Eisenhower focused on Europe during his last years as president. Khrushchev adamantly opposed the stationing of United States forces in West Berlin. He disliked the bad influence capitalism posed so deep behind the Iron Curtain and that the United States was using West Berlin as a listening post. Khrushchev believing that the Soviets had established military superiority over the United States demanded West Berlin be turned over to Russia. Eisenhower and other leaders in Europe rejected Khrushchevs demand. Khrushchev withdrew his demand and proposed that he and Eisenhower meet privately to discuss the matter. Khrushchev met with Eisenhower in the United States where they discussed foreign policy. Eisenhower was scheduled to visit Moscow but an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union the meeting was canceled. Eisenhower was embarrassed by the incident but U-2 spy planes had been gathering information inside Russia for the past four years. When Khrushchev realized that Washington knew that he was lying about the strength of the Russian military he tried to downplay the importance of the missiles and both sides were at a stalemate over Berlin.
In Latin America, America’s disinterest had lead to failure there. Because they tried too late to stop the tide of Revolution that was sweeping throughout Latin America. As a last ditch effort Eisenhower tried to intervene in Cuba and left this problem with Kennedy. Overall Eisenhower succeeded in keeping the Soviets in check in Europe but failed to act quick enough in Latin America.
Kennedy’s Cold War goal was to stop the advancement of Communism not only in Europe but throughout the world. He believed that the cold war battleground needed to shift its focus on the emerging countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. He also believed that keeping these newly emerging countries out of the communist’s hands was just as important as keeping the communist’s out of Western Europe. He wanted to use his presidential powers to the fullest and established a foreign affairs group under his National Security Advisor that was under his control and did not have to answer to Congress. He needed to gain missile superiority over the Soviets to bargain from a position of power. He had his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, enlarge the military thereby enabling it to fight two major and one minor wars simultaneous. He also formed the Special Forces to fight in guerrilla wars against national liberation all over the world.
Kennedy was faced with the Cuban Missile Crises that would shape the direction of the Cold War. The problems with Cuba went back to the Eisenhower administration. Eisenhower had placed an embargo on Cuba and the CIA had trained Cuban exiles to invade Cuba and establish a pro U.S. government. This led to one of Kennedy’s biggest failures in foreign policy, the Bay of Pigs incident. Cuba was very important to American Investors. They had large land holdings and money invested in Cuba and did not want to see things change. When Castro took power American investors lost all the had in Cuba. The United States was compelled to do something about this. In the beginning Castro was not a communist but we made him turn to them for assistance when we placed so many economic restrictions on Cuba. Kennedy gave the OK for the invasion of Cuba by 1,400 Cuban exiles. The invasion was a complete failure. Castro fearing another invasion, by United States forces this time, asked the Soviet Union for military support. Russia seized this opportunity to place nuclear weapons in our backyard. The Cuban missile crisis soon followed.
On October 14 an American U-2 spy plane took pictures of a Soviet missile site in Cuba. Kennedy was outraged and questioned his advisors of the readiness of the missiles. The first meeting of the Ex Comm was focused on the possibility of military actions to destroy the missile sites. Kennedy at first did not want to negotiate with the Russians. He was intent on taking the missiles out using military force. After several meetings of the Ex Comm, Kennedy was moving towards a blockade of Cuba to stop all ships and inspecting them for military arms.
Kennedy made two important decisions by October 22. His first decision was to enact a military Blockade on Cuba. The second decision was to inform the Soviets of the United States policy towards Cuba through a television address to the American people. The Ex Comm members hoped that a public speech would rally the American people to support the United States policy towards Cuba. In Kennedy’s speech he stated America’s intentions in keeping the Western Hemisphere free of communist aggression and reminded all Americans not to forget the lessons learned in the 1930’s. He also announced the blockade of Cuba as the first step in keeping Soviet Missiles out of Cuba.
On October 26 the Soviet Embassy called Journalist, John Scali, to setup a meeting. At this meeting the Soviets stated that they would pull the missiles out of Cuba only if the United States agreed not to invade Cuba. The next morning in a letter, Khrushchev stated that he would take the missiles out of Cuba if the United States would do the same in Turkey. The Russians did not know that the U.S. was already contemplating the phasing out of the outdated Jupiter nuclear weapons as early as 1961. Kennedy did not want to agree to this trade off believing that it would look bad if they gave in to Soviet demands. The next day things turned worse. An American U-2 spy plane had been shot down over Cuba and another U-2 had wandered into the Eastern Soviet Union. Against McNamara’s advice, Kennedy did not want to retaliate thereby escalating an already tense situation. He sent his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to meet with Russian Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. At this meeting he delivered the ultimatum that if the missiles were not pulled out of Cuba within 48 hours the United States would destroy them. He also sent word that the Jupiter missiles in Turkey would be removed as long as the news was not leaked. On October 28 the Soviet Union agreed to dismantle the missiles under the United Nations supervision.
In the end the Cuba Missile Crisis was won by Kennedy and his Ex Comm. They had succeeded in riding Cuba of Soviet missiles. The United States and the Soviet Union had never been so close to nuclear war. I believe that the realization of a nuclear holocaust played a major role in the establishment of a hotline between Washington and Moscow along with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty banning all above ground nuclear testing the first step in arms control between the two powers.
The missile crisis brought home to the American people the harsh reality of the threat of nuclear war. I believe Kennedy’s stand was a turning point in the Cold War. The Soviets were more than ready to assist other Central and South American countries if given the chance. Kennedy showed the Soviets that the United States was willing to go to war to keep them out of the Western Hemisphere.