Short Term Effects Of Cuban Missile Crisis

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Never has the world been closer to nuclear war as it was 13 days in October 1962. The Soviet Union and the US, both great nations, challenged each other immensely and almost let the rest of the world pay the price. The world held its breath as negotiations were made and threats eventually withdrawn from both sides, but although the battle had been fought and the guns put down, for the time being, the “war” between the two nations was far from over. All conflicts have consequences, big or small. Some consequences affect a situation straight away or in the years just after the event, and there are long-term consequences.

When the crisis had been settled, both sides saw themselves as victorious in one way or another. They returned home claiming victory, a devastating crisis had been avoided and it was all thanks to them. The nations now also had more faith in their leaders and learned to trust and respect them. Both the American President John F Kennedy and the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev realized how close to nuclear war they had been and felt the great need to reduce hostilities and tensions between the superpowers. The ban of nuclear testing had already been negotiated in May 1955 and testing was suspended from November 1958 to September 1961 while negotiations were made, and decisions are taken. President Kennedy believed that if nuclear weapons continued being tested, more countries would acquire them and learn to use them. He therefore agreed and supported the ban. Khrushchev was harder to convince, however. He wanted to continue with the testing and refused to back down. In June 1963, after the crisis, negotiations were once again opened. The need for a test ban was now greater than ever, not just to secure the safety of the people and avoid nuclear war but also to save the earth from poisoning from toxins Letters and negotiations were sent back and forth and after only 12 days a ban for nuclear testing under the water, in space and the atmosphere was put in place. The treaty was officially signed in Moscow on August 3rd, 1963 by the US Secretary, Soviet Foreign Minister, and the British Foreign Secretary. It was not however signed by France who also possessed nuclear weapons. This new arrangement with a new mood of negotiation was an important short-term consequence of the crisis, in an attempt to preserve peace.

To increase communication and reduce the risk of a conflict even further, the superpowers also agreed to establish a hotline between Washington and Moscow. The former style of communication had been very inefficient and might have been a cause for the provocation of both leaders during the crisis. With the hotline, Kennedy and Khrushchev could be connected in seconds by just picking up a phone. This was intended to be used only in emergencies and was meant to help ensure confusion and misinterpretation would not aggravate or interfere, should another crisis occur. Another step towards world peace had been achieved in the aftermath of the crisis.

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For Kennedy, the outcome of the crisis was perceived as a great success. The people had begun questioning Kennedy's authority and capability of running the country. He had had difficulties with failures such as the Bay of Pigs in 1961 and was blamed for causing trouble with Cuba, therefore causing the crisis. When the conflict was over, many applauded Kennedy and praised the way he saved them. Kennedy had the option to attack the Soviets right away which most definitely would have led to nuclear war, but he calmly handled things that relaxed the tensions for a while. The US had now however irritated their communistic neighbor and promised not to invade Cuba, making their many attempts at removing Castro from power meaningless.

When negotiations had been made and the missiles removed from Cuba, Khrushchev was seen as a coward mainly by his own people who were disappointed in him. Although he had helped prevent a nuclear disaster, Khrushchev was the man who had backed down and abandoned Cuba which made the USSR also seem like cowards. Even if he wanted it to seem like a victory, Soviet officials saw otherwise and forced him into retirement just two years after the crisis as he was seen unfit to lead the Soviet Union due to his reckless decision-making. He had however achieved more than the people were led to believe. It was not until 1968 the US public was made aware that the end of the crisis had made Kennedy remove US missiles from Turkey, facing the USSR. This information made the crisis a bigger victory for the Soviets than they had initially thought.

Fidel Castro, the leader of Cuba, was very unhappy regarding the handling of the crisis. Kennedy and Khrushchev negotiated over Castro’s head and never let him have any say in the discussions at all. Although the crisis concerned him and his country, he had no say in the outcome. When Khrushchev then backed down and removed the missiles from Cuba, Castro felt even more betrayed as he wanted Khrushchev to fire the missiles and attack the US. When all was settled, one could argue that Castro had gained something as well. Kennedy agreed to leave Cuba alone and not attempt to invade them any longer.

The Cuban Missile Crisis made the whole world hold its breath. It was a situation that could have ended much differently from what happened, and we should be grateful that it did not. The crisis was a big wake-up call for many and brought several consequences with it. If the leaders could not learn to cooperate it had now been shown that disaster could strike.

The outcome of the crisis can be summarized by stating that the different leaders all won in different ways, although that was not the initial perspective. Hopefully, the world will learn from its mistakes and realize that we are united as human beings. Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro may have felt differently about the outcome of the crisis. They all however achieved to prevent a nuclear war which is an outstanding outcome no matter what they themselves believed. Cooperation and communication are important, which they have perfectly well demonstrated. 

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