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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Cuba, Castro, And The Cuban Missile Crisis

Cuba, Castro, And The Cuban Missile Crisis


CSC 1995


SUBJECT AREA - Foreign Policy










Maureen M. Lynch

Lieutenant Colonel, USMC





13 April 1995





Title: Cuba, Castro, and the Cuban Missile Crisis


Author: Lieutenant Colonel Maureen M. Lynch, USMC


Thesis: This thesis identifies and analyzes Cuba's role in

the Cuban Missile Crisis so as to provide important cultural

intelligence information heretofore unavailable on this



Background: The Cuban Missile Crisis was the single most

important event of the Cold War. For thirteen days, the

United States and the Soviet Union went "eyeball to eyeball"

in an epoch struggle that brought the world to the brink of

nuclear war. Inevitably, historical analyses of the Missile

Crisis focus on the superpower struggle between the United

States and the Soviets. Rarely is it considered necessary or

essential to consider the actions of a third actor, Cuba, in

the very crisis that bears its name. Consequently, to fully

understand and appreciate the lessons of the Cuban Missile

Crisis, it is necessary to understand Cuba's role in that

crisis. More importantly, however, as the Cold War fades and

the new world order takes shape, the importance of

understanding the actors and the events of that period so as

to build upon the present and prepare for the future assumes

even greater significance. Continuing among those actors,

then, is Cuba. Although now noticeably missing Soviet

military and economic support, Cuba still remains an area of

concern to U.S. national security interests. This thesis,

then, provides an important analysis of the actions of Cuba

during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Providing an important

source of cultural information, its purpose is to link U.S-

Cuban relations of the past with those of the present so as to

provide military professionals with the information they will

need to defend our nation's national security interests in the



Recommendation: That this thesis be made available to all

Marine Corps University students studying Cuba and to all

those Department of the Navy personnel, both military and

civilian, responsible for political-military planning

involving U.S. relations with Cuba.






Chapter Page




Thesis Statement, 5

Research Methodology, 8




The Growth of the Sugar Industry, Cuban

Prosperity, and the Development of U.S.-

Cuban Relations, 12

The Postwar Years, 17

Jose Marti and the War of Independence, 19

The First Intervention, 23

The Second Intervention, 25

The Growth of Opposition Parties, 29

Batista Comes to Power, 33

The Rise of Castro, 43




The Success of the Revolution, 45

The New Castro Government, 46

The U.S. Response to Castro, 50




The Castro Revolution - an Ideology of

Confusion, 58

Why the Shift?, 62

Soviet Reactions to a Communist Cuba, 66

Castro's Communism, 70




The Soviet Decision to Support Castro, 75

Castro's Decision, 79

Castro's Motives for Accepting the Missiles,84

Castro Reacts, 85

Withdrawing the Missiles, 91




Epilogue 103


Bibliography 107








On October 22, 1962, the President of the United States


reported to the American people the presence of "large, long


range, clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction"


on Cuba, an island 90 miles off the coast of Florida.1


Undeniably linked to a Soviet military buildup, the President


stated that the presence of nuclear weapons in Cuba


constituted an "explicit threat to the peace and security of


all the Americas."2


Detailed analysis showed the weapons to be ballistic


missiles of two distinct types: medium-range and


intermediate-range. The medium-range missiles were capable of


carrying a nuclear warhead a distance of more than 1,100


nautical miles, placing Washington, DC, Mexico City or any


other city in the southeastern part of the United States,


Central America or the Caribbean area at risk. The


intermediate-range missiles were capable of targeting most of


the major cities in the Western Hemisphere, from Hudson Bay,


Canada in the north to Lima, Peru in the south.3 The


President also reported that jet bombers capable of carrying


nuclear weapons were being simultaneously uncrated and


assembled in Cuba while Cuban air bases capable of supporting


the bombers were being constructed.4


As President Kennedy assured the nation that the United


States would not "unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide


nuclear war," in response to the "secret, swift, and


extraordinary buildup of Communist missiles," he also stressed


that America would neither backdown nor "...shrink from the


risks to be faced."5 In response to the clandestine Soviet


military buildup, the United States implemented a naval


quarantine of Cuba. In addition, the Soviet Union was warned


that any attack from Cuba would be met . with a "full


retaliatory response" in kind.


The following day, both Cuba and the Soviet Union


requested a meeting of the United Nations (UN) Security


Council to examine what the Soviets emphasized was the United


States' "violation of the Charter of the United Nations and


threat to peace." By 4:00 p.m. that afternoon, Ambassador


Adlai Stevenson, the U.S. Representative to the UN (and the UN


Security Council), was addressing the Security Council.


Ambassador Stevenson attacked Cuba's role in the missile


crisis, declaring that Cuba had "aided and abetted an invasion


of [the] hemisphere." In response, Ambassador Valerian Zorin,


Soviet Representative to the UN, criticized Ambassador


Stevenson's charges as "completely false" and a "clumsy


attempt to cover up aggressive [US] actions in Cuba."6


Challenging Soviet allegations, Ambassador Stevenson


distributed aerial photographs clearly depicting Soviet


nuclear missile sites in Cuba.7 Ambassador Zorin continued,


however, to neither confirm nor deny the existence of the


missiles and sites, stating only that the United States would


be given a response "in due time."8


As tensions between the United States and Soviet Union


increased, General Thomas Power, Commander-in-Chief of the


Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC), raised the SAC alert level to


DefCon 2 on October 24th.1 On the 26th, the Lebanese


freighter Marucla, under charter to the Soviet Union, was


boarded and inspected by a party from the USS PIERCE and the


USS KENNEDY. That afternoon, after meeting with General Issa


Pliyev, the Soviet commander in Cuba, and being informed that


all units were "ready for combat," Castro authorized Cuban air


defense forces to fire on all U.S. aircraft within range.


On October 28th, Cuban antiaircraft batteries shot down an


American U-2 over Banes in eastern Cuba, killing the pilot,


Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr. Later that same day, U.S. and


Canadian naval forces established an antisubmarine barrier


southeast of Newfoundland while the 5th Marine Expeditionary


Brigade sailed from the West Coast of the United States toward




Thus, the most significant event of the Cold War, the


Cuban Missile Crisis, played out on the world stage. For


thirteen days the two world "superpowers" - the United States


and the Soviet Union - went "eyeball to eyeball" in an epoch


struggle symbolic of of the Cold War period. To the Soviets,


the United States launched the "Caribbean Crisis" in open




1"DefCon" is an abbreviation for the military phrase "Defense

Condition." Defense conditions identify the state of alert of U.S.

military forces and range from DefCon 5, which indicates a state of

"all quiet," to DefCon 1, which indicates "major attack imminent."


defiance of both international law and common sense.


Humiliatingly aware of Soviet nuclear inferiority and


vulnerability, the crisis greatly worried Soviet Chairman


Nikita Khrushchev. For the United States, the Soviets had


instigated the Cuban Missile Crisis by placing nuclear


missiles in Cuba. The only acceptable solution for President


Kennedy was the fast and complete removal of the weapons.


However, a third actor was also a key player in this


major Cold War drama. That actor was Cuba. To Cuba, the


"October Crisis" was a very real experience. Many Cubans


expected the crisis to end in a bloody, protracted war. Cuban


newspapers carried banner headlines proclaiming that Cubans


were "prepared to die for their independence" while Castro


declared that "Whoever [wanted] to investigate Cuba must know


that they will have to come in battle fatigues!"12


Cuban faith in the Soviet Union was also complete.


Military support was expected not only from Soviet


conventional forces stationed in Cuba, but also from the


soldiers of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces controlling the


missiles. As Cuban forces mobilized to protect their


homeland, Soviet aid was considered a guarantee.


In the end, however, the October Crisis turned out to be


a profoundly bitter experience for Cuba and Castro. Viewed as


an act of U. S. agression, Castro felt that Cuba had been


abandoned by the Soviets during their hour of greatest need.







Historical analyses of the Cuban Missile Crisis


invariably focus on the superpower conflict between the United


States and the Soviet Union. Rarely is it considered


necessary to examine Cuba's role in the very crisis that bears


its name. However, ignoring the participation of Cuba in the


Cuban Missile Crisis can be likened to analyzing the Vietnam


War without mentioning North and South Vietnam, or the Korean


War without mentioning North and South Korea.


To fully understand and appreciate the lessons of the


Cuban Missile Crisis, then, it is necessary to understand


Cuba's role. To provide this understanding, this thesis will


first, examine the complex factors influencing Cuba's


participation, and second, define, determine, and analyze


Cuba's role.


Accordingly, the first factor to be examined is the


unique relationship existing between the United States and


Cuba and, more importantly, the Cuban "perception" of that


relationship. Separated by only 90 miles of ocean, the United


States had influenced Cuban affairs since the age of Columbus.


Linked early to economics ties and strategic security, these


interests later expanded to include political interests.


Equally impacting the U.S.-Cuban relationship, however, were


obvious and substantial cultural, socioeconomic, and


geopolitical differences existing between the two countries.


In light of these differences, it is not surprising that both


the United States and Cuba not only differed in their


understanding, interpretation, and perception of their shared


relationship, but also judged the other based on their


divergent points of view.


The second factor to be examined is the influence exerted


by the individual most responsible for Cuba's decision to


participate in the crisis, Fidel Castro. Initially hailed as


the salvation of Cuba following the dictatorial rule of


Fulgencio Batista, Castro and his revolution changed Cuba from


a pro-American cousin to one that eventually conspired with


the Soviet Union to challenge U.S. hegemony in the Western


hemisphere. Castro's influence was complete and deeply rooted


in a political and socioeconomic system that enabled him to


quickly seize power and hold it. Egocentric and fanatical,


Castro's promise for Cuba was defined by his own personal and


political objectives that would not only influence his


decision to accept communism and an alliance with the Soviet


Union, but also make the legacy of the revolution of prime


importance to Cuba's way of life. Consequently, this thesis


will examine the influence Castro wielded in the Cuban Missile


Crisis and also demonstrate that had it not been for Fidel


Castro, Cuba would not have been involved in the Cuban Missile




The third and final factor to be examined is Cuba's


relationship with the Soviet Union. As a communist country,


"little Cuba" appeared to benefit immeasurably from the


immense wealth and superpower status of the Soviet Union.


Soviet economic subsidies bouyed Cuba's economy while Soviet


ports provided Cuba with ready export markets. These


benefits, however, came at a price. For to the Soviets,


Cuba's strategic location provided a key position from which


to challenge their chief Cold War rival, the United States.


And even though Castro had accepted communism and a Soviet


alliance, he was to learn the subtle realities and cost of


"doing business" with the Soviets. Consequently, the Cuban


Missile Crisis is not so much about the relationship between


the United States and the Soviet Union as it is about the


relationship between the Soviet Union and Cuba. This Soviet-


Cuban relationship defined how each party separately


perceived, interpreted, and reacted to the events of the


crisis. This effort will present how these actions/reactions


influenced Castro and ultimately the resolution of the crisis.


Upon completion of this examination of the above factors,


this thesis will define, determine, and analyze Cuba's role in


the crisis. This analysis will be accomplished by first


reviewing the events of the crisis and then pinpointing and


analyzing Cuba's role. Key to this analysis will be the use


of recently declassified material documenting the Kennedy


administration's decisions during the Cuban Missile Crisis as


well as testimony provided by Fidel Castro and key Soviet and


U.S. decisionmakers during the crisis. An analysis of this


information provides not only Castro's intent during the Cuban


Missile Crisis, but also how his actions/reactions were


significant in bringing the world to the "brink" of nuclear








Consequently, the approach and source material used in


this thesis make it unique among the material currently


available concerning the Cuban Missile Crisis for three key




First, this thesis focuses and analyzes the Cuban Missile


Crisis from the perspective of Cuba and Castro. As previously


stated, the majority of literature discussing the crisis


concentrates on the United States, the Soviet Union, and the


Cold War competition existing between the two. Although


conceptually accurate from a historical and analytical


perspective, such an emphasis is also lacking. For one to


obtain a true understanding and a more complete perspective on


the Cuban Missile Crisis, it is necessary to understand and


analyze the participation of all the actors in the crisis


which includes Cuba. Especially now, as the world transitions


from a Cold War to a post Cold War modality, the lessons to be


learned by understanding Cuba's albeit Castro's role in the


crisis provides an invaluable historical reference point from


which to proceed into the future.


Second, the source material for this thesis was compiled


from documentation and literature not accessable to previous


authors. Key among these sources is recently declassified


documentation from the White House, the Department of State,


and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); documentation


provided by representatives of Cuba and the former Soviet


Union during the January 1994 Havana Conference on the Cuban


Missile Crisis; and testimony provided by Fidel Castro,


General Anatoly I. Gribkov, General of the Army of the Russian


Federation and General Inspector of the Russian Ministry of


Defense, and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S.


McNamara. In addition, personal interviews with Dr. Gregorio


DelReal, a former professor at the University of Havana who


not only knew and taught Castro, but also resided in Cuba


during the Castro takeover, and Mark Falcoff, resident scholar


at the American Enterprise Institute, provide a breadth and


understanding of Cuba, Castro, and Cuban affairs not


previously consolidated into any other single work.


And third, this thesis blends an examination and analysis


of four key areas: (1) the historical relationship between


the United States and Cuba, (2) the factors influencing


Castro's rise to power, (3) the factors impacting Castro's


decision to accept communism and an alliance with the Soviets,


and (4) Cuba's actions during the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Unique in its approach, this methodology subsequently provides


the reader with not only a capsulized base of knowledge from


which to develop a more thorough understanding and evaluation


of Cuba's role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, but also an


understanding of the human environment that continues to


impact Cuba's relationship with the United States today.








In his October 22nd "Report to the People," President


Kennedy described Cuba as having a "...special and historical


relationship to the United States..." Upon more thorough


examination, however, the relationship between the United


States and Cuba is a complex, intricate web based on


misperception and good intentions gone bad. Although Cuba and


the United States share a common history, how this history is


perceived depends on the vantage point from which it is


viewed. When discussing the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1992,


former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara best summed up


these differences in perception by stating that:


...our shared histories [Cuba's and the United States']

are viewed very differently by both countries ... this

divergence contributed both to the sharp break in

relations between our nations thirty-one years ago, and

to the attitudes with which we viewed the missile crisis.

Let me give four illustrations of these differences of

view. First, Americans have been taught that the U.S.

liberated Cuba from Spain, while Cubans learn that it was

the result of their long struggle for independence.

Second, Americans view themselves as idealistic and

selfless in not annexing Cuba after the end of the

Spanish-American war, whereas Cubans think the U.S. used

every chance to dominate their nation. Third, Americans

think they used the Platt Amendment2 to mediate and



2Named for Republican Senator Orville Hitchcock Platt who,

while serving as the Chairman of the Committee on Cuban Relations,

introduced the amendment in 1901 as part of the United States

Army's appropriations bill. The Platt Amendment provided for the

withdrawal of U.S. forces from Cuba following the end of the

Spanish American War in 1898. In addition to restricting Cuba from

entering into any treaty with another country that would cause it


resolve internal disputes in Cuba, whereas Cubans tend to

think that the amendment was designed to permit the U.S.

to intervene in Cuban affairs for its own selfish

purposes; and finally, Americans tend to think that their

investments in Cuba contributed to the nations's

development, whereas the Cuban government has tended to

look at the economic relationship as exploitative.13


To understand Cuba's role in the Cuban Missile Crisis,


then, it is necessary to understand U.S.-Cuban relations


developed. To that end, this chapter will examine how and why


U.S-Cuban relations developed, what factors caused those


relations to change, and, more importantly, what political and


socioeconomic factors influenced the rise of Fidel Castro.


The United States' association with Cuba began with a


shared colonialism. Both countries were discovered by


Columbus in 1492, with Cuba emerging as a Spanish colony. In


addition to the discovery of gold and development of farming,


Cuba served as a transit station between Europe and the New


World. Due to its strategic location, forts were built to


protect Spanish trading galleons. Negro slaves were used for


forced labor while the Spanish also exploited the native


Indian population through an encomienda system of forced labor


and tribute. In actuality, Cuba was of little interest to


Spain, who considered the island as "not a colony to be




to lose its independence, the amendment also restricted Cuba from

increasing its public debt beyond the capacity of its ordinary

revenues to pay. By the terms of the amendment, Cuba was required

to permit U.S. intervention so as to preserve Cuban independence.

