10.9 Cuban Missile Crisis
This set places the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis in broader historical and political perspective. It emphasizes the competition between the superpowers to influence the alignment of non-aligned nations — especially the newly independent nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America — with financial aid and military intervention. Besides delving into the crisis, students also analyze the methods each side used to fight the Cold War.
- HSS 10.9.2 Analyze the causes of the Cold War, with the free world on one side and Soviet client states on the other, including competition for influence in such places as Egypt, the Congo, Vietnam, and Chile.
- HSS 10.9.3 Understand the importance of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, which established the pattern for America\'s postwar policy of supplying economic and military aid to prevent the spread of Communism and the resulting economic and political competition in arenas such as Southeast Asia (i.e., the Korean War, Vietnam War), Cuba, and Africa.
How was the Cold War waged all over the world?
Cold War competition spread throughout East and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Both superpowers constructed regional alliances in an effort to counter their opponents’ power. Given the high stakes of nuclear war, the two superpowers engaged in a number of wars by proxy. Using a variety of maps, primary sources, and classroom simulation activities, students learn that throughout the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union intervened politically, militarily, and economically in dozens of nations in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Caribbean in an effort to protect their strategic interests. While students will learn about the war in Vietnam in eleventh grade, teachers should select examples of Cold War proxy wars from each continent affected by the global conflict. Students should be sure that they consider the varied perspectives of the people on the ground in each nation, as well as the American and Soviet interests.
The sources in this set recount the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis in chronological order and place it in a broader historical and political perspective. This confrontation was one of the most serious conflict points in the long Cold War, and it took place in a third country, as did almost all confrontations — former colonies or nations that had a history of political and/or economic dependence on a European power, the Soviet Union, or the United States. Because both sides had nuclear weapons, the two superpowers did not risk direct military confrontation. Instead they competed indirectly to influence the alignment of other countries. Students also examine other methods each side used to fight the Cold War, such as competition in the United Nations, propaganda (in the sense of widely spreading ideological arguments through various media), an arms race with nuclear weapons, and covert operations by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its Soviet counterpart, the KGB. Teachers should introduce the concept of fighting a war with nontraditional weapons and list these weapons for students before beginning the source set.
At the beginning of the Cold War, Cuba was an independent nation firmly tied to the United States. Through the Monroe Doctrine, the United States regarded Cuba and all of Latin America as an exclusive zone of US interest and often intervened militarily in Latin American nations in the twentieth century. The United States had fought to free Cuba in the Spanish-American War in 1898 but then forced Cuba to accept US conditions detailed in the Platt Amendment, with the result that Cuba was not an equal party to the relationship. American businesses owned much of Cuba’s industry and controlled the market for cane sugar, the chief Cuban export. In 1952, the military dictator Fulgencio Batista seized control of the government. Although his rule was oppressive, violent, and corrupt, the United States supported his regime, because Batista did not object to US political and economic interests in Cuba. However, in 1956 nationalist movements, including the 26th of July Movement led by Fidel Castro, rebelled against Batista, and in 1959 the Cuban Revolution brought Castro to power. The government of US President Dwight Eisenhower was concerned about Castro’s communist ideas, because they could jeopardize US ownership of businesses in Cuba (which Castro could nationalize) — and because of Cuba’s geopolitical position, which was near the United States and in Latin America. The Soviet government, led by Nikita Khrushchev, saw an opportunity to gain a foothold in the Americas by supporting Castro’s regime with financial aid for development and military aid. These preliminary moves show one method used by the United States and the Soviet Union to wage the Cold War: financial aid to Third World nations. US aid programs tried to convince citizens of Latin American countries that US capitalist modernization held the best hope for economic progress. The Soviet Union offered advisers and funding to implement rapid industrialization and collectivization following the Stalinist model in Cuba.
Determined to prevent Cuba from aligning with the Soviet Union, the United States started to develop a plan to overthrow Castro’s Communist regime by staging an armed invasion using anti-Castro Cuban exiles trained by the CIA in Guatemalan training camps. Shortly after his inauguration in February 1961, President John Kennedy authorized the invasion, which failed. Known as the Bay of Pigs incident (Source 1), it was a humiliating public disaster that made the Kennedy administration and the intelligence organizations even more determined to overthrow Castro. (Source 3) Their next plan, the Cuba Project or Operation Mongoose, included economic, political, and military measures — including assassination plots — to spark a revolt against Castro (Source 2). Military intervention in revolutions or civil wars in Third World nations, covert operations by the CIA/KGB, and widespread dissemination of ideological viewpoints and/or propaganda (as in Kennedy’s speech) were three additional methods of waging the Cold War.
