Cuban Missile Crisis

     The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was the closest the world ever came to
full-scale nuclear war. When the Soviet Union placed offensive nuclear missiles
in Cuba, President Kennedy interpreted the act as one of hostility that would
not be tolerated. However, the situation was blown way out or proportion by the
president, American media, and ultimately the citizens of the United States. The

Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, was reacting to the Bay of Pigs Invasion of

Cuba, US Missile installations along the Turkey/Soviet border, and the clear
anti-Communist policy of the United States. Khrushchev was born in Kalinovka in
southwestern Russia. He was raised in a poor family whose income depended solely
on the coal mining job of his father. In 1918 he joined the Bolsheviks and
attended a Communist school the following year. He moved to Moscow in 1929 and
began working for the Communist government. He gained much praise and advanced
quickly. By 1939, he was a member of the Politburo. He became Secretary of the
of the Central Committee in 1951. After Stalin died in 1953, the USSR went
through two more premiers before Khrushchev came to power in 1958. As Premier,

Khrushchev publicly condemned the terror filled reign of Stalin. Stalin
continually pushed for domination. Several Eastern European countries united
with the USSR under Stalinís reign and millions of innocent people were slain.

Stalin also restricted Soviet citizens personal liberties to previously unheard
of measures. Khrushchev was a completely different ruler. He acridly criticized

Stalinís crimes against humanity and began a rapid process known as
destalinization. This entailed destroying statues, pictures, or images of Stalin
and renaming most things previously named for Stalin. Khrushchev also restored
many of the personal liberties that Stalin had taken away. He let political
prisoners free, restored much freedom of thought, and restored freedom of the
press. He increased production in factories and placed a strong emphasis on the

Soviet space program. Although he had little pity for small, weak Europe and

Asian countries, he worked to avoid war with Western nations. He even called for
a "peaceful coexistence" with the United States. Khrushchev, despite being
communist, was concerned for the welfare of his country and did not want war
with the United States. Despite his desire to avoid conflict with the western
world, Khrushchev was faced with an aggressive United States government, and had
to act accordingly. The Bay of Pigs invasion was a prime example. This overt
military action took place when the CIA funded a paramilitary force of rebel

Cubans to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro. Kennedy refused to give the invasion
strong American military force so it ultimately failed, thus becoming a great
embarrassment to the United States. Not only was it an incredible failure and
embarrassment, but it was also a US sponsored military offensive against Cuba, a
communist country and Soviet ally. It was a challenge to the governments of both
the Soviet Union and Cuba. In addition to the attack on Cuba, Khrushchev was
also faced with US missile installations in Turkey and Italy that posed a
serious threat to the Soviet Union. The installations in Turkey were less than

150 miles from the Soviet border. The installations here were MRBMs,

Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles, and were nearly identical to the missiles

Khrushchev had installed in Cuba. He was merely trying to prevent the US from
gaining the upper hand in a power struggle, which could have meant serious
disaster for the Soviets. Khrushchev, just like Kennedy and the rest of the

United States, didnít want the enemy to gain a nuclear advantage. He was
trying to protect his country and prevent nuclear disaster. The hysteria created
in the United States as a result of the Soviet installations was immense. The US
media was calling Khrushchevís actions aggressive and people began to panic.

Kennedy and his advisors were debating whether or not to invade Cuba to destroy
the missiles (which would have meant war), or to negotiate with Khrushchev. The
situation was turned into a crisis. Khrushchev sent his first of two letters to

Kennedy on October 24, 1962 in which he explained his reasons for installing the
missiles. He said that the action was not aggressive, and that they would remove
them immediately if the US missiles in Turkey were dismantled and Kennedy
publicly promised not to invade Cuba. The fact that Khrushchev wanted the Turkey
missiles dismantled was hidden from the American public for several years,
making Khrushchev look much more militant than he truly was. Kennedy still
debated with his brother, Robert, and Vice President Johnson for a few days.

They decided not to heed to the Soviet demands and waited instead. In the
meantime a U-2 plane was shot down over Cuba as it was surveying the missiles,
suggesting that Khrushchev might be aggressive. However, planes were continually
flying over Cuba, posing a threat to the Cubans and Soviets. Kennedy decided not
to retaliate but voiced that if another plane was shot down, we would invade

Cuba. Khrushchev wrote another letter on October 26 reiterating that they would
quickly dismantle the Cuban Missiles if the US would publicly promise not to
invade Cuba and if they would dismantle their missiles in Turkey. Again, Kennedy
delayed and did not respond to Khrushchev. Kennedy merely said that the US
blockade would be lifted if the missiles were taken out. On October 28,

Khrushchev agreed and ordered the missiles to be removed. The Cuban Missile

Crisis was over. What happened here is easily understood in retrospect. The US
had outlined a clear Anti-Communism policy through the Korean War, Bay of Pigs
invasion, and missile installations in Europe. Khrushchev didnít want to
jeopardize the safety of his country so decided to install missiles in Cuba to
protect the Cubans and the USSR The US media along with the government, did not
inform the public of the installations in Turkey or Khrushchevís offer to
remove the missiles if the US missiles were also removed. This created intense
public opposition to the Soviet leader as he was made out to be much more
militant than he actually was. He was simply fighting fire with fire, but the
government and media prevented the public from having the truth. It looks almost
like a blatant attempt to manipulate the American public by over-dramatizing a
situation for which US government was predominately responsible. Kennedy
threatened invasion and he would have had support of the entire nation if he had
proceeded with this plan. Khrushchev obviously didnít want war as he
eventually agreed to remove the missiles and allow the US to have a nuclear
advantage. Why would Khrushchev agree to remove the missiles without any US
promise to remove their missiles or not to invade Cuba? The answer is obvious.

Khrushchev did not want war with the United States. He was a vast improvement
over Stalin as a Premier and had restored much freedom to his country. He
wasnít a mad killer like Stalin and simply wanted to protect the citizens of
his country, unlike Stalin had. The US government, however, wanted the media and
public to think otherwise. They succeeded.