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Current time:0:00Total duration:19:00
KC‑8.1.I.E (KC)
Unit 8: Learning Objective H
WOR (Theme)

Video transcript

before we go into the details of the of the Cuban Missile Crisis it's important to understand the world's environment entering into October of 1962 in 1959 you have a revolution in Cuba led by Fidel Castro and he is heading the Communist Party there Cuba is now a communist nation right off of the coast of the United States the this is the middle of the of the Cold War the United States believes in a strategy of containment does not like this so in 1961 the United States the CIA the CAD meanest the Kennedy administration they try using Cuban exiles people who have left Cuba they they try to support them to enter and invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs but the whole the whole effort wasn't planned properly the support for the Cuban exiles the counter revolutionaries those that were trying to oust Castro it was kind of this this half-hearted effort and it was this big failure so the Bay of Pigs invasion was a failure in 1961 and it made John F Kennedy seem a little bit weak it made the CIA seem it didn't make anyone on the American side look all that competent because of that failure on top of that we're in the middle of the Cold War remember this and at the same time if you go to if you go to what the US was doing around the Soviet Union it started it started placing missiles starting in the late 50s all the way into 1961 and 1962 it started placing medium-range ballistic missiles in Turkey and in Italy these are where they were located and the significance of that is that now these missiles could reach the major population centers of the Soviet Union in really a matter of minutes in 10 to 20 minutes I think 16 minutes was how long most of these stay airborne and when in a situation where both sides have nuclear weapons there was this kind of notion of well maybe if you're able to get to the other guy faster they wouldn't be able to retaliate and maybe you wouldn't have that mutually assured destruction so there's this whole idea that you want to get your missiles as close as possible so that they could reach the population centers the strategic centers of your opponent as quickly as possible and if you look up on the web you can actually find the actual missile sites and when they were installed and when they became operational these are the ones that were in Italy kind of right here near the heel near the heel of Italy so you have this environment the United States was looking a little bit weak after the Bay of Pigs invasion it looks like they wanted to oust Castro but they were they did it slightly or they weren't able to do it and they did they weren't able because they were slightly inept at the same time you could imagine that the Soviet Union did not appreciate the United States placing placing these missiles so close to its population centers missiles that could reach its population centers very easily so now we fast forward to October of 1962 and the entire Cuban Missile Crisis will occur over 13 or 14 days during night October of 1962 so on the 14th of October we're sending these you to spy planes over Cuba so this right here is a u-2 spy plane that is a u-2 spy plane and it takes pictures that look like this and then the next day on October 15th you have the CIA analyst and they're saying wow you know that that that looks like missiles over there this looks like ballistic missiles that are being set up that are being set up in Cuba and so all of a sudden it looks like the Soviet Union is using Cuba to do the same thing that we use turkey in Italy for to set up ballistic missiles really right off of our coast and ballistic missiles that could now that can now reach any of the strategic population centers especially on the East Coast or the Midwest of the United States so by the 16th so this is literally two days after the pictures were taken the next day they're analyzing them they tell the State Department about them the 16th they tell Kennedy about them and Kennedy holds a meeting of the executive committee and it wasn't called XCOM just that but it was really a subset of special advisers a subset of the National Security Council and other advisers that essentially become the brain trust to figure out what to do about this forming crisis because all of a sudden you have a state that we don't like off of our borders a communist state a state aligned with the Soviet Union all of a sudden it has nuclear missiles it looks like these are offensive weapons these are weapons being designed for first-strike capability once again if they're being launched from Cuba maybe they can attack maybe they can obliterate the US before the US even has an opportunity to respond properly so this really freaks out the Kennedy administration on the and so they start to think about what can they what can they do about it and early on you know there's a couple you could just kind of call and talk to the Soviets about and say hey we don't like that why don't you why don't you undo your missiles but they didn't really think that that would have any significant effect on the Soviets especially because they probably thought that Kennedy was weak at this port point and just to understand who was leading the Soviets at this time it was Khrushchev this is Khrushchev right over here and he had even made remarks to the effect that he thought that Kennedy was young and maybe naive and maybe too intellectual to really play a good a good game of chicken here and so the u.s. kind of felt that it had to look strong here and so the only the real options on the table were maybe blockade Cuba and so a blockade could be an all-out blockade so it would be an economic blockade but that's actually considered an act of war because you're to a large degree starving a country another opera another option for the United States because it was commit was completely viewed as unacceptable that these missiles should be here and that they should be deployable from Cuba the other option would be to do air attacks on on these these these missile silos and then the other you know kind of the most extreme the most extreme action would be to actually invade Cuba and obviously that goes in line with kind of the USA's general interest of not having a communist regime so close to its own borders so this is what what Kennedy and his team was was wrestling with and really early on and really early on in these early days most of the team was actually advising Kennedy that they should do a full-scale invasion of Cuba that they thought this was the only thing that the Soviets would take seriously it would show that that the u.s. is serious about this and and they didn't think that the Soviet