The Realist Perspective on the Cuban Missile Crisis In October of 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union reached a near-nuclear experience when in a short fourteen days; Russia was caught building nuclear missile bases in Cuba. With the Second World War just barely in the past, the United States was still on their toes making sure they were in the clear. When they sent the U-2 spy plane to monitor Cuba they found missile bases that were armed and ready to wipe out the western hemisphere.
Considering the military, economy, and diplomacy of the U. S. , Kennedy could take no chances. The realist perspective focuses on the conflict and states and the manifestation of power, which while looking at the Cuban Missile Crisis, will give one the best objective looks at the situation. When considering why the United States felt threatened by Russia’s placement of nuclear missile bases in Cuba one must look into the security dilemma, the actions one country may do to defend itself may threaten another.
When Russia set up missile bases in Cuba, it was to defend Russia from the Western Hemisphere, in case the United States decided to attack the S. U. The Russians had considered recent events, World War II and the Cold War nearby, as well as recent U. S. actions, U. S. missiles in Turkey (which the U. S. saw as defense), and needed a way to defend itself. Although Russia saw this as a defensive move, the U. S. looked at it as a threat, a missile that could reach “every major city but Seattle,” because the U. S. doesn’t know Russia’s intentions.
Because both Russia and the U. S. were superpowers, both thought the same way; the other’s intentions are offensive and this is because rather than focusing on negotiations (liberal) concerning intentions, they focus on capabilities and their outcomes. Then to see why the U. S. decided to engage in possible war with Russia rather than align with the Russians is easily seen form the Realist perspective; the states must go against the power (Russia) to balance the power since this situation involves bipolarity, because if they became allies they would just be weak followers.
Another reason there was conflict is because as winners of the world war, they were bound to have conflict of interests especially since the U. S. was booming and the S. U. couldn’t keep up. After two weeks of threats and conflict without resolution, the U. S. and S. U. came to an agreement. If the U. S. removed their missiles from the Turkey-Russia border, which they did, then Russia would dismantle the missile bases in Cuba, which they also did.
As this was an embarrassment for the Russians, they felt a bit undermined/underpowered but none the less the crisis was over. The Realist perspective gives a broad and objective overview of the situation but it does miss some things. Realists forget to consider relationships that countries may or may not have had at the time of the crisis, which can affect several things. Realists forget that the Russians were not allies with the U. S. which is why Russia felt it necessary to build missile bases in Cuba so they had the ability to retaliate, and the U.
S. felt like it was about capabilities not intentions because of the lack in communication between the two countries. The U. S. and S. U. had selfish goals, protecting themselves, not considering what the other may have in mind; they will never know if maybe they both wanted the same thing and could have agreed on a treaty. Realists feel like Kennedy’s diplomacy is what ended the situation, but a liberalist may say it was due to the power of nuclear weapons being at an arm’s length away from the opposing country.
If the two countries looked at the situation from a liberal perspective, they would have noticed the ability to trade and control each other’s weapon stock, causing them to fall away from the zero-sum (Nau, Lecture). Also the S. U. government’s set up was something the U. S. wasn’t too happy about, as Russia was a communist country where as the U. S. was/is a democracy. Since both countries had no mutual understanding to base their differences on, there was no way these two could comprehend the full meaning of their philosophies.
The lack in communication and relationships in Realism, which the liberal and Identity perspectives focus on, caused this crisis to occur. In conclusion I found that the realist perspective is a great way to look at the Cuban Missile Crisis, although it misses some major points, it covers many important ideas and most importantly, it covers how the two leaders looked at the situation; giving us an overview of the situation from both of the countries’ perspective on the crisis.