1.1 Cuba was originally ruled by its leader, Fulgencio Batista. The USA knew that he was
unpopular and corrupt, but continued to support him as he was anti-Communist. In Cuba, US
businesses dominated it and owned its major industries such as sugar and tobacco. They
enjoyed holidays there, particularly in Havana and the USA dominated Cuba militarily as well
as there was a large US naval base in Guantanamo.
1.2 From 1956, a young Communist called Fidel Castro led a campaign of guerrilla warfare against
Batista and eventually overthrew him in 1959. He took over many US-owned businesses, much
of their land, gave the land to ordinary Cuban farmers, forged strong links with the USSR and in
return, Khrushchev sent him advisers, economic and military aid.
2 The Bay of Pigs Invasion
2.1 From 1959-61, there was tense relationship with the USA and the USSR. During this time, the
USA gave support to Cuban exiles. In Jan. 1961, Pres. Eisenhower broke off diplomatic
relations with Cuba and this continued with Pres. Kennedy. He supplied 1,500 Cuban exiles aid
to land in Cuba and overthrow Castro. However, they were met by 20,000 Cuban troops with
USSR weaponry. Humiliating disaster for Kennedy. It strengthened Castro's position in Cuba.
3 Why did Khrushchev put missiles on Cuba?
3.1 Khrushchev wanted to produce more
nuclear warheads and close the missile
gap between the USSR and the USA.
3.2 The USA had placed missiles in W.
Europe and Turkey, in range of the
USSR. Doing this would restore the
3.3 The USSR had more cheap, medium-range
missiles than the USA - Cuba was ideal for it
3.4 Soviet missiles in Cuba would
3.5 To help defend Cuba - it was the only Communist
county in the W. Hemisphere and had just survived
3.6 Khrushchev wanted to
strengthen his political
position in the USSR. The
missiles could act as a
major propaganda victory.
4 Why did Kennedy react as he did?
4.1 Kennedy was under serious pressure from US military leaders to bomb and invade Cuba immediately - this
would have almost certainly led to a nuclear war though
4.2 Kennedy wanted to give Khrushchev
an option without immediate conflict
which is why he chose a blockade
4.3 He realised that he
needed to give
Khrushchev an option
without humiliating him
- in private, he agreed
to not invade and
remove the US
missiles from Cuba.
4.4 Kennedy used the opportunity of Khrushchev's first letter to explore ways to
solve the crisis whilst convincing the Soviets he was prepared for war.
5 Kennedy's Immediate Options
5.1 Do Nothing - the USA still had a larger nuclear force
and over-reacting could start a nuclear war. Yet, it
would be seen to be a sign of weakness and
encourage Soviets to challenge the USA more.
5.2 Surgical Air Strike - It would remove the threat by
destroying the missiles. Yet, the US air force couldn't
guarantee all missiles would be destroyed, some may be
launched against U cities and kill millions, it would kill
Soviet soldiers causing Khrushchev to respond and as
Cuba is so small, it would be seen as a very aggressive act.
5.3 Invasion - It would remove the missiles from Cuba and
Castro from power but would cause an inevitable Soviet
response - possibly in W. Berlin and a nuclear war.
5.4 Diplomatic Pressure - Involvement of other countries may force
Soviets to stop, but it was very unlikely that Khrushchev would listen.
5.5 Blockade Cuba: It would show firm action of the USA, and cause Khrush. to reconsider his actions. It would give the USA the option of
an air strike or invasion later, but it wouldn't remove the threat of weapons in Cuba, retaliation of Soviets and action would be slow
6 The end of the crisis - its consequences
6.1 It's widely agreed that the Cuban Missile Crisis was the furthest
that the USA and USSR came to a nuclear war in the Cold War.
Because of this, it helped to improve US-Soviet relations.
6.2 The USA and USSR decided to set up a telephone link
(hotline) between Moscow and Washington DC so that future
problems could be discussed to prevent this happening again.
6.3 Nuclear arms talks
began and in 1963, a
Test Ban Treaty was
signed by the USA, the
USSR and Britain.
6.4 Cuba - Castro had remained
in power and the USA
agreed to not invade again;
Cuba remained heavily
armed and became a focus
for other Communists in
South America and Castro
kept control of former US
industries. BUT, Cuba
remained poor and isolated
in the W. Hemisphere,
unable to trade with the USA
and dependent of the USSR
for supplies and equipment.
6.5 USA - Kennedy was seen as the
'victor' as he stood up to the Soviets
and they backed down. He also
stood up to some hard-line military
advisers, showing how dangerous
they were. BUT, he agreed to not
invade Cuba and controversially
agreed to remove NATO missiles
from Turkey. Castro remained in
power of Cuba and Kennedy made
lots of enemies - he was hated by
Cuban exiles and distrusted by key
6.6 USSR - Khrushchev had stopped a US
invasion of Cuba and had a guarantee for
it; he could claim to have acted reasonably
and as a peacemaker; he also had an
agreement with Kennedy to remove the
missiles from Turkey later on. BUT, the
USSR was seen to have lied to the UN
about its missiles in Cuba; Khrushchev
had been forced to back down due to US
pressure - Soviet missiles were removed,
leaving the USSR feeling ashamed;
Khrushchev was unable to make public his
secret dealings with Kennedy and in 1964,
he was replaced as Soviet Leader.