After considerable debate and insistance from the United States,

Cuba incorporated the amendment into its Constitution of 1901 and

treaty of 1903 with the United States. The United States

subsequently intervened in Cuba on several occasions over the next

thirty years. In 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

persuaded Congress to abrograte the Platt Amendment at which time

a new treaty was then negotiated.


developed on its own." Consequently, under corrupt,


incompetent Spanish administration, Cuba flourished as a haven


for bandits, smugglers, and prostitutes.14


During the 18th century the signing of the Treaty of


Utrecht in 1713 between Britain and France and the rise of


Philip V to the Spanish throne, allowed British vessels to


carry African slaves and an annual cargo of British goods to


Cuba. Sugar production and tobacco soon became important


trade commodities in European markets. In August 1762, a


British naval force under the command of Sir George Pocock


laid seige to the island's most prosperous city and the


Spanish Main's richest port - Havana.15 Occupying the city


for ten months, the British opened the city to free trade.


Goods and slaves were imported at low prices. For Cuba,


British occupation resulted in the industrial development of


the island's major export item - sugar.








U.S. independence signaled the beginning of U.S. -Cuban


relations. In close proximity to the North American


continent, the young nation provided Cuba with new consumer




In 1796, slave revolts in Haiti, Cuba's chief competitor


in the sugar market, led to the destruction of Haiti's sugar


industry. An estimated 300,000 French Haitian refugees fled


Haiti for Cuba, bringing with them skilled mulatoo laborers


and more advanced sugar technology and managerial skills. By


the end of the 18th century, Cuba was transformed into an


economically viable Spanish possession. "King Sugar" became


Cuba's major export while the Creoles who both owned the land


and cultivated the sugar formed Cuba's new elite. The use of


Negro slaves and the availability of new markets enabled


agricultural production to thrive in Cuba. In addition to


sugar, coffee and tobacco soon became major export items to


both the United States and Europe.16 As sugar and coffee


cultivation decreased the availability of land in Cuba, the


need to import basic foodstuffs and other provisions grew.


Thus, Cuba's closest neighbor, the United States, became one


of the island's chief trading markets and suppliers.


Although the American government favored free trade with


Cuba, it opposed Cuban independence. Witnessing the slave


revolt in Haiti and the success of the slaves in achieving


political power, the Federalist administrations of George


Washington and John Adams feared the social, economic, and


political effects just such a revolt would have on America's


slave-holding South. In consequence, when formatulating Cuban


policy, the American government was cautious to distinguish


between commercial regulations in the island's ports and the


politicial structure of Spanish rule.17


However, U.S. attempts to distinguish between commercial


and political involvement in Cuba did not last long. Cuba's


close proximity to America would ensure that the fate of Cuba


was inextricably linked with that of the United States. In


1823, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams expressed this


concern when stating:


Cuba, almost in sight of our shores, from a multitude of

considerations has become an object of transcendent

importance to the political and commercial interests of

our Union. Its commanding position, with reference to

the Gulf of Mexico and the West India seas; the character

of its population; its situation midway between our

Southern Coast and the island of St. Domingo; its safe

and capacious harbor of Havana...; the nature of its

productions and of its wants furnishing the supplies and

needing the returns of a commerce immensely profitable,

and mutually beneficial, give it an importance in the sum

of our national interests and little inferior to that

which binds the different members of this Union




During the 1820s, wealthy Creole/Cuban planters grew


dissatisfied with the ineffectiveness of Spanish rule. Afraid


that England would force Spain to abolish slavery and that the


continued political instability of Spanish rule would cause a


Haitian-type slave revolt, Cuba looked to the United States


for help and for possible annexation.19 Since slavery was an


important facet of Cuban economic existence, the pro-slavery


South became Cuba's natural ally. However, those in the


United States who opposed slavery also opposed the annexation


of a slave-holding Cuba. The addition of another slave


holding state to the Union could potentially tip the advantage


of slave versus nonslave states in the union. Consequently,


caught in the political struggle surrounding the issue of


slavery, discussion concerning Cuban annexation was


temporarily tabled.


In fact for most Americans, as long as Cuba remained


firmly in the hands of the Spanish, the United States was


content to leave Cuba alone. Aware that Spain's military and


economic power were quickly eroding, the United States


preferred to leave Cuba under a weak Spanish monarch who posed


no real threat to U.S. security or national interests. If


anyone else was to have Cuba, some U.S. politicians and


business interests reasoned, it would have to be the United




Concerned, however, that Cuba would fall into the hands


of a much stronger European power, e.g., the French or the


English, President James Monroe articulated his concerns in a


message to Congress on December 2, 1823.21 In his now


famous statement, the Monroe Doctrine, he warned Europe


against interfering in the internal affairs of the American


states and in further colonizing the Americas.


However, westward expansionism unleashed by the United


States pursuit of its "manifest destiny" caused the issue of


Cuban annexation to be reconsidered. With California annexed


following the Mexican War, the idea of building a canal


linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans turned many in


Congress to thoughts of Cuban annexation. Aware of Cuban


plans to rebel against Spain, President James Polk, in 1849,


offerred Spain $100 million dollars for the purchase of Cuba.


Already humiliated, however, from the loss of other former


colonies, Spain not only rejected the United States' offer but


replied that it would "sooner...see the island transferred to


any [other] power [then] would [we] prefer seeing it sunk in


the ocean."22


Following James Polk, attempts to acquire Cuba were again


tabled. Neither Presidents Zachary Taylor nor Millard


Fillmore pursued Cuba's acquisition. Rather, both presidents


attempted to enforce neutrality laws in order to prevent


American assistance to Cuban rebels. However, Franklin Pierce


pursued the idea by commissioning a study that resulted in the


"Ostend Manifesto" of 1854. The manifesto argued that the


United States was justified in occupying Cuba if conditions in


Cuba threatened the "internal peace and. existence" of the


Union. The issue of slavey, however, again proved to be a


major impediment to the plan. As the United States turned to


grapple with the Civil War and its aftermath, the acquisition


of Cuba was again tabled as the United States dealt with more


forboding crises.23


As the United States dealt with its Civil War, Cuba


turned to separating itself from colonial rule. During


October 1868, a rebellion occurred in Cuba that was to lead to


the island's Ten Years War. Although unsuccessful, the


rebellion fostered, for the first time, the idea of Cuban


independence. Cuban regionalism with its emphasis on patria


chica or local loyalties gave way to a belief in the


"fatherland."24 National symbols such as Cuba's national


anthem, flag, and national weapon, the machete, became a part


of Cuba's heritage. Most importantly, the dedication of the


"mambises" or those who had abandoned positions of importance


and comfort to fight against the Spanish became, for future


Cuban generations, an example of unselfish sacrifice for the




Although the United States maintained its neutrality and


did not intervene in Cuba's Ten Years War, the revolt in Cuba


not only drew the interest and sympathy of the American public


but also caused deep and bitter division within the United


States. Those supporting the Cuban revolution saw the


rebellion as the self-determination by an oppressed people.


Believing Spanish colonialism to be corrupt, archaic, and


tyrannical, they conjectured that sooner or later the United


States would have to end the Spanish carnage. Others, to


included President Ulysses S. Grant, preferred a cautious


approach of "wait and see." While still others, to include


Grant's Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, were adamently


opposed to any recognition of the Cuban revolutionaries.


Although sharing the American public's disgust with Spanish


rule and slavery in Cuba, Fish believed the revolution


exercised no real power, possessed no real government, and


suprevised no real control over the guerrilla bands comprising


the revolutionaries.25


Attempts by the United States to either mediate or end


the Ten Years War proved unsuccessful. Spain refused to


accept the terms of a U.S. proposed agreement while the lack


of a cohesive U.S. policy and international support thwarted


all other attempts. The most that either President Andrew


Johnson or Ulysses Grant were able to do was to assert the no-


transfer principle and ensure it was placed in the Monroe








Subsequently, the Ten Years War not only affected Cuba


politically but also economically. Supporters and


symapathizers of the Cuban cause either lost their fortunes


during the war or saw their properties pass to loyalists who


had sided with the Spanish. With the abolition of slavery in


Cuba in 1886, Cuban sugar plantations suffered and many


Spanish and Cuban enterprises went bankrupt. As the Cuban


economy plummeted, U.S. interests began buying sugar estates


and mining interests. When the expansion of European beet


sugar markets closed those markets to Cuba, the United States


became the largest and most important buyer of the island's


sugar. In 1890, the McKinley Tariff, which placed raw sugar


on the free trade list, increased Cuban-American trade,


especially the sugar trade, even more. Although by 1895


control of the economy was still largely in the hands of the


Spanish, American capital and influence, particularly in the


sugar industry, exerted a dominate influence. Cuba became


dependent on U.S. markets which were now chiefly controlled by


a single company, the American Sugar Refining Company.


Controlling nineteen Cuban refineries, the American Sugar


Company supplied 70 to 90 percent of the sugar consumed by the


United States. In addition to sugar, U.S. private investors


also entered Cuban iron ore exploration, cattle raising, fruit


and tobacco plantations, and public utility companies.


Subsequently, by 1895, estimates of U.S. private enterprises


placed the total amount of investments at $50 million US







Following the Ten Years War, many Cubans pressed the


Spanish government to implement "autonomismo" or autonomous


rule for Cuba. Patterned after the British colonial model,


this system of local self-government would require extensive


economic and political reform. However, by 1892, as Cubans


continued to experience Spain's oppressive and corrupt


colonial rule, it became evident that Spain had no intentions


of instituting change or reform in its policies. As


discontent and disillusionment grew, a move toward


independence again took shape. This time, the leadership for


the independence movement was provided by Cuba's "Apostle of


Independence" - Jose Marti.


In his "Fundamentals and Secret Guidelines of the Cuban


Revolutionary Party," Marti outlined the goals of the


revolution as equality, freedom from foreign political and


economic domination, and the establishment of democratic


processes. More importantly, Marti emphasized the need to not


only free Cuba from foreign power, which included the United


States, but also to end Cuba's historical colonial role.


Although viewed as "anti-Yankee," Marti favored a Latin


America patterned in the image of the United States. "The


Cubans," he wrote,


admire this nation, the greatest ever built by freedom,

but they distrust the evil conditions that, like worms in

the blood, have begun their work of destruction in this

mighty Republic...They cannot honestly believe that

excess individualism and reverence for wealth are

preparing the United States to be the typical nation of



Marti advocated friendlier U.S-Cuban relations as well as U.S.


support as long as that support did not result in Cuba


becoming politically or economically dependent on the United




In February 1895, the war for Cuban independence


commenced. Despite Marti's death in the beginning of the war,


the Cubans achieved minor success and set up a provisional


republican government in the eastern part of the island.28


Most of Cuba, however, remained under Spanish control with


with many Cubans resorting to a scorched-earth policy to


render the island worthless to Spain. By using guerilla


tactics, the Cubans were able to hold off the Spanish and


refuse any offers of surrender that did not also guarantee




In the United States, the Cuban rebellion was met with


deep concern. Economically, the war disrupted lucrative trade


and jeopardized millions of dollars worth of American property


in Cuba. In addition, investigations and representations on


behalf of American citizens injured by the war, the drop in


customs receipts, and the requirement to pay for coastal


patrols to enforce U.S. neutrality created an expense that the


federal budget did not want to deal with.29 Strategically,


controlling the isthmus of Panama and its maritime approaches


was considered essential to U.S. national security.


Accomplishing this goal meant establishing a strong U.S. naval


presence, with access to a port in the Caribbean, preferably


in Cuba.30 A chief proponent of U.S. presence in Cuba was


Alfred Thayer Mahan. Then a professor at the U.S. Navy's


Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, Mahan's


influential writings called the attention of the American


public to the importance of national security. As Mahan


maintained, this security could best be provided by pursuing


such measures as American ownership of an Isthmian canal and


the acquisition of naval bases in Cuba. Finally, American


public opinion pushed for intervention. The American press,


especially the "yellow press" led by William Randolph Hearst's


New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, printed


gruesome news of Spanish atrocities and Cuban suffering


although ignoring the brutal acts of Cuban insurgents. In


addition, Cuban insurgent factions in the United States fanned


the flames of humanitarian outrage. Campaigning for


American financial support and supplies, the insurgents


preached the cause of Cuban independence and support for the




For his part, American President Grover Cleveland


preferred to follow a policy of neutrality toward Cuba. After


repeated offers to assist Spain with negotiating a settlement


failed, Cleveland recommended to Congress that an American


warship be sent to Cuba to demonstrate U.S. concern for


American lives and property. On December 8, 1896, the idea was


approved by Congress. Additionally, as with American


presidents before him, Cleveland also toyed with the idea of


purchasing Cuba and "incorporating" the island into the United


States. However, Cleveland was not convinced that the Cubans


were capable of self-government. Although considering an idea


to grant the insurgent's belligerency, he rejected the idea


when he realized that recognizing a new government in Cuba


would enable Spain to abrogate its responsiblity to protect


American property still remaining in Cuba.


Upon assuming the presidency in 1897, William McKinley


also considered purchasing Cuba. Rather than pursuing this


course, however, he opted to "persuade" Spain to end the war


by threatening U.S. military intervention. Finally presenting


Spain with an ultimatum in the autumn of 1897, Spain reacted


by promising reforms. Although the solution seemed to satisfy


President McKinley, it only angered the insurgents all the


more, causing the war to continue on.


However, when riots broke out in Havana on January 12,


1898, McKinley responded by sending one of the U.S. Navy's


newest warships, the USS MAINE, to Havana. On February 15,


1898, the USS MAINE exploded in Havana Harbor, killing all who


were on board. When the American Naval Commission was unable


to determine who was responsible for the MAINE's explosion,


the United States held Spain responsible since the accident


occurred within Spanish jurisdiction. President McKinley


demanded Spain end its corrupt, despotic governance of Cuba


and enter into negotiations that would end the war. He later


modified this demand, stating that the only suitable


reparations was an agreement of freedom and independence for


"the people of the island of Cuba..."32 When Spain failed to


agree to US concessions, the United States declared war on


April 24, 1898.


For the United States, the Spanish American War was


short, decisive and popular.33 In June 1889, 17,000 U.S.


troops landed at Siboney and Daiquiri, east of Santiago de


Cuba. On July 1, the Americans stormed the Spanish outposts


at El Caney and San Juan Heights.34 Spanish resistance was


stubborn and casualties were heavy on both sides. However,


with the heights soon in U.S. hands, the Spanish fleet was


forced to either surrender or escape to open sea to escape


U.S. warships. Not accepting surrender, the ships of the


Spanish fleet chose the latter course and were either sunk,


driven ashore, or completely disabled. This destruction of


the Spanish fleet virtually ended the war for Spain.


On December 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed and


the war ended. Spain relinquished sovereignty over Cuba and


ceded Puerto Rico to the United States. In the U.S. Congress,


the Teller Amendment named for Senator Henry M. Teller pledged


that the United States would "disclaim any disposition or


intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction or control


over said island, except for the pacification thereof, and [to


assert] its determination; when that is accomplished, to leave


the government and control of the island to its people."35





With the end of the war in Cuba and the termination of


Spanish sovereignty on January 1, 1899, the United States


assumed responsibility for the island's government. The goal


of American policy was to pacify Cuba and to eventually turn


the government over to the Cuban people. President McKinley's


appointee for the military governorship of Cuba was Major


General John R. Brooke who was succeeded a year later by


General Leonard Wood.36 Zealously attacking what he believed


to be Cuba's major problems, Wood's administration made


signifcant advances in roadbuilding, judicial reform, and in


health and education. Hospitals were built, sanitation and


health conditions improved, and yellow fever eradicated,


primarily through the work of Cuban scientist Carlos J.


Finlay. A public school system was established and the


University of Havana modernized.37


However, attempts to "Americanize" Cuba and establish a


government in the American model proved unsuccessful. For a


Cuban society raised under colonial Spanish control, political


stability based on an absolute moral code, free enterprise


economics, a theory of public interest, and a just social


order through law were alien concepts. Although a Cuban


constitution was drafted in 1901, it proved ineffectual in


bringing about necessary social and economic changes.


Subsequently, the Platt Amendment, which was appended to the


Cuban Constitution and later embodied in the Permanent Treaty


of 1903 between the United States and Cuba, dictated U.S.


policy toward Cuba.