Union would really try to put up a fight in Cuba so far away from their own borders but Kennedy probably pretty thinking about it pretty reasonably realized well you know hey they might not do anything in Cuba and they might allow us to oust Castro and install a new regime there but they might retaliate in fact they probably would retaliate in Europe and specifically in Berlin probably in in Germany as a whole so just just for the sake of getting these things out of Cuba we could sacrifice a lot in in in Europe and even more the any type of conflict between the US and the Soviet Union could easily escalate to a nuclear war so these were all on the table the u.s. goes on high alert it prepares for any of these situations because they really don't know what's going to happen you know the the army the Air Force and the Navy starts mobilizing so on kind of you know with hours notice any of those options can kind of go into effect by the 22nd you have the executive committee and that just becomes formula formalized as an actual official group that is advising the president in this capacity and on the 22nd Kennedy finally puts out his first salvo on what what is the USS position on what's going on here and before this and just to make make things clear on the 18th he did meet he did meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ray go meet Gromyko and I'm sure I'm butchering the pronunciations and this is where the first time that Kennedy's like hey you got these offensive weapons and grim echoes insisting that no they're just defensive weapons and to most people defensive weapons would mean things like surface-to-air missiles things that would stop planes from bombings but not surface-to-surface missiles not something that could attack a country but we'll see in future letters from Khrushchev that maybe they actually did perceive these these missiles as somehow being defensive but you fast forward that was on the 18th it kind of made the Amade kennedy and the u.s. frustrated with the Russians because it felt like you know the Americans are saying look we clearly know you have missiles there but Gromyko saying no these are just offensive weapons nothing to worry about why you're taking this so seriously the 19th US goes on high alert it starts thinking about all of these options the 22nd this committee is formed formally but more importantly Kennedy gives a a speech to state the United States opinion and I'll just read it right here to halt this offensive build-up a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated all ships of any kind bound for Cuba for whatever nation from whatever nation or port will if found contain if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons be turned back this quarantine will be extended if needed to other types of cargo and carriers we are not at this time however denying the necessities of life as the Soviets attempted to do in their Berlin Blockade of 1948 so the the Kennedy the Kennedy administration's position became slightly more nuanced they said we can't do a an all-out blockade one that is an act of war - that is to large degree inhumane why should we starve the Cuban people what we're going to do is kind of a a filter on the cargo going into Cuba we will only stop we will only inspect things that we we suspect are holding armaments and we will only turn back the ships that are actually doing it but then on the 24th there is a cable from Khrushchev and it says if you cool away the situation which has developed not giving way to passions you will understand that the Soviet Union cannot fail to reject the arbitrary demands of the United States and that the Soviet Union views the blockade as an act of aggression and that their ships will be instructed to ignore it so there the game of chicken is beginning to emerge the United States is saying look this is unacceptable we're going to stop you from shipping arms to Cuba the on the 24th Christians saying who are you to tell us what to do and you know there's this kind of undercurrent of like wait you you've already got stuff set up in Italy and Turkey not too far from us what how can you dare you know and they call it a blockade even though the u.s. is calling it a quarantine this is an act of aggression and we will ignore it so both parties are kind of saying we don't care what you're going to do we're going to do what whatever we have to do and this whole time I mean both sides are getting tensed the whole world is kind of taking sides you're making public statements about what's right or wrong so it we really are getting very close to the brink of a very major confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States and there's a you know you can read the book thirteen days Robert Kennedy there's also the movie thirteen days which actually is not based on the book but both of them really kind of give the account of what happened over this period but then you fast-forward 25th and Kennedy essentially replies that look these are offensive weapons and these require the responses I have announced I hope that your government will take necessary action to permit restoration of the earlier situation so Kenny saying look we have to do this these are offensive weapons we cannot tolerate these weapons so close to us to US borders and so also on the 25th the quarantines in effect it does get challenged the u.s. does start to inspect some ships they tried to inspect one ship that got away a little bit and the Soviets did so the Soviets even though they're there they're speaking the game of chicken they they are turning back they did turn back 14 ships and the best guess is that those 14 ships probably did contain some type of armament so even though publicly everyone is playing a very strong game behind the scenes there is a little bit of a softening of the stance and then you fast forward to the 26th and Khrushchev essentially sends his first his first proposal and it's interesting here because from in Khrushchev's mind and this is a fascinating letter read it's a fairly long letter so I'm not going to go into the whole thing and you can get it at this URL right over here it's a fascinating letter I may be able to a whole video where I just read this letter he kind of he kind of goes into the nuance of what he views as a defensive or an offensive weapons he admits he implicitly admits that they have these that the missiles are there that they're not these benign weapons but he in his letter he kind of makes a nuance that he views them as defensive weapons he says look you guys in Veit you guys attempted to oust Castro already we view Castro as an ally we think that by placing these weapons here it you will be less likely to be able to ask Castro because you will be afraid of these weapons so Khrushchev is kind of