Negotiations of the Cuban Missile Crisis

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By 1962, the Soviet Union was considerably behind the United States in the nuclear arms race. The Soviet Union had limited range missiles that were only capable of being launched against Europe, but the United States possessed missiles that were capable of striking anywhere within the entire Soviet Union. As it is often said, when it comes to national security, leaders sometimes make irrational decisions. In an effort to restore the balance of power Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev devised the idea of placing intermediate-range missiles in Cuba (14 days in October). This deployment of weapons in Cuba would double the Soviet strategic arsenal and provide a credible deterrent to a potential U.S. attack against the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was able to capitalize on Fidel Castro’s fear that the United States was out to overthrow his socialist government. For the United States, having a communist country in the Western Hemisphere was an embarrassment and national security risk. The Soviet Union presented this plan to Cuba as insurance against a United States invasion, such as the failed attempt at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. Realizing that this was the best means of holding onto power in Cuba against a belligerent neighbor, Fidel Castro accepted the proposal, thus the Soviet Union worked quickly and secretly to build missile installations in Cuba. On October 16, 1962. President John F. Kennedy discovered through reconnaissance photographs that the Soviet Union was constructing missile installations on Cuban soil. This meant that only 90 miles of ocean separated the United States from nuclear missiles. In response to this threat, President Kennedy organized the Executive Committee (EX-COMM), which was comprised from Kennedy’s twelve most important advisors to help manage the crisis (14 days in October). For seven days there was considerable and intense debate as to how the United States should respond to this threat. Not surprisingly, his advisors both civilian and militarily, differed as to the appropriate course of action. Options considered in response to this crisis ranged from an armed invasion of Cuba to air strikes. Kennedy decided on a less confrontational response. President Kennedy ordered a naval quarantine or blockade around Cuba that would prevent the arrival of more Soviet offensive weapons to the island. On October 22, President Kennedy publicly announced the discovery of the missile installations and his decision to quarantine Cuba. He also proclaimed that any nuclear missile launched from Cuban island would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union. Additionally the United States demanded that the Soviets remove all of their offensive weapons from Cuba. The Soviets responded by authorizing their field commanders in Cuba to launch their tactical nuclear weapons if invaded by U.S. forces. This precipitated the closest time in history that the danger of nuclear war was at its highest. The fate of millions of people rested on the ability of two men, President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev to negotiate a compromise during the Cuban Missile Crisis. During the crisis, the United States and Soviet Union were involved in intense negotiations through letters, agents and other types of communications, both formal and "back channel." Premier Khrushchev sent letters to Kennedy on October 23 and 24 indicating the peaceful intention of the missiles in Cuba as means of justifying the presence of Soviet arms in Cuba. On October 26, Khrushchev sent Kennedy a letter proposing that the missile installations would be dismantled in exchange for the guarantee that the United States would not invade Cuba. On October 27, another letter to Kennedy arrived from Khrushchev, proposing that missile installations in Cuba would be dismantled if the United States removed its missile installations from Turkey. Tensions finally began to ease on October 28...
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