian ambassador. Fidel hears of Mikoyan?s arrival in the US and invites him to visit Cuba. Although Mikoyan is traveling throughout the island, looking things over, Castro still has not identified himself as a Communist quite yet. In May of 1960, diplomatic relations between Russia and Cuba are established following Mikoyan?s visit to the island. One reason why Cuba has turned to Russia is because the US had cut off their oil supplies and imposed an economic embargo on the island because of the naturalization of US owned companies and citizens by the Cuban government. This calls for a massive oil shipment from the Soviets but unfortunately, Russia was unable to handle such a demand because of their limited overseas shipping capabilities. Subsequently, Russia puts an order for extra oil tankers from Italy, a capitalist country. When Italy agrees to the business proposition, the US is infuriated that another capitalist country was willing to help a communist country. Italy saw it as nothing more than an opportunity to make extra money, regardless of opposing economic systems.
Back in Cuba, Castro has begun to make enemies for himself. The many policies he has instilled angered many who fought beside him in the revolution to overthrow Batista and many didn?t approve of the socialist reforms he made such as the naturalization of businesses and his collectivization of agriculture. Castro felt he needed protection against the United States and because Cuban forces mainly used small arms and guerilla warfare, Russia sent in tanks, artillery and attack planes as well as instructors on how to use the new technologies. The former Russian ambassador in Cuba was then replaced after Khrushchev soon realized that he worsened relations with Cuba instead of bettering them. A journalist replaced him by the name of Alekseyev who was friendly with Fidel and his brother, Raul. Alekseyev was seen to be much better suited for his position and worked well with the Cuban government because he was already known and trusted by them. By the early 1960?s, Castro has openly endorsed Communism with his many appointments of communist leaders in key positions of the Cuban government. As time, went on, Cuba became increasingly dependent on military and economic aid provided by the Soviet Union. Russia made up much of the Cuban trade interactions including the purchase of sugar and nickel. The American government became aware of Cuba?s growing success and began to wonder if Cuba would act as an example of successful Socialism, persuade other countries in the Western Hemisphere to revert to a socialist form of government or even serve as a base for anti-American propaganda. The United States was more threatened than ever by this socialist island nation on the rise.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
The date is October 14th, 1962. U.S. spy planes are making a pass over Cuba, particularly, an area where much activity is spotted. A Soviet-managed construction site is visible and photographs are taken of the site. It is soon confirmed that the first of many medium/intermediate range ballistic missiles have been spotted. Frantically, President Kennedy secretly meets with his advisory staff to question the approach. On October 22, Kennedy announces a naval blockade aimed at preventing offensive missile weaponry into Cuba on Russian ships. Inspections of ships in Cuba by U. S. personnel were also made. The Russian strategy was to install missiles in Cuba without the Americans knowing it. They would then discover them only to find that it is too late to act upon it. The Soviet Union saw installing missiles in Cuba as a very wise course of action seeing that US missiles were stationed in Italy, Turkey as well as West Germany which were pointed towards mother Russia. Also, even if the US would try to neutralize the missile installations in Cuba, they would not be capable of neutralizing all of them. The main objectives for the Soviet Union were to prevent any type of invasion by the United States and to stabilize the ?balance of power.?
Something that both the US and the Soviet Union shared was their fright of world war and even nuclear war. This is arguably the only time in history where the threat of nuclear war is possible. Things began to become very tense for both sides. President Kennedy became aware that the American army is pressuring the US government to use force against Cuba. This situation escalates so much that the president feels he is in danger of being overthrown by his own military. The exchange of messages between Khrushchev and Kennedy begin to become more frequent as tension rose. A final demand was made against the Soviet Union to dismantle the missiles immediately. Both sides wanted to end the argument peacefully and to avoid war. Word came from the Soviets that they were willing to take down the missiles in Cuba if the US promised that they would not invade Cuba. Kennedy agreed to the terms but wanted an inspection team to verify the dismantling of the missiles. During the evacuation of Soviet missiles, a American U-2 spy plane was shot down by the orders of Castro which caused much commotion in the states. This caused a total outpour of negative propaganda towards the Cubans and the Soviets.
Afterwards, though diplomatic relations with the Soviets and the US began to settle, relations with Cuba and Russia began to worsen. The Cuban government saw the dismantling of the missiles to be a ?moral defeat? for the Soviet Union. Wisely, the man who jumpstarted the Soviet-Cuban relationship, Mikoyan, was once again called upon and sent back to Cuba to discuss matters with Castro. Once the disputes were settled with Cuba, and Mikoyan returned to Russia, Khrushchev decided to write Castro a letter pertaining to his feelings on the recent crisis. He mentions the main objective of keeping Cuba a socialist country was successful in which no threat of invasion is posed towards the island nation.
The Aftermath of the Crisis
In the late 1960?s, Castro focused on revamping the agricultural system in Cuba. His primary objective was to dominate the international sugar market with modern machinery and technology. Because of the blockade on Cuba, the world sugar prices suffered much inflation but returned to normal after other countries elevated their sugar production to meet the demand. Cuba established a goal to produce ten million tons of sugar crop by the year 1970, which marked Lenin?s 100th birthday. Khrushchev mentions that Kennedy was a great loss for the Americans and identified him as a true ?statesman.? He also feels that if he lived through his term, that relations between the Soviet Union and the United States would have been better because Kennedy wouldn?t have allowed the US to be defeated in Vietnam in the later years to come.
I feel that the Cuban missile crisis served not only as another example of how nuclear war is in fact possible but also allowed interaction between opposing systems of government that were both seeking to expand their influence on third world countries. For Russia, they have succeeded in guaranteeing that Cuba would not be invaded but they have compromised their balance of power with the United States for those missiles served as the only nuclear threat to the states where as the US had missiles positioned in various places in Europe and the Middle East all pointed towards the Soviet Union. Khrushchev has also lost face with China where they see him as a coward in retreating. The people of the United States saw this as their own victory with the removal of the nuclear threat.
Castro, Fidel. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia, 1998 ed.
Cuban Missile Crisis. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia, 1998 ed.
Khrushchev, Nikita. Khrushchev Remembers. USA: Little, Brown and Company, 1970.
Second Edition. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1985.