The most dramatic method of waging the Cold War was an arms race with nuclear weapons. On October 14, 1962, an American spy plane took reconnaissance photos of missile launch sites under construction in Cuba (Source 4). From these bases, Soviet missiles could reach the southeastern United States (Source 6). However, the United States had already deployed intermediate nuclear missiles, known as Jupiters, with a range of 1,500 miles — to Italy (by 1961) and Turkey (in 1962) — which presented a similar threat to the Soviet Union. Moreover, both superpowers possessed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could reach targets in each other’s territory. After a week of secret meetings, on October 22 Kennedy revealed to the American public the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, announced the naval blockade of the island, and demanded the removal of the Soviet missiles (Sources 5, 6, and 7). At this point, Kennedy introduced new and more confrontational methods. The risks were great because Kennedy made these demands publicly and threatened to use nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union in retaliation.
Citing American violations of international law, Khrushchev firmly refused to comply with the ultimatum (Source 8). As the United States enforced the blockade, Castro sent a message to Khrushchev supporting use of nuclear missiles in response to a US invasion (Source 9). Finally, on October 27, the two sides negotiated and reached an agreement that included a secret promise given to remove Jupiter missiles from Turkey (Source 10). The next day, the Soviet Union publicly affirmed that its missiles would be removed from Cuba in exchange for a non-invasion pledge from the United States. The secret deal to remove US missiles from Turkey did not become known until the 1980s.
Teacher Background: Ambassador Dobrynin’s cable to his Foreign Ministry regarding his negotiations with US Attorney General Robert Kennedy presents several difficulties for English learners. It contains sophisticated, academic vocabulary and long, complex sentences. It is lengthy. Most significantly, it contains Dobrynin’s version of a conversation between Kennedy and himself. As the voice switches back and forth between Dobrynin’s and Kennedy’s voices, English learners may have trouble understanding who is “we” and “you” at any given point. Several literacy strategies are combined to support English learners with this source: vocabulary, condensed text, guidance on referrers, and text structure analysis.
After you distribute Source 10, “Cable, Ambassador Dobrynin to the Soviet Foreign Ministry,” to all students, distribute Student Handout 10.9 to English learners. They will have two handouts in total. With the whole class, go over the Context section to be sure that students understand the purpose and the surrounding context of the source.
Teach the vocabulary listed below along with any other words that might cause difficulty. Explain the overall structure of the source as Dobrynin’s summary of a negotiation between Robert Kennedy and himself. Review paragraph 1 with students. Ask them: Who is “me”? Who is “him”?
Assign students to groups or pairs to analyze the remaining paragraphs of the source. Their task should be to identify the problem (paragraph 2) and the terms of the negotiated agreement. English learners should be placed together in groups or pairs. They will have a shorter version of the text and support scaffolds to complete these tasks.
Have students share out the problem and the terms of the negotiated agreement. Correct any misconceptions. Follow up with analysis questions about the tone of the source, the reasons for Kennedy’s insistence that removing the missiles in Turkey be kept secret, and the nature of negotiations, as time permits.
Discuss how this source helps answer the investigative question, How was the Cold War waged all over the world?
negotiation: discussion between two or more sides to try to come to an agreement. The points each side wants and will give to the other side are called terms.
arm: (verb) put weapons on
respond to fire with fire: allow the pilots to fire back if their planes are fired upon
essence: the most important feature of a thing
Student Handout 10.9 Cuban Missile Crisis (Source 10)
“Cable, Ambassador Dobrynin to the Soviet Foreign Ministry, Meeting with Robert Kennedy,” Source 10
Background: By October 27, 1962, both Kennedy and Khrushchev were looking for a way out of the crisis. President Kennedy sent his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to Washington, DC, to negotiate with Soviet ambassador Dobrynin, who represented Khrushchev and the Soviet Union. After the meeting ended, Dobrynin immediately sent a cable (a telegram) to the Soviet Foreign Ministry, which showed it immediately to Khrushchev. In the text “Cable, Ambassador Dobrynin to the Soviet Foreign Ministry, Meeting with Robert Kennedy” (Source 10), Dobrynin summarized his discussion with Kennedy using direct speech in quotation marks. The voice switches back and forth between Dobrynin and Robert Kennedy. When Robert Kennedy spoke (in paragraph 2), he first defined the problem. In paragraph 3, he stated what the United States wanted and what it would give to the Soviet Union to end the crisis. Dobrynin asked for something else from the United States. Kennedy agreed, but with one more term. The two men made an agreement that President Kennedy and Khrushchev agreed to later.
1. Read the explanations and the text. Answer the questions and fill in the charts.
Paragraph 1: This paragraph is an introduction to the negotiation.
Late tonight R. Kennedy invited me to come see him….
