Though many might say that the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was the result of just Fidel Castro, many other factors contributed. The combination of the relationships and tensions between Fidel Castro, John F. Kennedy, and Nikita Khrushchev all contributed to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a result of not just Fidel Castro, but many peoples’ actions. Without Khrushchev’s support of Cuba, JFK’s attempts of overthrowing Castro, and Castro’s communist regime, the Crisis would have progressed differently.
The Cuban Missile Crisis begins in Cuba with Fidel Castro. A prominent figure in history, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz ruled over Cuba for more than five decades. After being unhappy with the Fulgencio Batista, Castro organized a rebel force movement in the hope to begin to overthrow it. This attack happened on 26th July 1963 in Santiago de Cuba. It consisted of 165 revolutionaries who were to attack the Moncada Barracks. Castro ordered his men to not harm people unless they were met with an armed defense, showing this attack was not meant to be violent. Unfortunately, due to poor planning, the convoy of revolutionaries going to the barracks was met with gunfire immediately after arriving. After this failure, the rebels that did not die or escape were rounded up and sent to prison. While imprisoned, Castro renamed his group of 25 comrades the “25thof July Movement,” in memory of the date of their failed attack. In 1954 Batista held elections to be president and faced no opposition. Supporters of Castro began to bring the idea of him back into the picture, which sparked the thought of releasing him and the other prisoners. Eventually, on 15 May 1955, the Batista decided they were no longer a threat and released them from prison. For the next few years, Castro and his communist regime began to spread rapidly among the Cubans, along with other anti-Batista groups. In 1959, he established a totalitarian government in Cuba. It was at that point where Cuba became the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere.
By 1961, the economic and diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba were severed. At this point, everything was very strained between the two places; the Cubans found reason to believe the US was going to attack them, leading to both sides considering an attack. The Cubans raided the CIA and found a document stating that if Castro didn’t back down, they were resulting in tougher measures. A year prior, Fidel Castro had made a trade agreement with the Soviet Union. He and Nikita Khrushchev, the current leader of the Soviets, began working together closely. Starting from the trade agreement, the relationship between the Soviet Union and Cuba was much stronger than the relationship between the US and Cuba. Russia wanted to support Cuba and make sure nothing happened to it. Cuba’s relations with the US were only getting worse, especially after the Bay of Pigs invasion, and intel showed that the US was preparing to invade Cuba. The close proximity between the US and Cuba left both countries on edge.
In 1961, Raul Castro, brother of Fidel, and Che Guevara, right-hand man, went to Moscow to discuss missiles. After this meeting, it took a total of three weeks for the first convoy of missiles to arrive. Historian John McCone explained that the Cubans were spending an estimated $1 billion on military installments and “rapid construction activity.” This transaction was a defining moment in the relationship between Cuba and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, under the ruling of Nikita Khrushchev, was keen on helping Cuba. After they made their trade agreement because they share the same political ideologies. Both countries are communist and want to spread that to other places as well. In order to protect their trade and political connections with Cuba, the Soviet Union decided to make the deal with Cuba to give them nuclear missiles. The Soviet’s intention was never to make the US feel unsafe; they were just protecting their assets. With this mindset, they assumed that the US wouldn’t intervene with the installation of the missiles. When the US found out about the missiles, they were very unhappy. The Soviet Union did not care because they felt they were only defending their allies. After strains became tight between Cuba with the Soviet Union and the US, President Kennedy knew he needed to make some kind of agreement with Khrushchev. He and Khrushchev decided to meet on neutral grounds on 2nd June 1961. Unfortunately, no agreement was made, leaving even more tension. It was after that when the Americans decided to raise their defense budget, leaving Khrushchev to retaliate by threatening to test a one hundred megaton nuclear bomb. Though Khrushchev calmed down after this, tensions were very much high. This is all because he was anxious that the US would try and overthrow Castro, ruining his strong relationship with Cuba.
Nikita Khrushchev had every right to be anxious about the US attempting to overthrow Castro. In the first year of his term, President Kennedy authorized Operation Mongoose. This operation’s focus was on Cuba to try and remove the communists from power. One of the most well-known parts of this operation was the Bay of Pigs invasion. With the intent to take out Castro’s air force, JFK planned the Bay of Pigs invasion with the CIA carefully. Prior to the actual invasion, a secret radio station in Cuba broadcasted propaganda in hope of triggering a spontaneous revolt among the Cubans to overthrow Castro. Cuban exiles were trained in Guatemala at a place called Camp Tex and an airstrip was built for the US in Retalhuleu. The invasion was originally planned for March 1961 in Trinidad. Unfortunately, the troops weren’t ready, and the Cuban’s were suspicious, so they had to change both the time and location. Instead, they decided to attack the Bay of Pigs on the 17th of April 1961. The US tried to take out Castro’s air force, but unfortunately, an unknown source tipped off the Cubans and they were expecting the US. A large amount of the Cuban air force was able to get away, and there were many US casualties. Though he was told by multiple people to retaliate, JFK decided to not call in an airstrike. This led to more than one thousand men being captured and imprisoned for more than seven years. Those men were then ransomed for medical and other supplies. After everything took place, Kennedy ordered an internal investigation to find out what went wrong throughout the planning and execution of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Especially after this failed attempt, the tensions between the US were ridiculously high. A little more than a year later on the 29thof August 1962, JFK sent US U-2 planes to spy on Cuba. During their flyover, they spotted new military construction and Soviet technicians. This made the US even more suspicious, leading to them investigating more and having many flyovers by US spy planes. After two months, on the 14th of October, the US found out about the missiles in Cuba.