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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. influence through numerous attempted Cuban revolutions until the late thirties. The rise of Fulgencio Batista as an undisputed Cuban leader, combined with the institution of Franklin Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor" policy, led to a separation between the U.S. and Cuba. [Gaddis, 340-353] Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was rising to the status as a major world power, and would eventually become a powerful rival of the United States after the end of the Second World War.

Even through this "drifting" of relations, Cuba and the United States remained on good terms, and there were many American business ventures in Cuban sugar. This lasted until the Cuban revolution of 1959, which was led by Fidel Castro, a man with ambitious plans for reform in Cuba. When the U.S. government refused to provide war materials necessary for Batista to quell the revolution, Castro took hold of the country, and began an aggressive nationalist reform movement in Cuba. This included the nationalization of many U.S. assets in Cuba, most notably the many American-owned sugar plantations and refineries. Castro sought economic opportunities elsewhere, and began expanding trade agreements with the Soviet Union, the infamous Cold War rival of the United States. Castro's reforms were viewed as direct economic infringement on the United States, and as a result, the U.S. terminated all diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba and put into place an embargo that remains today. Meanwhile, Cuba and the Soviet Union became relatively close and formed a rather threatening relationship in the eyes of the United States. [Ball, 117-121]

In an attempt to overthrow Castro's rule and detach Cuba from the Soviet Union, the CIA trained almost 1500 Cuban exiles for a direct invasion of Cuba. Aware that such a small number of hastily trained soldiers were not nearly enough force to overcome Castro's regime, the United States was banking on popular support for the invading exiles that would boost their numbers as the attack progressed. [Friedman, 62] On April 15, 1961, United States aircraft made bombing and strafing runs on Cuban air bases and supply depots in hopes of providing a better chance of success for the main landing force, which would arrive later that same day. This invasion, which occurred at the Bay of Pigs, was a disaster and failed not only to fight off Castro's forces in the area, but also failed to rally public support for a widespread revolutionary movement. Kennedy openly admitted to United States involvement in the training and landing of troops, as well as the precursory bombings, further propagating anti-U.S. sentiment. [Ball, 138] The invasion, for all intents and purposes, was an unofficial declaration of war. Cuba, rather than openly declaring what would be a futile war against

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