Far reaching in implication, the Platt Amendment defined


U.S. -Cuban relations for the next 33 years. Proposed by


Secretary of War Elihu Root, the Platt Amendment applied the


Monroe Doctrine to Cuban relations by requiring that "...the


government of Cuba shall never enter into any treaty or other


compact with any foreign power...which will tend to impair the


independence of Cuba...or permit any foreign power to


obtain...for military purposes...lodgement in ...said


island."38 Stating that Cuba could not "contract any public


debt" the servicing of which might impair her solvency, the


Platt Amendment also required that " enable the United


States to maintain the independence of Cuba, and to protect


the people thereof, as well as for its own defense, the


government of Cuba will sell or lease to the United States


lands necessary for coaling or naval stations at certain


specified points, to be agreed upon with the President of the


United States." This provision thus enabled the United States


to acquire rights to lease a naval coaling station at


Guantanamo Bay.39


Designed to protect Cuban independence as well as U.S.


interests in Cuba, the Platt Amendment only served to


perpetuate Cuban political irresponsibility. Developing what


soon became known as the "Platt Amendment mentality," Cuba


grew dependent upon U.S. intervention and protection, thus


stifling any attempts to develop any form of responsible self-








Following the ratification of the Platt Amendment, US


occupation forces remained on the island for almost a year


until General Wood transferred power to Cuba's newly elected


president, Thomas Estrada Palma on May 20, 1902.


Estrada's first administration corresponded to a period


of growth in the Cuban sugar industry. Sound financial


management kept taxes low and surplus cash flow high.


However, the pattern of corruption and the political attitudes


perpetrated by a weak Spanish administration during Cuba's


colonial period remained. Public office was viewed as a


source of political profit with personalismo substituting for


principle.40 This corruption coupled with: (1) political


discord sparked by bitter factionalism, regional loyalites,


and disagreement over the Platt Amendment; (2) a dangerous


tendency to solve differences through violence; and (3) a lack


of national unity and purpose, led to increasing unrest and




Consequently, in 1906 the United States, in keeping with


the provisions of the Platt Amendment, intervened a second


time in Cuba when President Estrada Palma's government was


overthrown by a Liberal Party revolt.42 Occupying Cuba so as


to "restore order," a provisional government under U.S.


auspices was established.43 Although President Theodore


Roosevelt was not eager to involve the United States in "a


destructive and wearisome civil war," U.S. forces remained in


Cuba until 1909. Despite this concern, however, the


cornerstone of U.S. Latin American policy as a whole under


Roosevelt became one of intervention.44


The second period of U.S. occupation in Cuba differed


significantly from the first. The United States was not eager


to govern Cuba for a second time and the provisional governor,


Charles E. Magoon, turned to dispensing government sinecures


or botellas in order to pacify quarrelling Cuban factions.45


Although Magoon implemented a series of public works projects,


organized a modern army, and introduced what appeared to be


one of the major U.S. objectives of this second occupation,


that of enacting fair legislation to prevent future civil


wars, his accomplishments were overshadowed by extravagant


spending that left Cuba with a huge floating debt.


Consequently, the second U.S. intervention not only


strengthened the Platt Amendment mentality, but also increased


doubts among Cubans about Cuba's ability to succeed at self-


government. Many Cuban leaders, intellectuals, and writers


became disillusioned with the possibility of independence and


transferred this hopelessness to the Cuban population.46 As


a result, irresponsibility and a growing cynicism increased as


did the reliance on violence to resolve political differences.


As unrest in Cuba grew, U.S. intervention continued into


the next decade. In 1915, U.S. Marines landed in Cuba to put


down an uprising of the Agrupacion Independente de Color


(Independent Color Association) party; in 1917, U.S.


intervention was required to resolve a Liberal Party rebellion


protesting the fraudulent reelection of Cuba's then incumbent


president, President Mario Garcia Menocal.47 Again, in 1920,


when fraud was claimed during Cuban elections, General Enoch


Crowder, a member of an independent Cuban consulting board,


intervened on behalf of the United States. Retained as a U.S.


advisor to Cuba, General Crowder remained to assist with a new


election and in establishing an "honest cabinet"48.


In the early 1920's, Charles Evans Hughes, Secretary of


State under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge,


began the process of stepping back from the Roosevelt Latin


American policy of intervention. An incomplete process,


however, none of the policies specifically requiring or


authorizing American intervention were ever renounced. Calvin


Coolidge, the most successful of the noninterventionists,


simply terminated American meddling in Cuban domestic affairs,


leaving the Cuban government "free to develop into the type of


corrupt dictatorship that was seemingly indigenous to the




Throughout this period, however, U.S. economic presence


in Cuba, especially in the sugar industry, continued to


expand. A number of measures such as the Treaty of Relations


in May 1903, encouraged U.S.-Cuban economic ties and trade by


lowering tariffs for Cuban sugar exported to the United States


and providing preferential treatment to U.S. goods exported to


Cuba.50 Although a good crop and market conditions caused a


boom in the sugar market during World War I, this prosperity


ended following the termination of the war. During the summer


of 1920, prices fell 83 percent per pound. In addition, a


higher U.S. sugar tariff caused many Cuban-owned sugar


concerns to be foreclosed by U.S. banks. As a result, U.S.


investments in Cuba soared, reaching $1.2 billion dollars by


1924. Half the Cuban sugar industry was controlled by the


United States, which soon expanded into Cuba's public


utilities. The United States became Cuba's most important


export and import market, supplying 75 percent of Cuba's


imports.51 By 1929, U.S. investors acquired $1.5 billion


dollars worth of property in Cuba.


The economic and domestic conditions created in the United


States by the stock market crash of 1929, however, were


mirrored in the Cuban economy. U.S. trade in Cuba dropped by


90 percent and U.S. bankers retreated from many major


projects.52 Defaults and bankruptcies were common and as


Cuban unemployment rose, so did opposition to Cuban dependence


on U.S. business interests.






It was during this time period that unexpected opposition


to U.S. intervention developed. A Cuban student protest


movement initially established to pursue academic reform was


circumvented as the reform movement turned to political


issues. By the 1920's, efforts at reform the movement ceased


as students began to blame the United States and its close


supervision of Cuban affairs as the cause of the island's many


problems.53 A key leader of the reform movement was Julio


Antonio Mella, a young law student with strong anti-American


feelings. Although disposed to agree with his colleagues


concerning U.S. policies, Mella also viewed the movement as


"another battle of the class struggle."54 Through his


protest activities, Mella became associated with Carlos


Balino, a prestigious figure of Cuba's War of Independence


and, later, founder of the Communist Association of Havana.


In 1925, Balino and Mella called for a congress of all


Communist groups on the island. Despite its meager


attendance, the congress developed into the Cuban Communist


Party of which Mella became one of its most important




In the mid-1920's, Cuba's President-elect, Gerardo


Machado, became the target of Mella and a small group of


students. Although supported by business and conservative


sectors due to the success of his economic programs, Machado


won the support of the Cuban military through bribes and


threats. Key government positions at the local and national


level were filled by military officers while those officers


considered "disloyal" were purged from their ranks. In


addition, Machado prevented political dissension by aligning


the two opposition parties, the smaller Popular Party and the


Conservative Party with his own Liberal Party. Garnering


growing opposition, Machado was labeled the "tropical


Mussolini" by Mella for his ruthless authoritarianism.56


In November 1928, Machado was reelected to a second term


during a fake election in which Machado ran as the only


candidate.57 The United States, busy with domestic and


internal concerns, was not eager to become involved in Cuban


affairs as long as Machado maintained order and a friendly


relationship with the United States. However, an increasing


number of diverse student protest groups rose to confront the


Machado regime. Chief among the groups were the Directorio


Estudiantil Universitario (University Student Directorate or


Directorate); the left wing Ala Izquierda Estudiantil (Student


Left Wing) which became a tool of the Cuban Communist Party;


the Union Nacionalista which was organized by a War of


Independence colonel Carlos Mendieta and former Cuban


President Menocal; and the clandestine ABC, which was composed


of Cuban intellectuals, many of whom were Harvard University


graduates as well as middle class members of Cuban society.


The student demonstrations became increasingly more violent as


confrontations between the students and the government turned


into riots. Forbidden by police to hold organized meetings,


the students of the Directorate developed tangana or protest


gatherings that turned from clashes with police into organized


violence and terrorism.58 Members of the Union Nacionalista


staged a short-lived uprising in Pinar del Rio Province while


the ABC used sabotage and terrorist actions to undermine


Machado's position. Cuba was in chaos. Machado's gunmen


became a common sight in the streets of Havana while the rural


countryside was ruled by lawlessness and terror.


As the situation in Cuba worsened, the U.S. attempted to


resolve the differences between Machado and the opposition


groups by sending Assistant Secretary of State Benjamin Sumner


Welles to Cuba in April 1933.59 Upon arrival, Welles met a


Cuba divided between those who, for political and economic


reasons, favored U.S. intervention and those advocating


Machado's removal and Cuban independence. As the unrest


continued, labor strikes and the loss of the Army's support


convinced Machado that he had lost the battle to remain in


power. Subsequently, in August 1933, Machado relinquished


power and fled Cuba.


The abrupt departure of Machado was followed by the rapid


formation of a coalition government under Dr. Carlos Manuel de


Cespedes y Quesada.60 However, the oppostion movement that


had successfully displaced Machado now took the form of a


revolt as various factions fought for power. The new


coalition government under Cespedes barely survived as the


worsening depression intensified Cuba's economic conditions.


In reaction, the United States under President Franklin


Delano Roosevelt ordered two destroyers to Cuban waters.


Maintaining that the warships were not symbolic of U.S.


intentions to intervene in Cuban affairs, the President's


action appeared to violate his newly established "Good


Neighbor" policy. This policy, however, which declared, inter


alia, that "No state [had] the right to intervene in the


internal or external affairs of another" excluded Cuba since


the Permanent Treaty of 1903 (which authorized U.S.


intervention in Cuba) still existed.61 To correct the


discrepancy, President Roosevelt abrogated the Permanent


Treaty and its binding restrictions in May 1934. With that,


the United States gave up the right to intervene in Cuban


affairs and lifted restrictions on Cuba's ability to negotiate


with other foreign powers and borrow money.


For a Cuban political system used to American


intervention, however, this sudden reversal in American policy


appeared to only add to the growing state of chaos. For


thirty years, American diplomatic favoritism and recognition


had influenced Cuban politics. Accordingly, as each political


faction vied for power following the departure of Machado,


each also attempted to meet Ambassador Welles' criteria for


good government and gain the diplomatic recognition needed to


guarantee permanent political power.






On the nights of September 3 and 4, 1933, the unrest in


Cuba came to an end. At Camp Columbia in Havana, army


noncommissioned officers displeased with proposed pay


reductions and a promotion freeze rebelled and took command of


the camp. Known as the "Sergeants Revolt," the group was led


by Sergeant Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar.62 Batista, who was


the Army's best stenographer, had befriended many of the


students from the Directorate who had been tried for


participating in the anti-Machado protests. When approached


by these same students following the Sergeants Revolt, Batista


agreed to join ranks in order to overthrow Cespedes' and


establish a five-man pentarchy (a five-member civilian


executive commission). Alarmed over this unexpected mutiny,


Welles cabled the President on September 5th, requesting that


three U.S. warships, two for Havana and one for Santiago, and


1,000 troops be sent to Cuba to safeguard the Cespedes


government. Opposed to intervention, the President rejected


the idea, believing that it not only constituted an undue


expression of partiality and violated neutrality, but also


condemned any Cuban administration that received U.S. support


as a creation of Washington.63 Although the President did


eventually agree to send the warships, this action was viewed


only as a precaution and was not considered a direct


intervention in internal Cuban politics.


Without the support of the United States, the ineffective


pentarchy collapsed. In an attempt to maintain some semblance


of control, Batista and the members of the Directorate met to


appoint a provisional president for Cuba. Their selection was


Dr. Ramon Grau San Martin, a University of Havana professor


who had been supportive of the Directorate during their anti-


Machado opposition. Heavily influenced by the Directorate,


Grau purged Machado followers from the government, dissolved


the old political party machine, and gave autonomy to the


University of Havana, freeing it from governmental influence.


Opposed to the dominance of foreign capital, Grau abrogated


the Cuban Constitution of 1901, promulgated provisional


statutes to govern Cuba, and called for a constitutional


convention with elections to follow in April 1934.64


Attempting to institute social reforms, Grau also established


an eight hour workday, a minimum wage system, compulsory


arbitration of labor-management arguments, and the beginnings


of agrarian reforms.65 For his part Batista, who had been


given the rank of colonel by the former pentarchy, was made


head of the Cuban army, and promptly began promoting enlisted


Cuban soldiers into the Cuban army's officer corps.


This overthrow of the Cespedes regime was considered a


defeat for President Roosevelt's new Cuban policy and, in


particular, Welles' mediation efforts. When Grau seized and


nationalized two American-owned sugar mills closed down due to


labor problems and temporarily assumed control of the Cuban


Electric Company, also closed due to labor problems and rate


disputes, U.S. apprehensions mounted.66 Concerned that


another revolt would occur, Welles appealed to the President


to send a strong statement to the Grau government calling for


conciliation between the opposition factions. When the


President denied the request, Welles recommended that


recognition not be granted to the Grau government.


As Grau continued to deal with the continued instability,


Batista gradually distanced himself from the Grau regime and


soon emerged as the only individual who could bring law and


order to Cuba. Following a conversation with Batista on


September 21, 1933, Welles, who was apparently impressed by


Batista's ability, reported his respect for Batista's


"reasonableness." Informing Batista that the only criterion


for U.S. diplomatic recognition was a government supported by


the people and capable of maintaining order, Welles continued


to explain that the United States would "...welcome any


government in Cuba, no matter by what individuals it was


composed [as long as it] fulfilled the requirements made clear


in the official declaration of the Secretary of State."67


Thus, following his meeting with Welles, Batista met with


student leaders and established a compromise by which Grau was


to be substituted by a new president, one who would be


mutually acceptable to both the students and the army.


Continuing to operate outside the Grau government, Batista


announced to the students in late October, 1933, that the army


had selected Carlos Mendieta to be the new president, and


warned the students against opposing the selection.


In late 1933, Welles was replaced by Jefferson Caffery as


the United States Ambassador to Cuba. Caffery shared Welles'


assessment of Grau's ineffectiveness, and believed the Grau


government would end only through Grau's resignation or by an


army coup. On January 13, 1934, Batista met with Caffery and


reconfirmed the criterion for U.S. diplomatic recognition.


Additionally, he declared his intent to make Carlos Mendieta


Cuba's next president. Mendieta, however, pushed to obtain


recognition of his soon to be new government prior to his


appointment as President of Cuba. Caffery considered the


proposal, fearing that to do otherwise would drive Batista to


the leftists or cause him to establish a military


dictatorship. Although President Roosevelt refused to grant


Mendieta diplomatic recognition in advance, within ten days


Grau resigned as President of Cuba, Mendieta assumed Grau's


former position as President, and the United States extended


diplomatic recognition to the new government of Cuba.


Although short, the revolution of 1933 had a profound


impact on Cuba. The army under Batista was transformed into


a political weapon that was soon used to dominate Cuban


politics. Corruption returned as Batista allied himself with


many of the former politicians expelled from power with


Machado. Repression flourished while opposition groups


resorted to the terrorism and sabotage of the anti-Machado


years. The students who were so important in Machado's


overthrow became disillusioned and frustrated. Many turned to


radical political groups such as the Communist Party while


others shed their idealism to share in the coruption of


Batista's regime. Others still attempted to carry on the


revolutionary zeal by organizing the Partido Revolucionario


Cubano (the Autenticos). A political party that took its name


from Marti's Partido Revolucionario Cubano party of 1892, the


party appointed the deposed Grau San Martin as its




Economically, foreign domination of Cuba's economy was


weakened as state involvement in its management increased.


For many, the revolution proved that profound structural


change in Cuba was not possible while remaining friendly


towards the United States. Consequently, for the more radical


elements, it became clear that only an anti-U.S. revolution


capable of destroying the Batisita military would be


successful in eradicating Cuba of its problems.69


Ruling Cuba through a series of puppet Presidents, Batista


retained tight political control on Cuba. Attempting to win


popular support, Batista sponsored legislation to improve


Cuba's public administration, health, sanitation, education,


and public works. Efforts were made to improve the living


conditions and education of Cuba's rural society while his


"Sugar Coordination Law" protected the tenants of small sugar


plantations against eviction. With each attempt at


improvement, however, Batista and his associates also


continued the practice of pocketing a portion of the funds


earmarked for social welfare projects.70 Through the army,


Batista retained tight control. When a general strike


involving labor, professionals, and students occurred


throughout the island in 1935, Batista used the military to


squelch it. Fearing that the strike might topple his Mendieta


government, students and labor leaders were persecuted,


imprisoned, or assasinated. Labor unions were dissolved while


the University of Havana was closed and occupied by the army.


