The Cuban Missile Crisis: The Causes and Effects Essay

The focus on nuclear weapons was the typical feature of two powerful states’ development during the period of the Cold War. The Soviet Union and the United States were ready to use the possibilities of the nuclear weapons in order to state their superiority at the global political arena. As a result, any conflict could become the reason for developing the global nuclear war.

The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 in which the Soviet Union, Cuba, and the United States were involved was the turning point of the states’ confrontation in the Cold War because of risks to develop the nuclear conflict (Carter, 2008). Although there are many opinions on the causes and effects of the Cuban missile crisis, it is possible to determine the main factors which can be discussed as influential for developing the most threatening situation in the world during the period of the Cold War.

Thus, the causes for the crisis are closely associated with the Soviet Union’s intentions to protect the state from the US blockades and Cuba from the US invasion, and the effects depend on the peaceful resolution of the conflict with improving the connections between the two powerful states.

The Causes for the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Role of Cuba

The revolution in Cuba in 1959 made the United States discuss different methods to prevent the expansion of the Communist ideas at the territories near the US boundaries. The development of different plans to establish the anti-Communist regime in Cuba resulted in the Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961 which was supported and realized by the US government (Pressman, 2001).

The US President John F. Kennedy controlled the realization of the operation, but it was ineffective. The attempts of the invasion were considered by the Soviet Union as threatening to the Communist regime and to the world’s peace. The reaction of the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev to the actions of the US government was to place the Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba according to the agreement with Fidel Castro.

After the revolution, Fidel Castro relied on the support of the most powerful Communist state that is why the Soviet Union’s intentions were shared by the Cuban leader, and the construction of the missile sites was justified from the point of defense (Schier, 2010). The actions of Khrushchev could be explained with references to the risk of anti-Communist movements in Cuba.

During the year of 1962, the intensified Cuban missile crisis increased the tension between the two powerful states ready to use the nuclear weapons in order to regulate the international conflict. The fact of the Bay of Pigs Invasion along with the results of the Berlin Crisis made the situation more complicated. In spite of the fact that the USA was against the idea of placing the missile constructions in Cuba, the Soviet Union continued to realize the idea to protect the state interests and perform the necessary security procedures.

Kennedy stated that the USA would focus on any measures to prevent the threat for the US nation’s security. However, during September of 1962, the Soviet Union realized all the necessary preparation procedures in order to construct the missile sites in Cuba (Pressman, 2001). The ignorance of Kennedy’s statement and position was also a result of the US policy in relation to constructing the missiles in Turkey which were discussed as potential risks for the Soviet Union.

The United States paid much attention to the possibilities for the Soviet Union to construct the missile sites in Cuba, but only few indicators were noticed during September of 1962. All the controversial activities of the Soviet Union in Cuba were explained with references to the necessity to protect Cuba from the further invasions from the United States or other non-Communist countries.

The tensions between the powerful states were intensified, and there were no opportunities to assess adequately the Soviet Union’s intentions in relation to defending Cuba and attacking the United States with the help of the missiles constructed at the territories of Cuba (Schier, 2010). From this point, the Soviet Union and the United States had no intentions to develop the nuclear war, but such a risk was obvious because of Kennedy and Khrushchev’s goals to protect the states’ interest by all means.

The Development of the Crisis and John F. Kennedy’s Reaction to the Soviet Union’s Activities in Cuba

The United States suspected that the Soviet Union constructed the missile sites in Cuba, but this information was not supported with evidences and facts. On October 14, during the operations to gather the necessary evidences, the U-2 aircraft took clear photographs on which the construction of the missile sites was fixed. It was noticed that the construction was realized for medium-range ballistic missiles as well as for intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Thus, the 13-day crisis started on October 15 when the information about the photographs was released. In few days, the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOMM) was organized in order to develop the plan of actions directed toward resolving the conflict situation (Stein, 2008).

To react to the construction of the missile sites, the threat of the nuclear war, and the Soviet Union’s attacks, several different strategic approaches were proposed by the members of the EXCOMM. The problem was in the fact that there was no any prepared plan of actions because of the focus on the Soviet Union’s acceptance of conditions and agreements not to construct nuclear missiles at the territories near the USA.

