Strategic Decision Making in the Cuban Missile Crisis

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Strategic decision success is heavily reliant on the attitudes that managers take toward the decision-making process and toward the decision itself. The Cuban missile crisis is the most well known case of strategic decision making at the level of the nation-state. The nature of the case was such that the use of evaluative frameworks and concepts along with the right managerial attitudes eventuated in a successful strategic outcome. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation between the United States, the Soviet Union and Cuba. In April 1962 the Soviets began supplying Cuba with military arms in the form of surface-to-air missiles and surface-to-surface cruiser missiles, and later, sometime during the spring of 1962, the Soviets began to install nuclear missiles in Cuba. In order to implement the best strategic decision, the United States, under the command of John F Kennedy, formed the Executive Committee, whose role was to manage the crisis.

The introduction of strategic missiles into Cuba was motivated mainly by the Soviet leaders’ desire to overcome the existing margin of U.S. strategic superiority (Harrison, 1999). At the time, the U.S. had a huge nuclear advantage over the Soviets, they had more than eight times as many bombs and missile warheads and they also had 15 strategically placed Jupiter ballistic missiles at Izmir, Turkey (NRDC). At the time, Soviet missiles were only powerful enough to be launched against Europe but the U.S. missiles located in Turkey were capable of striking the entire Soviet Union. Krushchev, the Soviet prime minister, thought a deployment in Cuba would double the Soviet strategic arsenal and provide a real deterrent to a potential U.S. attack against the Soviet Union or Cuba.

The Soviet decision to install missiles in Cuba was strategic in many areas, but one area that is often overlooked was the political advantages that the Soviets would gain. This is because a general improvement in the Soviet military position offered enticing prospects for specific gains in the foreign policy (Harrison, 1999). If the nuclear complexes were to be completed, Soviet leverage over other international matters, such as Berlin, would be improved. On top of this is the fact that other Latin American countries might see the benefit of having Soviet arms in their country to deter invasions and the Soviets would gain even more strategic military superiority over the United States (Harrison, 1999).

In terms of the reasoning behind the Soviets Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, he has been quoted as saying “I had the idea of installing missiles with nuclear warheads in Cuba without letting the United States find out they were there until it was too late to do anything about them. Everyone agreed that America would not leave Cuba alone unless we did something. We had an obligation to do everything in our power to protect Cuba's existence as a Socialist country and as a working example to the other countries in Latin America... The Americans had surrounded our country with military bases and threatened us with nuclear weapons and now they would learn just what it feels like to have enemy missiles pointing at you; we'd be doing nothing more than giving them a little of their own medicine” ( So it is clear that not only did the Soviets want to level the playing field in terms of strategic military location, but also to protect the ideals of a Socialist country.

The United States could not allow this situation to come about under any circumstances, so their main objective was to have the Soviet missiles removed from Cuba. The elimination of the missiles would have to be done in such a way so that other nations were not alienated and be inclined to move into the Communist camp. Furthermore, the United States had to respond in a way to remain in favour of public opinion and they also had to base their decision in order to prevent strengthening the relationship between the Soviets and the...
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