The Historical Simulation of the Cuban Missile Crisis
A Competition Between the United States of America and the Soviet Union
The United States and the Soviet Union have been locked in a dangerous competition for global dominance since the end of World War II. With its roots in the ideological incompatibility of the U.S. and the Soviet political, economic, and social systems, combined with the desire of each to spread its own, the Cold War was a period of incredible tension between the former allies. The U.S., witnessing the Soviets impose communist systems on Eastern Europe after World War II, perceived the Soviets to be expansionist and feared the spread of communism throughout the globe. In an effort to block perceived Soviet aggression, President Harry S. Truman introduced the policy of containment in 1947. This first only applied to Europe, but gradually spread to encompass the rest of the world as well. The ideological competition also had a military component: the U.S. and Soviet Union were engaged in a risky arms race. With the American development of nuclear weapons in 1945 and the Soviet attainment of them in 1949, the attempts of both sides to increase their security by deploying more and more nuclear weapons not only exposed both states to the threat of nuclear apocalypse but the entire globe.
This dangerous game between the Soviets and Americans played out in multiple regions of the world. Latin America and the Caribbean, areas of traditional American influence, thus became hotly contested battlegrounds between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Cuba in particular became a strategic location that the Soviet Union sought to acquire in its sphere of influence while the US wished to maintain control of Cuba. Led by Fidel Castro, the 1959 Cuban revolution deposed President Batista, a long-time American ally. In 1960, Castro aligned Cuba with Soviet domestic and foreign policies.
By the time President Kennedy entered office in 1961, Russia and Cuba had already begun forming the basis for a strong relationship. This meant that there was a significant communist threat only 90 miles off the coast of Florida. Only a few months after assuming the presidency, Kennedy decided to launch a covert operation, initially planned by President Eisenhower, to overthrow Castro’s communist regime in Cuba. The U.S. suffered a massive national security embarrassment in what became known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) trained a group of Cuban exiles who attempted to invade Cuba in April 1961 in an effort to trigger an anti-Castro rebellion. Just before the launch of the operation, Kennedy decided to lower the amount of military support for the invasion and in the midst of the invasion this minimal support was called back, leaving the exiles without support or a means of exit. As a result, Cuban military forces routed the Cuban exile group. In addition, few Cubans rose up against Castro and more than one thousand Cuban rebels were captured. This failed U.S. attempt to oust Castro was perceived by the communist regime in Cuba as proof of U.S. aggressive intentions and thus drove the Cubans to cultivate even closer ties with the Soviet Union.
In April of 1962, the Soviet Presidium granted the Cuban request for weapons to aid in their defense. In late July Soviet shipments of arms increased, and by September 1st the Soviet-supplied Cuban arsenal included surface to air missiles, patrol boats with anti-ship missiles, and more than 5,000 Soviets. On July 24, 1962 Castro claimed that the Soviet Union has invested greatly in Cuba’s defensive capabilities and pronounced that the Communist regime would take steps to make any U.S. attack on Cuba the equivalent of a world war. Shortly thereafter, at a high-level meeting of presidential advisers in August 1962, CIA director John McCone expressed his belief that Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) had been deployed in Cuba. The first Soviet nuclear ballistic missiles reached Cuba on September 8th, and more shipments followed over the next month. On October 16, 1962 President Kennedy and national security officials were briefed on the construction of missile bases in Cuba, and so the Cuban Missile Crisis began.
This is the day our crisis will begin (October 16,1962). Members of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council will be responsible for advising President Kennedy on how to respond to the newly found intelligence. Members of the Politburo’s Special Committee will be responsible for advising Soviet First Secretary of the Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev on how to protect a fellow communist country from Western aggression.
Things To Consider:
The United States of America:
The U.S. may be facing a threat like no other in history, and this committee’s first priority should be to maintain the security of the US and to avoid a nuclear attack. The Soviets may have moved weapons closer to the United States than ever before, and the threat of nuclear war is greater now than ever. If the United States takes military action against Cuba, and the rumors of missiles in Cuba prove to be false, the U.S. will be seen as the aggressive actor and face potential retaliation from both Cuba and the Soviet Union. The consequences of inaction by this committee, however, may result in fully functional Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba.
