Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was the closest the world ever came to
full-scale nuclear war. When the Soviet Union placed offensive nuclear missiles
in Cuba, President Kennedy interpreted the act as one of hostility that would
not be tolerated. However, the situation was blown way out or proportion by the
president, American media, and ultimately the citizens of the United States. The

Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, was reacting to the Bay of Pigs Invasion of

Cuba, US Missile installations along the Turkey/Soviet border, and the clear
anti-Communist policy of the United States. Khrushchev was born in Kalinovka in
southwestern Russia. He was raised in a poor family whose income depended solely
on the coal mining job of his father. In 1918 he joined the Bolsheviks and
attended a Communist school the following year. He moved to Moscow in 1929 and
began working for the Communist government. He gained much praise and advanced
quickly. By 1939, he was a member of the Politburo. He became Secretary of the
of the Central Committee in 1951. After Stalin died in 1953, the USSR went
through two more premiers before Khrushchev came to power in 1958. As Premier,

Khrushchev publicly condemned the terror filled reign of Stalin. Stalin
continually pushed for domination. Several Eastern European countries united
with the USSR under Stalinís reign and millions of innocent people were slain.

Stalin also restricted Soviet citizens personal liberties to previously unheard
of measures. Khrushchev was a completely different ruler. He acridly criticized

Stalinís crimes against humanity and began a rapid process known as
destalinization. This entailed destroying statues, pictures, or images of Stalin
and renaming most things previously named for Stalin. Khrushchev also restored
many of the personal liberties that Stalin had taken away. He let political
prisoners free, restored much freedom of thought, and restored freedom of the
press. He increased production in factories and placed a strong emphasis on the

Soviet space program. Although he had little pity for small, weak Europe and

Asian countries, he worked to avoid war with Western nations. He even called for
a "peaceful coexistence" with the United States. Khrushchev, despite being
communist, was concerned for the welfare of his country and did not want war
with the United States. Despite his desire to avoid conflict with the western
world, Khrushchev was faced with an aggressive United States government, and had
to act accordingly. The Bay of Pigs invasion was a prime example. This overt
military action took place when the CIA funded a paramilitary force of rebel

Cubans to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro. Kennedy refused to give the invasion
strong American military force so it ultimately failed, thus becoming a great
embarrassment to the United States. Not only was it an incredible failure and
embarrassment, but it was also a US sponsored military offensive against Cuba, a
communist country and Soviet ally. It was a challenge to the governments of both
the Soviet Union and Cuba. In addition to the attack on Cuba, Khrushchev was
also faced with US missile installations in Turkey and Italy that posed a
serious threat to the Soviet Union. The installations in Turkey were less than

150 miles from the Soviet border. The installations here were MRBMs,

Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles, and were nearly identical to the missiles

Khrushchev had installed in Cuba. He was merely trying to prevent the US from
gaining the upper hand in a power struggle, which could have meant serious
disaster for the Soviets. Khrushchev, just like Kennedy and the rest of the

United States, didnít want the enemy to gain a nuclear advantage. He was
trying to protect his country and prevent nuclear disaster. The hysteria created
in the United States as a result of the Soviet installations was immense. The US
media was calling Khrushchevís actions aggressive and people began to panic.

Kennedy and his advisors were debating whether or not to invade Cuba to destroy
the missiles (which would have meant war), or to negotiate with Khrushchev. The
situation was turned into a crisis. Khrushchev sent his first of two letters to

Kennedy on October 24, 1962 in which he explained his reasons for installing the
missiles. He said that the action was not aggressive, and that they would remove
them immediately if the US missiles in Turkey were dismantled and Kennedy
publicly promised not to invade Cuba. The fact that Khrushchev wanted the Turkey
missiles dismantled was hidden from the American public for several years,
making Khrushchev look much more militant than he truly was. Kennedy still
debated with his brother, Robert, and Vice President Johnson for