The Cuban Missile Crisis and Cold War

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023
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Category: Cold War
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COLD WAR 1947 – 1991

The Cold War referred to the competition, the tensions and a series of confrontations between the United States and Soviet Union, backed by their respective allies. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the considered to be the high point of what came to be known as the Cold War because of the following reasons.

1) Worries of the USSR

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In April 1961, the leaders of the USSR were worried that the United States would invade the communist-ruled Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro, the President of the small island nation off the coast of the United States.

2) Cuba was an ally of the USSR

Cuba being an ally of the of the Soviet Union received both diplomatic and financial aid from it. Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, decided to convert Cuba into a Russian base. In 1962 he placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. Installation of these weapons put the US, for the first

time under fire from close range and nearly doubled the number of bases or cities in the American mainland which could be threatened by the USSR.

3) American Action against USSR

Three weeks after the Soviet Union had placed the nuclear weapons in Cuba, the Americans became aware of it. The US President, John F. Kennedy and his advisors were reluctant to do anything that might lead to full-scale nuclear war between the two countries, but they were determined to get Khrushchev to remove the missiles and nuclear weapons from Cuba. Kennedy ordered American warships to intercept any Soviet ships heading to Cuba as a way of warning the USSR of its seriousness.

4) Withdrawal of USSR to end the crisis

A clash seemed imminent in what came to be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The prospects of this clash made the whole world nervous, for it would have been no ordinary war. Eventually, to the world’s great relief both sides decided to avoid war. The Soviet ships slowed down and turned back.


The alliance systems led by the two superpowers, threatened to divide the entire world into two camps. The division happened first in Europe. Most of the West European countries sided with the US, represented the ideology of liberal democracy and capitalism. They formalized into a military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Those of Eastern Europe joined the Soviet Camp. They were headed by the Soviet Union and were committed to the ideology of socialism and communism. They formed the Warsaw Pact. There were two main features of the Alliance System. First being that a state was supposed to remain tied to its protective superpower to limit the influence of the other superpower and its allies. Second, attack on one meant an attack on all others.

The way the smaller states were important to the Superpowers, similarly the Superpowers were of equal importance to the smaller states. The smaller states in the alliances used the link to the superpowers for their own purposes. They got the promise of protection, weapons and economic aid against their local rivals, mostly regional neighbors with whom they had rivalries. The superpowers allied with the smaller states as with their nuclear weapons and regular armies, they were so powerful that the combined power of most of the smaller states in Asia and Africa, and even in Europe, was of no match to that of the superpowers. Yet, the smaller states were helpful for the superpowers in gaining access to vital resources such as oil and minerals, territory, from where the superpowers could launch their weapons and troops, locations from where they could spy on each other and economic support in that many small allies together could help pay for military expenses. Moreover, they were also important for ideological reasons. The loyalty of allies suggested that the superpowers were winning the war of ideas as well, that liberal democracy and capitalism were better than socialism and communism or vice versa.


It was never like that Soviet Union had disintegrated all of a sudden. There were certain inherent problems in Soviet System such as the system had become very bureaucratic and authoritarian making life very difficult for the citizens. Lack of democracy and the absence of freedom stifled the people who often expressed their dissent jokes and cartoons. Most of the institutions of the Soviet State needed reform. Moreover, the party refused to recognize the urge of the people in the fifteen different republics that formed the Soviet Union to manage their own affairs including their cultural affairs. Although, on paper, Russia was only one of the fifteen republics that together constituted the USSR, in reality Russia dominated everything, and people from other regions felt neglected and often suppressed. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 weakened the system even further.


The Cold War tended to divide the world into two rival alliances. It was in this context that non- alignment offered the newly decolonized countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America a third option “ not to join either of the alliance. The founding members of the NAM were leaders from Yugoslavia, India, Egypt, Indonesia and Ghana. The first summit of NAM was held in Belgrade in 1961 and the first step towards NAM was the Bandung Conference in 1955. Scholars have argued that Non-Alignment was isolationism and I would like to challenge this claim of theirs. Isolationism refers to remaining aloof form world affairs. Isolationism sums up the foreign policy of the US from the American War of Independence in 1787 up to the beginning of the first world war. In comparison, the non-aligned countries, including India, played an active role in mediating between the two rival alliances in the cause of peace and stability. Their strength was based on their unity and their resolve to remain non-aligned despite the attempt by the two superpowers to bring them into their alliances. For example, India’s role in mediating during the Korean War. The main argument that I would like to present under this topic is that I feel that even though non-alignment is not isolationism, non-alignment is neutrality since most of the non-aligned countries remained silent/ did not interfere between the superpowers. Moreover, the NAM should have continued till date with the motive that it actually stood for rather not focus on economic issues since by the mid 1970s their main concern was economic issues and had turned/operated as an economic pressure group.


