JF Kenndy and NS Krushchev - The Cuban Missile Crisis

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A History assignment on perspectives... it's interesting to compare the thoughts of a capitalist and a communist...

Submitted: October 30, 2012

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Submitted: October 30, 2012

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The Perspectives of two Opposing leaders –

John F Kennedy and Nikita S Khrushchev

The Cuban Missile Crisis was the result of two opposing governments and their lack of communication amongst one another. Only after the USA leader John F. Kennedy and Khrushchev, a USSR sovereign came to an agreement, could the world breath again.

John F Kennedy’s perspective

Before The Cuban Missile Crisis:

John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963) was the first youngest man to become president in the United States of America aged 43. In assuming role of his father, a previous Capitalist leader, Kennedy made strong allegations against Communism. “In foreign affairs, he said he would oppose communism and defend any country threatened by it.”¹

When the Cuban Revolution was in advancement during 1959 and shortly after, before Kennedy became president, Castro was accepted by the USA as he was seen as someone who would bring democracy back to Cuba. But within the year, everything changed.

When Kennedy came into the leadership role of presidency, he was informed of the CIA’s most important plan to invade Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro, the suspected communist president leading the Cubans, and as feared, neighbouring countries into communism. There fore, as he was strongly against communism, “Kennedy felt that a plan that he had inherited was one he could hardly turn his back on. Surely the USA should help get rid of a communist dictatorship in the Caribbean.”² stated T. Sorenson, the special advisor of Kennedy. Though Castro is liberally a patriot (nationalist) the influential views of Nikita S. Khrushchev predisposed him into communism after the USA refused to ‘pay attention’ to him.

Through Kennedy’s anti-communist view, the threat that was coming from Cuba needed to be dealt with. The only way he would be able to prevent communism from spreading to neighbouring countries around Cuba, was to get rid of Castro using inside men. Kennedy planned to train immigrant Cubans (who had fled Cuba in search of a refuge on US soil) in warfare then send them back to Cuba to carry out an assassination. The many attempts made on Castors life were unsuccessful.

On the morning of April 14, 1961, an invasion on Cuba called ‘The Bay of Pigs’ began. This operation was designed to get rid of Castro using guerrilla warfare. Kennedy hoped to mimic the strategies Castro himself had used to defeat Fulgencio Batista, a former president of Cuba. From Kennedy’s perspective, if the use of guerrilla warfare on one Cuban president was successful, then it ought to work again. Sadly, for J F Kennedy, the approach was ineffective.  

All of these attempts to overthrow Castro emphasises Kennedy’s loathe of communism; it confirms that he would go through lengths to succeed. Though ‘The Bay of Pigs’ was a failure, the USA continued to put pressure on Cuba. They encouraged countries to cease trade with Cuba and US citizens were forbidden to travel there. All but the USSR (Russia) withdrew from Cuban trade and association. And it was from this complicated relationship that the Cuban Missile Crisis arose. The relationship between the USSR and Cuba was unknown to Kennedy and his men in power until they discovered the missiles.

During The Cuban Missile Crisis:

It was in October 1962, for 13 days, that the world was threatened by a nuclear war. It was the US who had discovered the missiles on Cuban soil, and it was when Kennedy was informed that the panic began. The realisation of the crisis has only dawned on Kennedy when he was informed by a professional that “A first strike would have knocked out all the American air bases, bomber bases, all American missile bases and all American cities except Seattle in Washington State.”³ Tensions were running high.

On the 15th, Kennedy met with the National Security Council (NSC) in secret to decide how to disarm Cuba without causing a nuclear war. Kennedy had several options. They could do nothing. The USA could sit back and loose their influence within the world. There was an option to launch a surprise attack in which they would take out the missiles before Cuba could launch them. For this one, everyone was in support except Kennedy as he felt it was too risky. Their final option was to enforce a blockade on Cuba, though they would only be able to put a blockade on military equipment and not food. Following several long days they drew to a conclusion.

Kennedy, after ruling out the first two options, decided to set up the blockade. The fact that Kennedy had bluntly refused to go with the ‘surprise attack’ shows that he was a tactical man. “What Kennedy wanted was to mollify Khrushchev without seeming to make a concession, and above all avoid any prolonged negotiations.”4

After The Cuban Missile Crisis:

The crisis was over only after both sides withdrew their missiles. Kennedy and Khrushchev had come to the realisation that the world had drawn close to a nuclear war. In the following year a treaty called the ‘Test Ban Treaty’ was signed by both parties. It insured that any testing of nuclear weapons was to be done bellow ground and that both the US and Cuba would strive to prohibit the spread of countries attaining nuclear weapons.  

This cooperation between Kennedy and Khrushchev predisposes the putting aside of differences for the great of good. Though Kennedy’s view of Khrushchev was unpleasant, he was able to relate to him through the signing of the treaty and the prevention of the nuclear war.

Nikita S. Khrushchev

Before The Cuban Missile Crisis:

Khrushchev’s influence as an USSR (Russian) communist dictator was great over the Cuban president, Fidel Castro. The USSR was its main supplier of weaponry and economic aid, and as a consequence, made Cuba its butt in the cold war.

Though Khrushchev didn’t have much influence in the Cuban revolution, he did have an opinion on Kennedy when the ‘Bay of Pigs’ invasion backfired on the US president and the attempts made on Castro’s life were a failure: “It is a secret to no one that the armed bands invading Cuba were trained and armed by the USA. As far as the USSR is concerned there is no mistake about our position: we will give the Cuban people all necessary help to repel an armed attack.”5 This shows strongly how Khrushchev opposes Kennedy. He vouches for communism and is prepared to stand by it.

