The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest mankind ever came to a nuclear war. The United States and Soviet Union mobilized their armed forces and nuclear weaponry, bringing the world within hours of a nuclear exchange. The Realist perspective argues that the origins and outcomes of this conflict were caused by the never-ending struggle for military, economic, and diplomatic power between the United States and Soviet Union, but cannot determine why the conflict ended. Instead, the Liberal perspective explains that hostilities ceased because of the relationship developed between Khrushchev and Kennedy.
The Realist perspective argues the heavy emphasis both sides placed on expanding nuclear capabilities to serve as a deterrent resulted in a shift in the balance of power and escalation of hostilities. After World War II, two super powers emerged: the United States and its Western European allies, and Russia and its Eastern European allies. These alliances created a bipolar (two main powers) balance of power – the democratic West and the communist East. The balance of power is the process by which each state seeks to ensure that no other states dominate the system (Nau 31). John Mearsheimer argues that a bipolar power-sharing world is the most stable because the two main powers only have each other to worry about (Nau 33), however, after the Second World War, this power equality began to fade. At the beginning of the 1960s, the Soviet Union was at a noticeable military disadvantage. The U.S.S.R. had a large stockpile of nuclear missiles that were only capable of reaching America’s allies. America had three times more intercontinental ballistic missiles than Russia, and Jupiter missiles in Great Britain, Italy, and Turkey (Allison 92-93). Moreover, the United States had a first-strike capabilities advantage. The United States had the capability to deliver a first-strike so debilitating that the USSR would not have the resources or means to attack the United State’s...
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