In 1934, U.S. presence and intervention in Cuba lessened


significantly when Mendieta signed the Treaty of Reciprocity


with the United States.71 Modifying the terms of the


Permanent Treaty of May 1903, the treaty abrogated the Platt


Amendment but still allowed the United States to continue to


lease its naval base at Guantanamo Bay. In August of 1934,


the commercial Treaty of Reciprocity was also signed between


the United States and Cuba. Giving preferential treatment to


U.S. exports to Cuba, the treaty also guaranteed Cuba 22% of


the U.S. sugar market at a special low duty.


In 1940, under the terms of Cuba's new constitution,


Batista, under a coalition supported by the Communist Party of


Cuba and the Revolutionary Union Party, which had merged to


form the Communist Revolutionary Union (URC), was elected


President.72 However, to show continued support for the


United States, Batista as Cuba's President, declared war on


the Axis powers in 1941. In turn, the U.S. increased aid and


trade relations with Cuba and granted Batista credits for


agricultural development and for public works in Havana.73


Cuban sugar production rose with the war effort and from 1942


to 1947, the United States purchased all Cuban sugar at a


relatively high price while imposing low duties.


Batista's iron rule, however, was nothing short of


dictatorial. Confident in his presidency, Batista catered to


the wealthy while cultivating labor support. Courting the


Cuban left, Batista established diplomatic relations with the


Soviet Union in 1943. Although some acts of violence had


occurred during the late 1930's and early 1940's, Batista's


strict control prevented the growth of political opposition




Consequently, when the Cuban elections of 1944 occurred,


Batista was confident that his party would win. Grau San


Martin, Batista's former opponent who was now backed by a


coaliton of the Conservative Republican Party and the


Communists, was the opposition candidate.74 Calling for


agrarian reform and an end to administrative corruption, Grau,


however, won the election, defeating Batista soundly.


Although shocked at the defeat, Batista stepped down from his


position as President and went into retirement in the United




Had Grau and his successor Carlos Prio Socarras


accomplished the intended goals of the 1933 Revolution and


instituted reform, Cuba might have avoided significant strife


and the eventual Castro rebellion of the 1950's. As it was,


Grau's conciliatory policy toward opposition groups and lack


of support from the army created an environment in which


organized urban violence ran rampant. Student activism again


took hold as students aligned themselves with oppostion groups


and used organized force to accomplish their objectives. An


entire system of nepotism, favoritism, and gangs developed as


three key urban groups, the ARG (Accion Revoluncionaria


Guiteras), the MSR (Movimiento Socialista Revolucionario), and


the UIR (Union Insurreccional Revolucionaria), came to




In 1947, a split occurred in the Autentico party when a


group led by the politically ambitious Congressman Eduardo


Chibas became disatisfied with Grau's ineffectiveness. Known


as the Partido del Pueblo Cubano (Ortodoxo), the party became


the new repository for the ideals of the "frustrated


revolution."76 Attacking Cuba's political leadership, the


Autenticos demanded social justice, economic independence, and


honest government while insisting that Cuba remain free from


political pacts. Although gaining in popularity, Chibas


commited suicide in August 1951 while giving a weekly radio


address. The purported reason for his action was frustration


at not being able to reach the objectives of the Revolution of




Chibas's death created a leadership vacuum and rift in


the Ortodoxo Party.78 The continued ineffectiveness of the


ruling Autentico Party soon discredited the party in the eyes


of the Cuban people and only added to the growing political


instability. Consequently, on March 10, 1952, unsure if he


could successfully win the elections that year but confident


of the army's support, Batista overthrew Prio in a bloodless


cout d'etat.79


To foreign observers, particularly the United States, the


Batista-ruled Cuba of the 1950's seemed to blossom. Cuba was


stable, foreign investment was protected, and tourism


flourished. By supporting government agencies such as an


Agricultural and Industrial Development Bank, a Cuban Foreign


Trade Bank, and a Technological Research Institute, which


served as foundations for industrial research, Batista


attracted commercial interest. Although the sugar industry


still dominated all other economic areas, a U. S. Department


of Commerce bulletin described Cuba as having "one of the


highest standards of living in Latin America."80


Behind the glitter of Havana and facade of prosperity,


however, Cuba was still an island economy in colonial status.


The reformist promises of the 1940 constitution remained


largely unsatisfied. American investment in the sugar


industry had declined by the 1950's to about one-third of


Cuban production capacity although the sugar interests still


continued to influence power in controlling the annual Cuban


sugar quota in the United States. In other areas of Cuba's


economy, particularly in the public utilities, railroads,


banking, nickel mining, and various retail concerns, U.S.


capital dominated. From Batista, American investment received


beneficial treatment while Cuban investment seemed to be




Accordingly, beneath the Batista-built shell of wealth


and democracy, Cuba was ripe for rebellion. Opposition to


Batista's dictatorial practices started to mount. University


students again took to the streets, launching an anti-Batista


campaign. The primary influencer of student activities this


time was the Ortodoxo Party which contained a small faction


that advocated violence as the best means to combat Batisto.


A member of this small faction who had earned his law degree


from the University of Havana in 1950 was Fidel Castro.


Captivated by Chebas and the zeal of the Ortodoxios


nationalistic platform, Castro saw the Ortodoxos as Cuba's


only hope for defending its sovereignty.


During the 1952 elections, Castro was asked to run as an


Ortodoxo candidate. When the elections were preempted by


Batista's coup, Castro continued his campaign, circulating a


petition that the Batista government should be deposed because


it came to power "illegitimately."


On July 26, 1953, in a demonstration of his opposition to


Batista, Castro led 165 men in an unsuccessful revolt against


the Moncada army barracks near Santiago de Cuba. Although


receiving some notoriety for his act of rebellion, it was


during his trial, however, that Castro first garnered


attention as a Cuban revolutionary. Delivering a long oration


in his defense in which he stated that "history will absolve


me," Castro condemned Batista and his lack of social reforms


and emphasized the need to restore Cuba to a constitutional




With Castro subsequently sentenced to fifteen years in


prison, Batista's position was once again secured. Running


as the self-appointed candidate of his own Progressive Action


Party, Batista easily won the Cuban presidential elections of


1954 after the oppositon candidate, Grau San Martin, withdrew


from the race.


In May 1955, Batista, in both a sign of confidence and as


a result of pressure to spare those who had participated in


the Moncada attack, declared a general amnesty. One of the


prisoners released from jail was Fidel Castro, who departed


Cuba for exile in Mexico on July 7, 1955.82






While exiled in Mexico, Castro continued to pursue his


revolution. Establishing the 26th of July Movement (M-26-7),


a group named to perpetuate the attack on the Moncado


Barracks, Castro concentrated on clandestine politics and


prepared for the revolution that would overthrow the Batista


regime.83 On December 2, 1956, a M-26-7 group of 81 men led


by Castro sailed from Mexico on GRANMA, a yacht provided by


Batista's old adversary Prio, and landed in the Cuban province


of Oriente. A counterattack from Batista's forces killed or


captured a majority of the group. Castro and his brother,


Raul, as well as an Argentine physician named Che Guevara, and


a small remaining number of the group fled to the Sierra


Maestra mountains. There, Castro's guerrilla force grew in


strength and importance, attacking small military outposts in


order to capture weapons and ammunition. As Castro carried


out his campaign, his image as the revolutionary changed to


one of patriotic hero. An urban underground-developed that


soon became the backbone of the anti-Batista struggle.


Supplies, obtained chiefly from the United States, supported


Castro's revolutionary efforts which soon included hit-and-run


raids, sabotage, and attacks on military installations.84


As Castro's revolution gained momentum, Batista denied


that Castro was a threat, by publishing accounts that Castro


had been killed. However, when the New York Times printed an


interview with and photographs of Castro, stories of Batista's


brutality and dictatorial repressions surfaced, reaching the


United States. The $1 million dollars in military aid granted


to Batista was soon interpreted as aid to Batista in his


struggle against Castro.85 In response, the American


Ambassador in Cuba, Earl Smith, was instructed to inform


Batista that the United States would pursue a policy of


impartial neutrality and support for the Batista effort would


be suspended.


In November 1958, presidential elections were held with


Batista's candidate, Andres Rivero Aguero, winning the


election. By 1958, however, opposition to Batista began to


take on massive proportions. The overwhelming majority of


Cubans wanted Batista out and the dictatorship to end. With


no specific political ideology in mind, Cubans simply sought


the re-establishment of contitutional legality. When fraud


was subsequently claimed in the election, Castro seized the


moment. Bursting out of the Sierra Maestra mountains,


Castro's revolutionaries attacked the army under Batista's


control. As his army deserted around him, Batista fled Cuba


on January 1, 1959. The following day, Che Guevara and 600


revolutionaries took Havana.86 Castro's revolutionary forces


were now in control of Cuba.








With the overthrow of Batista, the fate of Cuba was now


in the hands of one man - Fidel Castro. Considered a hero by


many, Castro embodied what many Cubans hoped would be a new


era of peace and prosperity for Cuba. Castro and his


nationalistic fervor, it was hoped, would reestablish a


constitutional, democratic government in Cuba, free of the


corruption of the Batista regime, and one that would enable


Cuba to develop into a free and independent state. As history


has recorded, however, such was not the case. Consequently,


this chapter will examine and analyze why Castro's revolution


was successful, what influenced the breakdown in U.S.-Cuban


relations, and how that breakdown in relations impacted the


events of the Cuban Missile Crisis.








Castro's success in overthrowing Batista was the offshoot


of a violent anti-Batista movement supported by Cubans from


all walks of life. Although often asserted that Castro and


his barbudos or "bearded ones" led a popular peasant revolt,


in actuality, the "revolt" included a mix of all classes of


Cuban society. Students, university professors, middle-class


intellectuals, peasant soldiers, and businessmen alike engaged


in various forms of active and passive resistance which all


aided in Batista's downfall.87 As Dr. Gregorio DelReal, a


former law professor of Castro's and minister in the National


Bank of Cuba remembered, Castro was welcomed by the Cubans


because it was perceived that Castro would "[do] very good


things for the country. Everybody was for him [Castro]


because everybody wanted to get rid of Batista."88


For that generation of Cubans experiencing the Revolution


of 1933 and now the Castro revolution, it was easy to


understand their willingness to accept this new victor.


Castro himself had spoken of the need to restore the Cuban


constitution of 1940. Prior to 1959, he had also been a


member of the zealously nationalistic Ortodoxico Party, whose


fervor was based on a program of restoring the promises of


1933 revolutionary Cuba. Consequently, there was nothing in


Castro's actions, political or otherwise, that led the Cuban


people to believe that Castro's interests were other than


legitimate. His only intentions appeared to be to retore Cuba


to a constitutional government and to focus, at least for the


moment, on those measures necessary to best care for Cuba and


her people.








Following the exodus of Batista, Castro moved quickly to


establish a new government. On January 6, 1959, Castro's


moderate designee for President, Dr. Manuel Urrutia y Lleo,


was installed as Cuba's new president.89 Castro himself


arrived in Havana on January 8th after triuphmently making his


way westward from Oriente Province. Immediately upon arrival,


Castro began implementing measures that included championing


housing for the poor and financial reform. Vowing to end the


corruption that had marked the Batista regime, Castro easily


won popular support.90


Even initial relations between the United States and Cuba


appeared hopeful in early 1959. As a result of highly


favorable media coverage and his formidable public relations


skills, Castro became something of a folk-hero in the United


States. Charismatic and articulate, the tone of Castro's


proposed policies prior to 1959, although vague, gave no


indication that traditionally close U.S.-Cuban relations would


deteriorate under a Castro regime. 91 Subsequently, on


January 7, 1959, Ambassador Smith personally delivered the


United States official note of recognition to the new


government of Cuba.92 Although the Soviet Union also


extended recognition that same month, the Cubans did not


bother to reciprocate or even reply to the Soviet




In addition to taking quick control of Cuba, Castro's


political skill was also demonstrated by his ability to


maintain momentum by capitalizing on the weaknesses of fellow


revolutionary groups. The Cuban Communist Party or Partido


Socialista Popular (PSP), for example, appeared to exert


little, if any, political influence on the new Castro


government. On the contrary, the PSP appeared to be only one


of the many political factions on the "outside looking in."


Issuing a statement on January 6th entitled "The Overthrow of


the Tyranny and the Immediate Tasks Ahead," the PSP promised


the new government "all the support and all the cooperation


necessary," while also calling for the "formalization,


extension, and consolidation of unity of all


revolutionaries."94 Focusing on the "disintegration of the


Batista political regime," the PSP statement provided support


for Castro's proposed "Land Law," the expansion of Cuban


export markets to socialist countries, and the restoration of


the 1940 constitution so as to prepare for democratic


elections "after the changes or adjustments deemed necessary


by the people [were made]".95


Consequently, although Castro would later state that he


had been a Communist from the beginning of the revolution, his


initial attempts at reform neither mirrored or supported the


"language of marxism."96 In fact, as the Castro regime


pursued the objectives of its revolution, it became apparent


that the revolution seemed to follow no specific political


ideology. Rather, the revolution itself seemed to originate


from an amorphous set of reformist goals designed to appeal to


a variety of groups and classes. Calculatingly ambiguous, the


appeal of the revolution appeared to reside more in Castro's


ability to represent it as "anything and everything to anyone


and everyone. The movement had " unusual appeal to all


sectors of Cuban society, either legitimate or convenient."97


What was even more pronounced, however, was the


realization that Castro was exceptionally ambitious,


authoritarian, and fiercely nationalistic. As described by


Dr. DelReal, "Everything with him [Castro] was ego."


Additionally, given the history of U.S. interventions, the


Platt Amendment, and the extent of U.S. economic presence in


Cuba, Castro did not hold the United States in high regard.98


Well aware of Cuba's "shared history" with the United States,


Castro was convinced that American imperialism had caused


Cuba's problems, and only the elimination of Cuba's dependence


on America could correct them.


Accordingly, the first open signs of Castro's alienation


from U.S. influence came only a few months after he seized


power. Following his April 1959 visit to the United States,


a steady breakdown in communication between Washington and


Havana slowly began. As the Castro government pursued


"revolutionary justice" to systematically hunt down and try


Batista supporters, the American public was shocked at the


level of anarchy. Public trials, jeering spectators, and an


atmosphere of tribal justice seemed to rule the day. At the


same time, Castro began nationalizing foreign-owned


businesses. Contending that private investment subverted Cuba


to foreign control, Castro appointed "intervenors" who


supervised the operation of American companies, particularly


the Cuban Telephone and Electric Companies. Under Law 851,


the Cuban government began to seize foreign-controlled


landholdings that produced rice, tobacco, and coffee.


Additional taxes were levied on foreign companies while in May


1959, the Cuban Court of Social and Constitutional Guarantees


approved the nationalization of lands owned by Nicaro Nickel,


Moa Bay Mining, and the Freeport Sulphur Company. When the


companies protested and threatened to close down their


operations, Castro simply took them over. On behalf of the


investors, the American government filed legal protests,


arguing that the new Cuban nationalization laws were in


violation of international law.99 The American protests,


however, were ignored by the Castro government.


In early 1960, the Eisenhower administration issued a


statement on Cuban-American relations that implied a


condemnation of Castro's action. Drafted with the aid of


Ambassador Philip Bonsal, the United States Ambassador to


Cuba, the statement pledged the continuation of America's


policy of nonintervention, expressed dismay at the


unwillingness of Cuba to accept the overtures of the United


States, asserted that Cuba must abide by international law,


and maintained that the American government would use legal


remedies to protect the interests of its citizens in Cuba.


The statement was criticized by the Castro government who


contended it was only another American attempt to dominate the


Cuban economy. Consequently, when Castro initiated trade


relations with the Soviet Union, his actions were viewed by


global leaders not as an attempt to widen the gulf between the


United States, but only an effort by a national leader to


foster trade between his country and the rest of the world.






For the Eisenhower administration, there seemed to be no


reversal in the course leading to a breakdown of relations


with Cuba. Concluding that Castro was determined not to have


good relations with the United States, President Eishenhower


signed a National Security Directive in March 1960, ordering


that other U.S. options be explored for destabilizing the


Castro regime. In May 1960, the Castro government announced


that British and American refineries were required to process


Soviet crude oil instead of Venezuelan oil. When the company


managers refused, Castro seized the oil companies in a


diplomatic victory. In retaliation, President Eisenhower


suspended Cuban sugar quotas for the remainder of the year to


which Castro replied by nationalizing the remaining American


sugar mills.100


Meanwhile, the Eisenhower administration began to train


and equip Cuban exiles for a future invasion of Cuba. Under


the supervision of the CIA, the arming and instruction of the


anti-Castro Cubans began in isolated camps in Central America.


