Cuban Missile Crisis

“After we beat the Russians on the cold war…” Having listened to one of my professors at university, I have been thinking about how much sure he was while speaking of cold war issues. Working at Pentagon surely has given him a lot to build up his mindset about the foreign affairs in an understanding of power dominance. Later on, I was surprised to see a chapter of the book that I borrowed from the library -long time ago- that is about the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. I quickly read it to learn about the interesting details. Here, I’m not going to give a brief explanation of the whole story but try to elaborate on the case with the actors, in my words.

Cubans must have really excited to see such a cheap support from the Soviets that surely extended the scope of defensive military units. Well, basically what Russians had expected as a political benefit from the move was far more than what Cuba has expected for them. In this case, several hypotheses are laid out to analyze the motives behind the scene.

In 1961, the CIA trained Cuban exiles failed disastrously to invade Cuba. Since then the fear of Soviets on the sovereignty of Cuba has increased and for the sake of Cuba defense, the deployment of missiles was conducted. It can also be said that it was basically the move of Soviets in the cold war as it would be in a chess game. The other factor is the strategic balance of power in 1960s where US military preponderance was pretty clear and it had outweighed Russians. Also one can think of Berlin at that time of crisis where Russian wanted to get involved in German politics and wanted to get rid of the Western European influence. One another aspect of the case is that NATO was about to place defensive missiles in Turkey which was going to threaten substantial amount of Russian soil. Russian move on the game board was well designed to make sure that US would opt to trade/sacrifice one or several of the strategic alternatives: Turkey, Berlin, Cuba.

As the consequences of the crisis and destruction of a possible war between US and Russia were projected, the decision making process had become critical. Decisions now then were being made within less than 12 hours and that might have increased the chance of thorough estimation of decisions, increasing risks of whatsoever exposed. That be the reason, there are a lot of US officials for both an air strike and invasion of Cuba in order to neutralize the threat. But, Kennedy and a few people were against undertaking such a pre-emptive maneuver which was thought to trigger Cubans to launch nuclear missiles. US Naval quarantine around the Cuba Island –without any confrontations- prevented extra Russian military support getting there.

A letter from Russia asking for diplomatic agreements and a second letter demanding the pulling off the NATO missiles back from Turkey have started the negotiations, since neither nation was ready and willing to go for the otherwise, no one would. The tensions lowered by the agreement of both sides – one of them to make a pledge not to interfere Cuba’s sovereignty and the other to withdraw the missiles from Cuba. None of other political crisis during cold-war made a world war that much close.

As conclusive remarks, in policy making, interests of a nation are at the center. Ethics –especially when they impose a real cost or sacrifice– might usually be underestimated as it is in the missile crisis. Many lives of civilian were put at risk without any strong justification. I would like to quote the Letter from Bill and Melinda Gates here. They made this statement about a particular disease that is not even an issue in developed countries, killing many children in poor states.  “…in our world today—some lives are seen as worth saving and others are not. We said to ourselves: ‘This can’t be true…’ ”.

Could anyone please, explain/convince me how this is not true for foreign policies? 

Reflections from:

Foreign Policy, Oxford University Press, 2008.

Steve Smith, Amelia Hadfield, Tim Dunne 


The Letter from Bill and Melinda Gates, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2009.