CIA and Cuban Missile Crisis Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

A host of threatening meanings came to be associated with the missiles in America. The American side perceived that avoiding the missiles is considered to be the only probable alternative. (Weldes, 41) The fall out of the incident according to Raymond L. Garthoff was that the Soviet Union was miffed and would never attempt another arms race, especially in Cuba. Likewise it kept the United States from invading Cuba. The settlement was thus effective for both the blocks. Only in 1970 did the public become aware of the tacit understanding between both sides. There was no public statement from the U.S. never to invade Cuba. The risks of a direct confrontation during the cold war was enormous and the consequences unthinkable. The Cuban missile crisis was one event that brought out the threat and drove home the necessity of keeping off show downs to both sides. The event according to Richard Ned Lebow laid bare the Soviet wish that the U.S. will not discover the missiles until they became operational and the U.S. will not risk war to remove it. The Intelligence agencies of the U.S. got a boost in the episode and disillusioned the Soviets off their wishful thinking. At the helm of the crisis both Kennedy and Khrushchev made considerable effort in preventing the local fallout of the concessions. (Garthoff, 6)

Missiles, Cigars, Castro and the Soviets

There is the theory on the role of Fidel Castro in the affair. According to Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali, the envoy to the U.S., Mikoyan was placed in a hot seat. Fro one thing Fidel Castro had been reluctant to allow the Soviets to install the missiles for the defense of Cuba. When the attempt bombed the Soviet envoy had the unpleasant task of explaining the accord with the Americans to the Cuban leader in a "highly volatile state," not only the removal of the missiles, but the need to allow UN inspectors to visit the dismantled rocket sites in Cuba. That was infringing on the sovereignty of Cuba. Raul Castro had told the Kremlin that Cuba could not accept a settlement involving on-site inspections. The gainer and loser was Cuba in the end. It gained peaceful existence without the threat of a U.S. invasion, and it also was humbled and made to learn that the soviets could if needed enter agreements that involved them without their consent or territorial considerations. Though Cuba continued to have relations with the Soviets, there was a question mark at the end of every negotiation that pointed to the Missile fiasco. (Fursenko; Naftali, 166)


Cuba was a bone of contention ever since U.S. attained independence, formerly with Spain and later with the communist government in Cuba and lastly with the U.S.S.R. The earlier problems with Cuban territory of whether it is with Spain or other powers were a matter of diplomacy and politics, a means of keeping things under control and keeping the international balance of power. When Castro came to power, the portal for a cold war was opened at the very doorstep of the U.S. First the Dictator was sought to be ousted with the invasion called the Bay of Pigs affair which ended in a fiasco. The attack on Cuba by the U.S. forces prompted Castro to seek external help in protecting his country. We could argue that the Cuban leader's insecurity over invasions, coupled with the shared ideology drove him to the arms of the Soviets. That was natural and in keeping with the then prevalent atmosphere. On the other hand Cuba was perceived by the Soviets as a means to gain a foothold near the U.S., and secondly also to ward of internal pressures by creating a crisis. In the event of a war, the Russians could at any time abandon Cuba if worst came to worst. In a way it was a brilliant strategy. If the nuclear missiles were in place and then the U.S. woke up to the fact, it could do very little to dislodge it.

A war with Cuba also signified a nuclear catastrophe. The rogue commander does not stick by protocol. He may have bypassed the Soviet instructions and used the missiles. Secondly the Soviets could always negotiate with the Americans over other contentions. In this case since the Americans found the deployment before it could become effective the U.S.S.R. had to negotiate the removal of the Jupiter missiles in Turkey. Why that made a difference is not yet clear. Cuba got respite from the U.S. threat. The one scenario, had both sides been adamant to the issue and kept their sides, and the Cuban commander having a way would have been terrible. If Kennedy did not allow the concessions and if the Soviet leader did not come to a tacit understanding many possibilities were there to involve the Soviet and U.S. direct confrontation. That would have been disastrous. Or even if that was avoided the missiles would have been still in Cuba and a persistent gnawing worry for the Americans.


CIA. A Look Back ... Remembering the Cuban Missile Crisis. 2008.

Fursenko, Aleksandr; Naftali, Timothy. One Hell of a Gamble: Khrushchev, Castro,

and Kennedy, 1958-1964 W.W. Norton: New York. 1997.

Garthoff, Raymond L. Reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Brookings

Institution. Washington, DC. 1989.

Larson, David L. The Cuban Crisis of 1962: Selected Documents and Chronology.

Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 1963.

Lebow, Richard Ned; Stein, Janice Gross. We All Lost the Cold War. Princeton

University Press. Princeton, NJ. 1994.

Stern, Sheldon M. The Week the World Stood Still: Inside the Secret Cuban Missile

Crisis. Stanford University Press: Stanford, CA. 2005.

Weldes, Jutta. Constructing National Interests: The United States and the Cuban

Missile Crisis. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis. 1999.

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