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The Cuban Missiles Crisis Essay

2556 words - 11 pages

In his book, The Week the World Stood Still, Sheldon M. Stern states, "Never before or since has the survival of human civilization been at stake in a few short weeks of dangerous deliberations." This statement accurately sums up the Cuban Missile Crisis, a period of 13 days at the height of the Cold War in which the Soviet Union and the United States where on the brink of a thermonuclear world war. With the United States threatening both the USSR’s borders and Cuba, their only ally in the west, Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, needed to take action. Based on the state of the world at the time, the Soviets’ placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba and negotiations were completely reasonable, and the United States’ response to these actions was irrational and dangerous.
The hostility between the Soviet Union and the United States existed long before the crisis began, dating back as early as World War I. When the West Germany joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), whose members included countries such as the Italy, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., in May of 1955, the Soviet Union took it as a threat intended towards the USSR. In response to this threat, the Soviets formed the Warsaw Pact that set up a united military force for the Soviet Union and their allies, making the two alliances as rivals. After a brief hiatus of peace during World War II when the nations allied against Germany, the aggression only worsened with the beginning of the Cold War and the Nuclear Arms Race for nuclear supremacy. The two nations were neck and neck in the quest to create the largest quantity and most powerful nuclear weapons. Though both countries were creating nuclear missiles, each pursued a very different path. The US had the financial backing needed to pursue the developments in the quality of their weapons, including a B52 bomber, an aircraft that had the ability to fly 6,000 miles to transport nuclear payloads. The Soviet Union did not have the excess funds the US had, so they focused on the more cost effective option, creating bigger bombs. For the rest of the decade, the USSR focused on creating as many bombs as possible while the US strived to create better quality missiles. In 1957, the Soviets successfully launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, as well as an intercontinental range ballistic missile (ICBM), beginning the Missile Gap where the U.S. felt the USSR was much further ahead than they were with the development of weapons. Feeling threatened by the USSR’s supposed ICBM capability, the U.S. decided to deploy ICBMs in the UK, Italy, and Turkey until they felt they had placed enough ICBMs to eliminate the threat. With U.S. nuclear weapons now located in Turkey, located on the border of two states of the Soviet Union, the USSR was fully aware of the danger of the situation they were in. The United States had gained the upper hand and could easily use the newly place weapons against the Soviets,...

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