The Cuban Missile Crisis - Soviet Diplomacy and United States Aggression

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The Cuban Missile Crisis:
Soviet Diplomacy and United States Aggression

The Cuban missile crisis brings to mind visions of a great triumph over the Soviet Union and the defusing of an all-out nuclear war. However, this "crisis" was not so much the product of true Soviet advances towards war as much as it was a series of misinterpretations and miscommunications between the United States and Soviet governments that culminated in excessive aggression by the U.S. and unnecessary escalation of tensions and hostilities. These hostilities were fed not only by the Cold War sentiments against the Soviet Union, but also by the rapid deterioration of Cuban relations after the assumption of power by Fidel Castro. This aligned Cuba increasingly with the Soviet Union, and created a sort of threatening alliance against the United States that escalated and already tense situation. Of prime importance in this escalation are events such as the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, the stationing of American missiles in strategically threatening locations, an American naval blockade of Cuba, and a threat by John F. Kennedy to directly invade Cuba. Any of these actions could have been considered just cause for a Soviet declaration of war, but in general, the Soviet response to these actions was comparatively mild, and represented no true original aggression by the Soviet Union. The action taken by Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviet administration during the Cuban missile crisis was simply defensive retaliation that was taken in the wrong light by the United States' administration.

The first roots of the Cuban missile crisis can be found in the late 19th century, when American victories in the Spanish-American war rendered Cuba a territory of the United States. Within the terms of the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1898, Spain renounced all rights to Cuba, and left it under the military control of the United States. The same year, Henry Teller proposed an amendment to a joint resolution of Congress that provided for ultimate Cuban independence. This amendment was speedily passed through Congress, but was rather vague and left many questions unanswered. The Teller clause stated that the United States "hereby disclaims any disposition of intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island except for pacification thereof, and asserts its determination, when that is accomplished, to leave the government and control of the island to its people". While this quelled Cuban fear of annexation, it did not provide any plans for release of Cuba from U.S. influence, and basically wrote the U.S. government a blank check for possession of Cuba. The passing of the Teller amendment failed to satisfy the numerous Cuban revolutionaries, and there was a general resentment in Cuba of the occupying American forces. [Gaddis, 292-297]

This sentiment only increased in 1901 with the adoption of the Platt amendment, a more defined but also more stringent plan for the final withdrawal of American power in Cuba. The amendment ceded the Guantanamo Bay naval base to the U.S, stipulated that Cuba would not transfer Cuban land to any power other than the United States, mandated that Cuba would contract no foreign debt without guarantees that the interest could be served from ordinary revenues, ensured U.S. intervention in Cuban affairs when the United States deemed necessary, prohibited Cuba from negotiating treaties with any country other than the United States "which will impair or tend to impair the independence of Cuba" or "permit any foreign power or powers to obtain ... lodgment in or control over any portion" of Cuba, and provided for a formal treaty detailing all the foregoing provisions. [Gaddis, 310] Cubans saw the legislation as an imperialist infringement on their sovereignty, and resented the movement openly and bitterly. Cuba was officially granted independence in 1902, but was still under heavy and almost oppressive U.S....
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