It is possible to refer to different visions of the problem by the United States and by the Soviet Union. Thus, the Soviet Union placed the nuclear missiles in Cuba in response to placing the US missiles in Turkey and as the support for Cuba to prevent the further invading activities from the United States.

From this perspective, the first measure discussed by the EXCOMM as the absence of reaction could be discussed as rather relevant in relation to the situation, but it was risky because of impossibility to predict the Soviet Union’s future actions and analyze their real intentions (Schier, 2010).

The approach known as ‘do nothing’ was rejected by the majority of the EXCOMM representatives. Different variants of diplomatic measures were discussed as effective means to guarantee the Soviet Union’s removal of the missiles from the territories of Cuba. Nevertheless, the necessity to develop negations could lead to the unwanted concessions for the United States.

Kennedy paid much attention to the military actions as the best approaches to make the Soviet Union realize the removal of the missiles. Thus, the accents were made on the active blockade of the missiles and invasion of Cuba. The possibility of the air strike was discussed as the reserved variant of actions during the discussion of the problem.

However, the method of blockade was chosen as the most effective in order to prevent the Soviet Union from the further transportation of the missiles to the territories of Cuba. The blockade of the missiles’ transportation was also supported with the US government’s demand to remove the constructed missiles in Cuba. This approach was chosen because of a range of advantages.

The open blockade demonstrated the power of the United States and the readiness of the President to use the military forces. Furthermore, the method of blockade helped accentuate the US naval superiority in the region, and the realization of the measure provided Khrushchev with the necessary time to remove the constructed missile sites in Cuba (Carter, 2008). As a result, Khrushchev became responsible for the next step in the conflict.

The effective blockade or ‘quarantine’ provided the United States with the opportunity to avoid the uncontrolled confrontation between the states which could end with the nuclear war. Thus, President Kennedy informed the nation about the Soviet Union’s missile sites in Cuba and the intention to realize the blockade with the help of the national television on October 22.

The response of the Soviet Union to the actions of the United States was provided on October 23. The leaders of the state proclaimed that the actions of the USA were rather aggressive and threatening for the world peace (Gibson, 2012). The tension between the two powerful states increased significantly because the Soviet Union did not follow the US demands and the missiles were not removed.

The negotiations and discussions of the conflict could not result in the solution satisfactory for both the sides of the conflict. The speech of the US President provoked significant international reaction to the conflict where the Western countries were inclined to support the position of the United States, and they discussed Kennedy’s approach to resolving the crisis as rather reasonable.

The countries from the left camp considered the activities of United States as too aggressive and provocative in relation to the risk of the nuclear war. On October 27, the message by Khrushchev was broadcasted to demonstrate the response of the Soviet Union to the proposed concessions.

It was stated in the message that the Soviet Union would remove the missiles from the territory of Cuba only after the removal of the US missiles from Turkey (Stein, 2008). The United States continued to support their vision of the conflict and rejected the conditions proposed in the message by Khrushchev. Furthermore, the Soviet Union’s missiles shot down the US plane, and the crisis was deepened.

The risk of the war became obvious. The United States focused on the peaceful resolution of the conflict and accepted Khrushchev’s demands to remove the missiles from the territories of Turkey. The leaders of the state expected the removal of the Soviet Union’s missiles from Cuba in response to the US actions as it was stated earlier in Khrushchev’s message (Gibson, 2012).

As a result, the rejection of the proposed conditions by Khrushchev could lead to his complete responsibility for the further development of military actions. On October 28, the crisis was resolved when Khrushchev agreed with the prepositions and actions of the United States. Thus, the resolution of the conflict was the result of the effective diplomatic strategies used by Kennedy and the United States’ administration in order to regulate the problem.

The Cuban-based missiles were dismantled as well as the US missiles were dismantled and removed from the territories of Turkey (Carter, 2008). The thirteen days of the crisis ended with starting a new page in the international relations between the two powerful states of the United States and the Soviet Union.