The failure of this attack had a great affect on the USA as well as the USSR and Cuba. It confirmed Khrushchev previous suspicions that Kennedy was not made to be a leader, that he was too young and inexperienced… Khrushchev met with Kennedy in June 1961 verifying his low opinion of his leadership qualities, which then fuelled the USSR’s next move in the fight for power.

During The Cuban Missile Crisis:

For 13 days the world faced nuclear annihilation. Khrushchev and the USSR were complacent when placing missiles out side of it’s boarders for the first time as they had not taken into account the missiles USA had placed on the boarders of Turkey, close to the USSR’s southern boarder. But in reality the USA wouldn’t be able to retaliate in time before nearly their whole country would be obliterated.

Khrushchev used these missiles as an advantage, hoping to utilize USA’s resources if a crisis were to happen elsewhere in the world. This view Khrushchev had of Kennedy and the way he was able to manipulate the Cuban president and Kennedy himself (to an extent) to gain power shows that he would do anything to assert his authority onto others and use them at his disposal.

But, because Khrushchev had underestimated Kennedy’s own influence, he was unable to predict the USA’s next move. The blockade had little impact on Khrushchev’s pressure on America but was effective in the sense that neither Cuban nor Russian immigrants could siphon nuclear weapons onto American soil; it meant that Cuban and Russian ships would be searched before their birth into the US.

What had greater impact on Khrushchev’s influence were the forces the USA had on high alert. Kennedy also took a risk at threatening nuclear war. As Khrushchev had already underestimated Kennedy’s power as leader, he was not about to risk a nuclear war. Kennedy them took his chance and set a compromise. On October 26, Khrushchev contacted Kennedy with a proposal… if the US agreed not to attack Cuba and lift the blockade; the USSR would withdraw their missiles. Though the USA was in agreement, it was not enough for Khrushchev; he also wanted the missiles on turkey to be removed. The use of the threatening tactic had been unsuccessful in some cases though it did ensure that Russia wasn’t about to be stricken off by America. Khrushchev could be ruthless when it came to something he wanted.

After The Cuban Missile Crisis:

The relationship between the USA and the USSR was stronger than ever. As they had both realised that the world had come close to an all out nuclear war, they decided to support each other in preventing nuclear weapons being obtained in other countries. Together they also decided on signing the ‘Test Ban Treaty’. They agreed to test nuclear weapons only below ground.

This sudden cooperation, though brought about through a serious crisis, shows how tactical both men were. Khrushchev was reluctant to take down his forces unless America did first. It meant that he would have to upper hand if things were to go wrong.

Conclusion:

Before the Cuban Missile Crisis had begun, during the Cuban Revolution, both Kennedy and Khrushchev strongly advocated their dictatorship. There was also a lot of miss conception between the two leaders. Khrushchev had greatly underestimated Kennedy’s influence expressing his low opinion of him often and Kennedy was so bluntly capitalist that the communication between the two leaders was near nil, causing allot of the friction that lead to the missile crisis.

During the crisis, which Khrushchev had used to gain power over America, Kennedy was forced to make a critical decision that would either cause or prevent a nuclear war. From the three options Kennedy had, which were to do nothing, launch a surprise attack and take out the missiles or set up a blockade against Cuban and USSR ships, he chose to go with the last one that meant he wouldn’t be able to prevent the crisis but could prevent any nuclear weapons coming to America.

After the missile crisis both men had similar views. They both decided to support the ‘Test Ban Treaty’, to keep their communication lines open and prevent any nuclear weapons getting into other countries. They also agreed on only testing nuclear weapons below ground.

The consequences that followed the Cuban Missile Crisis include the reality that the world had come close to a nuclear war. The time and money wasted in cause and prevention of the crisis was unnecessary. Though communications were improved between the white house and Kremlin in Moscow the political leaders became aware that their differences in dictatorship had nearly caused a nuclear war. It was also a shock to the world that technology was advancing but not all of it was good, and there were some that where prepared to use it to bully others into giving them what they want: ie: Khrushchev’s abusive use of the missiles on Kennedy. 

The views/perspectives of Khrushchev and Kennedy were different because of their opposing dictatorships: they were mutually from opposite sides of the monarchy (Capitalist vs. Communist). It is evident that both of these ideologies are extreme when practised within society, the causes of the crisis clearly show this as the political leaders where unable to relate to one another causing a relapse in communication and cooperation.

The views/perspectives of Khrushchev and Kennedy were similar because their situation was the same, and they both would have been greatly affected by the Crisis economically, politically and socially. The tactics used were to better themselves and their own country until the crisis hit its climax where the leaders had to put aside their differences to prevent a nuclear war. As a result they were far more able to relate in the prevention of other countries obtaining nuclear weapons.

Through out the crisis various countries, other than Cuban and America, where greatly affected by the actions the USA and USSR leaders chose to take. New Zealand, having signed the ANZUS treaty with the US and Australia, would have been at the mercy of the American government had Kennedy decided to lean on them. The ANZUS treaty was an insurance that if there where an armed attack on one of the member of the treaty, the others pledged that they would come to their aid. As a result, if the world had been plunged into an all out nuclear war, New Zealand would have had to have used their resources to ‘aid’ America in their time of need. It meant that New Zealand could be used at the US’s disposal.

All things considered, because the two opposing leaders where able to come to an agreement, the lives of many where spared.  

 


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