setting up we don't have you know Christian saying we don't have any intention of using these to attack you for no reason we're just putting these here to essentially defend one of our allies so he's saying that's the reason that's the reason that they place those weapons there in the first place kind of saying look you did Bay of Pigs you were the ones that took the first shot now we are defending it that might have been the rationale another rationale for why they did it is just and probably the more strategic rationale is that we already did have these missiles that were pointed at the Soviet Union in Turkey and and the Soviet Union just wanted to have parity so they wanted to put missiles on and near the US on some allies country from the Soviet Union's point of view so on the 26th Khrushchev's first proposal that was given through a cable says if assurances were given by the President and the government of the United States that the USA itself would not participate so assurances assurances let me underline this in a different color assurance is that the USA itself would not participate in an attack on Cuba and would restrain other others from actions of this sort probably the Cuban exiles if you would recall your fleet this would immediately change everything I am NOT speaking for Fidel Castro but I think that he and the government of Cuba evidently would declare demobilization and would appeal to the people to get down to peaceful labor then to the question you know the end of the the Communists always like talking about labor then to the question of armaments would disappear since there's since if there is no threat then armaments are a burden for every people so in this first proposal that came over a cable he's essentially saying look if you guys just promise not to attack Cuba if you just make assurances that you will not attack Cuba then we'll essentially undo everything will will go will will give in to your wishes and you know this stance right here really does make it look like their main interest in having those missiles was kind of to protect Cuba kind so that the US would not try to oust the Communists from there but then on the next day Khrushchev has a broadcast a public broadcast where he kind of changes his tone a little bit now he's saying that they would undo the situation in Cuba only if the United States removed their missiles from Italy and Turkey so he's sending a little mixed messages his first message was kind of a softer stance look you just you guys just promised not to invade Cuba and we're going to pull out of Cuba the second the second stance is saying no no no we're willing to take our missiles out of Cuba if you take your missiles out of Italy and Turkey and on the same day a you to another you to spy plane gets shot down over Cuba and this is when both armies are really it kind of you know they're like hair-trigger notice so it's really scary situation and this was actually done by it was a local decision by a a Soviet commander and and Khrushchev actually did not want this to happen and lucky for lucky for I guess the world the the the u.s. did not use this alone as a reason to engage in war they said maybe it's an accident if this happens again then we'll use it as war so it was lucky that this did not trigger an immediate war with the with the Soviets but but the Kennedy administration still had the question which of these was the more serious you know which which of these which of these requests were the Soviets really making this is a more significant request are they requesting for both and so it was eventually decided on the 27th that hey let's just pretend like we didn't even know that the Americans didn't even know about the second request that asks for more and let's just reply to this first request so you essentially have Kennedy agreeing to Khrushchev and saying okay we'll do your first request we will agree not to invade Cuba if you remove if you remove your missiles and then essentially what happens and you know that puts a Khrushchev in a weird situation because this is something that he did recommend but they were ignoring this over here but through backchannels we said we will officially agree to this but through backchannels the kennedy administration said and we would also be on an understanding we would also have an understanding on the missiles in Italy and Turkey that look you know this isn't part of the deal but we see what you're saying and we're probably we're probably going to remove them and what the Soviets also didn't know at that time is that the that the Americans were planning on that these these missiles to a large degree by this point in time we're already obsolete because we already had Polaris missiles that were deployable by submarines and clearly submarines can deploy things much closer to the action and they're much harder to track you can't surveil them in all the rest so the u.s. kind of agreed to it but they did it secretly and the whole point here is that neither side wanted to look like they're giving in neither side wanted to look weak but on the 28th there was finally an agreement and so publicly the first the first Khrushchev proposal was agreed to by both Khrushchev and the United States Khrushchev agreed to remove to not send any more weapons and also dismantle the weapons that were there and the Americans agreed that they would not that they would not invade Cuba and so you can imagine the big win here the big winner here is probably Fidel Castro because the whole time he's paranoid that the u.s. is planning another attack on him at least publicly now they saying that they cannot invade and if they did it would look like they're going back on their word and privately privately the u.s. agreed to remove its missiles from Turkey and Italy they didn't want to do this publicly because then it would look like they're being weak then it would look like the the Soviets were able to do this aggression aggressive action and by doing it they were able to extract something out of the United States which is actually the reality they were able to by doing this action they were able to get these missiles removed from Turkey in Italy but the United States wanted to look strong the Kennedy has well there's always an approaching election he had especially after the Bay of Pigs he need to look like a strong leader and so to some degree you have to give Khrushchev credit for this he kind of swallowed his pride and allowed it to publicly look like he lost in the negotiation he publicly made it look like he got nothing in return for backing down but in reality he did he just didn't necessarily get credit for it but this was a big deal because this was the closest that the Soviet Union and the and and the u.s. ever got to really the brink during the Cold War