Synopsis of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Synopsis of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Sample Political Science Paper: The Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile crisis of 1962 was a confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States. This disaster was characterized by miscalculations, as well as miscommunication from both involved parties. It is considered one of the significant events that almost triggered a nuclear war in the 20th century. Based on Roeschley (2011), the Cuban missile crisis signified the end of a unique period in the U.S. - Soviet relations. The Soviets' humiliation in Cuba had a significant influence on Nikita Khrushchev's downfall in 1964 and the Soviet Union's objective to attain nuclear equality with the United States. Thus, an analysis of the Cuban missile crisis will be essential.

This dilemma began on October 16 and 17th 1962, when President Kennedy and other administrative members saw the pictures taken by American U-2. The photos showed the presence of missiles on Cuban soil with nuclear capabilities and range over 1,600 kilometers. Initially, the two superpowers were involved in the Cold War when an American U-2 was spotted passing over Cuba in 1962 (Norris & Kristensen, 2012). During this period, the U.S. and the Soviet Union began developing ballistic missiles. Nonetheless, the Soviet Union used the opportunity to place the weapons in Cuba secretly that would be used to launch nuclear attacks on the U.S. The discovery of these missiles by the United States triggered the Cuban Missile crisis. This is because they were installed close to the U.S. mainland, which was 90 miles south of Florida. Over the years, the Soviet Union was overpowered by the number of nuclear weapons that targeted them from Turkey and Western Europe. In this case, deploying the missiles in Cuba symbolized their objective of creating a level playing field.

Nikita Khrushchev believed that the installation of missiles in Cuba was to enforce and maintain the independence of Cuban nationals. Further, he used the opportunity to ensure that he increased the country's nuclear strike capacity. According to Norris & Kristensen (2012), the missile placement plan in Cuba was influenced by the tension between the United States and Cuba. The hostile relationship between the two nations was evident when the Kennedy administration initiated the 1961 Bay of Pigs attack. Consequently, Fidel Castro and Khrushchev used the missiles to protect the country from future attacks. Hence, Khrushchev believed that the presence of nuclear weapons would prevent the U.S. from invading their territories.

On the other hand, John F. Kennedy and the ExComm considered Khrushchev's actions as a hostile move that was unacceptable. Based on Roberts (2012), the United States military had calculated that nuclear power would likely increase the Soviet Union's striking force by 50%. In this case, these missiles' location reduced the United States numerical advantage to a ratio of 3:1. At the peak of the disaster, the U.S. had over 3,500 nuclear ammunitions ready to use while the Soviet Nation had approximately 500 weapons. Nonetheless, the Cuban missile crisis was a demonstration that both countries were working towards a resolution. Accordingly, Kennedy announced the presence of missiles in Cuba and demanded that they are removed. In August 1963, the United Kingdom, the USA and the Soviet Union signed the limited nuclear test ban treaty. It forbade testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater and outer space.

Significance of the Cuban Missile Crisis

The United Nations and the Soviet Union focused on affirming their positions as superior nations. However, during the Cuban missile crisis, they were both cautious not to start a war that would have lasted beyond October 1962. Based on Roeschley (2011), the resolution achieved during the Cuban missile crisis influenced Moscow's subsequent cooperative policies. For instance, the 1963 test-ban treaty carried the signature of seventy-seven nations by the middle of September 1963. Further, this treaty allowed Kennedy and Khrushchev to work together and discuss the goal of pursuing the policy of détente. In this case, a "crisis hotline" was created between Washington and Moscow for secure communication during international crises. Hence, confrontations between the two superpowers became less frequent after the Cuban missile crisis.

Additionally, the possession and deployment of dangerous nuclear weapons in Cuba allowed the Soviet Union to achieve international respect as a superpower. However, Khrushchev's downfall in 1964 was due to his involvement in the nuclear weapons debate. As highlighted by Roberts (2012), he was criticized by his colleagues for being reckless and installing the weapons and yielding to the pressure from Washington D.C. Furthermore, John F. Kennedy's Cuban policies indirectly caused his assassination due to the decisions he made as the President.

The Cuban missile crisis also affected the Western alliances. The Western European leaders were against President Kennedy's decision to sideline them on issues that affected their nations' survival. Despite that he sent the former secretary of state to brief them of the crisis, these leaders wanted to be consulted on the issues. Moreover, the Kennedy administration ignored the North Atlantic Council when they removed Jupiter missiles from Turkey and Italy. Based on George (2013), these weapons were under NATO control, yet they were not included in the decision-making process. Hence, the United States' actions influenced the French President; Gaulle's decision to adopt an independent foreign policy line.  


George, A. L. (2013). The Cuban missile crisis: The threshold of nuclear war. Routledge.

Norris, R. S., & Kristensen, H. M. (2012). The Cuban missile crisis: A nuclear order of battle, October and November 1962. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 68(6), 85-91.

Roberts, P. M. (2012). Cuban missile crisis: The essential reference guide. Abc-clio.

Roeschley, J. K. (2011). Nikita Khrushchev, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Aftermath. Constructing the Past, 12(1), 12.

Published on: 5 Sep 2020

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