Cuba And The Cold War

By: Emily Usher

Cuba: The History Behind it

Cuba is an island off the coast of Florida that was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492. This small country remained under Spanish control until 1898. During this rule the Spanish use the Cubans for their sugar and other tropical commodities that were hard to find else where, the Spanish were taking most of the profits from the trading leaving most of Cuba's population in poverty. Soon Cuban rebels began burning the sugar cane farms and other crops. As a result of this the united states stepped in, promising the Cubans their freedom and to help free them from Spain, but they left U.S. military occupation until 1902, then a protectorate until 1934. Because of their prolonged stay in Cuba the United States became very interested in the island and their sugar. The US turned into another "Spain" and tried to control them. When the great depression hit, Cuba was greatly effected and soon revolted and dictator Fulgencio Batista came to power. Cuba depended on the US for trade, but people were still extremely poor and unhappy and that led to the new dictator Fidel Castro. At first the US supported Castro, but when the cold war came around the US completely broke off diplomatic contact with Cuba and soon Cuba became allies with the Soviet Union and China. The communist party in Cuba was strong and now Cuba was dependent on the soviets.

Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro was born in Mayari, Cuba in 1926. He grew up middle class and he graduated from the university of Havana with a degree in law. This charismatic young lawyer became the leader of the Cuban revolution against Batista. The first time Castro tried to overthrow Batista he ended up in jail. When he was released he went to Mexico to rebuild his rebel forces and then in December of 1956 Castro and his rebels landed in Cuba and used guerrilla tactics against Batista. Over the next few years support for Castro grew and on January 1, 1959 Batista ran away and Castro took power. At first Castro seemed good, he wanted to lift people out of poverty and proposed more education, but he never let there be a free vote. Castro moved closer and closer to communism and the relationship between the US and Cuba got worse. In February 1960, Cuba signed a trade agreement with the Soviet Union. Now Cuba was publicly alined with the Soviet Union and the US broke off all ties with them.

The Bay of Pigs Fiasco

getting ready for the bay of pigs

On April 17, 1961 the exiled Cubans invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. These exiles were encouraged and secretly backed by President Kennedy and the United States. It was a secret because it would look terrible for the US to just invade a tiny island, but when the exiles arrived Castro had been tipped off and was waiting for them with soviet made tanks. Castro and his tanks quickly defeated all the exiles and it became obvious to him that the US was behind it all. As a result President Kennedy was embarrassed and the Cuban peoples favor for Castro grew.

Communism Spreads Further

Castro and Khrushchev

Now that Cuba was aligned with the Soviet Union, Khrushchev, the Soviet Premier, began pushing for Castro to let Cuba be home to a few Soviet nuclear missiles to scare the US. Although Castro was reluctant at first, he eventually agreed to letting the soviets use Cuba as a home for forty nuclear war heads all pointed at and ready for the US. Cuba was completely consumed in communism, and it harbored soviet weapons and troops.

Cuban Missile Crisis

The US had missiles in Turkey and Italy and were in very close striking range of the Soviet Union. This made the Soviets uncomfortable and even though the missiles they had within their country could reach the US, Khrushchev knew if he could place missiles in Cuba it would really make the US sweat. On October 14, 1962, a U-2 mission came back with photographs of nuclear missiles at construction sites in Cuba. After this news the US' National security went into over drive, it was freaking out about what to do. This was the closest point to actual war that happened during the cold war. On October 22 Kennedy addressed the country of america over television, he explained the situation with Cuba and explained plans of action and the quarantine. Now everything the US had was armed and ready. Khrushchev said that the quarantine was against international law and any US ship that tried to stop soviet ships would be gunned down, then the US military went into DEFCON 2 alert, but when the soviet ships came, the ones with arms turned around. The others were searched and let through. Khrushchev sent two letters to Kennedy, the first saying the soviets would remove missiles in Cuba if the US promised not invade it, the second, more demanding letter said if the US would take missiles out of Cuba the the soviets would take them out of Cuba. Tensions were high, and after seeing a second U-2 plane the soviets shot one down and killed the pilot. This made tension soar even higher. Then on October 28, both sides agreed to withdraw their missiles and the crisis ended.



The significance of Cuba and the cold war is that the Cuban missile crisis was the closest the world has ever come to nuclear warfare and it was the point during the cold war in which the US and the Soviet Union were the closest to actually fighting. During the Cuban missile crisis tensions between the two superpowers were unbelievably high, one more push of a button or move could have caused an all out war. Thankfully both sides agreed to step down and missiles were removed from Cuba and Turkey, after this the cold war dwindled down in intensity and eventually ended years later.

Works Cited

"Cuban Missile Crisis." Cold War Reference Library. Ed. Richard C. Hanes, Sharon M. Hanes, and Lawrence W. Baker. Vol. 2: Almanac Volume 2. Detroit: UXL, 2004. 213-232. Gale World History In Context. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.

"Fidel Castro Ruz, President of Cuba, 1967-- Prime Minister of Cuba, 1959--1967." The Cold War--1945-1991. Gale, 1992. Gale World History In Context. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.

Hanes, Sharon. Cold War Almanac. 2. Detroit: Thompson Gale, 213-30. Print.

Powaski, Ronald. The Cold War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. 129-44. Print.

Woodward, Ralph Lee, Jr. "Cuba." History of World Trade Since 1450. Ed. John J. McCusker. Vol. 1. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006. 178-179. Gale World History In Context. Web. 24 Apr. 2012.