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PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE AND
CONTAINMENT INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS IN THE
COLD WAR 1
Alesksandr Fursenko & Timothy Naftali. Khrushchev, Castro, Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis 1958-1964. London: Pimlico, 1999 Robert J. McMahon. 'US National Security Policy from Eisenhower to Kennedy'. Melvyn P. Leffler & Odd Arne Westad (eds). Cambridge History of the Cold War, vol. 2 Frank Costigliola. 'US Foreign Policy from Kennedy to Johnson'. Melvyn P. Leffler & Odd Arne Westad (eds). Cambridge History of the Cold War, vol. 2 Svetlana Savranskaya & William Taubman, 'Soviet Foreign Policy, 19621975'. Melvyn P. Leffler & Odd Arne Westad (eds). Cambridge History of the Cold War, vol. 2 Richard M. Pious (2001). 'The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Limits of Crisis Management'. Political Science Quarterly, 116:1 Thomas G. Paterson, 'Fixation with Cuba: The Bay of Pigs, Missile Crisis and Covert War against Fidel Castro'. Thomas G. Paterson, ed., Kennedy's Quest for Victory: American Foreign Policy, 1961-63. Oxford: Oxford UP (1989) M. Steven Fish (1986). After Stalin's Death: The New Anglo-American Debate Over a New Cold War. Diplomatic History, 10 Timothy J. McKeown (2000). The Cuban Missile Crisis and Politics as Usual. The Journal of Politics, 62:1
2 Alesksandr Fursenko & Timothy Naftali. Khrushchev, Castro, Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis 1958-1964. London: Pimlico, 1999 Chapter 9: The Nuclear Decision
Moscow feared Cuba might defect from Soviet 'peaceful coexistence'; in 1962, Havana requested that the USSR give active support to Latin American revolutionary movements; it refused, not wanting to give Kennedy to pretext to invade Cuba. Soviet influence in Cuba was threatened by the threats both of American invasion (which would allow China to challenge Soviet leadership of world communism) and that Castro might do a Tito or ally with Beijing. Castro decided to go it alone and foment revolutions in Latin America.
Soviet strategy was to restrain Castro until Cuba could deter a snap American invasion alone: it sent over large shipments of weapons and forgave its debts. The USSR did not station nukes for the sake of Cuban security. It was meant to solve two problems simultaneously: to scare the Americans into treating the USSR more seriously, and to demonstrate to Castro that the USSR would defend his revolution. Khrushchev reckoned that Kennedy would not start a nuclear war over Soviet warheads in Cuba, just as the USSR hadn't over American Jupiter missiles in Turkey.
* Kennedy announced a blockade against offensive military equipment and said that he would regard any nuclear missile fired from Cuba as a Soviet attack, urging the USSR to give up on hopes of world domination and withdraw the missiles. Khrushchev gave the go-ahead to the delivery. The Aleksandrovsk beat the blockade, which Khrushchev denounced as an act of aggression.
3 Melvyn P. Leffler & Odd Arne Westad (eds). Cambridge History of the Cold War, vol. 2 Robert J. McMahon. 'US National Security Policy from Eisenhower to Kennedy' Kennedy and Eisenhower both worked within 'a broad consensus on strategic goals', viz. to contain the USSR, which was a fundamental threat to American security - they just had different tactical priorities, based on different assessments of the threat. President Eisenhower
'Great Equation': Every step taken against an external threat has an internal effect, against which it must be weighed. Eisenhower sought to streamline American policy and make it more cost-effective, fearing that overstretching would bankrupt America; so long as the Soviets were rational and this was a long-term game, there was no need to overreach for some impending moment of danger. Truman's NSC-141 approved substantial increases in defence spending, which Eisenhower sidelined.
The New Look strategy (Oct 1953) committed the US to relying on nuclear weapons as a credible deterrent and instrument of offensive power; this was to be combined with espionage, sabotage and covert operations. A proliferation of bilateral and multilateral alliances was to encircle the USSR with formal US allies, which would be protected by a nuclear umbrella but would be able to supply ground forces if war broke out. Psychological warfare, public diplomacy and propaganda were to sway public opinion: e.g. 'Open Skies' cultural exchange programme, Free Europe broadcasts. The strategy assumed that enemy intentions mattered as much as capacities - and the Kremlin was basically rational.
Meanwhile, Eisenhower planned only for total war. If limited nuclear war was impossible, he gathered that the US would best preclude war by making clear that it expected any conflict to descend into all-out nuclear war. He adopted a risky strategy: he threatened nuclear strikes in the Taiwan Straits crises.
Eisenhower tried to push responsibility for defence to local allies, but this exacerbated allied tensions because states feared that the US might abandon them; the US in turn worried that allies could turn to neutrality or appeasement. He concluded that only granting European allies de facto control over nuclear weapons would allow them to assume more of a burden.
Third World alliance strategy was unsuccessful: allies worked at cross-purposes with the US because they had different priorities (Pakistan); paper alliances alienated neighbouring non-Communist states (Egypt). The US never got to grips with Third World nationalism, frequently confusing it with Communism or siding with European allies against local independence movements. The USSR turned this weakness to its advantage, offering aid and trade offers to win partners over. Congress blocked Eisenhower's counter-measures. 4
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