The purpose of the plan was to overthrow Castro by inciting a


popular uprising. The planners assumed that once the invading


force gained a foothold in Cuba, that an anti-Castro


revolutionary government would be established that would


rally the Cuban people to its banners. Based on this


assumption, the planning focused on invading the south coast


of Cuba at a bay about 97 miles southeast of Havana known as


the Bay of Pigs.


In early January 1961, Castro ordered the American


embassy staff in Havana reduced in size to eleven persons


within two days' time. Shortly thereafter, President


Eisenhower announced that diplomatic relations between the


United States and Cuba were terminated. As ties between the


United States and Cuba ended, preparations still continued for


the planned invasion of Cuba.


On January 20, 1961, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was sworn in


as the 35th President of the United States. As a presidential


candidate, Kennedy had campaigned as being "tough on


communism." Inheriting the Cuban invasion plan, it became


apparent that despite their rhetoric, there were few


differences between he and Eisenhower in their approaches to


Castro. Briefed on the invasion plan, which now called for a


conventional military force rather than a guerrilla attack,


the new President, however, was initially disturbed about the


CIA's maneuvers and the decision to use American military


force. For several reasons, however, President Kennedy


decided to continue with the plan. Cuba was continuing to


move closer towards the Soviet orbit; Castro was sending his


pilots to Czechoslovakia for training; and sporadic raids were


being ordered by Castro against targets in other Caribbean


island nations.101


Thus, relying on the advise of his top military and


foreign-policy advisers who included CIA Director Allen


Dulles, General Lyman Lemnitzer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs


of Staff, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and A.A. Berle,


Chairman of the President's Latin American Task Force, the


President decided to continue with the plan but with


modifications. Those modifications excluded the provision


and/or use of U.S. air support or American forces. The only


American support provided to the invading force was to be




On April 17, 1961, the planned invasion at the Bay of


Pigs occurred. From the outset, the invasion was a failure.


Landing at Playa Giron on the west coast of the Bay of Pigs,


the 1,300 man brigade tried to make its way inland through the


swamps of the Peninsula de Zapata. However, those who had


planned the invasion had seriously underestimated the size of


Castro's land forces, which now included Soviet tanks and


artillery. Additionally, Castro's air force, which supposedly


was destroyed days before, sank a major supply ship, stranding


the Cuban exiles on shore without food, water, or


reinforcements. When the fighting ended on April 19th, 90 of


the invaders had been killed while the rest were taken




While the tragedy of the Bay of Pigs marked a low point


in the United States international prestige, it only served to


enhance Castro's. Well aware of the victory he had obtained,


Castro was inflated by his triumph. His image, which had been


tarnished somewhat by revolutionary laws and justice, was


strengthened immensely. Invaded by a world superpower, his


ability to successfully oppose the United States was proven;


an especially significant point when heretofore U.S. -Cuban


relations had emphasized Cuban weakness and U.S. dominance.


Castro's satisfaction with Cuban efforts at the Bay of


Pigs, however, were marred by persistent, nagging concern that


in the face of a defeat, the United States would return to


attempt a second invasion. Ever mindful of this possibility,


it would become for Castro a key consideration that would not


only shape his perspective in the new relationship being


forged with the Soviet Union, but also influence his decisions


when dealing with the United States again in the future.


For the United States, the Bay of Pigs only revealed how


much the United States had misinterpreted Castro and the Cuban


Revolution. Although President Kennedy had assumed full


responsibility for the fiasco, the failure rightfully belonged


to those advisors who continued to misjudge the strength of


Castro's hold on Cuba and the unwillingness and inability of


Cubans to rise up in arms against him. Information about and


decisions concerncing Castro and Cuba focused more on Cuban-


Soviet relations and Castro as a dictator, rather then on the


social and economic conditions that led to Castro's rise to


power. Consequently, the Bay of Pigs proved to be an


irrational outburst, an U.S. attempt to strike back at a petty


Latin American dictator who irritated the United States and


got away with it than any form of specific "Cuban" policy. It


was an attack on Castro himself who did not fit the


traditional pattern of the Cuban revolutionary rather than a


definitive statement of how to deal with "the Cuban affair."


Consequently, the Kennedy administration seemed to settle


on a policy of harassment and diplomatic isolation in order to


contain Castro and keep him off balance. The harassment


included running operations back and forth between Cuba and


Florida, destroying factories, and staging hit-and-run attacks


against the Cuban coast. Operations such as deploying


American forces in the region, buzzing Cuban airfields, flying


high altitude reconnaissance missions over the island, and


staging military exercises such as PHIBRIGLEX-62, in which


United States Marines invaded the fictitious Republic of


Vieques to overthrow its imaginary dictator "Ortsac" - or


"Castro" spelled backwards - served to ensure Castro remained


off-balance.102 Covert operations, when used,"...only


provided," as Special Assistant to the President for National


Security Affairs McGeorge Bundy described, a "psychological


salve for inaction."103 Plans such as OPERATION MONGOOSE,


which were intended, as CIA Director John A. McCone later


wrote, to "encourage the Cuban people to take Cuba away from


Castro and to set up a proper form of government" were


scrapped so as to focus instead on "the immediate collection


of intelligence [and] the immediate priority objectives of US


efforts in the coming months."104


In June 1962, however, President Kennedy completed


efforts to contain Cuba's diplomatic isolation by addressing


the Organization of American States' (OAS) Conference at Punta


del Este, Uruguay. On the recommendation of the United


States, the OAS declared Castro's government incompatible with


the inter-American system and, concluding that Cuba should be


excluded from the OAS, concurred with the U.S. recommendation


to impose an arms embargo.


In retrospect, then, both the United States and Cuba


blamed each other for their mutual antagonism and the spiral


of fear and hostility leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis.


For Castro, this hostility was embedded in his drive to break


Cuba's dependence on the United States. Castro was convinced


that American imperialism had caused Cuba's problems and that


only the elimination of Cuba's dependence on the United States


could correct them. Despite early U.S. attempts to work with


the new regime, Castro had no intentions of collaberating with


the United States. Rather, he appeared to look for any excuse


to break U.S.-Cuban ties.


For the United States, this hostility and antagonism


centered on Castro. Long used to the turbulent politics of


Cuba, it was perceived that Cuba's problems were caused by the


new Latin dictator. Consequently, neither Castro nor his


revolution were fully understood by U.S. policy makers.


Decisions concerning Castro and Cuba's state of affairs were


subsequently clouded by historical precedence rather than


current accurate analysis and knowledge.


Crucial also to this growing hostility and fear was the


American invasion at the Bay of Pigs. Providing a key link to


the events that culminated in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the


Bay of Pigs tragedy set the stage for the crisis in three key




First, the Bay of Pigs set the tone of U.S. -Cuban


relations during the Kennedy administration. Humbled and


embarrassed by its inability to "fix" problems in Cuba by


overthrowing Castro, the U.S. approach to Cuba shifted


drastically following the Bay of Pigs. Efforts designed to


overthrow Castro now focused more on Cold War concerns of


detering Castro from exporting his revolution and discouraging


relations with the Soviets than on direct involvement in Cuban


affairs. Castro, on the other hand, exploited the American


failure at the Bay of Pigs. Strengthening his hold on Cuba,


Castro pushed the limits of U.S. diplomacy. At the same time,


however, the attempted American invasion caused Castro to grow


concerned about Cuban security. If the United States had


tried to invade once, surely they would try again. This


assumption would eventually cause Castro to misjudge U.S.


intent during the crisis and influence his decisions to accept


Soviet military support in the form of nuclear-capable




Second, the Bay of Pigs underscored for Castro the need


to continue to pursue an alliance with the Soviet Union. Well


aware of his strategic vulnerabilities in relation to the


United States, the only way Castro could protect himself from


one superpower was to seek protection from the other.


Accordingly, to safeguard Cuba from an anticipated "second


invasion," Castro needed to ensure Cuban security was


protected. By pursuing an alliance with the Soviets, Castro


assumed that just such military protection would be provided.


And third, the attempted invasion of Cuba grew to impact


Soviet dealings with Cuba. As relations between the two


countries developed, Soviet decisions to provide military aide


to Cuba would, in part, be influenced by the need to protect


Cuba militarily from the United States. As an examination of


the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis later reveal, American


aggression as that witnessed at the Bay of Pigs simply gave


the Soviets an added reason to pursue the placement of


missiles in Cuba.








Exactly when Castro made the shift to Communism is still


a matter of speculation. The inability to identify Castro's


ideological beliefs caused a confusion, both internal and


external to Cuba, that existed from the outset of Castro's


revolution and continued long after his ascent to power.


However by 1961, Castro stated publicly that he was a


"Communist and would be one" until he died. Consequently,


this chapter will examine why Castro embraced Communism, what


impact, if any, U.S. policy had on Castro's acceptance of


Marxism, and, more importantly, how Castro's acceptance of


Communism influenced the events surrounding the Cuban Missile








Although the Batista government attempted to represent


Castro and the 26th of July Movement as Communist, there was


little information to support this claim. As the Bureau of


Intelligence and Research at the Department of State indicated


early in 1958 prior to Castro's takeover, there was "little


[available] about [the] top leadership [of the 26th of July


Movement] ... the evidence available to the Department [did] not


confirm the Cuban government's charge that Castro [was] a


Communist..."105 This conclusion corresponded with another


official Department of State report of September 1958 that


declared Castro "was not a Communist and that the Communists


[did] not play a dominant role in the leadership of the 26th


of July Movement" although the statement's explanatory note


indicated that the information "[was] not as conclusive as we


would like."106 In November 1959, CIA Deputy Director C. P.


Cabell testified before a Senate subcommittee that "Castro


[was] not a Communist...the Cuban Communists do not consider


him a Communist party member or even a pro-Communist."107


Consequently, even as late as 1960, a report from the CIA


referred to Castro as "not a Communist and certainly not an


anti-Communist," but a violently anti-American nationalist


being used by the Communists in an "intense drive" on Latin


America.108 However, just two years later in August 1962,


a subsequent CIA intelligence estimate indicated that "Fidel


Castro [had] asserted his primacy in Cuban communism" and that


"mutual ties of interest" existed "between Castro and the


"old" Communists, and between Cuba and the USSR."109


Confusion over Castro's real political ideology was also


felt within the new government and the Castro regime as well.


Although it was clear that Castro intended to pursue the


revolution at all costs, it was less clear as to what


political ideology would be used to form the framework of the


new Cuban government.


Soon after the establishment of the provisional Cuban


government in January 1960, a rift grew between 26th of July


moderates and radicals. Centering not only on the rights of


private property and the role of free enterprise, the rift


involved such questions as the holding of elections, the


function of political parties, and the relationship of


Castro's provisional government to the PSP.110 In the


resulting struggle, Che Guevara, Castro's prime guerrilla


lieutenant, and Raul Castro, Castro's brother, both radicals,


surfaced as influential members of the Castro regime. In


addition, PSP members also appeared to gain influence and were


soon appointed to positions within the new Cuban bureaucracy.


Aware of these new influencers of Cuban policy, moderate


members of the Castro regime became angered not only at


Castro's refusal to ask the United States for economic aid


during his visit to Washington, DC in April 1959, but also at


a strong anti-American speech Castro delivered at the United


Nations that following September.


Although Castro initially served as arbitrator between


the two opposing factions of his regime, appearing not to


favor one side over the other, it became apparent by October


1959, that Castro was shifting to a more radical course.


Supporting the policy recommendations of Che Gueverra and his


brother Raul, Castro began to support a closer association


with the Soviet Union.111 President Urrutia, who had been


accused of treason by Castro by publicly stating that


Communism constituted a danger to the Cuban Revolution, was


removed as President. In his place, Osvaldo Dorticos, a man


known to be more amenable to a relationship with the


Communists became Cuba's President during July 1959.112 On


October 19, 1959, Major Huber Matos, a military chief in


Camagiiey province, resigned, charging Communist penetration


of the government. Major Matos was subsequently sentenced to


twenty years in prison for conspiracy, sedition, and


treason.113 Consequently, by the end of 1959, all of Cuba's


moderate cabinet ministers were gone. A reorganization of


labor under PSP leadership now provided the revolution with an


increasingly "class character." Cuban mines, utilities, sugar


companies, oil refineries, and over 50 percent of Cuban land,


depite their ownership by U.S. companies or U.S. allies,


continued to be nationalized.


Slowly severing Cuba's relationship with the United


States, Castro began a campaign to foster a closer association


with the Soviets. On February 6, 1960, First Deputy Premier


Anastas I. Mikoyan of the Soviet Union arrived in Havana with


a Soviet trade exhibition. Meeting with Cuban leaders,


Mikoyan signed an agreement providing for $100 million in


trade credits to help lessen Cuban dependence on the United


States. During March, when the French steamer La Coubre


carrying a shipment of Belgian small arms exploded in Havana


Harbor, killing dozens of workers and soldiers, Castro blamed


the incident on the CIA, who according to Castro, sabotaged


the ship.114 On April 19, 1960, the first shipment of Soviet


crude oil arrived in Cuba. Less than a month later on May 7,


1960, diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Soviet Union


were established. By the summer, the Soviets were beginning


to supply most of Cuba's petroleum needs. When the United


States terminated Cuba's sugar quota in July 1960, the Soviet


Union announced the following day that it was willing to buy


the sugar previously destined for the United States. During


October, the Cuban government expropriated without


compensation all U.S. holdings in Cuba, which were valued at


over $1 billion. Finally, during a television appearance on


December 1, 1961, Castro disclosed that he was "a Marxist-


Leninist and... [would] continue to be one until the last day


of [his] life."115






Many reasons have been postulated for Castro's


ideological shift to Communism. Some historians believe that


Castro accepted a revolution based on socialism and


totalitarianism when his own revolutionary methods proved


unsuccessful. Others believe that Castro "went Communist" in


stages; that Castro's original revolutionary premise still


existed but that it underwent radical changes in gradual,


perceptible stages that not even Castro planned for or


promised.116 As radical members of the 26th of July moved


the Movement leftward, Castro lost faith in the Movement as a


political vehicle and subsequently turned to the Cuban


Communists or to the left as a way to accomplish the


revolution's, albeit his, objectives.117


Still many others believe that U.S. policy failed in Cuba


and, because of this failure, the United States "drove" Castro


to the Soviets. In reality, it would be more accurate to


state that U.S. policy did not force Castro to accept


Communism, but it did influence both the evolution of the


Revolution and the tempo and direction of Castro's Russian


policy.118 In short, when Castro decided to seek Soviet


support, his decision was based on injuries he felt he had


either received or those he anticipated he would receive from


the United States. As Castro recalled about his visit to the


United States in April 1959:


I remember when I visited the United States. There was

no ill will against the United States; in fact we had a

great many friends. But, the fact is that we were

practically impotent against this great campaign over

there against Cuba, as the positions of the revolutionary

government became clear. But I went to Washington. I

was invited by the press, and I didn't mind -- sincerely.

But the president of the United States didn't even invite

me for a cup of coffee, because I wasn't worthy of a cup

of coffee with the President of the United States. They

sent me Nixon...It's not a question of it being a

dishonor to have Nixon, since Nixon was vice

president... I was received at the Capitol in a little

office... I explained the social and economic situation in

Cuba, the poverty, the inequality, the hundreds of

thousands of unemployed, the landless peasants, the

measures that we had to adopt to solve the situation--

and Nixon listened, said nothing, and made no remarks.

