On one end of the spectrum, stood the United States of America, with the young and charismatic Kennedy as President, while on the other end was the United States of Soviet Russia with the ambivalent yet shrewd Nikkei Khrushchev as Premier. The actions and the decisions of both Kennedy and Khrushchev led to, heightened and assuaged the Cuban Missiles Crisis. However, certain details and analysis leads us to believe at that between the two, Khrushchev was more responsible for the Cuban Missiles Crisis than Kennedy. This essay will aim to analyze the Crisis and prove that Khrushchev was more responsible.
It is perhaps quite simple, regarding the events and decisions in the Cold War, to prove that it was the irresponsibility and lack of proper statesmanship from Khrushchev’s side that allowed the Crisis to take place and heighten. Although it had been the Aqua’s constant hovering and hounding that pushed Fidel Castro into abandoning his policy of non-alignment and adopting Marxism-Leninism, Khrushchev’s aid and show of solidarity for his new friend and ally could have taken on a form that the US did not find as threatening to their national security.
The Monroe Doctrine clearly stated that the countries of the rest of the world were not to meddle in the affairs of North and South America, hereby claiming South America as an American sphere of influence. Considering that the leadership of the US had men willing to accept that the USSR should have its own sphere of influence post-World War Two, Khrushchev should have been more cautious in his dealing with Cuba. Many historians have gone so far as to call the Crisis a gamble of Khrushchev’s part, dependent entirely on Kennedy not calling his bluff.
In the period building up to 1962 and the Crisis, Khrushchev had been sending and installing defensive anti-aircraft missiles, known as Jams, in Cuba. Although this should have forewarned Kennedy of his future intentions, Khrushchev promised that the weapons he sent would remain only defensive in nature and so Kennedy improvised and allowed this. However, it was revealed that Khrushchev had been playing Kennedy for a fool when, in October 1962, an air reconnaissance mission discovered that the Cubans were installing Soviet weapons and launchers that were decidedly offensive, and aimed at the ASSAI.
Assessing the Cold War situation at this point holistically, it was impossible for Kennedy to not react strongly and make a show of taking a stand against the USSR, especially considering that any failure to halt the Soviet Union’s overstepping in this matter could lead to them believing that the US was being lax and taking aggressive tepees in other points of Cold War conflict in the world, such as Southeast Asia or Berlin. Kennedy’s decision, suggested to him when he convened the Coxcomb, was to carry out a blockade of Soviet ships taking weaponry and other aid to Cuba.
In addition to this, Kennedy also made an appearance on television where he revealed the gravity of the situation to the American people and stated that if any offensive missile was fired from Cuba, he would launch a nuclear attack of massive proportions on the USSR. Khrushchev, at this point, seemed more nervous than aggressive. He initially ordered his ships to challenge the blockade, ND it seemed as though the world was teetering on the edge of total war. However, the ships turned back at the last minute and the world breathed a sigh of relief.
The crisis came to an end when Khrushchev adopted UN Secretary General U Thane’s proposal and sent a message stating that in return for the USA agreeing to not threaten the sovereignty of Cuba with invasion and removing the missiles positioned in Turkey, the USSR would remove the missiles in Cuba. Although it had been Khrushchev who had backed down from this ‘eyeball to eyeball game’ first, it cannot be denied that it was his adventurism and lack of rights that had allowed the crisis to escalate in the first place.
His taking the risk of meddling in the Use’s sphere of influence, installing offensive weaponry despite having promised not to, and his undertones of aggression in zones of contention like Berlin made Kennedy’s reactions and firm stand inevitable. In addition, over the period of 13 days that the crisis was at its peak, Kennedy was careful about the loss of human life, but the only one life lost was when a Soviet anti-aircraft mission shot down a IIS aircraft from the US over Cuba and the pilot was killed. However, it cannot be denied that Kennedy was also at fault.
It had been his inability to deal with no longer having a pro-American puppet government in Cuba that led him to carry out his invasion exercises and the Bay of Pigs incident that pushed Castro further into his alliance with the Soviet Union. Furthermore, Kennedy’s reaction to the missiles installed in Cuba was somewhat redundant seeing as even the missiles in Russia could have reached major cities in America in a matter of minutes. Furthermore, as Khrushchev himself wrote to Kennedy, Kennedy had installed missiles in Turkey which, unlike Cuba, had an adjoining border with Russia.
Therefore, it was hardly just for him to assert that the US had a right to national security and prevention from being threatened. In conclusion, it can be said with a measure of certainty that where the causes and heightening of the Cuban Missile Crisis are concerned, Khrushchev was more responsible than Kennedy, whose actions and decisions were mostly reactionary and defensive. However, it is still significant to note in light of the fact that the USSR was still far behind the USA in the arms race at this point, that Khrushchev both initiated the crisis, and then took the first step towards compromise.