Who is “me”? __________________________ Who is “him”? __________________________
Paragraph 2: This paragraph defines the problem. Dobrynin wrote it in quotation marks, showing that it is someone else’s — R. Kennedy’s — words. Those words follow a kind of cause-and-effect structure called “chain of events.” Each event causes the next event, that event then causes the next event, and so forth until the end.
The Cuban crisis, R. Kennedy began, continues to quickly worsen. We have just received a report that an unarmed American plane was shot down while carrying out a reconnaissance flight over Cuba. The military is demanding that the President arm such planes and respond to fire with fire. The USA government will have to do this. … “. . . But if we start to fire in response — a chain reaction will quickly start that will be very hard to stop.”
In the second sentence, who is “we”? ______________________
In the fourth sentence, what does “this” refer to? What will the US have to do? ____________________
Paragraph 2, First Chain of Events, Vocabulary: This chart contains the major verbs of the paragraph. Some of these verbs are in the past, some in the present, and some in the future. Decide whether each verb is in the past, present, or future and check the correct box.
Paragraph 2, First Chain of Events, Graphic Organizer: This graphic organizer shows the chain of events. Use the verbs from the first chart to fill in the blanks.
... an unarmed American plane _________
The military ________ that the president _______such planes and ________to fire with fire.
The US government __________ this.
But if we _________ in response
a chain reaction __________ that ________ very hard to stop.
The same thing in regard to the essence of the issue of the missile bases in Cuba.
The sentence fragment above signals that R. Kennedy was about to switch to another issue that would be the same; that is, it would have the same verb constructions and chain of events. The underlined words are signal words for the cause-and-effect text structure.
The USA government is determined to get rid of those bases — up to, in the extreme case, of bombing them, since, I repeat, they pose a great threat to the security of the USA. But in response to the bombing of these bases, in the course of which Soviet specialists might suffer, the Soviet government will undoubtedly respond with the same against us, somewhere in Europe. A real war will begin, in which millions of Americans and Russians will die. We want to avoid that any way we can, I'm sure that the government of the USSR has the same wish. …”
The USA government ________________ those bases — up to, in the extreme case, of bombing them
since, I repeat, they ______ a great threat to the security of the USA.
But in response to the bombing of these bases, in the course of which Soviet specialists _______ ,
the Soviet government ______________________ with the same against us, somewhere in Europe.
A real war ____________,
in which millions of Americans and Russians ________
We _________ that any way we ______,
I'_____ sure that the government of the USSR ___ the same wish.___ the same wish.
Paragraphs 3, 4 and 5: These paragraphs follow a different text structure. Dobrynin used a summary of direct speech to show negotiation. In negotiation, two sides talk about what their nations want and will give to the other side. The graphic organizer shows on the left side what the United States wants and will give and on the right side what the Soviet Union wants and will give. The statements below are quotes from the source. The missing words are the essence of each term of the agreement. As you fill in the missing words, pay attention to those terms.
“The most important thing for us,” R. Kennedy stressed, "is to get as soon as possible the agreement of the Soviet government to halt further work on the construction of the missile bases in Cuba. … In exchange the government of the USA is ready, in addition to repealing all measures on the ‘quarantine,’ to give the assurances that there will not be any invasion of Cuba. …
"And what about Turkey?" I asked R. Kennedy.
… President Kennedy is ready to come to agree on that question with N.S. Khrushchev, too. I think that in order to withdraw these bases from Turkey," R. Kennedy said, “we need 4 – 5 months. …. “However, the president can't say anything public in this regard about Turkey," …
In the first sentence of paragraph 5, what does “that question” refer to? _________________
Student Handout 10.9 Cuban Missile Crisis Teacher Key
Paragraph 2, First Chain of Events
In the second sentence, who is “we”? _the US_
In the fourth sentence, what does “this” refer to? What will the US have to do? _arm planes and allow pilots to fire back if they are fired upon_
Graphic Organizer Key
... an unarmed American plane _was shot down__
The military _is demanding_ that the president _arm_such planes and _respond_ to fire with fire.
The US government _will have to do_ this.
But if we _start to fire_ in response
a chain reaction _will quickly start_ that _will be_ very hard to stop
Paragraph 2, Second Chain of Events
Graphic Organizer Key
The USA government _is determined_ those bases — up to, in the extreme case, of bombing them
since, I repeat, they _pose_ a great threat to the security of the USA.
But in response to the bombing of these bases, in the course of which Soviet specialists _might suffer_ ,
the Soviet government __will undoubtedly respond__ with the same against us, somewhere in Europe.
A real war _will begin_,
in which millions of Americans and Russians _will die_
We _want to avoid_ that any way we _can_,
I'_m_ sure that the government of the USSR _has_ the same wish.
Paragraph 3the government of the USSR ____ the same wish.
In the first sentence of the paragraph 5, what does “that question” refer to? _removing US missile bases in Turkey_
Graphic Organizer Key