But when the interview concluded, it's well known that he

sent a memo to Eisenhower saying, "Castro is a communist

and the revolutionary govenment has to be

overthrown"... he suggested this to the President as early

as April 1959. Not Mikoyan, not a single Soviet had

visited the country... our program was not a socialist

program [at the time] it was the Moncada program.119



A further example of how U.S. policy influenced Castro's


decision to "go communist" can be seen in Cuba's need to


obtain defense supplies and economic subsidies. Reacting to


U.S. economic pressures, Castro stated:


But at that time American economic pressures of all types

began. They became stronger and stronger...We must not

forget that they [the United States] took from us our

sugar quota, which was four million tons. This is

something that had existed in a century of trade

relations between Cuba and the United States, since we

were a colony...Why our gratitude to the USSR?.. .When we

were deprived of the sugar quota, the USSR turned up and

said it was ready to buy Cuban sugar. When [the United

States] suspended oil shipments and left us without fuel,

the USSR turned up and said it was ready to supply us

with oil. It wasn't just CIA operations, there were

political measures, economic measures, that complicated

life in this country [Cuba]. This was the foundation of

our relations with the USSR.120


Additionally, Castro's own misplaced perception that the


United States would not accept his social and economic


reforms, specifically when diplomatic questions of


compensation to U.S. citizens and businesses were raised,


which intensified his draw to the Soviet Union.121 In fact,


it was this self-expressed defiance of "Yankee imperialism"


that provided Castro with an added benefit. That benefit was


the provision of a readymade, emotionally-charged, external


threat which Castro could use to galvanize Cuban support for


his programs of national reformation. Since U.S. policy was


already confused as a result of the mixed signals sent by


Castro, it was easy for Castro to transform a policy of


erratic uncooperativeness to one of open aggression and


enemity.122 Thus, capitalizing on this change, Castro


quickened the socialization of Cuba. He accomplished this by


developing closer relations with the Soviets who were, by this


time, eager to expand their presence into the Western


Hemisphere. Castro's revolution began as an independent


nationalistic movement. Because he was able, at each stage,


to identify the revolution with Cuban patriotism through his


messianic leadership, Castro successfully transformed Cuba


into a Communist state with, at the very least, the passive


support of the majority of the Cuban people.


A political opportunist, Castro was also a Cuban patriot,


extremely nationalistic, and an exceptionally charismatic


leader. Subsequently, communism in Cuba was both totalitarian


and popular.123 In consequence, U.S. policy helped Castro


persuade the Cuban people that the United States was the enemy


of the Cuban Revolution and that security for the revolution


lay in the nationalization of the economy and association with


the Soviets.124


At the same time, Castro's conversion to Communism and


transformation of Cuba into a Communist state was also a


function of Castro's foreign policy objectives.125 Believed


by many to be international in scope, Castro fought the


revolution not only for agrarian reform in Cuba, but also to


"achieve a second liberation of Latin America" that he


(Castro) would lead. In consequence, the Cuban Revolution was


only the "means to an end." In the bigger picture, the


revolution would enable Castro to achieve, or perhaps even


surpass, as the leader of a "Latin American" revolution, the


same world prestige that Nasser, Nehru, and Tito had


achieved.126 Castro was well aware that his intentions


would, in time, cause him to confront the United States.


However, his objective was only to impose sharp limitations on


U.S. economic interests and challenge U.S. poltical leadership


while other revolutions, spurred on by the success of his


revolution in Cuba, occurred throughout the rest of Latin


America. Castro knew that Cuba alone would not be able to


confront the United States, but a show of Latin American unity


could. Cuban survival as well as Castro's, depended upon on


the successful occurrence of other revolutionary movements in


Latin America.127


When these other revolutions did not occur and it became


apparent that Castro would meet opposition from the OAS as


well as the Inter-American Peace Committee, Castro was forced


to reassess the situation. His alternatives were either to


forgo his foreign policy objectives or to seek an ally that


could shield him from the United States. The only ally


capable of providing such a shield was the Soviet Union.


Reliance on the Soviets did not necessarily mean,


however, that Castro intended to become a Marxist-Leninist.


Other Third World leaders, such as Nassar and Sukarno, had


turned to the Soviets for help without becoming Communist.


Consequently, Castro maintained first to moderates that he was


not pursuing closer Communistic ties while simultaneously


suggesting to PSP members, as well as leftist members of the


Movement, that he would welcome a Communist coalition and a


friendship with the Soviets. This dual tactic enabled Castro


to buy time and keep his options open while determining the


prospects for other Latin American revolutions. When it


became clear that other revolutions were not going to occur,


Castro's choice, i.e., to opt for Communism and Soviet


support, became obvious and he made it.






For their part, the Soviets saw numerous benefits in


establishing an alliance with Castro. First, Cuba provided


the Soviet Union with a Communist outpost in the Western


hemisphere - an area long viewed as the exclusive hegemony of


the United States since the Monroe Doctrin of 1823. Second,


Cuba provided promise as a potential military facility and


"listening post" within close proximity of the Soviet's chief


opponent - the United States. Third, Cuba could provide the


Soviets with a military force and civilian technical


assistance personnel that could prove valuable to the Soviets


in furthering their own global objectives.128 And finally,


Cuba provided the Soviets with a revolutionary "success story"


or model they could use when exporting communism to the rest


of the Third World. Castro had collaborated with the


Communist Party; a marked difference from other revolutions


that excluded rather than welcomed Communist collaboration.


As Mark Falcoff, resident scholar at the American Enterprise


Institute stated, "...the Soviets always had a terrible


inferiority complex about their system. They knew that no one


ever opted for their system voluntarily. That is why Cuba was


important to one really liked them, not even their


own sattelites, who had lingering animosity for them..."


Castro, in fact, ruthlessly pursued a social and economic


revolution that euphemistically put "power" in the hands of


workers and peasants at the expense of individual rights and


freedoms.129 Consequently, Soviet Chairman Nikita Kruschev


had not only taken the Cuban government to heart, but had also


offered it to the rest of Latin America. Thus, the Cuban


revolution provided the Soviets with the opportunity to claim


universal applicability of Communism throughout all of Latin


America. In short, it represented the pattern of revolution


that the Communists would have liked to see spread throughout


all the Third World.


At the same time, however, Soviet reactions to the


acceptance of Cuba as a communist state and Castro as the


leader of Marxism-Leninism in Cuba were both cautious and


unenthusiastic. The Cuban Revolution did not "fit" the


normal, planned Soviet strategy for fostering international


Communism. The revolution was not led by a Communist party


nor an openly Marxist leadership, as those in Europe had been.


According to Soviet ideologists, countries like Cuba -


"semifeudal" and under the imperialistic yoke - had to take


the road to socialism in stages.130 Should young Communist


parties start to build socialism without the minimal and


indispenseable Communist base, such undue haste, it was


thought, may "narrow the popular basis of socialist revolution


and compromise the noble idea of socialism in the eyes of the


masses."131 Nor did Cuba seek peaceful coexistence with the


West. Soviet acceptance of Castro's socialist intent implied


Soviet acceptance of military responsibility for Cuba's


defense. This defense was essential if the Communist myth


that "no country that had abandoned capitalism would return to


it" was to survive.


Accepting military responsibility for a country just


ninety miles from the United States, however, jeopardized the


Soviet policy of peaceful coexistence. Peaceful coexistence


meant "lulling" opponents into a false sense of security until


it was possible for the Soviet Union to gain the upper hand.


With Cuba so close to the United States, creating the needed


"sense of security" while also accomplishing any type of


military buildup would be difficult. Consequently, Cuba with


its strategic location presented both opportunities and


possibilities as well as inherent disadvantages and risks.


Additionally, there was disagreement within the


international Communist party, specifically between the


Soviets and the Chinese, on how to handle Third World


revolutions. The Chinese Communists, although unable to


provide large-scale support, enthusiastically embraced the


Cuban cause. Following the Bay of Pigs invasion in April


1961, for example, the Chinese government celebrated the


"Cuban victory" by holding a huge rally in Peking. Attended


by Cuba's Minister of Education, Armando Hart, who was on a


visit to the Chinese capital at the time, the demonstration


was described in the Chinese press as proving "that the


Chinese people [were] the most trusted and loyal friends of


Cuba, Latin America, and all oppressed nations."132 The


Soviets for their part recognized the event by sending


greetings to Castro via Cuban President Dorticos. While the


Soviets praised Castro for the progress he was making in


"...the building of a new state - democratic and free of


oppressors and exploiters," the Chinese greetings exulted the


revolution itself, referring to the "development and


strengthening of the revolution and its construction,"


encouraging Castro to continue in his efforts.133





Consequently, despite intense lobbying efforts Castro


encountered resistance in his attempt to become a member of


the Soviet bloc. By the end of 1961, Castro faced a desperate


situation. Cuba's admission to the Soviet bloc was denied,


Soviet economic help was insufficient, conditions in Latin


America were unfavorable for revolution, and the Communist old


guard (the original members of the PSP) were pressing to


control the "backbone of the state." To solve this dilemma,


Castro turned to drastic measures. On December 1, 1961 Castro


provided public affirmation of his "real" ideological


disposition by stating that he had always been a Marxist-


Leninist and by pledging that he would be one until he died.


Subsequently, on May 14, 1962, a definitive commercial treaty


was signed between Cuba and the Soviet Union. By June, it was


obvious that the Soviets accepted Castro as the supreme


representative of Marxism-Leninism in Cuba.


For Castro, however, this acceptance did not mean that


power and political control in Cuba would be automatically


turned over to the PSP. On the contrary, the Communist "old


guard" was relegated to only a secondary role in the Cuban


Communist Party. Castro remained the sole dominate force in


Communist Cuba and continued to develop his own brand of


Communism, blending "fidelismo" and Marxism-Leninism into




The common thread binding Castro to the former Soviet


Union, then, centered on Castro and the personal objectives he


maintained for himself and his revolution - that of


maintaining absolute power; making Cuba a world class actor


with major international influence; and transforming Cuban


society. To accomplish these objectives, Castro first turned


to the Cuban Communists. Constantly moving leftward, then,


Castro gained support from the Cuban Communist party in order


to foster an association with the Soviets. Consequently, it


was Castro who agreed to the initiation of the relationship


that eventually evolved between Cuba and the former Soviet


Union.135 As Castro subsequently revealed, "The important


thing for us was the global strategic might of the Soviet


Union. We saw that it was Soviet will, Soviet determination,


Soviet global might, that protected us."136 Through Marxism-


Leninism and Soviet support, Castro found the means to obtain


his objectives, absolve Cuba of two hundred years of


oppressive U.S. imperialism, and ultimately, eliminate U.S.


influence in Cuba. By turning to the Soviets, Castro embraced


the arch political, military, and ideological rival of the


United States, thus taking nationalistic revenge. It was


Castro who actively courted the Soviets, seeing in the former


Soviet Union the opportunity to achieve his own personal


objectives while still maintaining firm control over Cuba's


political system.


Subsequently, Castro's quid pro quo relationship with the


Soviets was based on a convenient parallel of national


interests and foreign policy that provided both with


considerable benefit.137 For Castro, an alliance with Soviet


Russia provided critical economic subsidies, Soviet military


and technical assistance, a political sponsor willing to


promote and support Castro's aspirations of leadership in the


nonaligned movement, and finally, a protector though not a


guarantor of Cuban independence from the United States.


Extensive Soviet military, economic, and political support


provided Castro with the flexibility he needed to conduct an


activist foreign policy totally out of proportion to Cuba's


physical size in the world.


Also, in order to check Cuban dependence on America,


Castro had turned his back on a world superpower, the United


States. For purely pragmatic reasons that bordered on


economic survival, it was necessary that he establish a


corresponding relationship with a nation of commensurate


strength. The only other power that fulfilled this


requirement was the Soviet Union. As Mark Falcoff stated,


"...the only way [Castro's] economic policy could keep from


collapsing [was] to [have] an outside patron... [Castro's]


economic policies would not work without an authoritarian


political structure to force everyone to work. So, it was a


convergence of two needs: to reject the U.S. and the


practical need to find an alternative." For Castro, that


alternative was the Soviet Union.


For the Soviet Union, an alliance with Cuba provided the


Soviets with an "edge" in their Cold War struggle against the


United States. Prior to their association with Cuba, the


Soviets had been unable to successfully establish a secure


foothold in the Western hemisphere that would allow them to


challenge U.S. hegemony. With Cuba, just such a foothold was


established. In addition, Cuba had willingly pursued entrance


into the Soviet bloc. Unique among the family of Soviet


revolutions, Cuba was the only country that had opted to enter


the Soviet orbit voluntarily. Despite the opposition that


still haunted Cuba's acceptance as a communist country, Cuba


provided the Soviets with a model that could be used to export


communism throughout the rest of Latin America. Consequently,


the Soviets were committed to Cuba at a level more than the


United States realized, but would soon discover, during the


Cuban Missile Crisis.








During his October 22nd report to the people, President


Kennedy referred to the presence of medium and long-range


ballistic missiles in Cuba. In preparation for the


President's address, an October 20th CIA estimate indicated


the presence of four MRBM and two IRBM launch sites in various


stages of construction and organized into at least three


regiments. Of these, two regiments of eight launchers each


were believed to be mobile and designed to launch the MRBMs


while one regiment of eight fixed launchers were believed to


be designed for the IRBMs.138 In January 1992, General


Anatoly I. Gribkov, General of the Army of the Russian


Federation, provided clarification that showed the true threat


facing the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis.


According to General Gribkov, "We brought...twenty-four R-12


launchers, and for each one, 1.5 missile loadings. In


addition, there were six Luna launchers, with 1.5 missile


loadings each, with nuclear warheads. That is, for six


launchers, there were nine tactical nuclear rockets."139 The


R-12's were SS-4's, with a missile range of 2,500 kilometers.


The tactical Luna missiles were FROGs (Free Rocket Over


Ground) with a range of 60 kilometers. At the time of the


crisis, 42,00 Soviet troops were in Cuba. "...In the event of


an [American] attack," Gribkov stated, " the aggressor would


have suffered great losses, either in the event of an air


attack with a subsequent landing , or in a direct assault. An


air attack would not have destroyed all the missiles. Even if


the intermediate-range missile regiments had been destroyed


leaving only the six Luna launchers, they would have been


ready with nuclear weapons, and we [were] all perfectly aware


of the fact that losses would have been tremendous."140 Had


the United States opted to attack Cuba rather than resort to


a quarantine, it was likely that Cuban, Soviet, and American


casualties would have been tremendously high and the island of


Cuba pulverized. In addition, with both the Soviets and the


Cubans willing to "fight to the last," a long, protracted war


could well have been imagined. Consequently, this chapter


will examine why Castro, faced with just such an option,


agreed to the deployment of missiles in Cuba, what


specifically Castro hoped to gain by placing the missiles on


the island, what agreements, if any, were made between Castro


and Khruschev, and what role Cuba and Castro played in the


events leading up to and concluding in the Cuban Missile








The Soviet decision to place missiles in Cuba and


initiate the "Caribbean Crisis" was clouded in ambiguity. In


his report to the Supreme Soviet on December 12, 1962, Nikita


Kruschev claimed that his sole aim was to defend "little Cuba"


from the "imperialist monster."141 Indicating that he was


acting on a request from Castro, Kruschev stated that he


placed missiles in Cuba based on a Soviet-Cuban agreement


reached at the end of August and announced in a communique on


September 2, 1962.142


In support of these claims, General Anatoly I. Gribkov of


the Main Operations Directorate, Soviet General Staff has made


similiar comments. As the planner of Operation Anadyr, the


name of the secret deployment of men, missiles, and materiel


to Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, General Gribkov


recalled that the Soviets grew concerned about Cuba's security


following the Bay of Pigs. In the Soviet estimate, the best


way to deal with the "critical situation" was to provide


military assistance to Cuba. In May 1962, the Soviet military


High Command was directed to prepare a proposal for a plan and


force structure to assist the Cuban military in securing the


defense of Cuba. A draft of this agreement was prepared and


called an "Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of


Cuba and the Government of the USSR on Military Co-operation


for the Defense of the National Territory of Cuba in the Event


of Aggression." The preamble of the draft agreement referred


to the necessity of taking steps "for the joint defense of the


legitimate rights of the people of Cuba and the Soviet Union,


taking into account the urgent need to adopt measures to


guarantee mutual security, in view of the possibility of an


imminent attack against the Republic of Cuba and the Soviet


Union." Consequently, the terms of the agreement provided for


not only the defense of Cuba, but also for the defense of


Soviet interests.143


Accordingly, the first draft of the agreement was


initialled by the Cuban Minister of Defense, Raul Castro, and


the Soviet Minister of Defense, Rodion Ya. Malinovsky, during


July 1962. However, an August revision of that draft was


never signed by either Castro, Nikita Khruschev, or their


representatives.144 During early May 1962, Aleksandr


Alekseev, former Ambassador to Cuba, was told by Khruschev


that "we (meaning either he, the Soviet government, or


someone) have decided to send missiles to Cuba because there


[was] no other way to protect Cuba's revolution despite our


interventions in the U.N. We have not been able to stop the


United States."145 Consequently, the defense of "little


Cuba," which was considered to be of vital importance to the


Soviets, was actually based on a Soviet-Cuban military


agreement that neither Kruschev nor Castro had signed.


