Russia is affecting the election; we need to take action against them. No, this isn’t sentiments ripped from today’s headlines, it’s sentiments from Cold War actors. Today we look at the origins of a pivotal few weeks in American v. Communist relations in today’s #HistoryMonday.
On this day in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis begins. The crisis brought the United States and the Soviet Union to what many thoughts would be the climax of Cold War aggression. Reconnaissance photos taken by a U-2 spy plane showed Soviet-made medium-range missiles in Cuba. These missiles were now placed 90 miles from the American coastline, and if equipped with nuclear warheads, could reach many major American cities.
Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union over Cuba first came to the fore during the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Those tensions grew in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961. Cuban refugees with U.S. training attempted to overthrow Fidel Castro and the Communist forces but were unsuccessful in these efforts. Castro fearing a reprisal from the United States, sought to augment the military assistance from the Soviet Union. Cuba received over 20,000 Soviet advisors in the next year. Additionally, Russia placed missiles and strategic bombers on the island to threaten U.S. forces. Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev decided that ratcheting up the threat to the U.S. was necessary to appease his hardliners and deter further intervention by the United States. Khrushchev was already worried about his ability to be elected and remain in power in the USSR. American missiles with nuclear capabilities of their own were already placed in Turkey and Italy which led to resentment from Khrushchev and the Soviets. Placing the missiles in Cuba was seen by the Soviets as being a reciprocal effort towards America.
Not surprisingly, Americans were angered by the missile sites in Cuba. Hawkish factions in the legislature and the press demanded Pres. Kennedy take swift action against Cuba and the USSR for this bellicose action so near America.
Pres. Kennedy was unsure which option to choose and started EXCOMM (Executive Committee of the National Security Council) to give him some options: Do nothing, Attack, Diplomatic overtures, or Blockade. Each had strengths and weaknesses which Pres. Kennedy weighed out before deciding to blockade the Caribbean Island and prevent more Soviet shipments from arriving.
Eventually, the blockade proved effective in backing down the Soviets. Communications between the two nations eventually arrived at a compromise that allowed each to save some face. Soviets removed the missiles from Cuba while the U.S. would remove the missiles in Turkey. This agreement by the United States was only agreed on with the stipulation that the removal remain covertly. Pres. Kennedy was worried that removing these deterrents to the Soviets would impact the U.S. Election and his administration.
Cuban-American relations were relaxed in the final portions of Pres. Obama’s tenure, including much of the Cuban embargo. Travel to the Caribbean nation has been more permissible in the last several years but there are still challenges. The shift of power from Fidel Castro to his brother, Raúl began much a thawing of the Cold War tensions between the countries. Fidel’s subsequent death also led to further lessening of tensions between the countries.
Of course, tensions between Russia, Turkey, and the United States are currently in a state of concern for all parties involved. Rather than worrying about Cuba, Syria is the proxy nation being torn apart by the tug-of-war between the more powerful nations. Time will tell whether diplomatic efforts come to bear, and everyone settles down.
Should the U.S. take more provocative actions towards Cuba and the Soviet Union when photos of missiles were discovered?