The U.S. policy of containment is aimed at stopping the spread of communism by giving aid to countries that were in danger of falling under communist rule. Part of the strategy of containment is predicated on the Domino Theory, which asserted that if one country falls under communism the surrounding countries would follow in a domino effect. Therefore, the continued spread of communism is a significant threat to U.S. interests. The United States is particularly worried about additional countries in Latin America and the Caribbean falling under communist rule. If the spread of communism is not stopped, the United States could be surrounded by communist countries – countries that will be much more likely to ally with the Soviet Union than the U.S. and thus significantly weaken American security in the Western hemisphere. Even worse, the unthinkable could happen: the American system itself could be threatened.
The Soviet Union:
The Soviet Union has an opportunity in front of it like no other. The potential to entrench a friendly government in the backyard of the United States would show to the world the might, ability, and reach of the Soviet cause. The committee’s first priority should be to reassure this important ally that the Soviet Union is on its side and determine the amount of pressure it wants to apply to the United States. As there are U.S. missiles in bordering states around the Soviet Union, the committee may seek an eye for an eye approach that may inch the world closer to nuclear war. The committee may adopt a more neutral stance towards its geopolitical foe though potentially leave an aligned country open to U.S. invasion. Inaction by the committee, however, would put at risk the thousands of Soviet soldiers already stationed on the island.
The geopolitical significance of the Caribbean cannot be understated. Sitting ninety miles off the shore of Florida, Cuba’s embrace of communism is a direct threat to the ideological dialogue of the United States and an immense propaganda win for the Soviet Union. From Cuba, there is the potential for further Soviet expansion into the U.S.’s traditional sphere of influence that would broaden support for communist ideology and secure for the Motherland a vast amount of resources. Diplomatic victory in this theater, whatever it may look like, will bolster the success that communism has seen over the last two decades through the rise of Communist China, the American failure in the Korean War, and the success of the Soviet space program. It will also provide a much needed distraction from the tensions of Central Europe and the Middle East, ensuring a much safer Motherland.
- Vice President Lyndon Johnson
- Secretary of State Dean Rusk
- Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara
- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Maxwell Taylor
- Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs McGeorge Bundy
- Secretary of the Treasury C. Douglas Dillon
- CIA Director John McCone
- Attorney General Robert Kennedy
- Under-Secretary of State George Ball
- Special Counsel Theodore Sorensen
- Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric
- Soviet Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson
- Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson
- U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Adlai Stevenson
- Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Nitze
Soviet Presidium and Key Soviet Decision Makers:
- Lenoid Brezhnev, chairman of the Supreme Soviet and member of the Presidium
- Andrei Gromyko, minister of foreign affairs
- Andrei Kirilenko, first deputy chairman of the Central Committee Bureau for the Russian Republic and member of the Presidium
- Aleksi Kosygin, first deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers and member of the Presidium
- Frol Kozlov, Secretary of the Central Committee and member of the Presidium
- Vasily Kuznetsov, first deputy minister of foreign affairs
- Rodion Malinovsky, Minister of Defense
- Anastas Mikoyan, first deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers and member of the Presidium
- Nikolai Podgorny, first secretary of the Ukrainian Party and member of the Presidium
- Dimitri Polyansky, chairman of the Russian Republic’s Council of Ministers and member of the Presidium
- Boris Ponomarev, secretary of the Central committee responsible for liaison with nonbloc Communist parties
- Vladimir Semichastny, chairman of the State Committee for Security (KGB)
- Aleksandr Shelepin, secretary of the Central Committee for party control (party discipline), deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers and chair of that council’s committee for state control (police, law)
- Mikhail Suslov, secretary of the Central Committee and member of the Presidium
- Matvei Zakharov, chief of the general staff of the armed forces and First Deputy Minister of Defense