Although Kruschev's primary goal for placing missiles in


Cuba, then, was to ensure the security of Cuba through an


"effective means of deterrence," three additional reasons,


equally important, have also been postualated for Kruschev's


decision. The first of these was Kruschev's desire to "repay


the Americans in kind" for surrounding the Soviet Union with


military bases and missiles, and to make the United States


"learn what it's like to live under the sights of nuclear


weapons."146 Intending to "do the same thing the Americans use the same methods," Khruschev took every precaution


to ensure the secrecy of the missile placement so "U.S. public


opinion [would] not be aware of this until November 4th or


after November 4th... The Americans are going to have to


swallow this the same way we had to swallow the pill of the


missiles in Turkey. We (the USSR and Cuba) are two sovereign


states, and when everything [was] ready in November, I will


travel to Cuba and we will tell the world about this




Second, Khruschev's decision reflected the tensions and


continuing competition of Cold War politics. The placement of


missiles in Cuba was designed to test the resolve of the


United States so that "even though you do not shoot each


other, you still position weapons as close as possible ... in


order to open fire in case of conflict."148 As the failure


of American efforts at the Bay of Pigs seemed to demonstrate


eighteen months earlier, Khrushchev believed that he was


dealing with an "inexperienced young leader [President


Kennedy] who could be intimidated and blackmailed."


Subsequently, the Soviet leader secretly placed nuclear arms


in Cuba on the assumption that the United States, when faced


with such a fait accompli, would acquiesce to the Kremlin's


demands. Such a victory over the United States would not only


give Khruschev the victory he needed to preserve his prominent


position in the USSR, as the Bay of Pigs had done for Castro


in Cuba months earlier, but also strengthen Khruschev's


position within the international Communist community.149


A third reason for Khrushchev's decision centered on his


intentions to use the missiles as a bargaining chip in a


summit or UN confrontration with President Kennedy, e.g.,


trading the withdrawal of missiles in Cuba for commensurate


U.S. withdrawals in Turkey, so as to capture the real prize -


Berlin. Had the United States responded to the Cuban Missile


Crisis by striking Cuba such an act, in Khruschev's


estimation, would have split the NATO alliance, fueled anti-


Americanism in Latin America, and temporarily occupied the


United States while the Soviets used the opportunity to move


against Berlin. Accordingly, the deployment of missiles in


Cuba was an attempt to alter the Soviet's weak strategic


position as it related to the missile gap. The placement of


nuclear missiles in Cuba would have provided the Soviets with


a swift, comparatively inexpensive but significant addition to


their nuclear missile strike capability. Such a capability


could have altered the U.S.-Soviet Cold War balance of power.


Consequently, the Soviets had much to gain by placing nuclear


missiles in Cuba. Not only would the missiles have enabled


the Soviets to significantly alter the Cold War balance of


power and their position within the international Communist


party, but they also would have provided the USSR with a


bargaining chip useful in furthering their own international







For his part, Castro denied that he initiated a request


to place missiles in Cuba. On the contrary, Castro stated


during a speech on January 2, 1963 that the introduction of


strategic weapons into Cuba had been decided by a mutual


agreement between the Soviets and Cuba. "Moscow offered them


to us...Such is the truth even if other explanations are


provided elsewhere."150 However, in an interview several


months following the crisis, Castro contradicted this


explanation by stating that the Soviets proposed placing the


missiles in Cuba "to strengthen the socialist camp on the


world scale. . Since we [Cuba] ...already [received] a large


amount of assistance from the socialist camp, we decided that


we could not refuse. That is why we accepted them. It was


not in order to ensure our own defense, but primarily to


strengthen socialism on the international scale."151 After


Khruschev's ouster in 1965, Castro again reiterated the


assertion that the missiles were placed in Cuba at the


Soviet's request and that he only agreed to their placement in


order to strengthen socialism. Even as late as January 1992,


Castro still asserted that "We analyzed the issues, and all of


us had the same interpretation: ... the real issue was


strategic; that it was imperative to strengthen the socialist


camp...if we expected the socialist countries to fight for us,


we, for simple reasons of image, could not selfishly refuse


that cooperation to the socialist camp."152


A review of the facts, however, indicated that Castro's


acceptance of the missiles was not as simple as reacting to a


proposed Soviet defense plan or supporting the aims of


internationl Socialism. Rather, Castro significantly


influenced the events and factors that not only led to the


Soviet decision for the missile deployment, but also provided


him with a legitimate reason for their use.


Castro's influence of the Soviet decision leading to the


missile deploment actually began two years earlier. In July


1960, President Eisenhower, in retaliation for the


confiscation of U.S.-owned oil refineries, reduced the Cuban


sugar quota by 700,000 tons. Reacting to the President's


action Krushchev sent a cable to Castro, committing the USSR


to assuming the 700,000 tons of sugar by which the American


quota was reduced. In addition, Khrushchev also stated that


"In a figurative sense, if it became necessary, the Soviet


military can support the Cuban people with "rocket


weapons."153 Although Khruschev later attempted to clarify


that he was speaking in "figurative" terms only, it appeared


that Castro preferred to look at Krushchev's offer as very


real. During a mass rally in Cuba on July 10, 1960, Castro


stressed numerous times that the Soviet offer of the rockets


had been both "absolutely spontaneous," to ensure it was


understood that he was "innocent" in the Soviet offer of


rocket assistance, and also real, not "figurative." Thus,


despite Soviet comments to the contrary, Castro not only


exaggerated Soviet intent concerning the missiles, but also


publicly reinforced the idea that the Soviets had offerred to


protect Cuba with missiles.


At the same time, the Soviets, since 1960, had resisted


Cuban demands for specific military-security guarantees. Even


after the Bay of Pigs, the Soviets carefully referred to


"capabilities" rather than commit themselves to Cuba's


defense. But Castro's demands, combined with an internal


Cuban struggle between the Cuban Communist Party and the


"Castroites," created tensions that severely strained Cuban-


Soviet relations through the spring of 1962. This


disagreement peaked at the end of March when Castro purged


Annibal Escalente, an old guard Communist who served as the


second in command of the Cuban Communist Party. In an effort


to reduce tensions in their relationship with Cuba and thus,


retain their valuable outpost in the Western Hemisphere, the


Soviets agreed to several of the demands made by Castro.


Consequently, by late spring, following the departure of


Escalente, an obvious shift had occurred in Soviet policy


toward Cuba. During the annual May Day slogans of 1962


celebrating Communism, Cuba's postion as a Communist country


was listed with those of other prominent Socialist nations.


During a speech to a group of Cubans in Moscow, Khruschev also


publicly stated, for the first time, that the USSR was


providing weapons to Cuba. In July 1962, Soviet ships


transporting military arms began sailing towards Cuba. Later


that same month, Raul Castro, upon returning from a visit to


the Soviet Union, boasted that the only serious threat now


affecting Cuba was an American invasion "which [Cuba could]


now repel."154


Thus, although Khruschev's official reason for offering


the missiles to Castro was to defend Cuba, Castro's acceptance


of them went beyond his public assertions that he wanted to


advance the cause of Socialism. To Castro, accepting military


support from the Soviets placed Cuba in the same position of


dependency that had existed between the United States and Cuba


for over two hundred years. Not wanting to develop such a


dependency again, although an economic dependence upon the


Soviet Union already existed, Castro framed his acceptance of


the missiles as an effort to suport Soviet political


objectives as they related to socialism. As Alekseev further


recalled, the draft military agreement was "


Castro" who "studied it. There were a great many technical


provisions; the political aspects were rather thin, and Fidel


Castro introduced the necessary corrections."155


In fact, Alekseev at first voiced concern that Castro


would refuse to accept the agreement. To Alekseev, Castro's


first line of defense for the Cuban Revolution was the


solidarity of Latin America. If missiles were installed in


Cuba, "... this would provoke a rejection of the Cuban


Revolution from the rest of the hemisphere." Subsequently,


when meeting with Castro in Cuba concerning the Soviet missile


offer, Alekseev recalled that "...Castro did not give an


immediate reply. After thinking about it, Castro asked if


"...this [was] in the interest of the socialist camp." And we


said, "No, this [was] in the interest of the Cuban


Revolution." This [was] what Khrushchev had said."156


However, it was apparent that Castro and the six members of


his Secretariat, the main policymaking body of the Cuban


government, believed that Soviet motives were not only to


defend Cuba. As Emilio Aragones, former Director of Cuba's


Bank of International Finance and a Secretariat member


recalled," that meeting, comrade Fidel asked us our


opinion about the Soviet plan. We, the six members of the


Secretariat, were unanimously in favor of the emplacement of


the missiles in Cuba; but we six, especially Fidel Castro,


were sure that we were doing this and undertaking these


measures not so much to defend Cuba as to change the


correlation of forces between capitalism and socialism."157


As Dimitri Volkogonov, Director of the Institute of Military


History, Soviet Ministry of Defense, explained further, "I


think that when we talk of motives, we should keep in mind


that it was really a dual task: to help Cuba defend its


independence, and, on the other hand, to raise [the Soviet]


position as a strategic nuclear power.158 Accordingly,


Castro was made well aware that the reason for the placement


of the missiles was the defense of Cuba and of the Cuban


Revolution. Using missiles to defend the revolution, however,


would have undermined Castro's legitimacy within the Latin


American community. Consequently, accepting the missiles in


the name of Socialism, a Soviet political ideology, not only


allowed Castro to share the "blame" for the missiles with


Soviet Russia, but also changed the focus of the missile


deployment from one supporting a revolution to one supporting


an ideology. In essence, Castro shifted the focus of the


deployment from one that emphasized Cuban objectives to one,


that at a minimum, showed a shared emphasis on Soviet


objectives for Socialism.






In addition to his public support for his Soviet


benefactors and for international socialism, Castro's


acceptance of the missiles also enabled him to achieve a far


more significant objective. First and foremost, the missiles


provided Castro with the ability to deter an American


invasion. Still convinced that the United states would invade


Cuba a second time, the missiles provided Castro with the fire


power he needed to deter such an invasion and thus guarantee


the security of Cuba and of the Cuban revolution.


In addition, Castro also believed that the missiles would


enable him to strengthen his ability to eliminate Cuba's


dependence on the United States. In essence, the missiles


would enable Cuba, as a member of the Soviet bloc, to "thumb


its nose" at the United States in retaliation for two hundred


years of oppression. By possessing nuclear missiles, Castro


could finally end any vestiges of Cuba's long history of


vulnerability to the United States.






The response in Cuba to President Kennedy's October 22nd


address to the nation and announcement of a quarantine was


received with a "curious mixture of exhilaration and


calm."159 While Castro himself was very calm, exhilaration


seemed to come from the Cuban people as they reacted to


Castro's announcement of a full-scale mobilization of Cuba.


Certain that the United States would launch a major invasion,


the Cuban newspaper "Revolucion" carried a banner headline


that read "The Nation on a War Footing." As Cuba prepared for


war, General Sergio del Valle, the Chief of Staff of the Cuban


Army during the crisis, recalled that the Cuban leaders


anticipated massive U.S. bombings followed by an all out


invasion. "We were convinced that the invasion or aerial


attack would be carried out long before the president


intervened on the 22nd... our entire population began to


prepare to defend the country...we mobilized 270,000 men, we


organized 56 infantry divisions, many of whom were not well


prepared...the entire nation was made ready..."160


Accordingly, for Cuba the threat of war and U.S. invasion was


very real. As Sergo A. Mikoyan, personal secretary and son of


Soviet First Deputy Premier Anastas I. Mikoyan remembered, the


threat was so real that many "Cubans and Soviets in Cuba were


ready to die to the last man" in order to defend their




Had the United States invaded Cuba, the ensuing conflict


would have been much different from that anticipated by U.S.


planners. The United States expected the main fighting to be


over in ten days and that U.S. forces would sustain 18,484


casualties.162 On the contrary, however, an invasion of Cuba


would have had far more catastrophic results. First, an


invasion would have ignited a guerilla war in Cuba that would


have lasted for years. And second, General Gribkov was given


authority to fire the Luna tactical nuclear missiles in the


event of an U.S. invasion. Consequently, had an invasion


occurred, such an action may have lead to nuclear holocaust.


As Castro prepared for the anticipated invasion, then,


the "chess match" between the United States and the Soviets


played on. While each nation's respective UN representatives,


to include Cuba's, called for UN Security Council action,


Khruschev responded to the President's plan to establish a


naval quarantine of Cuba. Sending a letter to the White House,


Khurschev declared that "...the measures outlined...represent


a serious threat to peace and security. The United States has


openly taken the path of...aggressive actions both against


Cuba and against the Soviet Union."163


On October 24th, UN Secretary General U Thant


subsequently sought to negotiate a settlement between the two


superpowers. On the United States part, U Thant called for a


voluntary suspension of the U.S. naval quarantine for a period


of two to three weeks while for the Soviets, a voluntary


suspension of arms shipments to Cuba. Although Kruschev


accepted U Thant's appeal, President Kennedy did not.


Instead, U.S. military forces were placed on a heightened war


readiness alert. Specifically, General Thomas Power,


Commmander in Chief, Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC), raised


the alert level of Strategic Air Command to DefCon 2. Unknown


to the President, however, the message announcing the DefCon


change was sent in the "clear," making it possible for Soviet


communications to also intercept and "hear" the transmission.


The following day, President Kennedy, in an additional


retaliatory move, sent a letter to Khruschev, laying


responsibility for the crisis on the Soviet Union. In his


letter, the President reminded the Soviet Premier of repeated


U.S. warnings against deploying missiles in Cuba and of


repeated Soviet assurances that no need or reason existed to


undertake such a deployment. Consequently, after receiving


both President Kennedy's letter and numerous reports of a


planned U.S. invasion while also reacting to the CINCSAC


DefCon alert order, Khruschev ordered that a letter be drafted


containing the basis of a solution to the crisis. Initially,


the Khruschev letter demanded that the U.S. submit to a non-


invasion pledge and withdraw its Jupiter missiles from Turkey


and Italy. Later that same day, however, Khruschev received


new reports suggesting that an American invasion of Cuba was


imminent. Subsequently, Khruschev re-dictated his letter to


the President, ommitting reference to the removal of missiles


from Turkey and Italy and sent the letter the next day.


Meanwhile, as the United States maintained its naval


quarantine of Cuba, Soviet vessels enroute to Cuba were forced


to turn back. Among these vessels was the tanker "Bucharest"


which was intercepted by U.S. naval warships but permitted to


proceed without boarding. The following day, the Lebanese


freighter "Marucla" under charter to the Soviet Union was


boarded by a party from the USS PIERCE and USS KENNEDY. When


no prohibited material was found, the ship, too, was allowed


to continue on its course.


On October 26th, Khruschev's re-dictated letter was


delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Several hours after


its delivery, however, Khruschev learned from Soviet


Intelligence that reports of an imminent U.S. attack on Cuba


were false and that the United States had not yet settled on


a specific course of action regarding the crisis. Seeing an


opportunity, Khruschev thus decided to reassert his demands


for the removal of U.S. missiles from Turkey. Preparing a


second letter to President Kennedy, Khruschev reiterated his


previous demands but inadvertently ommitted any reference to


the removal of missiles in Italy.


Meanwhile in Cuba, Castro continued to prepare the island


to defend against an U.S. invasion. As part of these


preparations, Cuban antiaircraft batteries were ordered to


open fire at all low-level overflights. Unaware that


intelligence concerning the U.S. attack was faulty, Castro's


order to shoot was based on the belief that the overflights


were preliminary air attacks on the missile sites. As Castro


later recalled,


... It should be said that a surprise air strike was a

threat that was hanging over us from the very

beginning...the situation grew increasingly tense, and

low level overflights more frequent, and we became

convinced that it was extremely dangerous to allow low-

level overflights.164


For Castro, the order to fire at the aircraft was meant, in


large part, to not only boost morale but to also encourage the


feeling among Cubans that they could act constructively to


protect themselves and their homeland.


After giving the order to fire, Castro, convinced that


nothing else could be done to prepare for the U.S. invasion,


dictated a letter to Khruschev. In the letter, Castro warned


Khruschev of imminent "aggression" by the United States within


the next 24 to 72 hours. The aggression he described


consisted of "two possible variants: the first and likeliest


one was an air attack against certain targets with the limited


objective of destroying them; the second, less probable


although possible, was invasion."165 In that same letter,


Castro also urged the Soviet Premier to launch a nuclear


strike against the United States if American forces invaded


the island.