Mikhail Gorbachev who had become General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985, sought to reform this system. The reforms were necessary to keep the USSR abreast of the information and technological revolutions taking place in the West and to normalize relations with the West. They were required to democratize and reform USSR. The reforms were opposed by leaders within the Communist Party. A coup took place in 1991 that was encouraged by Communist Party hardliners. The people had tasted freedom by then and did not want the old-style rule of the Communist Party. Boris Yeltsin emerged as a national hero in opposing this coup. The Russian Republic, where Yeltsin won a popular election, began to shake off centralized control. Power began to shift from the Soviet Centre to the republics, especially in the more Europeanized part of the Soviet Union, which saw themselves as sovereign states. The Central Asian Republics did not ask for independence and wanted to remain with the Soviet Federation. In December 1991, under the leadership of Yeltsin, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, three major republics of the USSR, declared that the Soviet Union was disbanded. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was banned. Capitalism and democracy were adopted as the bases for the post-Soviet republics. The disintegration of the USSR and the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States were declared. Russia was now accepted as the successor state of the Soviet Union. It inherited the Soviet seat in the UN Security Council and accepted all the international treaties and commitments of the Soviet Union. It took over as the only nuclear state of the post “ Soviet space and carried out some nuclear disarmament measures with the United States of America.

The old Soviet Union was thus dead and buried.


In the case of world politics, countries and groups of countries are engaged in constantly trying to gain and retain power. This power is in the form of military domination, economic power, political clout and cultural superiority. During the years of the Cold War power was divided between the two groups of countries, and the US and Soviet Union represented the two camps or centers of power in international politics. After the disintegration of the USSR the world was left with only a single power, USA. Hegemony as a hard power relates to relations, patterns and balances of military capability between states. The bedrock of contemporary US power lies in the overwhelming superiority of its military power. US hegemony can also be defined as a structural power as the basic idea is that an open world economy requires a hegemon or dominant power support its creation and existence. The hegemon must possess both the ability and the desire to establish certain norms for order and must sustain the global structure. For example, The Bretton Woods System, set up by the US after the second world war, still constitutes the basic structure of the world economy. Hegemony as a soft power is about the ‘capacity to manufacture consent’. Here hegemony implies class ascendancy in the social, political and particularly ideological spheres. Hegemony arises when the dominant class or country can win the consent of the dominated classes, by persuading the dominated classes to view the world in a manner favorable to the ascendancy of the dominant class. The predominance of the US in the world today is based not only on its military power and economic prowess, but also on its cultural presence. For example, the blue jeans are recognized as the symbol of liberation. The ability to persuade rather than coerce makes USA first successful country over time we get so used to hegemony that we hardly notice it.


As I stated in the project proposal that I have been wanting to do a project on the Cold War since I felt that I had enough knowledge about the topic and I can share with the people around me. As a result, this project provided me this opportunity to reach out to the people and tell things that have not been discussed in the past in detail. This genre gave me the platform to discuss certain aspects of the Cold War in detail rather than just typing out each and every detail of the event. Whenever I heard people talk about Cold War, they had only two topics to discuss that are Socialism v/s Capitalism and failure of Gorbachev’s reforms however I tried to make the most out of this opportunity by discussing topics that played a major role in the course of the event.

While I was completing the project the only obstacle, I faced was whether or not I will be able to express my opinions in the page limit given and earlier I had planned to type in everything including the two most common topics, however I decided to cut on them and move on with the these. Apart from discussing the role of the third world countries, I also wanted to discuss the Non-Alignment Movement, so rather than discussing it as a topic inside the project, I decided to present the Non-Alignment Movement as my main argument.

Now that I have discussed about a lot about the what topics did and didn’t I write about, I feel that it will justified on my part that I publish it in a forum where people actually discuss about Cold War and hence I made the choice of posting it on REDDIT because it is an open forum where everybody who reads about Cold War will be able to see it(specialized audience). Hence, I feel that my choice of the audience and the publishing venue is perfect for this topic for the above stated reasons.

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Choosing specific rhetorical strategies had always troubled me for this project since this project is a piece that does not deal with emotions so, I felt that there was no need of using pathos in this project. This project deals with more of research and the logic behind the argument that I had to present so the use of logos was necessary in this project because a lot depends on the main argument. Due to this I had to choose the logic that will persuade the people to actually believe in the argument. As far as the ethos are concerned in this project, I wasn’t very confident of whether to include ethos or not because on REDDIT nobody that posts anything here is a credible source nor can anybody check their credibility.

There was instance in this project wherein I was deciding the content about the content and decided to use pathos. This I think would have change the entire purpose of the project because my project deals more with me providing information about lesser known facts and with the use of pathos the entire motive would have changed. When I compare this project to the on of Sara Ahmed, it can be seen that she was explaining a specific topic from her point of view whereas I am not presenting Cold War from my point of view in this project. Of whatever we have studied about specific genres in the class I feel that I have made the right choice by choosing an informative essay kind of genre.

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The Cuban Missile Crisis and Cold War. (2019, Feb 06). Retrieved from