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Impacts of the Cuban Missile Crisis

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One of the most memorable events of the cold war was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 which saw America, Russia and Cuba engaged in a public show of might. This crisis almost led to the start of a nuclear war between the countries. This crisis has been the subject of various historical reviews in which historians attempt to describe the events that led to the crisis. Moreover, analysis of the crisis has formed the basis of much legislation regarding nuclear armament programs. One thing is evident though, no country in the world would like a repeat of this situation. This paper examines three impacts of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the lessons learned from the crisis. This paper will also provide a brief summary of the events that led to this crisis.

The Cuban crisis began on the 16th of October 1962 when the then American president, president John F. Kennedy received intelligence reports that the Soviet Union was in the process of constructing ballistic missiles launching sites in Cuba, located about 90 miles from the united states border (Byrne, 2006). The missiles were designed to carry warheads that were 60 times the power of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, and had a range of 1000 miles. President Kennedy convened his advisors to a meeting and after deliberations the President gave America's response to the presence of those missiles in Cuba. President Kennedy announced on the 22nd of October, that United States had decided to impose a naval blockade around Cuba so as to prevent the shipment of building parts and the missiles. Additionally, he called upon the Soviet Union to move out of Cuba and withdraw their weapons form the island. This declaration led to a tense standoff between the two countries that almost became explosive when a Soviet boat almost crossed the blockade Line (Munton & Welch, 2011).

On the 26th of October, Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union gave his response to President Kennedy's declaration. In a letter addressed to President Kennedy, the soviet premier suggested that the soviets would only withdraw the missiles on the grounds that the US would not invade Cuba. The soviet premier added another demand on the 27th of October to stipulate that in addition to the promise not to invade Cuba, the US should also remove its missiles in Turkey (Byrne, 2006). That same day, a US surveillance plane that had been conducting surveillance over Cuba since 14th October, was shot down by the soviets using a surface to air missile. In retaliation, the Joint Chiefs of Staff requested the President Kennedy to sanction an invasion into Cuba. Consequently, on the evening of that day, the American president issued an ultimatum directed at the Soviet Union that they were to withdraw the missiles from Cuba within 48 hours or the US would invade Cuba.

The Soviet Premier on receiving the ultimatum became apprehensive, since the ballistic missiles were also accompanied by tactical nuclear missiles that were enough to stop any invasion. However, Premier Khrushchev was in a dilemma because already the US had lined 180000 soldiers on the offensive: if the soviet responded using the tactical missiles, then the US would retaliate with another nuclear strike. In short, both countries were at the verge of a nuclear war.

To diffuse the deadlock, President Kennedy offered the Soviets a deal whereby, the US would withdraw its missiles in Turkey secretly in exchange for the Soviets doing the same in Cuba. The condition for this deal was that the American president would not reveal the intention to recall the missiles from Turkey, to the American public. Consequently, Premier Khrushchev accepted this offer and he announced to the world on the 28th day of October 1962, the withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba (Munton & Welch, 2011).

The Impacts of the Crisis

The Cuban crisis showed the world how fragile diplomatic ties were and how close nations were to going to war at the smallest provocation. A number of impacts arose out of this crisis. These included the reexamining of the nuclear weapons programs in the super powers, the establishment of the diplomatic hotline and the major embarrassment of Nikita Khrushchev, the then Soviet Premiere.

At the height of the crisis, the nations of the world held their breath on whether the world would undergo World War III which would obliterate the world. Besides, even the two super powers themselves had not comprehended the immense danger that they held in their nuclear armament programs. In fact, the main reason for this crisis was the quest by the Soviet Union to find the most vulnerable point for it to be able to attack the United States. Prior to this crisis, numerous countries were engaged in the development of nuclear weapons. However, none of the countries had appreciated the destruction it could bring should these weapons be used. The Cuban missiles crisis served as a turning point for many countries including the two super powers that were at the middle of this crisis. Consequently, the already established programmes were subjected to new analysis, and were restructured for safety purposes while others were disbanded. In addition, many nuclear disarmament treaties were signed in the period after the crisis to help contain the nuclear armament programs (Rhodes, 2007). Notably, treaties such as the SALT agreement were signed among the super powers to hedge the development and deployment of nuclear weapons. Moreover, before the crisis, both the US and the Soviet Union had declaratory policies which allowed them to declare nuclear war as they wished (Medina, 2002).

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