Midmorning on the 27th, Khruschev's second letter to


President Kennedy arrived in Washington. Although having


received Khruschev's first, re-dictated letter, the President


chose to ignore it and, instead, respond to the Soviet


Premier's more attractive second proposal.


As Washington prepared to respond to the Kremlin's


second, more favorable recommendation, then, Castro continued


to believe an U.S. invasion was forthcoming. Consequently, on


October 27th, Cuban antiaircraft batteries opened fire on an


American U-2, killing its pilot, Major Rudolph Anderson, Jr.


Although Castro was blamed for the incident, General Gribkov


later related that actually "... our [Soviet] commander ordered


that [Soviet] batteries be ready, that our radars be


operational. The order to shoot down the plane was given by


General Stepan Naumovich Grechko at the regiment commander's


headquarters. From there it was transferred to the regiments,


and then to the battery commander. Immediately after the


information arrived, the aircraft was shot down."166 Later


that afternoon, Cuban 57mm guns also open fire at a low flying


F8U-1P aircraft on a reconnaissance mission. 167


That afternoon, Khruschev, while determining his next


move against the Americans, was read the contents of Castro's


letter of January 26th. To Khruschev, Castro's letter was


interpreted to be an appeal to launch a preemptive nuclear


attack on the United States. Thus, responding to Castro's


recommendation to launch a nuclear strike, Khruschev stated,


In your [Castro's] cable of October 27, you proposed that


we be the first to launch a nuclear strike against the

territory of the enemy. You, of course, realize where

that would have led. Rather than a simple strike, it

would have been the start of a thermonuclear world war.

Dear Comrade Fidel Castro, I consider this proposal of

yours incorrect, although I understand your





Despite this response from Khruschev, Castro contended that


his letter to Khruschev was not meant to suggest that a strike


be launched, but only to bolster Khruschev's "resolve," to


convince him that he should under no circumstances succumb to


U.S. pressures on Cuba's behalf, and to make clear that Cuba


would stay until the end, to annihilation if necessary. "...I


dared to write a letter to Nikita, a letter aimed at


encouraging him. That was my intention. The aim was to


strengthen him morally, because I knew that he had to be


suffering greatly... I proposed some ideas as to what should be


done in the event, not of an air strike, but of an invasion of


Cuba in an attempt to occupy it."169






Following the shooting of the American U-2, a carefully-


worded letter was sent from President Kennedy to Khruschev on


October 24th. Potentially part of a settlement but more of an


U.S. ultimatum, the letter proposed that should Khruschev


agree to remove the missiles from Cuba under UN observation


and undertake measures to stop the further introduction of


such weapons into Cuba, the United States would agree to


remove the quarantine of Cuba and provide assurances against


an invasion of Cuba.


As Khruschev pondered the gravity of the correspondence


from President Kennedy, he also pondered with equal concern


the recent actions of his Cuban ally. To Khruschev, Castro


was clearly acting like a maniac. Holding Castro responsible


for the downing of the American U-2, Khruschev stated in an


October 28th letter (to Castro) that the "...Pentagon is


searching for a pretext to frustrate this agreement. This is


why it is organizing the provocative flights. Yesterday you


shot down one of these [the U-2], while earlier you didn't


shoot them down when they overflew your territory. The


aggressors will take advantage of such a step for their own




Consequently, it came as no surprise, then, that


Khruschev kept Castro out of the decision-making process


leading to the removal of the missiles from Cuba and an end to


the crisis. Not only were Castro and Khruschev experiencing


long delays in communicating with each other, but Khruschev


was also concerned that Castro's participation in the attempts


to resolve the conflict would only complicate the issue


further. Accordingly, Castro was neither consulted nor


advised concerning the withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba;


a fact Castro still has not forgotten.


At 10:00 a.m. EST on the morning of October 28th, Radio


Moscow announced the text of a message from Khruschev that


simply stated that "The Soviet Government...has given an order


to dismantle the weapons, which you [the United States]


describe as offensive, and to crate them and return them to


the Soviet Union." While President Kennedy hailed Khruschev's


decision as "an important and constructive contribution to


peace," Castro received the message with outrage and


humiliation that he had not been consulted by either the


Soviets or the United States on a course of action clearly


impacting the welfare of Cuba.171 The Soviets had


unilaterally agreed to remove Cuba's ultimate deterrent in


what appeared to be an imminent threat of American invasion.


In retaliation, Castro, within hours of hearing of the


agreement, broadcast the terms of "five conditions" under


which Cuba would consider to resolve the crisis. The five


conditions included: ending the U.S. economic blockade of


Cuba, ending all subversive activities against Cuba, halting


all "piratical attacks" against Cuba from U.S. bases,


respecting Cuban airspace and territorial waters, and


returning the naval base at Quantanamo Bay to Cuba. As Castro


anticipated, the United States ignored the five conditions.


In retaliation and as a public statement that the two world


superpowers had ignored Cuban interests in what ostensibly was


a very Cuban affair, Castro refused to allow on-site


inspections of any kind to verify the withdrawal of the Soviet


missiles and bombers unless Cuba was granted the right to


inspect American facilities in southern Florida at which the


CIA trained anti-Castro exiles.


Castro maintained his defiant stance until November 20th


when both United Nations Secretary-General U Thant and Anastas


Mikoyan traveled to Cuba to resolve the problem. Insistent


that any "formula adopted by the [UN] Security Council


... guarantee the full sovereignty of Cuba," Castro demanded


that the United States' pledge not to invade Cuba be verified.


Reporting to U Thant, Castro declared that the U.S. "...would


not give up their intention of launching another aggression."


Rejecting U Thant's offer of UN assistance, Cuban President


Dorticos declared that "the danger of war would renew itself,


because the conditions that propitiated North American [U.S.]


aggression against Cuba would endure."172 After continued


intervention by the United Nations and negotiations between


Moscow and Havana, Castro finally agreed to allow the


withdrawal of the missiles. On November 20th, President


Kennedy announced at a press conference that Castro had agreed


to permit the withdrawal of missiles from Cuba within thirty


days. The following day, the President of the United States


terminated the quarantine of Cuba and the Cuban Missile Crisis


officially came to a close.


Accordingly, Castro's most significant actions during the


crisis, that of ordering the shooting of American aircraft and


of writing to Khruschev were predicated on Castro's belief


that Cuba faced imminent attack by the United States. Of more


importance, however, was the impact Castro's letter had on the


tempo of the actions taken by Khruschev. As Oleg Troyanovsky,


a Soviet Special Assistant for International Affairs who


played a key role in the drafting of Khrushcev's letters to


President Kennedy and in the interpretation of Kennedy's


letter to Khrushcev, remembered,


... what particularly worried the leadership in the Soviet

Union in the letter from Fidel Castro was the information

that there might be a landing within the next twenty-four

hours. This jibed with other reports and...talks between

Robert Kennedy and Dobrynin.. .There were a number of

reports then coinciding, which helped accelerate the

final decision to accept the Kennedy proposal.173



In addition, the news of the U-2 downing also increased the


Kremlin's concern about what further action, if any, Castro


would take. Although the exchange of correspondence between


Kennedy and Khruschev had already begun, the "news of the U-2


shoot-down-particulary considering the fact that troops had


been forbidden to shoot down any aircraft-increased the


nervousness in Moscow."174







Despite the resolution of the crisis, then, it was quite


apparent that Castro had merely "succumbed" to the agreement


worked out between the two superpowers. Humiliated by the


Soviet manuever that had not included him and furious that he


had not been consulted while the United States and the Soviet


Union decided the fate of Cuba, Castro was exceptionally


bitter at the perceived Soviet abandonment. Although Castro's


prestige within Latin America suffered significantly following


the crisis, it was also apparent that, as Mark Falcoff has


commented, "Castro was...cut down to size." And even more


importantly, it appeared that the Soviets had betrayed Cuba's


loyalty not only by leaving the island "defenseless" in the


face of an anticipated U.S. attack, but also that Castro's


five conditions, proposed after the deal with the U.S. was


struck, were not even addressed. Consequently, the "October


Crisis," for Castro and Cuba, still remains unresolved.


Consequently, after reviewing the factors influencing Cuba's


participation in the Cuban Missile Crisis and analyzing the


events comprising that participation, Cuba's role can be


viewed as falling into three key areas.


First, Cuba as the location of the crisis. One of


Castro's chief goals for the Cuban Revolution was to correct


the island's problems. The main cause of those problems was,


in Castro's estimation, Cuba's dependence on the United


States. Subsequently, choosing to turn his back on the United


States and to seek Soviet support was an easy choice for


Castro to make. To Castro's satisfaction, the Soviet Union


provided Cuba with the economic subsidies, protection, and


international sponsorship the island needed. Castro, for his


part, provided Khrushchev with a key advantage in the Soviet


Cold War struggle with the United States. Accordingly, Castro


set the stage for the Cuban Missile Crisis by providing


Khruschev with the means with which to successfully challenge


U.S. missile dominance during the Cold War. That stage was




Second, Castro's influence on Khruschev's decisions


during the crisis. On October 26th, Castro wrote a letter to


Khruschev warning the Soviet Premier that U.S. "aggression"


was imminent. Of chief concern to the Soviets was Castro's


belief that the U.S. attack would occur within the next


twenty-four hours and that this information corresponded to


other reports the Soviets had received. Also contained in


Castro's letter was a recommendation that, should the


American's attack Cuba, that the Soviets launch a nuclear


strike against the United States. This recommendation coupled


with the shooting of the American U-2 on the 27th increased


Khruschev's concern regarding any future action Castro would


take. Subsequently, on October 28th a message was sent by


Khruschev to Kennedy indicating that the missiles were to be


dismantled and removed. Although it is clear that the


agreement to remove the missiles rested on negotiations


conducted between the United States and the Soviet Union, the


impact of Khruschev's concern for Castro's growing


restlessness cannot be overlooked. Tensions in the crisis


were growing at a rapid rate. Khruschev knew Castro expected


an American invasion, was willing to conduct a nuclear strike,


and was eager to strike back at the Americans. Armed with


this information, it is not surprising that he opted to end


the missile crisis peacefully before it escalated into a


nuclear war.


Finally, the third issue involves a "legitimate" motive.


As both Castro and General Gribkov testified, Khruschev's


stated objective for placing the missiles in Cuba was to


protect the island from U.S. attack. As previously discussed,


Castro had been concerned about Cuba's security since the Bay


of Pigs. Well aware of the United States' military


capability, any defense provided to Cuba would have to equal


the military strength of America if it was to be successful.


Consequently, the best method for providing such a defense was


to "do the same thing the Americans use the same


methods." However, placing missiles in Cuba so as to


"protect Cuba" also provided Khruschev with a convenient


"cover" for his real intent, that of "repaying the Americans


in kind" and improving the Soviet Cold War position.


Accordingly, an examination of Cuba's role in the Missile


Crisis provides "lessons learned" that still have


applicability for today. First and foremost, the greatest


lesson that can be taken from the crisis is that the actions


of Third World countries do matter. Especially with Cuba,


whose history as President Kennedy stated over thirty years


ago, is closely shared with the United States, Castro and


Castro's Cuba still bear watching. Castro's ambitions for


Cuba and the "revolution" still remain strong. As a nation


committed to a national security policy of engagement and


enlargement, the lessons of U.S. relations with Castro and


Cuba's role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, need to be


remembered. Especially as the proliferation of weapons of


mass destruction rises, it is necessary to remember and take


seriously the impact "Little Cuba" had, and will continue to


pose, for U.S. national security interests.


Second, dealing with Castro and Cuba means understanding


Castro and Cuba. Previous analysis has reflected the chain of


events by which Cuba became the site of the missile crisis.


Important to that analysis was Castro's decision to break ties


with the United States. It has already been shown that U.S.


policy did not drive Castro to the Soviets, but was


influential in determining the evolution of the Cuban


Revolution and the tempo and direction of Castro's Russian


policy. Key to that U.S. influence was a basic


misunderstanding of Castro and the causes of the revolution.


An important part of this misunderstanding was underestimating


or not comprehending the real reasons why the Cubans initially


supported Castro and the Cuban revolution.


As previously stated in this thesis, the revolution was


successful because Cubans simply wanted to get rid of Batista


and the Batista government. The reasons why the Cubans were


anxious to remove Batista centered on social, political, and


economic problems within Cuba. However, when Castro


eventually came to power and proved to be opposed to the


United States, any U.S. attempts to "eliminate the Cuban


problem" appeared to be more of a vendetta against Castro then


a realization of the longstanding problems existent within


Cuba. Consequently, future policy decisions concerning Cuba,


with or without Castro, must be based on an understanding of


Cuba rather than on an emotional, "knee jerk" reaction to an


irrational dictator or government.


And third, for the United States and Cuba, history will


continue to repeat itself. As this thesis has consistently


shown, the relationship between the United States and Cuba is


based on a history of U.S. intervention. During the Cuban


Missile Crisis, that policy was tested to the breaking point


as the United States worked to prevent Cuba from becoming an


arsenal of Soviet nuclear weapons. As with U.S. actions


during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the history of U.S.


intervention in Cuba still continues today. Cuba's strategic


proximity to the United States, the presence of the U.S. Naval


Base at Quantanemo Bay, as well as the large Cuban-American


contingent within the United States still makes it necessary


to consider the island when pursuing policies affecting


national security interests.


Especially for military professionals, however, the


pursuit of U.S. national security interests implies that


continued involvement and/or intervention in Cuba remains


necessary. Should that involvement dictate the use of


military force, it is most likely that with the history of


U.S. intervention in Cuba, this force will be in support of


operations that can most likely be classified as Operations


Other Than War (OOTW).


Consequently, should the use of OOTW be required, it will


be necessary to accurately evaluate the threat. As previously


discussed in this thesis, however, one of the United States'


greatest failures when intervening in Cuba was not


understanding Cuba. In OOTW operations, this key inability


will prevent success unless the larger political-military


aspects of a crisis in Cuba are evaluated in terms of Cuba's


political, judicial, administrative, diplomatic, economic, and


social aspects. Subsequently, any such evaluation should


include not only an analysis of the type of insurgent


strategies used, but also what methods should be followed to


counter an OOTW threat. For the United States and its allies,


the methods to be used can only be determined by understanding


past Cuban reactions which must include an evaluation of


Cuba's historical relationship with the United States. Key to


understanding this relationship must be an awareness of


Castro's belief that the Cuban Missile Crisis still remains an


unresolved chapter in Cuban history and that Cuba still


continues to wage a "Cold War" struggle with the United


States. Most especially, the essence of that struggle needs


to be analyzed and understood for what it means to Cuba and


how it relates to a new, post-Cold War order focusing on the


"humanitarian" use of force and "humanitarian" intervention


rather than old, Cold War conflicts.


The essence of Castro's post Cuban Missile Crisis


struggle with the United States needs also to be considered in


light of the type of operations that will, most likely, be


conducted in Cuba in the future. As history repeats itself,


it is most likely that these struggles will be either


peacekeeping, peace-enforcement, or peacemaking. Conditional


to the type of operation used will be the amount of control


exerted by the opposing forces. Thus, still reminescent of


the Cuban Missile Crisis is the amount of control exerted by


Castro which, to a large extent, still exists within Cuba


today. Consequently, the obvious form a military operation


may take in Cuba will depend on the existence of Castro.


Should Castro not be alive or if he is unable to maintain


control, such operations must also consider the strength of


his designated successor and/or the strength of competing


factions. Also of consequence is the level of support


provided by the Cuban Communist Party, its ability to continue


the "Cuban Revolution" after Castro ceases to be a force in


Cuba, and the strength of any alternative parties. All of


these scenarios, however, require an understanding of Cuba and


its past, of which the Cuban Missile Crisis forms an integral







At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was


believed that the United States had achieved a great


victory. The Soviets were forced to remove their missiles


from Cuba and the United States achieved greater position


inits Cold War competition with the Soviets. Cuba was


forced to comply with the terms of the deal struck between


the U.S. and the Soviets, while Castro's prestige within


Latin America suffered greatly.


However, when commenting on the Cuban Missile Crisis


twenty-three years later, Dr. Henry Kissinger stated that


the U.S. victory so significant in 1962, may now not be so


much a victory as a defeat. For although the missiles had

been removed from Cuba, Castro was still in power.175


Now, approximately 35 years following the end of the


Cuban Missile Crisis, Dr. Kissinger's comments still ring


true. The United States still enforces an embargo on Cuba


while Cast