The Effects of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Focusing on the effects of the Cuban missile crisis, it is possible to state that the blockade realized by the United States and the associated demands were the only relevant method to resolve the conflict successfully for both the sides and avoid the development of the nuclear war. However, the nuclear war cannot be discussed as the goal of the Soviet Union determined before placing the missiles in Cuba or as the end goal of the United States to resolve the conflict in the region.

The prestige and role of Kennedy at the global political arena increased because of the obvious success of his diplomatic strategies used to resolve the Cuban crisis. Khrushchev also benefited from the peaceful resolution of the conflict when the United States confirmed the decision not to invade Cuba in the future.

The negative consequences of the crisis were connected with the status of Khrushchev in the Kremlin because of his impossibility to resolve the conflict to his advantage. Thus, Khrushchev’s intentions and motivation in relation to placing the missiles in Cuba remain to be the topic for many discussions (Stein, 2008). It is possible to state that the location of the missiles at the territories of Cuba was the part of the developed strategy used by the Soviet Union in order to succeed in the Cold War.

The effective resolution of the crisis led to the improvement of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union with references to improving the channels for the direct communication between the presidents. Thus, the Moscow-Washington hotline was worked out in order to prevent the similar conflicts in the future. Later, in 1963, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Agreement forbidding the exploration of the nuclear weapons.

Thus, the Cuban crisis can be discussed as the first influential step toward discussing the development of nuclear weapons as the illegal activities which can result in the millions of victims and enormous devastation. The strategic model to regulate the crisis which was realized by Kennedy and the US administration during the process of the conflict resolution is discussed by researchers as the classical model utilized today as the example of the successful diplomatic approach to resolving crises (Gibson, 2011).

It was important for Kennedy to develop such a plan and conditions which could satisfy the opposite side and which could be successfully accepted by the both sides. It is possible to state that the effects of the Cuban crisis are in definite changes in the United States and Soviet Union’s policies. Thus, both the states realized the significant dependence on each other which was emphasized with references to the threat of the nuclear war.

The relations between these two world powerful states achieved the new stage, and attempts of collaboration were realized in order to avoid the development of such conflict situations in the future (George, 2003). If the causes of the crisis cannot be stated clearly because of impossibility to conclude about Khrushchev’s intentions, the positive effects of the crisis are obvious.


The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 is the result of the prolonged confrontation between the two world powerful states such as the United States and the Soviet Union. The situation of the intensified tensions between the states’ leaders and developed Cold War provoked the placement of the Soviet Union’s missiles at the territories of Cuba as the reaction to the US invasion of Cuba and aggression.

Non-resolved conflicts between the two states stimulated the development of new problems and conflicts, and Cuban crisis became such an influential conflict which made the public speak about the threat of not only the third world war but also about the possibilities of the nuclear war. On the one hand, the Soviet Union focused on protecting the interests of the Cuban revolution and preventing the further attempts of the US forces to invade Cuba.

On the other hand, the United States responded to the risk of being attacked by the Soviet Union’s missiles because of the intensified conflicts. From this point, the causes for the development of the crisis were closely associated with the years of the Cold War and confrontation between the two states.

The blockade of the Soviet Union’s transport with the materials for constructing the missiles sites in Cuba along with the demand to remove the built missiles sites was discussed by the United States as the most effective measure to resolve the conflict following the interests of the both sides. That is why, the realized diplomatic measures can be considered as the first step to resolving the prolonged Cold War and to avoiding the further crises.


Carter, E. (2008). The Cuban missile crisis. USA: Paw Prints.

George, A. (2003). Awaiting Armageddon: How Americans faced the Cuban missile crisis. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Gibson, D. (2011). Speaking of the future: Contentious narration during the Cuban missile crisis. Qualitative Sociology, 34(2), 503–522.

Gibson, D. (2012). Talk at the brink: Deliberation and decision during the Cuban missile crisis. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Pressman, J. (2001). September statements, October missiles, November elections: Domestic politics, foreign-policy making, and the Cuban missile crisis. Security Studies, 10(3), 80–114.

Schier, H. (2010). Cuban missile crisis. USA: ABDO.

Stein, C. (2008). Cuban missile crisis: In the shadow of nuclear war. USA: Enslow Publishers, Inc.

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