In the 1950s, Cuba was a non-Communist nation within the American Sphere of Influence. Cuba was governed by a terrible dictator, a man by the name of Fulgencio Batista; he was not a very good leader to his people, but is supported by the United States, because he is anti-Communist and pro-US. This leads to many American businesses settining up in Cuba to take advantage of its resources, mainly sugar and oil.


Fed up with the unfair dictatorship of Batista, a revolt is created in Cuba, by a man called Fidel Castro. In 1959, Castro is able to overthrow Batista and instate himself as the leader of Cuba. There are two problems: Castro is a Communist. The United States hates Communsim, and a man just turned a Capitalist country not fifty miles from the coast of the US Communist, and the US is very upset about this.

The other problem the US has to face, is that Castro decided to nationalize all of the industries in Cuba, even the ones owned by the United States. This enraged the US, they were so mad that they stopped buying sugar from Cuba; but that's where the Soviet Union came in.

The Soviet Union, on the other hand, is very pleased; not only does he have another ally, Nikita Krushchev has a Communist ally, that can be influenced by him, within sight of the United States. So in 1960, Cuba and the Soviet Union sign a $100 million trade agreement, the beginning of massive Soviet involvement in the Cuban economy.

Bay of Pigs

In attempts to remove Castro, the United States' CIA trained Cuban exiles in order to have them invade Cuba and overthrow Castro. The US kept this a secret, for they did not want the world to know that they were training people to invade a sovereign nation. On April 17, 1961, CIA-trained Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba to begin their little revolution. Unfortuantely for them, Castro thought that this was a full-fledged invasion by the United States, so he sent his entire military to the Bay of Pigs.

Needless to say, the Bay of Pigs invasion was a complete and total disaster, and Castro became very worried. He thought that the Bay of Pigs Invasion was just a test run by the United States to see how he would retalliate, so he turned to the Soviet Union for help. The Soviets were only too happy to oblidge.

The Crisis

In 1962, Nikita Krushchev increased the Soviet Union's arms supplies to Cuba, and set up medium-range missile sites in Cuba, all the meanwhile trying to convince John Kennedy that there was nothing to be worried about. These missiles would be an excellent bargaining tool to help remove the Western powers from Berlin.

On October 14, 1962, an American U-2 spy plane flying over Cuba photographed an area by San Cristobal, showing evidence of medium-range missile sites. The US now had to decide what to do. Opinions in the US Senate were split three ways: the hawks, who wanted direct action, like an aristrike or invasion; the doves, who wanted diplomacy, such as making deals (the US would remove its missiles in Turkey if the Soviet Union removed its from Cuba); and the owls, who wanted mild military involvement, such as a marine blockade. The owls won, because the Executive Commitee (ExComm) feared a nuclear war.

On October 22, Kennedy publicly announced that the Soviet Union had placed medium-range nuclear missiles in Cuba, that were pointed at the United States; to counter this, the US would set up an air and naval quarantine on Cuba, to prevent any further deliveries. The Secretary General of the United Nations appealed to Krushchev to stop sending arms, and to Kennedy to remove the quarantine. Krushchev accepted this proposal, but Kennedy refused it.

Instead, the US Attorney General and the Soviet ambassador met and secretly established a comprimise. On October 27, Krushchev proposed the trade of removing the Soviet missiles from Cuba if the US removed its missiles (pointed at the USSR) from Turkey. Unfortunately, that morning, an American U-2 was shot down over Siberia, killing the pilot. This caused Kennedy to not agree to removing the US missiles from Turkey, though he did agree to lift the quarantine, and to not invade Cuba or set up a base there.

The Soviet missiles were out of Cuba within six months, and the United States removed its missiles from Turkey a year later. The Soviet Union did not try anything to increase bargaining capabilities concerning Berlin, though the United States saw a great need to strengthen its involvement in NATO, and Berlin.


The period after the Cuban Missile Crisis is referred to as a détente, a calming down of the superpowers, for fear of global annhialation. The United States and the Soviet Union both saw how close they were to engaging in a nuclear war, and it was frightening. These problems would be much easier to solve if the leaders could talk one-on-one, instead of via diplomats; which led to the creation of the US-Soviet Hotline - a direct telephone link between the leader of the United States and the leader of the Soviet Union.

Another way to prevent this sort of thing from happening again would be to not possess these weapons in the first place; but its not like either side was going to remove its weapons and leave itself defenseless, this sort of thing had to move slowly, and it started with the Partial Test Ban Treaty.

This treaty, signed by the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain in 1963, stated that the signatories were no longer allowed to test nuclear devices in the atmosphere, in space, or underwater. Though many nations later signed it, China condemned the treaty, saying that it was a bargain between superpowers.

This event increased the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Return to Cold War Events.

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